If you carry student loan debt, you’re not even close to being alone. In fact, 44 million borrowers, just like you, are paying off a grand total of $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Many know they can save money by refinancing their loan, but they’re afraid that checking rates might damage their credit score. This is sort of true, but there is a way around this. It’s all about timing and leverage.

The Old Fashioned Way To Refinance

In the past, to refinance a loan you had to inquire directly with each potential new lender. You then fill out a lengthy form by hand and waited for a response. The process was slow and discouraging, especially if your application got turned down.

Also, if you apply for refinancing the old fashioned way, you may end up authorizing what’s called a “hard credit inquiry.” This could affect your credit score.  According to Fair Isaac, creator of the widely used FICO score, a hard inquiry won’t typically dent your score by more than five points. A five-point deduction isn’t a big deal, but what happens if you apply to several lenders? If each of them executes a hard credit pull, that’s a five-point ding for each inquiry.

Most credit scoring models take into account that you might need to shop around. So if you apply for the same type of loan within 30 days with multiple lenders, it counts as just one inquiry.

The Real World

You might be thinking, “I have a month. No big deal.” The reality is that this process takes time and energy. Visiting banks, credit unions, and other lending institutions isn’t always so simple. The other downside is that when you get an offer, you don’t really know if you could get better rates and terms from another lender unless you keep looking.

The Modern Way To Refinance

Today, a web-based lender marketplace can streamline refinancing. Instead of going door-to-door, now you have access to rates from many lenders, all from one platform. You fill out one fast online application and see rates and terms you’re prequalified for with lenders who are willing to refinance your loan.

You end up getting a fast response presented in a way that’s easy to understand. This also lets you compare different lenders at a glance.

Credit Score Stays Safe

As far as your credit score goes, this initial wide-ranging inquiry is a “soft” one. This means it doesn’t affect your credit rating at all. If you see a lender with a rate you like, when you apply they’ll do a hard credit inquiry, which typically affects your credit score by less than five points.

Since the whole process is automated online, it’s super fast. There is no need to worry about going beyond the 30 day limit for credit inquiries. In fact, the initial inquiry process takes less than three minutes.

Get The Lowest Rate

Until fairly recently, student loan refinancing was a niche business, offered by only a few lenders who specialized in it. Today, a variety of lenders ranging from traditional banks to online lenders and state student loan authorities offer refinancing. Competition between lenders means borrowers can often save money if they’re willing to do the work to compare rates. A marketplace makes it easier to do your homework..

Timing And Leverage

Student loan debt is one of the biggest drains on American households today. Instead of being afraid, use intelligent tools to improve your financial situation. A lender marketplace can save you time, protect your credit score, and help you find the most favorable rates.