5-year variable-rate loans
A five-year variable-rate refinance is an option that can help you wipe out your student debt balance more quickly. Rates on those loans are averaging 2.61%, according to the latest data from the Credible marketplace.
Rates are up from an average 2.55% a week earlier, but they're much lower versus a year ago, when the typical rate was 3.30%.
And today's rates are still pretty close to the record low of 2.48% reached in mid-October.
The average specifically pertains to borrowers with credit scores of at least 720. Lower interest rates are possible for those with exceptional scores, of 780 or higher; Credible's website indicates that today's refi rates can be as low as 1.74%.
At the other end of the spectrum, people with so-so scores (between 640 and 679) are usually scoring higher rates around 4.59%.
Be aware that variable rates can fluctuate based on market conditions, meaning you could wind up with a higher rate before the loan's five-year term is up.
10-year fixed-rate loans
For borrowers eager to lock in a good deal over a longer repayment period, 10-year fixed-rate refinance loans are now averaging 3.42%.
Rates have gone down from the average 3.44% during the previous survey week, and are closing in on late September's all-time low of 3.36%.
Again, people with excellent credit qualify for better-than-average rates. But those with unimpressive scores might have to accept a steeper rate, typically 4.77%.
Though fixed-rate loans generally come with higher borrowing costs than the variable-rate variety, your interest rate is guaranteed to hold steady for the loan term.
Plus, a 10-year loan will offer more affordable monthly payments than a five-year, but you'll likely have to spend a lot more money on interest by the time your debt is paid off.
How to bag the lowest refi rate you can
If you have a federal student loan, be certain you understand what you may give up by refinancing.
Switching from a government loan to a refi — offered by a bank or other private lender — would make you ineligible for the government relief that's been extended to borrowers during the pandemic, including frozen payments and interest.
But if you’re OK with that tradeoff, or if you already have a private student loan, refinancing to a cheaper rate could slash your monthly payments.
To land the lowest possible refi rate:
Spruce up your credit score. Lenders will review your credit to determine whether you're a good risk. Today it's easy to check your credit score for free, then take steps to shine it up so you'll look more impressive to a lender.
Set up auto-pay. Often, you can knock a little bit off your interest rate by agreeing to make automatic payments. That provides some assurance to the lender that you'll pay on time each month.
Compare your options. Plenty of lenders offer student loan refinances, and the only way to find the best deal is by shopping around. Different lenders can weigh your application differently, so get multiple rate quotes and size them up side by side before you click "Apply."