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What kind of effect can a student loan have on your credit score? Does this question pique your curiosity? You’re not alone. Many people often wonder how taking out a student loan will influence their credit standing. Will it boost their score? Hurt it? As with any loan or credit card, the healthiness of your financial picture will be contingent upon whether or not you make payments on time. Also, student loans are subject to specific federal rules and regulations that can have an impact on your overall creditworthiness. Here’s a look at how student loans can affect your credit.

Loan Deferment and Forbearance

Contrary to popular belief, student loan deferment and forbearance will not hurt or negatively impact your credit. While it will be noted in your credit report, it will have no bearing on your score unless you miss or make late payments before receiving approval for your deferment request.

There are certain circumstances where deferment and forbearance can actually improve the likelihood of getting a loan, such as a mortgage, approved.  For instance, if you can adequately demonstrate to your bank that you are (or will be) in forbearance, they will likely factor that into their decision-making process when examining if your discretionary income is enough to pay back borrowed funds.

Installment Loans

When your student loan is reported to credit bureaus, they are treated as installment loans rather than revolving credit, which means you’re making a fixed number of payments. When it comes to your credit score, installment loans carry less weight than an item that’s classified as revolving credit, like a credit card. By properly managing your student loan payments and credit card balances, reporting agencies like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax will use that as a strong indication that you are fiscally responsible. Debt management is an essential part of ensuring your credit score remains in good standing.

Building Credit History

The bulk of individuals who apply for a student loan are just entering college or grad school and have yet to build a strong credit history. Qualifying for a loan or new credit line can sometimes prove to be difficult when you are unable to demonstrate a strong credit history – especially if you’ve just graduated and have yet to gain employment. This is where a student loan can prove beneficial. Federal student loans do not require you to have a long-standing credit history to qualify, and they’re a high starting point to begin building your credit.

Adding Credit Diversity

One of the criteria used to calculate your credit score is the types of credit you have and how diverse those credit sources are. By adding an installment loan, such as a student loan, to your repertoire, it can help improve your credit standing. As long as your making payments on time, the more types of credit you possess, the more significant impact it’ll have on boosting your credit score.

A Good Investment

When you are borrowing funds for a student loan, it’s seen as a good education investment in your future. In other words, you aren’t applying for a loan for a luxury vehicle or something extravagant that isn’t an essential need and could likely be purchased using a credit card. Because student loans are considered smart investments, it could be used in your favor if a bank is determining whether or not to approve a loan you’re requesting.

Account Delinquency

Let’s say your credit score is negatively impacted because your account is considered delinquent. If this happens during a time when you are awaiting deferment approval, federal student loan lenders usually correct the delinquency reporting automatically by properly backdating your deferment once it’s approved. You can encounter this issue for several reasons.

For example, maybe you are back in school, pursuing your degree, but accidentally dropped the ball on mailing in your deferment form. Because of this, your account transitioned into “past due” territory. This can quickly be eradicated by sending in your deferment form and backdating the paperwork date to when you originally qualified for the deferment. Once this is processed, the lender should remove the negative report from your credit history and fix any similar issues that ensued as a result of the delinquency.

Past Due Reporting

It’s easy to start panicking when you realize you missed a student loan payment. There’s some good news. Most federal loan lenders have a 60-day policy in place where they will not report past due balances to credit bureaus before the 60-day mark. If it’s only been a few days or weeks, there’s no need to feel alarmed. There is a strong likelihood that it will not impact your credit score. While it’s never good to miss a payment, if you have a clean track record of making payments on time, one slip up won’t blemish your credit standing. Just make sure to remit payment to your lender as soon as you realize the payment was missed.

Resolving Delinquency

If your account has rightfully moved into delinquency, it will negatively affect your credit standing. However, if you focus your efforts on making your student loan account current, bringing it out of “past due” territory, it’ll help raise your credit score and help paint your credit history in a more positive light. There are options available for federal student loan borrowers with delinquent accounts, repayment assistance, to help bring your account current. And, once your account is current, you can see an increase in your credit score in as little as a few weeks.

Having a good understanding of your credit and how your student loan can impact your standing for the better or worse is extremely important. Maintaining a healthy credit score will play a critical role in things like your ability to procure loans and gain employment. Because of this, you need to take every step possible to take good care of your student loan.