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Life Events

10 Cities Where Women Outearn Their Partners

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

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Despite the growing prevalence of women in the workforce, the median earnings of women over the age of 25 was $32,679 in 2017, with men’s median earnings for that same age group at $46,152, per U.S. Census Bureau data, who estimated that women only earn nearly 71% of their male counterparts.

The reasons for this discrepancy are stridently debated, with theories ranging from personal preferences to mismatched family responsibilities, cultural pressure, institutional compensation or advancement bias. Whatever combination of factors are keeping women’s pay low, the fact remains that female workers make less than their male counterparts — both at work and at home.

Our new analysis takes a closer look at pay differences between men and women to see how it affects couples. To find out whether some places are more likely to have a balance between male and female breadwinners, we analyzed microdata from the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census for the 50 largest metros in the country.

In an ideal world, men and women would be equally likely to be the breadwinner of a couple. But our analysis found that in the 50 largest metros, women were the main breadwinner in less than 31% of couples’ households.

Key takeaways

  • Women are far less likely to be the breadwinners in a couple, our study found. Even in the cities with the highest rates of female breadwinners, women outearned their partners in just one out of three coupled households.
  • Hartford, Conn., takes the No. 1 spot. In 31.1% of this city’s coupled households, a woman was the partner who earned more. Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, follow in second and third place, with female breadwinner rates of 31.2% and 30.7%, respectively.
  • Only 22.6% of couples in Salt Lake City have female breadwinners, earning it the last place spot (50th) on our list. Following at 49th and 48th place are Houston and Riverside, Calif., with female breadwinner rates of 23.5% and 23.9%, respectively.

Top 10 cities where more women outearn their partners

In the 10 major U.S. cities with the highest rates of couples with female breadwinners, roughly three in 10 couples have a woman earning more than her partner.

This is a contrast to other surveys that have found higher rates of female breadwinners, such as 49% of women who said they were the primary breadwinner in an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. The difference in these findings could be attributed to single women or single mothers who are the household’s sole income earners. Women may be more likely to be breadwinners in these surveys that include those who report they’re not competing with a partner for that title.

When they are paired up, however, our analysis shows that women are less likely to be the higher earner. Here’s a closer look at the 10 major U.S. cities that had the highest rates of female breadwinners.

1. Hartford, Conn.

Women who are partnered up are the most likely to be the breadwinner if they live in Hartford. Here, 31.3% of coupled women outearn their partner. This could be thanks to the higher parity of pay in this city, where the gap between men and women’s earnings shrinks to just 17.8%.

2. Minneapolis

Next is Minneapolis, which has almost the same rate of female breadwinners, with 31.2% of coupled women earning more than their partners.

Minneapolis also took the No. 2 spot in our ranking of the best cities for working women. Its high ranking is due to a number of factors, but it’s a true standout for low unemployment among women and decent workplace protections for pregnant women and mothers.

3. Columbus, Ohio

In Columbus, 30.7% of partnered women are the breadwinners. Overall, women here make about $0.19 less per dollar than their male counterparts, well in line with the average among all 50 cities included in this analysis.

4. Providence, R.I.

Providence, R.I. has a female breadwinning rate of 30.5%. This is no surprise, given that it’s the eighth-best city for working women.

While the gender pay gap is above average here, at 19.9%, Providence has above-average rates of women in management positions along with better policies for maternity and parental leave.

5. Baltimore

Among women in Baltimore who are part of a couple, 30.2% outearn their partners. Here, women earn just 18.8% less than men, giving them a better chance of landing pay that beats their significant other’s salary.

6. Sacramento, Calif.

The third-best city for working women, Sacramento, also has one of the highest rates of female breadwinners: 30.0%.

It offers a lower pay gap between genders, with women earning just 14.6% less than men. Sacramento also gets a boost from California’s robust policies and benefits for pregnancy, maternity and family leave.

7. Boston

Boston is the next city with the highest rate of coupled households for which women are the breadwinners, at 29.6%. The gender pay gap here is 18.9%, which is just below average.

8. San Francisco

Next is another top city for working women, San Francisco. Here, the gap in median pay by gender is 18.7% and women outearn their partners 29.5% percent of the time. As another Californian city, women workers in San Francisco are also likely to benefit from strong parental and family work policies.

9. Memphis, Tenn.

In Memphis, women are the breadwinners in 29.4% of couples’ households — that’s despite its ranking as the second-worst city for women. It has just a few redeeming factors, however, such as the above-average number of female managers and the below-average childcare costs in Memphis.

10. Richmond, Va.

Couples in Richmond are among those most likely to be led by a female breadwinner, with 29.2% of women out-earning their partners. Women here earn $.192 less for every $1 male workers earn, only slightly above the average. Still, working women in Richmond are more likely to receive employer-provided health care and more affordable child care costs, which can offset this pay gap.

10 cities where women aren’t breadwinners


Along with the 10 cities that had the highest rates of women out-earning their partners, we also found the 10 major U.S. cities where women were the least likely to be breadwinners. In these cities, around a quarter (or fewer) of women with partners bring home higher pay than their significant other.

Most of these cities were also among the worst places for women to work, including Detroit and Oklahoma City. Still, low rates of female breadwinners isn’t always a sign of a city that disadvantages women, as three of these cities were among the 15 best places for working women: Austin, Texas; Phoenix; and Virginia Beach, Va.

How the gender pay gap affects shared finances

Overall, this study is another sign of how women are often behind when it comes to pay. The gender pay gap is a big contributor to the low rate of female breadwinners, but it affects more than just women.

When a woman is paid less, this impacts her partner too. The entire household comes up short, setting back financial goals such as paying down debt, building security and savings, and managing money day-to-day.

Some women will also feel the pain of the wage gap more than others, too. Same-sex couples comprised of two female earners, for example, will be doubly hit by the setbacks of the gender pay gap. Women who are the sole breadwinners might also find that they’re having to support their family on less pay than many men in the same position. And for women who earn less than their partner, a separation or divorce can be particularly problematic for their finances.

Many of these factors are outside of U.S. women’s immediate control — but that makes it all the more important to focus on improving their finances where they can.

Here are some ways women can work to close, offset, or compensate for the gender pay gap.

Work on increasing your income. The top cities are proof that the gender pay gap doesn’t have to be universal, and many women are finding ways to close or even overcome it. Take a look at your current pay and do some research through sites such as PayScale or Glassdoor to figure out if it’s fair. If it’s not, it might be time to ask to be paid what you’re worth, either with your current employer or a new one.

You can also look out for career training and opportunities that could act as stepping stones to higher-paying positions. You can even create your own opportunities to boost your income and grow your skills with a side hustle.

Share costs fairly. There are a lot of ways for couples to manage their money together, so look into different methods and decide together on one that’s equitable. If your partner earns twice as much as you, for example, does it really make sense to split expenses 50-50? Discuss how you can work with differences in pay to ensure that both assets and expenses are equally and fairly shared.

Make savings a priority. Women in a couple must save for their own future, regardless of what they earn. It can be wise to have your own checking or savings accounts that are held in your name alone, where you can build financial security independent of your partner. It’s also wise to set up your own retirement accounts and contribute to those regularly, as well.

Manage debt wisely. Debt can be a huge source of stress for couples. On top of that, debt accrued in marriage can be considered jointly shared, making you equally responsible for its repayment even if your spouse took it out. So it’s smart to practice good budgeting habits, live within your means and avoid getting into debt. Even if you’re not married, your or your partner’s debt will still affect shared money goals and lower the debtor’s ability to contribute as equally. Work on paying debt off faster, and look into ways to lower costs such as credit card consolidation.

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LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender.

While women with a partner are still less likely to be the breadwinners than partnered men, it doesn’t have to hold back their finances. Choose a significant other who values and equal partnership and practices sound financial management. Aim for higher-paying positions at work to try to close the gender gap. Then improve your own money skills and knowledge so you can make the most of your income.

Methodology

Analysts used the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey 2017 microdata hosted on IPUMS to determine the percentage of coupled households with a female partner, where a female partner had the higher income. The analysis was limited to the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Elyssa Kirkham
Elyssa Kirkham |

Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here

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Tie the Knot With These 5 Wedding Loans

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

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Updated – November 28, 2018

Your wedding day is bound to be one of the most important days of your life, and because of this, you may be tempted to go all out.

According to WeddingWire, the average cost of a wedding ceremony in the United States runs around $27,000, with another $4,000 for the honeymoon. Further, 80% of engaged couples are millennials who pay approximately 40% of the wedding costs themselves — that’s a big chunk of change.

If you’re tying the knot, you may be looking to use a personal loan to help cover wedding costs. Here’s what to consider before you commit to a loan and five lenders you should consider.

Cut costs before considering a loan

Kicking off your marriage with fresh debt may not be the best idea. That’s why, before taking out debt, you should review your wedding’s costs to see where you can save.

Consider these average costs from The Knot’s 2017 Real Weddings Study and ways you could cut costs:

Wedding planner

Skip out on a wedding planner and take advantage of free wedding planner apps, such as The Knot and Zola. These apps can keep you focused and organized from the day of engagement to the day of the ceremony.

Venue

Opt for a cheaper venue. For example, a church or firehouse that has a reception hall attached might not cost as much as a hotel ballroom.

Catering

The more guests you have, the more expensive catering becomes. To bring down this cost, opt for a buffet rather than a sit-down dinner. Keeping your food options simple and trimming your guest list will also help minimize the catering fee.

Flowers

Almost every wedding incorporates flowers, so you may not want to do away with this tradition. But instead of hiring a florist, you could save by having your bridesmaids help you arrange the flowers yourself (keep in mind that flowers that are in season in your area will have a cheaper price tag).

Gown

When shopping for a wedding gown, keep an eye out for bridal shows and sales. You’ll also want to consider second-hand shops, as wedding dresses have only been worn once and are typically in excellent shape.

Photographer and videographer

Check your contacts to see if you know any photographers or videographers who’d be willing to capture your wedding at a discount. If not, contact local studios to see if they have an associate or intern you could book for less.

Music

Do you really need a DJ or live band at your wedding? Consider creating your own wedding playlist and plugging into your venue’s sound system instead.

Wedding cake

A large number of cake tiers drives up the cost of a wedding cake. Stick with one or two tiers using less expensive fillings for a smaller price tag. You can then order a sheet cake on the side to have enough cakes to serve all of your guests.

Decor

Your decor is probably the easiest category to save on — using sites like Pinterest can help you come up with ideas of centerpieces and decorations you can make yourself.

Still need a loan? What to look for in a wedding loan

A personal loan is likely your best option for covering wedding expenses you can’t cover out of pocket. Unless your credit card has a promotional 0% APR, it likely has a higher interest rate than you’ll find on a personal loan. Furthermore, you may not want to tie up your assets by opting for a secured loan.

With a personal loan, you’ll make payments over a set period of time. In the MagnifyMoney personal loan marketplace, you’ll find loan terms from one to 12 years. The rate you receive will depend on your credit score and the lender.

When choosing a loan, there are a few things you’ll need to consider:

  • Credit score: Applicants with higher credit scores will receive better offers than those who don’t have the best credit. Equifax considers a score of 725 to 759 as good, and 760 to 850 as excellent.
  • Loan amount: The more money you borrow, the harder it will be to pay back. Never take out more than you need — so make sure to review your wedding expenses first to see where you can cut back, so you know exactly how much to take out.
  • Term: The shorter the term you select, the larger your monthly payment obligation will be. On the other hand, you’ll have the debt paid off much faster. Check your monthly budget to determine the shortest term you can afford.
  • Interest rate: Higher interest rates mean larger monthly payments. Always shop around and select the loan with lower rates.
  • Fees: Some personal loans come with fees. Check to see if there are any application, origination or prepayment fees, as some lenders charge these.

5 personal loans to pay for a wedding

You have many different lenders you can choose from to apply for a personal loan for your wedding. While you can shop among local banks and credit unions, you should also consider online lenders to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

LendingTree, which owns MagnifyMoney, offers a tool you can use to see loan offers. Using the tool, you’ll input basic information about yourself and what you’re looking for out of a loan. Afterwards, you can review loan offers from up to five different lenders.

LendingTree
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5.99%
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35.99%

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Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

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on LendingTree’s secure website

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LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that you may be able to compare up to five personal loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online and you may be pre-qualified by lenders without impacting your credit score. LendingTree is not a lender.

To help kickstart your search, consider these five lenders:

Company
Loan terms
APR range
Origination fees
Minimum credit score required
Earnest

36 to 60

months

6.99% - 18.24%

Origination fee

No origination fee

680

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Earnest does not lend in Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, or Rhode Island.

12 to 60

months

7.42% - 12.44%

Origination fee

$100

680

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on LendingTree’s secure website

24 to 144

months

3.99% - 16.99%

Origination fee

No origination fee

660

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Advertiser Disclosure.

Your APR may differ based on loan purpose, amount, term, and your credit profile. Rate is quoted with AutoPay discount, which is only available when you select AutoPay prior to loan funding. Rates under the invoicing option are 0.50% higher. Subject to credit approval. Conditions and limitations apply. Advertised rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Payment example: Monthly payments for a $10,000 loan at 3.99% APR with a term of 3 years would result in 36 monthly payments of $295.20.
Peerform

36 or 60

months

5.99% - 29.99%

Origination fee

1.00% - 5.00%

600

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PenFed Credit Union

60

months

Starting at 6.49%

Origination fee

No origination fee

700

Apply Now Secured

on PenFed Credit Union’s secure website

Earnest

Earnest is an excellent choice: their personal loans have no origination fee or early prepayment fees and their interest rates are on the lower side. While they do list a minimum credit score of 680 in their eligibility requirements, they also state that they consider other things, such as:

  • How much money you have in savings
  • Your educational background
  • Your earning potential

Applicants must be 18 years of age, U.S. citizens or long-term permanent aliens with residence in either the District of Columbia or one of 45 partner states (excluding Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Nevada, and Rhode Island).

Loans of $5,000 to $75,000 are available in terms of 36 to 60 months at APRs from 6.99% to 18.24%. Once you receive an offer from Earnest, you have seven days to accept it.

First Midwest Bank

First Midwest Bank offers low APRs of 7.42% to 12.44% for loans between $5,000 and $25,000. In addition, they allow you to repay the loan in as little as 12 months or as long as 60 months.

The downside to First Midwest Bank is the $100 loan documentation fee, and the 680 minimum credit score with five years of good credit history requirement, which may not be attainable for all couples.

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and live in one of the following 26 states to qualify: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

LightStream

You won’t have to worry about any origination, prepayment or hidden fees with LightStream’s personal loan. However, for the best rates on offer, applicants will need to have excellent credit (a minimum 660 credit score will be considered), five years of good credit history and proof of their ability to save.

Couples can take out between $5,000 and $100,000 with terms between 24 to 144 months. If you’re willing to sign up for AutoPay, you’ll enjoy 0.50% off your APR, making the range 3.99% to 16.99%.

LightStream also has two additional perks that set them above other lenders. First, if you have a better offer from a competitor, LightStream will not only match it, but give you a rate that’s 0.10 percentage points below the competitor. Second, if you are unhappy with any part of the loan process, LightStream will refund you $100.

Loans can be approved and funded the same day you apply if you’ve completed all of the steps by 2:30 pm EST.

Peerform

Peerform is a peer-to-peer lender with a lower 600 minimum credit score requirement. The company will even allow you to check your eligibility with a soft pull that won’t affect your credit score.

Applicants can borrow between $4,000 and $25,000 at APRs between 5.99% and 29.99% with a 36-month term. However, it is important that couples are aware of the many fees involved with using Peerform.

All personal loans are subject to origination fees of 1.00% - 5.00% and check processing fees of $15 per check. If you send your payment in late, or your payment is rejected due to insufficient funds, you’ll have to pay additional fees. When you submit an application with Peerform, you may receive multiple loan offers. You’ll be able to review each offer and choose the best one.

PenFed Credit Union

In order to apply for a personal loan with PenFed Credit Union to cover your wedding expenses, you’ll need to first become a member. Eligibility depends on where you’re employed, where you volunteer, whether you are in the military and which associations you belong to.

If you qualify, you can borrow between $500 and $25,000 at a starting APR of 6.49%. Terms range up to 60 months, and the loan does not have any origination or other fees attached to it. This credit union has a minimum credit score requirement of 700. They do state that all loans are subject to a minimum $50 monthly payment.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at erinm@magnifymoney.com

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Building Credit, Life Events

How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Many college students, graduates and parents (or grandparents) of students have taken out student loans to help pay for educational expenses. These loans are generally reported to the three national consumer credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and could impact the borrower’s credit score.

Building credit can be important for your financial and personal life. A high score can make qualifying for new loans or credit cards easier, may save you money with lower interest rates or insurance premiums and could even help you rent an apartment or home.

Because so many people have student loans — and for many new college students, the loans may be the first time they use credit — understanding how student loans can affect your credit is important.

So, how exactly do student loans affect your credit score?

Student loans can hurt or help your credit score

As with other types of installment loans, such as a personal loan or auto loan, your student debt can help or hurt your credit score depending on how you manage your loans and your overall credit profile.

But student loans have a few features, such as deferment or forbearance, that may not be as common with other types of installment loans. Understanding these features, how they work and the impact they could have on your credit can help you manage your student loans with confidence.

If you want to see where you stand with your credit, you may be able to check your credit reports and scores for free through a variety of financial institutions and online tools. For example, LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, gives you free access to your TransUnion VantageScore 3.0.

How student loans can hurt your credit

Opening new accounts can lower your score

Whether you take out a student loan or something else, a new credit account can lead to a dip in your credit score for several reasons.

For one thing, the new account could decrease the average age of accounts on your credit reports — a higher average age is generally better for your score. Additionally, if you applied for a private student loan, the application could lead to the lender reviewing your credit history. A record of this, known as a “hard inquiry” or “hard credit check,” remains on your report and may hurt your score a little.

Your student loans will also increase your current debt load. While the amount you owe on installment loans may not be as important as outstanding credit card debt, it could still negatively impact your score.

Credit scores aside, lenders may consider your debt-to-income ratio when you apply for a new credit account. Having a large amount of student loan debt could make it more difficult to qualify for a loan or credit line later, even if you have a good credit score.

You might wind up opening many student loan accounts

Often, students who take out student loans will have their new loan or part of the loan disbursed near the start of each term. Each disbursement could count as its own loan on your credit reports. So even if you only send one payment to your servicer every month, the servicer allocates the payments among each individual loan.

Each of these student loans could impact your age of accounts and overall debt balance. Also, if you’re repeatedly applying for private student loans, each application could lead to a hard inquiry.

You might fall behind on your payments

Your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining a credit score. Being 30 or more days past due could lead to a negative mark on your credit reports that can hurt your credit score.

And even before the 30-day point, your loan servicer may charge you a late fee if you don’t pay your bill by the due date, although some servicers give borrowers a grace period, often for 15 days.

If you’re repaying multiple student loans, missing a single payment to your loan servicer could lead to a late payment on each of your student loan accounts. Falling further behind could lead to a larger negative impact on your score, as your loan servicer reports your payments 60-, 90-, 120-, 150- and then 180-days past due.

Unless you bring your accounts current, they could be sent to collections, which could be indicated on your credit reports and hurt your score more.

Getting too far behind on student loan payments could also end up putting you in default, and you’ll immediately owe the entire outstanding balance rather than being able to use a repayment plan. The lender may also be able to sue you to take money directly from your paycheck or, in some cases, your tax return or bank account.

Federal Direct and Federal Family Education Loans go into default after 270 days of nonpayment. Other student loans may default sooner.

It can be more difficult to pay other bills

Even if you can stay on track with your student loans, having to make the monthly payment could cause trouble keeping up with other bills.

Missing a credit card, auto loan or mortgage payment could hurt your credit, as could rolling over a large amount of credit card debt, even if you’re consistently making minimum payments on time.

How student loans can help your credit

Student loans can establish credit

A student loan may be some borrowers’ first foray into the world of credit, and it could help them establish a credit history.

Credit-scoring models require a minimum amount of data to generate a score, and having a student loan on your credit reports could help make you scorable rather than “credit invisible.”

A student loan can diversify your credit mix

Showing that you can manage different types of accounts, such as installment loans and revolving accounts (credit cards, lines of credit, etc.), could help your credit score.

If the only debt you’ve had is a credit card, adding an installment loan in the form of a student loan can increase your mix of accounts and help your score. Likewise, if your only credit account is a student loan, opening a credit card might help your score.

Making on-time payments can help your score

Since your credit history is one of the most important credit-scoring factors, try to always make on-time payments as you repay your student loans. Doing so could help you build a solid credit history, which can lead to a higher score.

If you’re having trouble affording your student loan payments, consider your options (discussed below), and look for a way to lower or temporarily stop your payments before you miss one.

The loans can help build a lengthy credit history

Although it’s not one of the most important credit-scoring factors, the length of your credit history and the average age of your accounts can impact your credit score.

If you take out a student loan during your first term at school, you may wind up with years’ worth of credit history before graduating.

Continuing to take out new student loans each term could lower your average age of accounts. But your average age of accounts will still increase as you repay your loans.

One common point of confusion is whether closed accounts can still impact your credit history.

They can.

For example, if you take out a student loan as a freshman, then defer the payments for four years and repay the loan using the 10-year standard repayment plan, the account will be closed once it’s repaid.

But the account will still stay on your credit reports for up to 10 years from when it was closed, and it could impact your credit history and average age of accounts during that period.

Protecting your credit while repaying student loans

Once you take out student loans, you may be able to defer making full (or any) payments until after you leave school. But once you start repaying the loans, a misstep could lower your credit score. Here are a few ways you could keep your student loans from hurting your credit.

Don’t miss your first payment

Many student loans offer an in-school deferment period, which lets you put off loan payments until six months after you leave school. In-school deferment lets you focus on your schoolwork and makes student loans affordable, as many students might not have enough income to afford monthly payments.

But don’t forget about your loans and miss your first payment. Doing so could hurt your credit score.

To avoid missing the first — and subsequent — payments, you may want to enroll in an auto payment program with your student loan servicer. Many lenders and loan servicers will even offer you an interest rate discount as long as you’re enrolled in autopay.

Compare repayment plans

You may be able to choose from several federal student loan repayment options. The main options include the standard, extended, graduated and income-driven plans.

 

Federal student loan repayment plans
Federal student loan repayment plans

Choosing an extended, graduated or income-driven plan, rather than the standard plan, could lower your monthly payments.

If you choose an income-driven plan, be sure to renew your repayment plan every year and send your loan servicer updated documentation to remain eligible.

Although the nonstandard plans could wind up costing you more in interest overall, the lower payments could make managing all your bills easier, which can be important for maintaining and building credit.

Contact your lender if you’re struggling to afford your payments

If you do find yourself struggling to make payments, be sure to reach out to your loan servicer. With federal student loans, you may be able to switch repayment plans, or temporarily place your loans into deferment or forbearance to stop making payments.

Private student loans aren’t eligible for the federal repayment plans, but private student loan lenders may offer similar deferment or forbearance options. Some may also have other hardship options, such as temporarily reduced payment amounts or interest rates.

Your credit score won’t be affected by placing your loans into deferment, forbearance or using a hardship option, as long as you make at least the required monthly payment on time. But interest may still accrue on your loans if you’re not making payments, and the accumulated interest could be added to your loan principal once you resume your full monthly payments.

Learn about federal student loan default rehabilitation

If one or more of your federal student loans has gone into default, there are two ways that you could potentially “rehabilitate” the loan and get back on a repayment plan:

  • You could consolidation the loans with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan. The Department of Education will issue you a new loan and use the money to pay off your existing loans. If you include your defaulted loan, that loan will be paid off, and your new consolidation loan will be current. To be eligible, you must agree to either repay the consolidation loan with an income-driven repayment plan or to make three monthly payments on your defaulted loan before applying for consolidation.
  • Alternatively, you could contact your loan servicer and agree to make nine monthly payments within 10 consecutive months. The servicer will determine your monthly payment amount, which should be “reasonable and affordable” based on your discretionary income. Once you complete the payments, your loan will be taken out of default.

If you use the second method — and this if the first time you rehabilitated the student loan — the default associated with the loan will also be removed from your credit reports. Although the late payments associated with the loan will remain for up to seven years from the date of your first late payment, having the default removed could help your score.

With the first method, the default won’t be removed.

Private student loan companies may also offer you a way to rehabilitate a private student loan that’s in default. If you use the program, you may be able to request the removal of the default from your credit reports by contacting the lender, but the late payments on the account could remain.

Can shopping for student loans impact your credit?

Comparing student loan lenders and loan types won’t impact your credit score unless you submit an application for a private student loan. When you submit a private student loan application, the resulting hard inquiry could have a minor negative impact on your score.

Shopping for a private student loan, comparing the pros and cons of different lenders, and submitting multiple applications so you can accept the loan with the best terms is generally a good idea. Hard inquiries usually only have a small impact on credit scores, and scores often return to their pre-inquiry level within a few months, as long as no new negative information winds up on your credit reports.

While multiple hard inquiries can increase score drops, particularly for those who are new to credit, credit-scoring agencies recognize the importance of rate shopping. As a result, multiple inquiries for student loans that occur with a 14- to 45-day window (depending on the type of credit score) only count as a single inquiry when your score is being calculated.

Can refinancing student loans help or hurt your credit?

If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)

Refinancing can save you money if you qualify for a lower interest rate than your loans currently have, and combining multiple loans into one could make managing your debt easier.

When it comes to credit scores, refinancing student loans is a bit like taking out a new loan. You’ll need to apply for the loan, which could lead to a hard inquiry. Shopping around and submitting applications during a short period could help you get the best rate while limiting the negative impact of the inquiries.

After getting approved for refinancing, the new loan may be reported to the credit bureaus, which could lower your average age of accounts. Your other loans will be paid off, but they could stay on your credit reports for up to 10 more years. Your overall installment-loan debt will stay the same, and as long as you continue to make on-time payments, your score may improve over time.

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Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

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