The Hero’s Guide to Strategic Student Loan Repayment

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Whether you’re going into repayment for the first time or have been in repayment for years, our guide equips you with the tools you need to enroll in the right repayment plan and create a strategy to tackle your student debt. This guide was created by student loan experts whose sole mission is to help borrowers effectively manage and, when possible, eliminate their student loan debt.

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Preparing for Repayment Overview

Key Dates to Know:



August 2023

Application for the new, most affordable Income Driven Repayment plan (SAVE) became available. Calculate your payments under SAVE.

September 2023

Interest began accruing on federal loans again.

October 2023

Loan payments are due.

April 30, 2024

Deadline to take advantage of the Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Account Adjustment.


Final IDR Account Adjustment results.

July 2024

Updated SAVE Plan benefits go into effect, including payments on undergraduate loans being reduced to 5% of discretionary income.

Late 2024

Fresh Start for defaulted borrowers ends.

Student Loan Repayment Checklist ✓

1. Update your contact information with Federal Student Aid (FSA) at

FSA is an office of the U.S. Department of Education and the national student loan database containing crucial details like your loan balance and disbursement dates can be found on their website. Call FSA at 1-800-433-3243 if you can’t access your account. Updating your contact information ensures you receive important communication regarding your loan status and repayment options.

Watch this video on how to update your contact info.

2. Identify your student loan servicer and review your online account information.

About 40% of all student loan borrowers have experienced a servicer change since 2020. Federal student loan servicers are contracted by the U.S. Department of Education to manage loan payments. They will send you invoices and help you enroll in a repayment plan, but they are not your lender. The Department of Education is the lender and owner of most federal loans. Servicers follow federal loan management guidelines, ensuring borrowers have access to the same repayment plans and forgiveness options, regardless of their servicer.

Visit your account dashboard, watch this video, or call the FSA Information center (800-433-3243) to find out who your student loan servicer is if you don’t know.

If your loans are in default, now is the time to get them in good standing through Fresh Start.

Here’s a student loan servicer contact sheet.

Monitor your student loan correspondence, including messages from your loan servicer(s) and FSA. Be cautious of other communications. If you opt for electronic correspondence, carefully read notices to take necessary actions. Ignoring correspondence can lead to delinquency and default.

3. Enroll in the right repayment plan.

There are two main repayment plan buckets: Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plans and traditional plans. If you are pursuing a federal forgiveness program, you will likely be required to enroll in one of four plans: Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE, replaced REPAYE), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income Based Repayment (IBR), or Income Contingent Repayment (ICR).

IDR plans have more benefits than traditional plans, including forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments and a cap on interest for those entering a plan for the first time. However, if you cannot afford any IDR plan, explore a traditional plan.

In addition, you should determine if you are eligible for any Forgiveness programs. For more guidance and a comparison of the plans, visit our Debt Tackling Strategies & Payment Plan Options page.

Simulate different plans, their monthly payments, and payback periods using the Federal Student Aid Loan Simulator.

If you’re unsure about what plan you’re enrolled in now, here are video tutorials on how to determine your current plan: on’s website or on your servicer’s website.

REPAYE plan borrowers were automatically switched to the new SAVE Plan in 2023. The SAVE Plan will likely result in lower monthly payments compared to REPAYE. Calculate your payments under SAVE.

You can enroll in IDR plan online at To enroll in a traditional plan, you will need to call your student loan servicer.

Parent Plus Loans are only eligible for one IDR plan, the Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan, but they must be consolidated first. Visit our Managing Parent Plus Loans page for more guidance.

Those pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or Income Driven Repayment Forgiveness must enroll in an IDR plan.

There is no prepayment penalty. If you enroll in an IDR plan but your goal is to repay your loans as quickly as possible, you can make extra payments, including lump sums. Call your servicer to ensure your extra payments are properly applied and avoid the “pay ahead status” issue.

4. Know what your repayment amount will be and its due date.

Your servicer will send you an invoice with your monthly payment and exact due date at least 21 days before the first payment is due. If you are anxious about what that will be, reach out to your servicer in advance. You can change repayment plans or the monthly due date at any time if needed.

5. Be ready to make your monthly payments.

Prepare your bank account and consider enrolling in auto debit—there’s a small interest rate reduction for doing so. Auto debit arrangements in place prior to March 2020 will have to be reestablished. You can do it through your servicer account online or by calling your servicer. Make sure you have sufficient funds to cover payments. Watch this video to see how to enroll in auto debt. For more step-by-step guidance, visit our How to Enroll in Auto Debit page. If you can’t afford any payment plan, get expert advice. Requesting a forbearance or deferment will help postpone payments, but should only be used as a short-term solution.

6. Escalate and get help if things go wrong.

If you have issues with your student loan servicer, you can submit a complaint to the FSA Ombudsman through their Online Feedback Center or by calling 877-557-2575. If you live in New York, you can also submit a complaint to the Department of Financial Service ( or contact EDCAP (; 888-614-5004). EDCAP can help you resolve your issue or file a complaint.