What Happens When You Miss a Student Loan Payment?

If you miss a student loan payment, help is available. In the case of an oversight, you can likely make the missed payment along with any applicable late fee. If you've missed a payment due to unemployment or other financial hardship, your lender may offer relief programs including repayment arrangements, modified payments or loan refinancing. In the case of federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education has multiple options for addressing financial challenges that cause you to miss making payments on your education loan. Here's what to do when you've missed a payment and aren't sure how or when you can catch up.

Contact Your Lender Before You Miss a Student Loan Payment

Please contact your lender as soon as you know you'll miss a payment. Depending on your circumstances, the lender may agree to change your payment due date, suspend payments for a specified time or make repayment arrangements to help you catch up on your missed payment. Private student loan lender policies vary; taking the initiative to determine your options can help prevent additional fees and charges and negative credit reporting. In general, both private and federal student loans are subject to credit reporting. Gather the following information before calling your student loan lender:

  • Social security number, loan number or other identifying information contained on your most recent loan statement
  • Your loan balance(s) and next payment due date(s)
  • Be ready to explain why you have or will miss a payment
  • Have a pad of paper and pens handy to take notes

Don't be fearful or defensive when discussing your circumstances. Lenders know that things happen that cause missed loan payments. Work with your lender to find a solution.

Federal Student Loans: Repayment Options

If your loan was issued or backed by the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education offers several options for addressing missed payment(s):

  • Consolidation of multiple student loans: If you're making payments on multiple loans, consolidating eligible loans into one loan with one monthly payment can simplify tracking and making payments.
  • If you owe $30,000 or more in federal student loan debt, you may qualify to extend your repayment period and lower your monthly payments.
  • Federal student loans may also be eligible for deferred payments, income driven repayment plans and other options for affordable payments based on your ability to repay. It's important to know that federal student loans are not typically forgiven unless you meet specific criteria such as working in specific public service and teaching careers, or if you suffer total disability.

Federal student loans are serviced by third-party loan student loan servicing companies; if you aren't sure whether you have federal loans, contact the company that processes your payments and inquire.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips for success if you miss a student loan payment:

  • Contact your lender immediately. If your student loan goes into default, your lender or federal loan servicer may garnish your wages or hire a collection service. Such collection activity can appear on your credit record for up to seven years.
  • Update your contact information if you've moved, changed e-mail addresses or phone numbers.
  • Check your loan servicer or lender website for updates on your account. This can help you avoid missed loan payments.
  • Promptly respond to communications received from your lender. If you question whether calls or correspondence from your lender are legitimate, contact your lender for verification.
  • Ignore unsolicited offers to assist with your student loan for a fee. Dealing directly with your federal loan servicer or private lender costs nothing.
  • Procrastination is not your friend: It can be easy to put off discussing your financial situation with your student loan lender or servicer, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to find a solution.

Whether you refinance or consolidate your student loan(s), work out an affordable repayment plan or defer payments, your solution will provide relief and financial peace of mind.

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