icon_marketing_blogFinance_20x20.svg Personal finance  |  October 12, 2022  |  Connor Peoples

How to Pay off Student Loans (Fast!)

What you’ll learn
  • How to get organized
  • Ways to potentially lower your student loan interest rate(s)
  • What bonus payments can do for you
  • How to take advantage of extra money

Whether you’re a current college student, a freshly minted graduate, or a seasoned professional, if you have student loans, creating a plan to pay them down can be a wise investment of your time. With the right resources, you can get ahead of schedule and pay off your student loans fast!

1. Get organized

If you haven’t yet started paying off your student loans, or if you’re in the process, but could use some help, take a moment to get organized.

First, you may have used federal or private student loans or both for your postsecondary education. If you have federal loans, you can visit the National Student Loan Data System. If you’re not sure whether your loans are federal or private, or who your private loans are with, pull your credit report to find out.

After you figure out who you owe, it’s just as important to figure out how much you owe, when your payments are due, and the interest rate for each loan. By creating a spreadsheet with your loan amounts, interest rates, and servicers, you can pinpoint the loans with the highest interest rates. The loans with the highest interest rates are the loans you should prioritize to pay down the fastest. In addition, this step can also be a good point to update or create a budget. Having a budget on hand will make it much easier for you to identify where money is available in your budget that can be used to pay off your student loans faster.

2. Enlist the right tools

Once you have a full understanding what your student loan payments will be, there are other tools, like a monthly budget worksheet, that can compare your student loan payments to your other monthly expenses. By mapping out your monthly expenses line-by-line, you can see which expenses are most important each month and decide from there how to manage the rest of your spending.

Still in school? Now’s the best time to start planning how to pay back your student loans. There are tools, like a student loan payment estimator, that can help you estimate your student loan payments. Additionally, if you want to set yourself up now for a faster paydown in the future, you can choose to make payments while in school. If you pay student loan interest, or even a small, fixed amount every month while in school, you may be able to lower your total loan cost, make your post-school payments more manageable, build your credit, and graduate with less debt.

3. Enroll in auto debit

Most federal student loan servicers offer a quarter percentage point interest rate discount if you allow them to automatically pull payments from your bank account. Many private lenders also offer an auto debit deduction as well. Enrolling in auto debit will help ensure your student loan payments are paid on time each month.

At Sallie Mae, for example, enrolling in auto debit may also qualify you for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate deduction on your eligible loan(s).footnote 1 By lowering your interest rate and making on-time payments each month, you will save money on your total loan cost, which could in result in your paying off your student loans faster.

4. Make bi-weekly student loan payments

You may also be able to pay your student loans off faster by making a student loan payment every two weeks.

Since many people get paid every other week, this effective repayment strategy lets customers fit their student loan payments into their biweekly budgets.

On a typical monthly repayment schedule, a borrower makes 12 student loan payments per year. By making 26 payments (52 weeks in the year, divided by two) of half the required payment amount, a student could end up making 13 months’ worth of student loan payments over the same 12-month span. In addition, by paying your student loans bi-weekly, you may lower your principal amounts more frequently, which could lead to lower total interest being paid over the life of the loan.

5. Take advantage of “extra” money

Who doesn’t love extra money?

Whether it’s from a birthday gift or a year-end bonus, use your extra income to make more than the minimum payments on your student loan. This will also help you save money on interest and total loan costs over the life of your student loan.

Now more than ever, many employers are beginning to help employees pay down student loans. This may come in the form of direct payments to lenders or online tools to help employees track loan balances. Some are also matching payments with contributions to an employee’s 401(k).

Address any problems right away 

If you’re having trouble paying down your student loans, you should speak with your cosigner, if you have one. Your cosigner is equally responsible for paying off the loan, so they should be aware if you’re having trouble. 

Also, don’t hesitate to contact your loan servicer—they may be able to help.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey financial, tax, or legal advice. Sallie Mae makes no claims about the accuracy or adequacy of this information. These materials may not reflect Sallie Mae’s view or endorsement. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

footnote 1. Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month and may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan.