You don’t have to pay your federal student loans right now, but here’s why you should

Part of American lawmakers’ sweeping stimulus efforts in response to the pandemic included federal student

Part of American lawmakers’ sweeping stimulus efforts in response to the pandemic included federal student loan relief — meaning borrowers don’t have to make their student loan payments and won’t be penalized for nonpayments.



a person with a frisbee in front of a building: CHAPEL HILL, NC - AUGUST 18: A student walks through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The school halted in-person classes and reverted back to online courses after a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past week. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)


© Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images
CHAPEL HILL, NC – AUGUST 18: A student walks through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The school halted in-person classes and reverted back to online courses after a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past week. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

But if you’re carrying student debt and can still afford to pay the monthly loan, experts say you absolutely should.

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Under the CARES Act, borrowers aren’t required to pay federal student loan payments, and interest won’t be accrued on those loans. The temporary relief through the CARES Act was initially provided through September but has since been extended through December 31, 2020.

“The zero interest is a win-win for borrowers no matter their financial situation,” said Anna Helhoski, student loans expert at Nerdwallet.

That said, if you’re able to afford the monthly payment, there’s one major reason you should keep paying.

All federal student loan borrowers benefit from the CARES Act’s interest suspension, which will help you pay off the loan more quickly.

“If you already have a rainy day fund and have not accumulated any ‘bad’ debt (such as credit cards or personal loans), consider continuing your student loan payments even though they are not required,” Brian Walsh, manager of financial planning at SoFi, said.

Normally, a chunk of a monthly student loan payment goes toward interest, but under the CARES Act, the entire payment will go to the principal balance of the loan.

“If you can afford to continue to make repayments on your federal loans, then it absolutely makes sense to do so,” Robert Humann, General Manager at financial services company Credible, told CNN Business. “The more you owe, the more you can save if you keep making your monthly student loan payments while interest is waived.”

But, Helhoski said, “if your finances are in trouble and you need to take a breather, do it.”

The CARES Act is providing much-needed relief for many borrowers. Students who took out loans owe an average of $32,731 — with the average monthly payment coming out to according to $393 — according a 2017 study from the Federal Reserve.

People must continue to pay the principal and interest on their private student loans. The US Department of Education has more information about the loans that are affected.

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