What Is Capitalized Interest on a Student Loan?

Updated on February 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • Capitalized interest on student loans is unpaid interest added to your principal balance, which can significantly increase the total amount you owe.
  • You can minimize the cost of capitalized interest by making interest payments while in school, making larger payments once you start repaying your loan, or refinancing your loan for a lower interest rate.
  • Capitalized interest is caused by the accumulation of unpaid interest, which can be affected by the type of student loan you have.
  • Strategies to avoid capitalized interest include making extra payments to reduce your principal balance, exploring refinancing options to lower your interest rate, and increasing your monthly or biweekly payments.

You’re finally done with school, but now it’s time to face another big challenge: paying off those student loans. One term that might come up during your repayment journey is “capitalized interest.” But what exactly does it mean? 

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of capitalized interest on student loans and break it down for you in a way that’s easy to understand. So let’s get started!

How Much Does Capitalized Interest Cost?

Before we explore the nitty-gritty details of capitalized interest, let’s talk about the potential cost. Capitalized interest is essentially the unpaid interest that gets added onto your principal balance. This means that not only are you responsible for repaying the original amount you borrowed, but also the interest that has accrued over the life of your loan. As a result, the cost of capitalized interest can significantly increase the total amount you owe.

Now, let’s delve deeper into the concept of capitalized interest and understand how it can impact your finances. When you take out a loan, whether it’s for a car, a house, or your education, the lender charges you interest on the borrowed amount. This interest is typically calculated based on the outstanding balance of your loan.

During the repayment period, you may find yourself unable to make the full interest payments. In such cases, the unpaid interest is added to your principal balance, resulting in capitalized interest. This means that the interest you couldn’t pay immediately becomes part of the loan itself, and you end up paying interest on the interest.

Capitalized Interest Cost Example

Let’s consider an example to illustrate the cost of capitalized interest. Imagine you take out a student loan for $50,000 with an interest rate of 5% per year. Over the course of your studies, you are not required to make any payments, and the interest keeps accruing. By the time you graduate, let’s say four years later, the accumulated interest amounts to $10,000.

Now, if you choose to capitalize the interest, the outstanding balance of your loan would become $60,000 ($50,000 principal + $10,000 capitalized interest). As a result, when you start making payments, you will be paying interest on the entire $60,000 instead of just the initial $50,000. This means that over the life of your loan, you will end up paying more in interest compared to if you had made regular interest payments during your studies.

It’s important to note that not all loans allow for capitalized interest. Some loans, like subsidized federal student loans, do not accrue interest while you are in school, and the government covers the interest during that period. However, for other types of loans, like unsubsidized federal student loans or private loans, capitalized interest can be a significant factor to consider.

Minimizing the Costs of Capitalized Interest

So, how can you minimize the cost of capitalized interest? Here are some methods that will help you out:

Make Payments During Your School Years

One way is to make interest payments while you are still in school, if possible. By doing so, you can prevent the unpaid interest from being added to your principal balance and save yourself from paying interest on interest.

Start Making Larger Payments

Another strategy is to make larger payments once you start repaying your loan. By paying more than the minimum required amount, you can reduce the outstanding balance faster and minimize the impact of capitalized interest. Additionally, consider exploring options for refinancing your loan to potentially get a lower interest rate and reduce the overall cost.

Consider Loan Refinancing

Refinancing your loan is another thing that can lower the costs of your student loan. Consider exploring options for refinancing your loan to potentially get a lower interest rate and reduce the overall cost.

Understanding the cost of capitalized interest is crucial when managing your finances and planning for loan repayment. By being aware of how it can affect your total debt and interest payments, you can make informed decisions to minimize its impact and save money in the long run.

What Causes Interest to Capitalize?

Now that we know how expensive capitalized interest can be, it’s important to understand what causes it in the first place. The answer lies in the type of student loan you have. Let’s break it down based on loan types:

Federal Subsidized Loans

If you were fortunate enough to have federal subsidized loans, you had a bit of an advantage. These loans don’t accrue interest while you’re in school, during your grace period, or if you’re on deferment. However, once those safety nets are lifted, any unpaid interest will be capitalized. So be prepared to start paying off that accumulating interest!

Federal Unsubsidized Loans

Unlike subsidized loans, federal unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the day they are disbursed. So, throughout your college years, that interest is quietly accumulating. And once you enter the repayment phase, this accumulated interest is capitalized, increasing the overall amount you owe. It’s like a sneaky interest ninja!

Private Loans

Private loans operate a bit differently. Each lender has their own terms and conditions, so it’s essential to read the fine print. Similar to federal unsubsidized loans, interest typically starts accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed. So if you have a private loan, chances are that capitalized interest will also be on the horizon.

How Can You Avoid Capitalized Interest On Student Loans?

Now that we understand the ins and outs of capitalized interest, let’s explore some ways to avoid it if possible. Here are a few strategies to consider:

Loan Interest Calculator

Use a loan interest calculator to estimate how much interest will accrue over time. Armed with this knowledge, you can devise a repayment plan that focuses on minimizing overall cost. It’s like having a smart pocket assistant that crunches numbers for you!

Student Loan Balance

The higher your student loan balance, the more interest that will accrue. So consider making extra payments whenever you can to bring down that principal balance and minimize the amount of interest that capitalizes.

Interest Rate

Interest rates play a crucial role in the amount of capitalized interest you’ll have to face. If you have the option to refinance your loans, it’s worth exploring. Lowering your interest rate can help you stay ahead and prevent too much interest from capitalizing.

Current Monthly Payment

While it might be tempting to pay only the minimum monthly payment, consider paying more whenever possible. By doing so, you’ll be able to reduce the unpaid interest and prevent it from being capitalized.

Monthly Payment

Speaking of monthly payments, increasing your payment amount can also make a difference. Putting more money towards your student loan on a regular basis will help keep the interest from building up like a sandcastle at low tide.

Total Paid

If you’re able to make extra payments, focus on reducing the total amount you’ll pay over time. By strategically chipping away at your loan balance, you can save yourself a fortune in interest payments.

Monthly

If increasing your monthly payment isn’t feasible, consider making biweekly payments instead. By splitting your monthly payment into two smaller payments, you’ll make more frequent progress and prevent interest from capitalizing as quickly.

Total

Lastly, don’t forget about the grand total. If you can repay your student loans ahead of schedule, you’ll minimize the overall impact of capitalized interest. So buckle down, stay focused, and imagine the sweet taste of financial freedom.

Can You Deduct Capitalized Student Loan Interest?

Now, you might be wondering if there’s a silver lining to all this capitalized interest. Well, here’s some good news. Depending on your unique circumstances, you may be able to deduct your student loan interest when filing your taxes. 

While it might not fully offset the impact of capitalized interest, it’s a handy deduction that can ease the burden a bit.

Why Is Capitalized Student Loan Interest A Big Deal?

At this point, you might be thinking, “Why does capitalized student loan interest even matter?” Well, the harsh truth is that it can significantly affect the long-term cost of your loan. The more interest that capitalizes, the more you’ll have to repay in the end. 

Plus, it extends the duration of your loan, keeping your financial tie to it for even longer. So yes, capitalized interest is definitely a big deal. But armed with knowledge and a proactive attitude, you can tackle it head-on and conquer your student loan debt once and for all.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, an in-depth exploration of capitalized interest on student loans. It’s a tricky concept to wrap your head around, but by following the strategies mentioned above, you can minimize its impact and crush your repayment journey like a true champion. 

Remember, it’s not just about paying off your loans; it’s about doing it in a way that’s smart and strategic. With a dash of discipline and a sprinkle of determination, you’ll be well on your way to a debt-free future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is capitalized interest on student loans?

Capitalized interest on student loans is the unpaid interest that gets added to your principal balance. This means you end up paying interest on the interest, which can significantly increase the total amount you owe.

How can I minimize the cost of capitalized interest?

You can minimize the cost of capitalized interest by making interest payments while still in school, if possible. Once you start repaying your loan, consider making larger payments and look into refinancing options for a potentially lower interest rate.

What causes interest to capitalize?

Interest capitalizes when unpaid interest is added to the principal balance of your loan. This can occur with certain types of student loans, like federal unsubsidized loans and private loans, where interest begins accruing as soon as the loan is disbursed.

How do federal subsidized loans and federal unsubsidized loans differ in terms of capitalized interest?

Federal subsidized loans do not accrue interest while you are in school or during deferment periods, while federal unsubsidized loans accrue interest from the day they are disbursed. Therefore, the capitalized interest comes into play once you start repaying your unsubsidized loans.

Can I deduct capitalized student loan interest on my taxes?

Depending on your unique circumstances, you may be able to deduct your student loan interest when filing your taxes. However, it’s best to consult with a tax professional to understand how this applies to you.

How can I avoid capitalized interest on student loans?

To avoid capitalized interest, consider making extra payments to reduce your principal balance, exploring refinancing options to get a lower interest rate, and increasing your monthly or biweekly payments.

Why is capitalized student loan interest a big deal?

Capitalized student loan interest can significantly increase the long-term cost of your loan. The more interest that capitalizes, the more you’ll have to repay in the end. It can also extend the duration of your loan.

What is the effect of capitalized interest on the total cost of my student loan?

Capitalized interest increases the total cost of your student loan as you end up paying interest on the interest. The more interest that is capitalized, the more you’ll have to repay in the end.

How does capitalized interest affect the duration of my loan?

Capitalized interest can extend the duration of your loan because it increases the overall amount you owe. The more interest that is capitalized, the longer it will take for you to fully repay the loan.

Can capitalized interest be avoided if I make biweekly payments instead of monthly payments?

Yes, making biweekly payments can help prevent interest from capitalizing as quickly. By splitting your monthly payment into two smaller payments, you’ll make more frequent progress on your loan balance.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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