Whether it was because you were short on cash or the due date just slipped your mind, missing a student loan payment doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know if you miss a payment. 

The first step: reach out to your lender

If you miss a student loan payment, it’s important to act quickly. If you have a private student loan, check your contract to see how the process will be handled.

When a loan payment is missed, your loan status changes from current to delinquent. To get your status back to current, reach out to your lender to find out what steps you need to take. You’ll need to make your missed payment along with any associated late fees. 

Deferment vs forbearance

There is also the option to request a deferment or forbearance, which postpone your loan payments. 

In order to defer loan payments, you have to qualify. Some examples include being unemployed or attending school half-time. With most federal loans, interest does not accrue during deferment.

With forbearance, you don’t have to qualify, but your interest will continue to accrue. If you have private loans, interest typically accrues under both deferment and forbearance. Keep in mind that these are not long term solutions and should only be used if you have experienced financial hardship. 

From delinquent to default 

If you have multiple missed payments, your lender will report this to the credit bureaus, which can have a significant impact on your credit score for years to come. After 270 days of missed payments (often sooner with private loans), your student loan will go from delinquent to in default, which can trigger significant penalties.

How to get back on track

  • Set up autopay. Not only will this make sure you don’t miss a payment, but many lenders offer a reduction on interest rate if you sign up for autopayments.
  • Set reminders in your calendar. If autopay isn’t an option for you, add notes to your calendar or set alarms to help remind you to make your monthly payment. 
  • Change your repayment plan. If you’re having trouble making your monthly payment, talk to your lender about other repayment options. If you have federal student loans, you can apply for an income-driven repayment plan, which may help to lower your monthly payment. More information can be found here.