Can I use one loan to pay off all my student loans-federal, private, subsidized, and unsubsidized?
If you're having trouble making payments, absolutely. When done right, debt consolidation can often lower your monthly payments, decrease your interest rates, and spread out your payments.
But you can't consolidate any time you want a better rate-the law allows you do this only one time, so make sure you're getting a good long-term deal. Some floating (aka changing) rates are lower than fixed ones, but only last a few years before a way-higher fixed rate kicks in.
Shop around and get at least three rates. Most loans move with the Federal Reserve's interest rate, so if you think the Fed rate is about to move up, hurry and consolidate. Good places to start: your bank, Sallie Mae, and the U.S. Department of Education Direct Loan Program.
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