“We are experiencing longer than average wait times. Remain on the line, and someone will be with you shortly.” We have all heard those eye-roll inducing words. Getting stuck on the phone for hours listening to hold music can be aggravating. During this pandemic, call wait times at banks, airlines, and other businesses have been excessively long as people struggle to get the information they need from their service providers.
People have lots of questions: Can I get a refund for my airfare? Will I be able to pay my bills? The question that has been on my mind the most recently is will I be able to keep up with my student loan payments in addition to all my other expenses?
Thanks to the passage of the CARES Act, payment on all federally held student loans is automatically paused, and no interest will accrue on loans until at least September 30th. Unfortunately, students who hold private loans are not covered by this act. If you are not sure whether you are covered by the CARES Act, it is simple to check.
It took me almost 3 hours and a frustrating phone conversation to cancel and refund a flight. It took me less than 10 minutes to jump online and check the status of my student loans.
For most people with federal student loans, you don't have to call your loan servicer to confirm that you do not have any payments due. Logging into your account, you should be able to quickly check two things. First, just by visiting the homepage, you should be able to easily tell that your loans are in forbearance, and no payment is due for the next 7 months. If you had autopay set up, it should have automatically been turned off.
Second, by visiting your account details, you should be able to confirm that your loans are listed with a 0.000% interest rate.
If you can confirm this, you are all set. While you are not required to make payments, you can and should keep making your payments, or payments in smaller amounts, if you are able. Paying while your loans are in automatic forbearance will lower your principal, and is beneficial for those who qualify for public servant loan forgiveness.
If any part of your student loans is paid by your employer, you need to ask if they will continue to pay while your loans are in forbearance. If for some reason you are unable to confirm that your loans are in forbearance, or your interest rates are listed as something other than 0%, it’s time to find a comfy chair and some snacks to hunker down and call your loan servicer. They can provide you with more information about if you are eligible for the loan assistance available under the CARES Act.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty, 47th Flying Training Wing