The less you pay towards debt every month ​(including credit cards and car payments), the better.

If you can’t qualify for a private loan based on your own credit and income, you can potentially get help from a cosigner.

However, once you move federal loans out of Department of Education programs (and into a private program), you’ll give up the benefits that come with federal student loans — your loans will become Credit scores are based on your borrowing history.

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The higher your rate, the more interest you’ll pay over the life of your loan.

If you plan to aggressively pay down debt in just a few years, the interest rate is less important.

You’ll need to know if you have ​private student loans or with private student loans — when you refinance).

Federal Direct Consolidation Loans allow you to combine multiple loans into one while keeping all of the benefits of federal student loans.

As you shop among lenders, evaluate all of the features below.

Interest rates: your rate is one of the most important features of your new loan.

Before you stretch out those payments, do some quick loan calculations and compare the costs. Especially if you originally borrowed with a private lender, there may be an opportunity to cut your borrowing costs.

Over the past few years, your credit may have improved, or new competitors might be eager to lend at more attractive rates. If your loans have variable rates, you may be caught by surprise if rates skyrocket in the future.

If you’ve taken out loans in the past and you always pay on time, your credit should be in good shape.

If you don’t have a history of borrowing (or you’ve defaulted on loans), you’ll need to build up your credit history to qualify for the best loans.

Consolidating private education loans can help you simplify and lower your monthly payments.