If you’re a student loan borrower like over 45 million Americans, there’s a good chance you carry some amount of student loan debt. And there’s also a good chance that you’ve spent some time wondering how paying off that debt will look on your credit report.
That begs the question—does paying off student loans help credit score ratings or hurt them?
If you’re planning on wiping out your student debt soon, there are a few things you should know about the relationship between your student loans and your credit score. Keep reading to gain an understanding of your credit score and student loan relationship.
How Do Student Loans Affect Credit Scores?
You might wonder if after paying off your student debt, whether you’ll end up with a good credit score or bad credit score. Credit reporting agencies treat student loans pretty much like any other type of installment loan, which means that they can have positive impacts and negative impacts on your credit score.1
If you make all of your loan payments on time, you should see your credit score improve. This is because a big part of how your credit is scored has to do with your payment history. When your loan servicer files their reports with credit reporting agencies, they’ll indicate whether you’ve made your student loan payments on time. Your credit score improves when your payment history is scant on late or missed payments and instead shows that you pay consistently each month.
That said, many student loan servicers are a bit more lenient when it comes to reporting late payments than lenders of other loan types. Whether you have a private student loan or a federal student loan funded by the government, you could enjoy the following extra time to make your monthly payment:
- Federal servicers may wait at least 90 days
- Private servicers may wait up to 30 days
Late or skipped payments reflect poorly on your credit score. But worse than paying late is not paying at all. Missed payments are one of the most common reasons people have bad credit. When that happens, your loan goes into default. For most student loans, this happens after 270 days of non-payment.
Defaulting on your student loan repayments can have a fairly substantial impact on your credit score. Additionally, the default will stay on your report for up to seven years, even if you bring your account current.
Why Didn’t My Score Go Up After Paying Off Student Loans?
Paying off student loans is a goal that many people who carry educational debt hope to achieve. And when they get there, many of them expect to see a significant positive impact on their credit score. After all, the average student loan debt holder owes just over $36,000.2 Paying that off seems like it should increase your credit score, right?
Not always. Yes, paying off your student loans will impact your credit report—just not in the way you think.
In general, having less debt is always better than having more debt. Additionally, paying off debt, including student loans, may cast you in a more favorable light to future lenders regarding things like obtaining a mortgage or a car loan.
On the other hand, your credit score isn’t determined solely based on how much debt you owe. The type of debt you carry, known as your “credit mix,” also plays a part. In addition to student loans, the various types of credit that show up on your report include:3
- Credit cards
- Auto loans
Depending on the reporting method, it can be more or less influential. For that reason, paying off a student loan can negatively impact your credit mix, especially if you don’t have any other installment loans to fill its place.4 That could be a reason why you didn’t notice a substantial impact on your credit score after paying off a student loan.
Why Did My Credit Score Go Down After Paying Off Student Loans?
If the reporting method used to tally your credit score gives significant weight to your credit mix, eliminating an installation loan could bring your credit score down a few points.4 However, this decrease is typically small, and should improve over time as you continue to build a positive credit history.
Likewise, paying off a loan or any other type of debt initiates a change to your credit score. In this case, the status of your loan gets updated to “paid,” which can cause your score to drop.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that changes to your credit score following student loan repayment are not generally long-lasting. In cases where paying off a student loan has an immediate negative impact, your score should improve after only a few months.
Help Payoff Student Loans With a Sale-Leaseback
Aside from applying for student loan forgiveness, are you looking for creative ways to pay off student loans? Contemplating whether you should pay off student loans or invest? For homeowners with student loans, tackling your education debt could be as easy as entering a sale-leaseback agreement.
A sale-leaseback solution is simple, fast, and secure. You sell your home at a fair price and continue living in it as a renter. Depending on what options are available to you through your program, you can keep renting or choose to either buy the home back or sell it on the open market. By choosing a sale-leaseback, you convert the equity you’ve built up in your home to cash that you can use to pay off your student loans.
- Student loans affect your credit score just like any other kind of debt.
- Consistent, on-time payments improve your score, while late payments and defaults work against it.
- Paying off your student loan may not increase your credit score and could lower it. Changes to credit scores following loan repayment are usually slight and temporary.
- A sale-leaseback transaction could help you leverage your home’s equity to pay off your student loan, all without moving out of your home.
- Nerd Wallet. How Do Student Loans Affect Your Credit Score? https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/do-student-loans-affect-your-credit
- Education Data. Average Student Loan Debt. https://educationdata.org/average-student-loan-debt
- Equifax. What is Credit Mix? https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/what-is-a-credit-mix/#
- Equifax. Will Paying Off My Student Loans Hurt My Credit Score? https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/will-paying-off-student-loans-hurt-my-credit-score/