The Best Apps and Websites to Help Grads Get Debt-Free
Student loan debt for Americans reached an astonishing $1.56 trillion in the third quarter of 2018, and with higher education and cost-of-living expenses increasing, it's more important—and more challenging—than ever for graduates to stay on top of debt. Fortunately, many apps and online tools have been developed in the last several years to help students understand and manage their debt, and to pay off their loans as efficiently as possible. Whether students are looking for refinancing information, easy ways to view payoff dates, or in-depth budgeting and debt management assistance, many cost-effective resources are available.
2020 Spotlight: Top 15 Tools to Manage Your Loans
- Unbury.me Unbury.me is an easy-to-use loan calculator that lets students create repayment plans and figure out a target date for being debt-free. Students can input and view information for multiple loans, making it easier to get a full picture of their repayment progress. Unbury.me displays a loan's principal remaining balance, interest rate and monthly minimum payments, and students can choose from two popular repayment plans: snowball (paying off the loan with the smallest balance first) and avalanche (paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first).
- ionTuition ionTuition is a loan management service that employers may offer to help their workers handle their student debt. Student loan assistance is a highly valued benefit, so this service can also be an advantage to employers by helping them attract high-caliber workers and increase employee satisfaction. Employees benefit from ionTuition's comprehensive tools and services, like repayment management, refinancing options, counseling, and ROI information for college planning, as well as a contribution program through which loan repayment is matched like a 401(k). As a bonus, employees' family members can also access these services.
- Student Loan Hero When Student Loan Hero CEO Andy Josuweit graduated with 16 student loans from four different servicers, he didn't have access to clear advice or information on how to handle his post-college debt. Student Loan Hero aims to solve this problem for thousands of students who take out loans and need a comprehensive resource to understand it all and to work toward becoming debt-free. Along with a range of articles to browse, Student Loan Hero offers 20 different calculators to help students make the best financial decisions for their individual circumstances. Whether they are looking for their debt-to-income ratio, how to pay off their interest or pay-as-you-earn options, Student Loan Hero's calculators are worth checking out. Students can also take quizzes to determine the best repayment plan for them or to find out if refinancing is a good option.
- ChangEd ChangEd is an app that helps students put extra money toward their loans without feeling much financial pain. The app rounds up daily purchases to the nearest dollar and sets aside the change until $100 accumulates. After hitting $100, ChangEd automatically sends the money to the student's loan servicer. Users can also track their repayment progress through the app. “It has a fee of one dollar per month, but it could be enough for someone who likes their current repayment plan and just wants to put their spare change toward it,” says Oguh.
- Mint Mint is a popular budgeting tool that, while not exclusive to helping students with their loan debt, can help graduates save money and manage loan payments. Users can input their banking information to keep track of bills and other expenses, and sign up to receive payment reminders. Mint also allows users to see their spending habits, including where they spend the most and where they can potentially cut back to save money that can be put toward loan repayment.
- Undebt.it This debt calculator allows users to choose between seven payoff methods and generates a payment plan students can follow. Snowball is the default method, but students may want to check out other plans or create their own custom plan. Undebt.it comes with a range of useful features, like being able to input unlimited debt accounts, sort and export payment history, and track repayments. Plus, users do not have to input their bank account information, a common requirement of many other repayment and budgeting apps. Undebt.it also offers a paid service for those looking for more advanced features, like syncing information to their cloud-based calendar, a 52-week savings challenge, integration with You Need A Budget, and additional bill management tools.
- Pay Off Debt App Students looking for a streamlined way to access their loan repayment information may want to look into the Pay Off Debt app. Users can choose the best repayment plan for their particular situation, arrange and organize their loans in any order, and view detailed tables to see exactly how loans will be paid off over time. The app also has a section with extra resources and features, like payment reminders and personalized photos to help users stay motivated and focused on getting debt-free.
- SoFi SoFi was founded by students with the intent of helping other students find more affordable ways to manage their loan debt. The company is a popular choice for student loan refinancing, but they offer many additional products and services to help students save money, make investments and pay off debts.
- Credible Through Credible, students can receive and compare rates for loans and student loan refinancing. Credible's free service lets users refinance federal, private and ParentPLUS loans and get rate comparisons from up to 12 vetted lenders. Students who are in the market for private loans can also compare lenders on Credible.
- CreditWise from Capital One Each quarter, 250,000 borrowers default on their student loans, meaning they failed to make scheduled payments and did not make arrangements with their loan servicer for repayment options. “This can harm borrowers' credit, even leading to wage garnishment,” Oguh warns. Students who want to monitor their credit while paying off their loans can look into CreditWise. The app is available to anyone, not just Capital One customers, and is useful for understanding how financial decisions affect their credit scores. The app's credit score simulator lets users see how different choices, like putting payments toward student loan debt versus credit card debt, may affect their credit scores.
- LearnVest While LearnVest does not offer direct debt repayment services, the site does provide general information on debt, financial wellness and more. Readers can find articles and tips on a wide range of topics, like how to know if your friends are causing you to go into debt, saving and budgeting challenges, job benefits, and when to pay with cash versus credit.
- Digit Similar to ChangEd, Digit is an app that helps users save money without having to plan ahead or give it much thought. Students can set up multiple savings goals, like student loans or vacations, and Digit automatically puts money toward those goals and makes it easy to track progress. Rather than round up change on daily expenses, Digit analyzes users' spending habits to assess when money can be set aside and how much, so students can save without making drastic lifestyle changes. Digit has other perks, too, like automatic overdraft protection and savings bonuses.
- Yodlee Along with loan solutions and a handful of useful budgeting and spending tools, Yodlee provides users with a multitude of webinars to help them manage their loans and get a fuller understanding of financial wellness. While other resources provide a more simple and streamlined experience, Yodlee can be a great solution for those looking for advanced financial assistance and information.
- Vertex42 Debt Reduction Calculator via Google Sheets Many students are already familiar with Google Sheets by the time they finish college, which makes it a convenient, accessible tool. Sheets comes equipped with useful templates, like these annual budget and monthly budget fillable spreadsheets, but students should also check out the debt calculator Sheets template by Vertex42. Users can fill in the blanks and weigh their debt options, and they get the added bonus of having everything stored on their Google Drive.
- National Foundation for Credit Counseling Sometimes applying for loans and grasping repayment plans is better done with some personal guidance. “It can be overwhelming,” says Oguh, “and some borrowers may want to speak to a student loan coach for advice. Student loan coaches provide debt counseling specific to student loans.” The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is the first—and largest—nonprofit in the United States dedicated to helping people with their finances. Students and graduates can connect with certified credit counselors to walk them through the many financial decisions they'll face when paying off student debt.
How Apps and Tools Can Help Manage Student Loan Debt
After taking out loans to finance college, it's easy for students to push thoughts of repayment to the backs of their minds. However, when it comes time to begin repayment, new and unanticipated expenses can be dangerous, threatening graduates' budgets and pushing total repayment dates even further into the future. Loan servicer websites aren't always the easiest to use, and when students have loans from more than one servicer, visualizing repayment timelines and budgeting accordingly can get even more complicated.
“Student loan debt causes stress for many borrowers, especially if they are unable to pay back their loans,” says Emeka Oguh, founder and CEO of PeopleJoy, a company that specializes in student loan debt management. “Many borrowers are also not aware of all of their repayment options, and the pages and pages of regulations for student loan repayment can be confusing. Student loan servicers also don't reach out to borrowers until a payment is due or failed to be paid.”
Being proactive, Oguh notes, is often key to understanding loan repayment options and getting out of debt as quickly as possible. A wide variety of apps and online tools can help grads take actionable steps toward managing their student loans. Some offer convenient ways to view all of a graduate's debts in one interface, to get the big picture and compare factors such as payment due dates or interest rates. Others demystify some of the most confusing loan information, let users test different payment methods to see which will be most effective, offer intuitive budgeting and saving tools, and give alerts and reminders for when payments are due. With so many options available, students may want to try out multiple tools to see which formats and features work best for them.
Expert Advice: What to look for when managing student debt
When looking for options on managing your student loan debt, these are some things to consider:
- Know what you owe. This information can be found on your account at your loan servicer and at StudentLoans.gov. In addition, make sure you understand the terms of your student loans, such as the interest rate, the payment due dates, what options you have if you know you'll be late on a payment, and the number to call to speak to a representative at your lender.
- Does your employer provide student loan repayment benefits? If so, this may be one of the best options for managing your debt. Employers who offer these benefits can help employees reduce their student loan debt and lower how much they have to pay in interest over time.
- Have you found an app or tool that answers all your questions? If not, search for a supplementary one that fills in the gaps and gives you the complete information you need. Also, aim to choose one that provides actionable items for managing student loan debt. An overview of your debt is great, but you may also benefit from concrete steps on how to pay off or manage your student loans.
- Is the tool easy to use? Some tools may be so difficult to navigate that they discourage users from getting its full benefit. Instead, focus on the big picture: being able to get clear information on the most important points may be a better option than trying to understand the ins and outs of complicated regulations and paperwork.
More on Managing Your Student Debt
Managing student loans is a multifaceted issue, and finding the right tools to cut through debt is just one way students can get their college finances on track. Accredited Schools Online offers more guides and resources to help students and graduates get a stronger understanding of loans, repayment details, and strategies for saving money.
Student Loans This guide provides a comprehensive look at the ins and outs of student loans. Readers can find information on repaying both federal and private loans, including what to consider before taking out a private loan, as well as options for those who can't afford their payments. Get advice on handling debt and the stress that comes with it, and learn about the pros and cons of refinancing or consolidating loans.
Student loan forgiveness Those looking for information on student loan forgiveness, including exactly what it entails and when it may be a good option, should give this page a look. Readers can find expert advice on loan forgiveness programs, search for federal and state programs, and learn about options for those who don't qualify.
Unscrupulous student loan servicing Taking out private loans can be an uncertain process, but this guide can help steer students in the right direction. Readers can alleviate some of the stress in choosing a loan servicer by learning about what positive traits or red flags to look, and can access resources to help them choose a reputable servicer.
Budgeting for college students Financial wellness goes far beyond loan repayment. Students can ease the burden of loan repayment by budgeting wisely both during and after their college years. This guide provides budgeting tips and tactics, including common mistakes and how to recover from budgeting mishaps.