Refinancing your student loans is an excellent way to save money and remove some of the stress from your life. However, sometimes the idea of getting started can feel just as overwhelming as your loans themselves. It’s simpler than you may think. Before you contact a lender, take a look at our student loan refinance prep checklist to get everything in order and have an anxiety-free refinance.


Step 1: Know your goals.

Before you talk to lenders, it’s important to know exactly what you hope to get out of a student loan refinance. Are you OK with a longer term as long as your monthly payments are lowered? Or are you just trying to lower your interest rate but keep your payments the same so you can pay off faster? Maybe you just want to switch to a bank you like better or consolidate many loans into one for convenience. Whatever your goals are, have them in place so you stay on track during lender conversations.


Step 2: Know your interest rate.

Check your current loan paperwork to figure out what your interest rates are so you can know immediately if an offered rate is better than what you have now. If you have multiple loans, be sure to have all the interest rates handy when you get started on your refinance process.


Step 3: Figure out your pay-off amount.

Your total pay-off amount on a loan is more than the loan itself. This is because it includes interest. If you’re going to consolidate loans, first add up the total pay-off amounts of all your existing loans so you can check that against the one pay-off amount of a new, consolidated loan.


Step 4: Determine your budget.

Spend some time on a personalized budget. You can do it yourself or use a tool like Mint for help. A detailed budget will help you determine your income versus your expenses, and how much you can truly afford in a monthly student loan payment. Have that number prepared when looking at refinance options.


Step 5: Look at your debt.

You may have debt beyond your student loans—such as a car loan, home mortgage, or credit card debt. Take a hard look at all of your debt so you know the total amounts and interest rates for each. These numbers can factor into your budget. For example, credit card debt usually has the highest interest rates. If you have credit card debt, you’ll want to pay that off faster than your student loans and will need to balance those priorities out in your budget.


Step 6: Check your credit score.

The best lenders expect borrowers to have a credit score in at least the 600s before taking on a refinance. There are exceptions, but it’s good to go into the process knowing where you stand. If your credit score is pretty low, you can take some time to try and raise it (check out tips here) to maximize your refinance opportunity.


Step 6: Know your loan type

Are your loans from private lenders or are they federal loans? Your type of loan matters. Refinancing federal loans with a private lender may exclude you from future inclusion in programs like loan forgiveness or income-based repayment. If all of your loans are federal, you should be confident you can keep up with payments in the future before giving up these protections.


There you have it, seven tips for what to expect when you’re expecting a student loan refinance. With these facts and figures in place, you’ll be better prepared to go into lender conversations like a pro.