Student loan borrowers who have to work with Firstmark Services usually don’t have a choice.
Many lenders pay Firstmark to handle the day to day management of student loans, including answering borrower questions and collecting payments. For the over half a million consumers that are forced to work with Firstmark, getting help can be frustrating. This is especially true for borrowers looking for lower monthly payments or a better interest rate.
Even though Firstmark Services has earned a reputation for lousy customer service, there are several different ways that student loan borrowers can improve their circumstances. They may even be able to get rid of Firstmark completely and work with a different company.
What is Firstmark Services and Why are they a Problem?
By digging into the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Complaint Database, we see complaints about Firstmark’s failure to collect payments properly and complaints about Firstmark not working with borrowers on monthly payments.
Firstmark not lowering payments for borrowers isn’t a surprise because Firstmark is a loan servicer rather than a lender.
The lenders are the ones who set loan terms. A loan servicer, like Firstmark, is tasked with collecting payments and answering questions about the existing loan contract. In most cases, Firstmark does not have the authority to modify the terms of the original agreement.
Because Firstmark functions as something of a middleman between the borrower and the lender, reasonable requests may go unfulfilled. The servicer isn’t allowed to change the contract, and the lender doesn’t know about the customer’s request.
How to Go Around Firstmark to Get a Lower Interest Rate
The best and most efficient route for a lower interest rate with Firstmark is to refinance the student loan with another lender.
By refinancing, a new loan with new terms is created, and the old loan is eliminated. Through the refinance process, borrowers can get lenders competing to see who will offer the lowest interest rate, and borrowers won’t have to work with Firstmark going forward.
Borrowers that don’t want to work with Firstmark should avoid the following lenders who currently have contracts with Firstmark: CommonBond, Citizen’s Bank, U-Fi, Purefy, and Brazos.
Those looking for the lowest possible interest rate should investigate refinancing with the following lenders:
|Rank||Lender||Lowest Rate||Sherpa Review|
|1||1.92%||Splash Financial Review|
|T-2||1.99%||Laurel Road Review|
Those looking for the lowest possible monthly payment may want to opt for a longer loan. Selecting a 20-year loan will result in a higher interest rate, but monthly payments will be far more manageable, and borrowers always have the option of paying extra or refinancing again.
The top rates in the 20-year loan category are with the following lenders:
|Rank||Lender||Lowest Rate||Sherpa Review|
|1||4.26%||Splash Financial Review|
|2||4.49%||Citizen's Bank Review|
[Note: The lenders listed are pulled from our student loan refinance rates table, and the rates are updated monthly.]
Help for Borrowers who can’t Refinance
Refinancing away from Firstmark may be the easiest way to get a better interest rate or lower payment, but refinancing isn’t always an option for borrowers who don’t have the credit score or income to qualify.
Sadly, the borrowers who need the help the most are the ones who will have the most difficult time getting help.
When the most effective option isn’t available, borrowers can resort to longshot strategies. These approaches may not always work, but they may be worth trying even with limited chances of success:
Call the Lender Directly – Because Firstmark usually doesn’t have the authority to change the loan terms, borrowers can reach out directly to the lender for help. The odds are pretty good that the lender will direct the borrower back to Firstmark. Borrowers should explain that they have already reached out to Firstmark and that Firstmark told them they couldn’t make changes to the loan. The success of this approach may vary from one lender to the next. Borrowers may also want to investigate if the lender has an Ombudsman or Consumer Advocate. These resources may be the best option when making this unique request.
File a CFBP Complaint – Reaching out to the CFPB is a good way to bring some extra attention to your situation. Student loan companies are often very responsive to complaints, and even if the borrower doesn’t get the help they are asking for, they may get a more detailed explanation of the issue. This site has previously explained how to file a CFPB complaint and why it can make a difference.
Don’t Buy the Hype on Deferments and Forbearances
Many student loan companies will try to convince borrowers looking for a lower interest or lower payment that a deferment or forbearance will help them.
Unfortunately, these remedies normally only delay the problem and make things more difficult in the long run.
Borrowers should understand that even though a deferment or a forbearance may pause payments, interest usually continues to accrue. This means that at the end of the “break,” the balance will have gone up and payments may be even higher. This option might help borrowers that are temporarily furloughed, but for those with long term issues, it is best to explore other forms of assistance.
Final Thought: Understand how the system works so no time is wasted.
Having a servicer like Firstmark puts some distance between the lender and the borrower.
Borrowers that understand this issue can do two things: either find a new lender or convince the current lender to change the terms of the deal.