Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial research influence how products appear on a page. Student Loans How to Refinance Student Loans to a Fixed Rate Updated Oct 04, 2023   |   6-min read Written by Amanda Hankel Written by Amanda Hankel Expertise: Writing, editing, digital publishing Amanda Hankel is a managing editor at LendEDU. She has more than seven years of experience covering various finance-related topics and has worked for more than 15 years overall in writing, editing, and publishing. Learn more about Amanda Hankel Reviewed by Gail Urban, CFP® Reviewed by Gail Urban, CFP® Expertise: Investment management, financial planning, financial analysis, estate planning, life insurance, student loan management, debt management, retirement planning, saving for college Gail Urban, CFP®, AAMS®, has been a licensed financial advisor since 2009, specializing in helping individuals. Before personal financial advising, she worked as a business financial manager in several industries for about 25 years. Learn more about Gail Urban, CFP® Fixed-rate loans offer a constant interest rate, providing predictability in your monthly payments, unlike variable rates, which change, often in tandem with market conditions. If you have a variable rate on your student loan, you’ve likely seen your monthly payments fluctuate.This can be a game changer when budgeting for life’s expenses. We’ll guide you through what you need to know if you’re considering refinancing to a fixed rate and how to navigate the process. Table of Contents Skip to Section Understand fixed vs. variable ratesWhy opt for fixed-rate private student loans?How to refinance your private student loan to a fixed ratePrepare to refinance to fixed ratesHow to choose a fixed-rate lenderPitfalls to avoid when refinancing to a fixed rate Understand fixed vs. variable rates Fixed rates are generally determined by a lender’s assessment of market conditions, credit risk, and the cost of lending. Lenders also factor in their operating costs and profit margin. Once established, these rates remain constant throughout the loan term. Variable rates, on the other hand, are tied to an index, like the Prime Rate or LIBOR. Then, the lender adds a margin based on your creditworthiness. Unlike fixed rates, variable rates fluctuate, potentially changing your monthly payments and the total cost of the loan over time. This is why you might find variable rates riskier, especially in an economic environment where interest rates are expected to rise. Consider the following examples to illustrate. Example: Suppose you have a $30,000 loan at a fixed rate of 5%. You know your monthly payments and how much you’ll repay in total from the start. Meanwhile, if you take that same $30,000 loan, but at an initial variable rate of 4% plus Prime, which starts at 3.5%. As the rate changes, your payments and total repayment amount rise, too By understanding these fundamentals, you’re better equipped to evaluate your loan options. It’s also worth mentioning that in a high-interest-rate environment, variable rates may start higher than fixed rates. This makes a fixed rate a stable and predictable choice. Why opt for fixed-rate private student loans? When looking to refinance private student loans, a fixed rate could be the way to go if you value stability. Delving into the benefits and drawbacks can help you make an informed decision. Pros Predictable payments A fixed rate ensures you pay the same amount each month. Interest rate stays the same Unlike variable rates, a fixed rate won’t fluctuate based on market changes. Easier to budget Knowing your payment amount makes it simpler to manage your finances. Cons May start with higher rates Fixed-rate loans often start with a higher interest rate compared to variable options. Less flexibility With a fixed rate, you’re locked into that interest rate for the loan term. How to refinance your private student loan to a fixed rate Switching from a variable to a fixed rate is a straightforward process with most lenders, provided you meet their criteria. You don’t have to jump through any extra hoops to change from fixed to variable rates—you follow the same refinancing process regardless of the type of interest rate you choose. When you apply for a new fixed-rate loan, your new lender will use it to pay off your variable-rate loan, and you’ll begin making payments to the new lender. Just keep an eye out for any refinancing fees or prepayment penalties. Here’s a closer look at the process for making the switch: Research options: Look for lenders that specialize in fixed-rate student loans. Remember, it’s not just about who allows you to switch but who makes it beneficial.Gather documents: Ready your credit report, proof of income, and details of your current loan.Prequalify with multiple lenders: Test the waters without affecting your credit score.Apply to your chosen lender: Once prequalified, proceed with the full application for the most promising lender.Evaluate offers: Compare fixed-rate offers, taking into account interest rates, terms, and fees.Complete paperwork: Seal the deal by filling out any final paperwork, and await confirmation. Prepare to refinance to fixed rates There’s not much difference between fixed-rate and variable-rate loans when it comes to eligibility. Most lenders have similar criteria for both, but some might offer more competitive rates for one over the other. Still, a little preparation goes a long way in securing a fixed rate that suits your needs. Here’s what you should have on your checklist: Credit score: Most lenders require a credit score of at least 650 to refinance. You can check your credit score for free through several online platforms or your credit card issuer. If your score falls short, steps to improve it include paying down existing debts, correcting errors on your credit report, or waiting until you have a longer credit history. A better score can not only help you qualify but also secure a more favorable fixed rate.Proof of income: Be ready to show recent pay stubs or tax returns.Debt-to-income ratio: Lenders scrutinize your monthly debts in relation to your income. A lower ratio is more favorable, and many lenders prefer a ratio below 50% to consider you a less risky borrower.Current loan terms: Understand the interest rate and repayment terms of the loan you want to refinance. This will help you evaluate offers. How to choose a fixed-rate lender Ready to refinance private student loans to a fixed rate? Here’s what to consider when shopping for a refinance loan: Interest rates: Fixed-rate loans might start at higher APRs, but they don’t change. It’s about long-term predictability. Dig deep for APRs that won’t surprise you later.Terms of the loan: Shorter terms often bring lower rates. With a fixed-rate loan, that equates to a stable monthly payment. Take a hard look at term lengths and your own budget before you decide.Fees and penalties: Don’t overlook origination fees or other charges. These can effectively raise your interest rate. Always ask for the full list of fees you could encounter. That’s why looking at the APR, not just the interest rate, is crucial. APR includes these fees, offering a more complete picture of your loan’s true cost.Customer reviews: You’ll be with this lender for a while. Reading customer reviews can clue you into the quality of service you’re signing up for. Our list of the best refinance companies breaks these elements down among our most recommended lenders to help you find the right fixed-rate lender. Pitfalls to avoid when refinancing to a fixed rate When you’re all set to refinance private student loans to a fixed rate, watch out for these red flags: High fees: Beyond origination fees, look out for hidden costs, such as application or processing fees. These can balloon your effective interest rate.Prepayment penalties: If you aim to pay off your loan early, beware of lenders that impose prepayment penalties. This extra charge defeats the purpose of refinancing for a better rate.Poor customer service: Customer service matters when you have questions or issues. If the lender has poor reviews or a bad reputation, consider it a warning sign. Refinancing to a fixed rate should work to your advantage, not set you back. Keep these pitfalls in your rearview, and you’ll be on the road to a smarter financial decision.