Our counselors help a lot of people find affordable repayment options on their student loans so that they can get on with life and not stress about finding a way to afford this month’s payment. One of the questions we get most often is “what’s the fastest way to get rid of my loans completely?”

That’s a tricky one, since it depends on your loans, who’s servicing them, and how your personal finances look, but there are a couple less-known tricks to keep in mind:

Control Where Your Payments Go

So you’re in a good spot financially and able to pay a bit extra toward your loans each month. That means your balance is going down faster, right? Not necessarily!

Overpayments are almost always going to be applied to any outstanding fees or interest first, of course, but beyond that you can’t assume they go right to your principal. Often a servicer will assume that any extra payment is meant to be a pre-payment for next month. Not quite the same thing, since that means you still pay interest on that extra portion of your loans that should have been paid down.

If you have federal student loans, your servicer should honor your preferences for overpayments. All you have to do is get in touch with them. It’s a quick call, but can save you thousands of dollars and months of repayment over the life of your loan. Ask an IonTuition Counselor for help connecting to your servicer to make it even quicker.

Always Continue Paying Your Interest

Your loans are almost always accruing interest, aside from subsidized loans while you are in school and certain similar situations. Your payments are applied to interest before they ever start chipping away at your balance. If you can manage it, paying at least as much as the interest you accrue each month can help you shorten your repayment significantly.

This includes any time you enter a forbearance, whether for financial hardship, administrative reasons (e.g. while switching repayment plans), or during a natural disaster such as the recent hurricane. You have a short time when your loan payments are not due, but many people don’t realize that interest continues to build up!

During forbearance periods, or even deferment periods if you have unsubsidized loans, interest accrues. That interest then capitalizes before you (re)enter repayment, meaning it is added to your principal. Once that has happened, you’ll be paying interest on that interest, since it will be calculated on the new, larger balance!

This same situation, with interest accrual and capitalization, also applies to unsubsidized or PLUS loans that are deferred while you are in school. Paying down the interest as you complete your education can really make repayment easier in the long run if you can afford it.

Get Help When You Need It

It can be intimidating to contact your servicer when you need help, but their job is to help you. If your circumstances change, you need help understanding the specific terms of your loans, or you want to make a change to how your accounts are handled, you will need your servicer. Take advantage of the resources they provide!

If you need help contacting your servicer for any reason, login to your IonTuition account for their direct contact information. You can also get in touch with an IonTuition counselor who will be able to assist you by putting you through to the servicer over our dedicated lines.