5-year variable-rate loans
For borrowers looking to pay off their student debt more quickly, five-year variable-rate loans are averaging 2.60%, according to data this week by the Credible marketplace.
That’s not far from the previous week's record low average rate of 2.48%.
The average is specifically for borrowers with credit scores of at least 720. Lower rates are available for people with exceptional credit, of 780 or higher.
At the other end of the scale, people with so-so scores (between 640 and 679) are bagging typical rates of 4.59%.
Keep in mind that variable rates can fluctuate based on market conditions, meaning a borrower could wind up with a higher rate before the loan's five-year term is up.
10-year fixed-rate loans
For borrowers who want to lock in a good deal over a longer payback period, 10-year fixed-rate loans are averaging 3.44%.
That’s up slightly from an average 3.39% a week earlier, and it's still pretty close to late September's all-time low of 3.36%.
Again, people with excellent credit qualify for lower-than-average rates. And, 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 their variable-rate cousins, your interest rate is guaranteed to hold steady over the life of the loan.
A 10-year loan also will offer more affordable monthly payments than a five-year, though you’ll spend far more money on interest by the time your debt is paid off.
How to secure the best refi rate
If you have a federal student loan, make sure you know what you may be giving up before you go jumping into a refi.
Switching from a government loan to a refinance loan — offered only by banks and other private lenders — will make you ineligible for the kind of government support some borrowers have enjoyed during the pandemic, including payment freezes, interest waivers and even loan forgiveness.
But if you’re OK with that tradeoff, or if you already have a private loan, refinancing to a cheaper rate could make a huge difference in your payments.
Here are some tips to help you snag the best possible refi rate:
Polish up your credit score. Lenders review your credit to determine whether you seem like a good risk. Today it's easy to check your credit score for free, then take steps to spiff it up so you'll look more impressive to a lender.
Set up auto-pay. Often, you can shave a little off your interest rate by agreeing to make automatic payments. That provides some assurance to the lender that you'll be paying on time every month.
Consider a co-signer. If your credit score is 200 points south of where it should be, you may need to ask a friend or family member with good credit whether they'd be willing to co-sign your loan, to help you land a better rate. But be careful, because your co-signer will be responsible for making your payments if you ever become unable.
Compare your options. The student loans universe is vast, made up of dozens and dozens of lenders. The only way to know you’re getting a good deal is to shop around. Different lenders are bound to weigh your application differently, so always get multiple rate quotes and size them up side by side before you click "Apply."