Refinancing Student Loans with SoFi (Even if You’re Not a Finance Whiz)

So, you ask. What’s it like, refinancing student loans with SoFi? Or perhaps you’re wondering, Connor, what even IS SoFi, and what does it have to do with student loans?

Good news! I already refinanced my student loans and am here to tell you the long and short of working with SoFi: the application, the long waits–wait, what? There weren’t any long waits? Uh… okay, then. Guess I’ll just have to tell you about my surprisingly pleasant experience (from application to paperwork to the customer service and support) refinancing my student loans with SoFi instead.

Here’s the best part about refinancing with SoFi: you don’t have to be a financial whiz to save money.  I saved myself around $1,200 a year and it only took 2 weeks!  Plus, don’t miss the special offer for Just Making Cents readers!

(This post contains affiliate links.  We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.)

Earlier this year, I refinanced my student loans with SoFi.

Right now I have about $50,000 in private student loans (Ooph). Not as many as some, certainly, but enough to make me groan every time the end of the month rolls around and my automatic loan payments go out. Goodbye, sweet paycheck. Parting is such sweet sorrow!

Except… it’s not sweet. Ever. I’m gonna guess you probably know that feeling, too.

The jury’s still out on whether my education was worth the price tag–especially since, for all that I loved college, I’ll be carrying this price tag for much longer than it took to get that Bachelor of Arts. Sometimes I think my student loans are an invisible second degree, my personal Bachelor of Debts.

But the deed is done, as they say, so it’s no use canoodling with the might-have-beens.

Student debt can be pretty terrifying. You graduate (wahoo!) and then, six months later, you start getting all these bills. Big bills. Big bills with interest rates.  And, if you have variable rates like I did, those numbers keep changing. Mine rose about 2% (not so cool!) over the past two years, and they were still going up. SoFi claimed a better, no hassle experience was possible with my loans. Is that even possible? And why refinance now, anyway?

Why Refinance Now?

It’s hard not to think about something when there are at least five or six different institutions sending you mail about that exact thing every other week. How these places got my address is another storyone I’m not entirely sure I want answered, to be honest—but I digress. Still, I began to think about it a bit more after I saw all these headlines about rising interest rates. Check out what Market Watch says about them:

federal Stafford Loans for undergraduates is set to jump to 4.45% during the 2017 to 2018 school year, up from 3.76% for the 2016 to 2017 year. Graduate students and parents will also see their interest rates rise. The interest rate on Stafford Loans for graduate students is set to increase to 6% from 5.31% during the 2016 to 2017 academic year. The rate on PLUS loans, which are used by both parents and graduate students, are set to rise to 7% from 6.31%.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. or even JT’s years on Wall Street to recognize that if interest rates have been historically low, my own interest rates have been rising, and all these headlines are warning that interest rates will rise some more… now is probably the best time to refinance.

Here’s the short and quick of my private loans as they stood at the beginning of 2017: I had three of them (one for each of my first three years of college); the first one had an insane interest rate (over 8%), but it was fixed; the latter two were variable rates, starting around 3% when issued and ending up around 5%. I stared at my bank’s statement of my loans a lot. I did some sums. I looked at a few places. SoFi seemed to be a cheaper, faster, easier option.

So I tried it.

Why Did I Consider Refinancing Student Loans with SoFi?

I chose SoFi for a few reasons—they were, for one thing, very well-geared towards millennials like myself who have bitten off a bit more than they can chew on the finance front.  

  1. They helped me save more money.  SoFi offered me a low fixed rate, then lowered that rate even more when I enrolled in autopay.  Enrolling in auto pay gave me an interest rate deduction of 0.25%, and they offer that to everyone. That’s what I was looking for when I decided to refinance. This might not sound like much, but that extra 0.25% adds up pretty quickly over 15 years. Plus, I lowered my monthly payments by about $100. This was really convenient because I lost my job shortly after I refinanced, but it also means I can apply that extra $100 I have every month (now that I have a job again) towards the principal. That means I can pay off an extra $1200 a year without changing my monthly budget. That lowers the amount that gets interest applied to it, which means I not only lessen the amount of time it takes to pay off my loan, but I actually shave off hundreds of dollars in cost.
  2. There’s no application fee. Often times, when a loan provider is giving you a low interest rate, they give you fees to make up for it. SoFi states up front that there is no application fee.  I appreciated that they keep it simple.
  3. Simple, Fast Process: It took five days to have my loan approved. This is actually on the longer end for SoFi, too, but that’s because I still needed a cosigner. They average 3-4 day turn-arounds on more straight forward loans, with a day or two more needed for added complications (like needing cosigners or being self-employed). Still, it took less than one week for them to approve my application and begin work to transfer my loan.  All told, it only took 2 weeks from start to finish!
  4. You can consolidate both Federal and Private Loans. Only a few places can do this, and SoFi is one of them.
  5. Unemployment protection. Connor, you say, you were unemployed! Did you use this? Actually, no. But it’s a great option! If you find yourself unemployed (as I did, exactly one week after my SoFi consolidation was approved), SoFi helps you out. You can lower your monthly payments or even suspend them for 3 months, and a total of 12 months over the length of the loan. (There is an excellent story behind why I did not put these loans in forbearance, but it’s a story for another time.)
  6. Accessibility. This was the highlight for me. Math I get, but finance is a foreign language I don’t understand. Unlike JT, I’m no finance whiz, and I didn’t have time during work to figure everything out for myself. SoFi is one of the most supportive, accessible companies I’ve worked with. You can call them from 7am-12am (EST), and they have an online instant messaging helpline. I used both during my application process. Whenever I had questions, whichever method I used, they were quick to respond. By quick, I mean there was no wait time on the phone. If I sent them a question using their web chat system, I got a full answer within minutes and, barring that, a first response within seconds explaining what they needed to do to answer my question and how long it might take.

What Was My Experience with SoFi Like?

I’m never going to consider anything to do with loans a great time. A great time will be the day I pay them off and collapse on a couch like a Victorian lady because I’m so overwhelmed.

I did, however, have a surprisingly pleasant time working with SoFi. In addition to their speed and support, they communicated well with me throughout the process. I got e-mail updates on my loan approval process that were frequent without—and this is key—without being annoying. Each one explained what the next step in the process would be, what (if anything) I should do to make sure everything kept going smoothly, and approximately how long it would take. SoFi’s team was efficient, but not overly brisk; informative, but not prone to the sort of info-dumps that leave you staring blankly at your computer confused as to what you’ve just read.

I’m three months in, and the good services still haven’t stopped. I get occasional (but again, not annoying) e-mails from SoFi. Some of these are specific to me–for example, I opted to get all my notices and statements via e-mail instead of by paper–and some are specific to SoFi customers (like that cooking class I got invited to last month. I know. A finance company? Free cooking classes?).  Some places it seems like once you’re in, they don’t seem to care as much about you: it’s all about the sale. SoFi has been very dedicated to making sure my entire experience is smooth, not just the five days it took to get approved in their system.

Their repayment servicer (Mohela) has been just as easy to use and helpful as SoFi itself. I enrolled in autopay (which does take one month to process), my monthly loan payments are lower than they were, my interest rate is sitting happily and, more importantly, fixed at 5.00%… sure, I’ve still got over $50,000 worth of them, but they’re a lot less overwhelming now, and rising interest rates aren’t going to change that any more. SoFi’s team has been very patient with me and my frazzled questions and concerns, and some of that soothing approach has rubbed off, which is… not something I’d ever thought could happen. I was pretty much resigned to being in a high-anxiety state about my finances for the next decade or two.

Now? Well, yes. I still have a mountain of student debt.

I’m just not afraid of it any more.  

Annoyed? Sure. Nobody likes losing a chunk of their paycheck to loan payments. But petrified? Not so much. I understand a lot more about my loans than I did at the beginning of the year, and SoFi’s calm approach to finance helped me gain some much-needed perspective on what paying off student debt can look like.

Tips To Make Your Process Even Better with SoFi:

  • Have the following information ready: Loan balances, interest rates, source of income… pretty much the things you expect.
  • Save $100: SoFi is offering a $100 welcome bonus for Just Making Cents readers when you use this link! Now that’s what I call a warm welcome.

Overall, I’d recommend SoFi to just about anyone looking to refinance. They’re the calm, cool, collected company with the financial savvy I wish I’d had when I was first getting my loans. And if your payments are high or have variable rates–with interest rates rising like they are, it might be a great time to refinance your loans with ease (and get $100 for doing it).

(JT’s Note:  Any affiliate income received from SoFi will go toward helping Connor pay down her newly refinanced student loans.  You can do it, Connor!  We believe in you!)

Have more questions about student debt, those free cooking classes, or just financing your taco addiction while paying off your student (or other) loans? Let me know in the comments!

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