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Updated on Monday, April 20, 2015
cuStudentLoans is a service provided by LendKey. The service allows you to consolidate your student loans through a network of credit unions. Credit unions are member-owned institutions that typically provide higher rates for saving and lower rates for lending. You will likely also be able to find better credit card interest rates, fewer fees, and accounts that require lower minimum balances.
Because credit unions are member owned, the service provided directly benefits the members. However, in order to join a credit union and profit from the perks, you must be eligible to join. For example, the Credit Union of Georgia accepts members that reside in Cobb or Cherokee county, students or employees at educational institutions in those counties, or immediate family members of those primarily eligible. They also accept those associated with Cobb County realtors, a church in Cherokee county, and retired educators in Cobb County. If they had the best rates for loan but you were not eligible to become a member, then you are just out of luck.
However, cuStudentLoans aims to match credit union lenders with borrowers through the network of more than 150 not-for-profit credit unions.
In this review, we will share:
- The pros of consolidating through cuStudent Loans
- The cons of consolidating through cuStudent Loans
- Who should consider consolidating
- The potential LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) surprise
- Alternatives that you should consider
cuStudentLoans offers a low rate of 2.92% APR for a max term of 15 years. This provides the borrower more time to repay the loans than the standard 10-year repayment offered on federal student loans.
There are no origination fees and you can consolidate a maximum of $175,000. cuStudentLoans does offer forbearance/hardship programs and interest only repayment as well. A forbearance program allows you to halt student loan payments for a period of time if you are experiencing a financial hardship. However, interest continues to accrue and once the forbearance ends, the interest is capitalized, or added to the principal balance.
Borrowers can choose two products, the cuScholar Private Student Loan and cuGrad Student Loan Refinancing. cuScholar allows you to borrow through not-for-profit credit unions with the Private Student Loan product with rates as low as 3.22% APR. The cuGrad Student Loan Refinancing product allows you to refinance or consolidate undergraduate and graduate private and federal student loans into one loan with one interest rate. Rates start as low as 2.92%.
Choosing to consolidate federal loans with private loans will result in a loss of options provided with federal loans. For example, a loan consolidation with any outside lender prevents you from applying for an income based repayment and other repayment options.
Not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Applicants with excellent credit scores will qualify for the lowest rates. The rate is variable and is calculated by adding a margin ranging from 2.99% to 7.9% to one month LIBOR. LIBOR is the London Interbank Offered Rate and is a benchmark rate that some of the world’s banks use to charge each other for short-term loans. Because LIBOR changes as the cost of borrowing changes for banks, it is often used in the calculation of floating rate loans. However, the rate is ultimately capped at 18%.
For Whom is cuStudent Loans Best?
If you have private student loan that you would like to consolidate and the loans have high interest rates, then this product may be for you. Assuming you owe $30,000 in student loans with a monthly payment of $324, and excellent credit, you could save an estimated $1,009 per year. This savings is simply the difference in monthly payments. The new payment of $239.90 will allow you to save $84.10 each month totaling $1,009 by the end of the year. With an added reduction in interest, you could potentially save even more over the life of the loan.
The ideal candidate for Student Loan Refinance has:
- $7,500 – $125,000 in undergraduate student loan debt ($7,500 – $175,000 in graduate debt)
- Applicants must have reliable gross monthly income of $2,000 to apply alone. To apply with a cosigner, applicants must have reliable gross monthly income and cosigners must have reliable gross monthly income of $2,000.
- US Citizen or Permanent Resident
The Potential LIBOR Surprise
With LIBOR at record lows for the last few years, there is much speculation on when we can expect an increase. A loan with an interest rate based on LIBOR could present a nasty surprise if the rate jumps unexpectedly. A monthly payment that was previously manageable could double or triple with a rate jump. With the same $30,000 balance, a low 2.9% interest rate would mean a $288 monthly payment. However, if one month LIBOR increases and the loan rate jumps to the maximum 18%, the monthly estimated payment increases to $541; more than double the original payment.
How cuStudentLoans Compares to Competitors
Both SoFi and Citizens Bank offer fixed rate loan products. cuStudentLoans only offers variable rate products. The lowest rate for both SoFi and Citizens Bank products are higher than the lowest rate offered by cuStudentLoans; however, the fixed rate is not subject to change.
SoFi* is an option for student loan refinancing and offers fixed rate options with low rates ranging from 2.99% to 6.09%. SoFi also offers 20-year terms with no maximum on the total loan amount. However, SoFi cannot provide loans to residents of certain states so you must check eligibility before applying. No application, origination or prepayment penalty fees.
Citizens Bank offers a fixed rate education refinance loan with low rates ranging from 2.99% to 8.49%. However, the maximum loan is capped at $225k for graduate and $90k for undergraduate refinance. Citizens Bank offers 20-year terms and there are no prepayment penalties.
So, Should You Consolidate?
If you want to consolidate your student loans and you have excellent credit, then consider cuStudentLoans as an option. However, the variable interest rate is a concern and could cause your monthly payment to jump at any time. And consolidating federal student loans could cause you to lose some of the benefits offered with federal loans. But keep in mind; consolidating your student loans can help you streamline your finances as you make one payment each month. Evaluate your loan type, federal or private, and determine if a loan consolidation with cuStudentLoans is right for your situation.
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