Millions of Americans are financially stunted by student loan debt. To pay off the debt faster, some have opted to refinance — or, get another lender to pay off the loan and then be indebted to that lender, hopefully with a better interest rate. Answer these questions before you take that step.

Is The Interest Rate Fixed Or Variable?

The point of refinancing is to make the loan more affordable, and a lower interest rate will accomplish that. However, it’s important to make sure that the low interest rate will stay low. Fixed rates are permanent, but variable interest rates can increase. Lower interest rates are often variable.

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Is There A Minimum Loan Balance?

If you have a small balance, it may be impossible for you to refinance with certain companies. Companies want to profit from doing business with you, so many lenders will only refinance loans that meet a minimum balance. SoFi, Laurel Road, and CommonBond will only refinance loans of $5,000 or higher.

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Should I Consolidate First?

If you cannot refinance with the company of your choice because you have several small loans that separately fall short of the minimum balance requirement, consider consolidating your loans before refinancing. However, be sure to investigate whether consolidating might actually make your monthly payments higher.

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Is There An Application Fee?

Application fees (and other terms that mean the same thing) are outlawed for student loan forgiveness programs. Although the practice is legal for student loan refinancing, it’s frowned upon, and it’s a sign that the company is, at the very least, not looking out for your best interest.

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Is This Worth It?

Consider the long-term and short-term advantages and disadvantages of refinancing. If you’re moving from a federal lender to a private one, understand that private lenders do not work with you as much as federal ones will. Private lenders are less apt to offer forbearance, forgiveness, or payment plans.

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