Students

How Student Loan Deferments Affect Your Credit

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There’s no denying the value of a college education. With countless surveys and studies, there’s more than enough evidence to prove that consumers with college degrees earn more over their lifetimes than those without. The downside, however, is the cost that often comes with earning that highly sought-after degree.

Outstanding student loan debt has topped the $1 trillion mark, and if rising delinquency rates are any indication, more and more Americans are finding it hard to make good on their student loan payments. Unfortunately, as with any other type of loan or credit obligation, falling behind or defaulting on a student loan can wreak havoc on your credit.

This doesn’t stop “life” from happening, though, and despite our best intentions, we can’t always control financial setbacks. If you’re having trouble maintaining your student loan payments, a deferment or forbearance may give you some breathing room while you work to regain your financial footing. Both offer a temporary reprieve on student loan repayments, which is important since student loans are rarely dischargeable in bankruptcy. The key is deciding which option is right for you and understanding the primary differences between them.

Deferment vs. Forbearance

Deferment and forbearance are similar in that they both allow you to put your student loan payments on hold, temporarily suspending your minimum monthly payment obligations. If you’ve suffered a job loss or other economic hardship, you may be eligible for a deferment or forbearance through your lender, though eligibility and terms will vary from lender to lender. In general, the time frames for temporary relief on student loans can range anywhere from a month or two to a year or longer.

Interest Accrual

The main difference between a deferment and forbearance is the interest. In the case of deferments, you maybe able to save on interest depending on whether or not your loan qualifies as an eligible government-subsidized loan. If your loan is a subsidized government loan, the interest is subsidized at a much lower rate and in some cases, you may not be charged any interest at all while the loan is in deferment. For this reason, deferments are often harder to qualify for. With forbearance, even though you aren’t obligated to make the monthly payment, you will continue to accrue the full rate of interest on any outstanding loan balance.

Credit Impact

One of the most common questions about forbearance and deferment is how they affect your credit and which, if either, causes the least amount of damage to your credit scores. The good news? Student loan deferments have no impact whatsoever on your credit scores. The same is true for student loans in forbearance. Both are noted in your credit reports, but neither indicator will
hurt your credit score.

However, if you are late or miss a payment prior to being approved for a deferment or forbearance, your score will suffer. The key to protecting your credit is to act quickly — don’t wait until you’ve fallen behind to reach out to your lender and explore your options. And it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your score, no matter what. Credit.com’s Credit Report Card is one service that lets you check your credit score every month for free.

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  • Brenda Branch

    My daughter lost her job approx 2 years ago and sent in paperwork to defer her student loan payments until she could find another job. She is a single parent of 2 children. She found a job approx a year later in another state. It seems as if the deferment somehow got lost in the black hole and now interest has been added on to her original loan which has made her balance back up to the original amount even though she has been paying on this loan for several years prior to her losing her job. Who can she contact to straighten this mess out and get her back on track?

    She has tried for 2 years to straighten this out but to no avail. Any assistance in this matter will be greatly appreciated. She is a registered Clinical Dietician at a Hospital and works in the NICU.
    She has gotten frustrated but I believe that there is some Gov. Agency that can help her out. This student loan mess has almost caused her to lose the job she now has.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It sounds like perhaps she made a mistake that is not uncommon for borrowers to make. They stop making payments before their deferment has been officially processed and, until it is, they are responsible for the full payments and any interest that results from missed payments. If that’s what happened and even perhaps if it’s not – she needs to focus on getting out of default and on an affordable repayment plan. She may be able to lower her payments under the Income Based Repayment Program once her loan is out of default. I’d suggest you and your daughter listen to this interview with a consumer law attorney who explains your rights when student loans are in default.

  • patty

    I applied for a store credit card recently and was turned down because of my student loan. This was because of the “debt-to-income ratio.” My student loan debt is about three times higher than my yearly income. Also, I have no other debt besides the $1,000 that I still owe on my car. I pay off my credit card balances each month and my credit score is in the 800-900 range. Although being declined may actually be a blessing in disguise because it will prevent me from spending more money and creating more debt.

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  • Mark

    Your credit score isn’t in the 800 to 900 range, I guarantee that. No store credit card would ever decline an applicant with a score that high. Plus, scores cap out at 850 so if you are in the 900 range thats really impressive

    • juan

      Credit maxes out at 893. And yes you can be declined with a great score because of debt to income ratio. Though surprised that a store would deny you.

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  • Hollygolightly1105

    In 2004, I received a private student loan through a local bank. The local bank approved the loan through their education subsidiary. In 2007, I graduated college and obtained a job. In early 2009, I was laid off, and was approved by the education subsidiary for a loan deferment. I obtained a new job in late 2009. In 2011, I was laid off again, and was denied a loan deferment, as well as a loan forbearance, and a reduced payment schedule. I was specifically told that I could no longer negotiate deferment, et al. with the education subsidiary, but had to call the local bank directly. I called the local bank directly, and they told me that even though I was on unemployment with no job prospects yet, I either had to make the full payment each month or risk going into default, unless I was able to prove (by sending a copy of a job offer complete with salary information) that I could begin making full payments again within 6 months. Putting myself in financial straits, I continued to make the full payments until I found another job in 2012. In 2013, I was again laid off, and was again given the same story about having to call the local bank instead of working with the education subsidiary, whom I called and was again denied deferment, and forbearance, and reduced payments, unless I could prove that I would be able to make full payments again in 6 months. However this time I was informed that the bank only allowed deferment or forbearance or reduced payments once every 5 years, and since I had taken advantage of that in 2009, I was no longer eligible, regardless of my income/job circumstances.

    Is this legal? I don’t understand why this bank is treating this loan as a personal loan rather than an education loan, and denying me the ability to either delay or reduce payments.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Private student loan lenders are not required to offer flexible repayment options, unfortunately. In addition, the loan may have been securitized – packaged and sold to investors – which means the bank has less flexibility to modify the loan even if it wanted to.

      I wish I had a better answer for you, but there are minimal consumer protections for these loans. You may want to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is looking at whether certain consumer protections can be extended to private loans. It won’t help you in the short run, but if enough students speak up, then hopefully something will change.

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