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Fixed interest rates stay the same for the life of the loan.

You’re more likely to have the same monthly payment each month.

And depending on your lender, you may need to meet a minimum balance.

(The Federal Loan Consolidation Program doesn’t require a minimum.) If short-term savings are your priority, consolidation is worth a look.

Consolidation will allow you to switch from a variable rate to the new fixed rate. A variable rate can save you money if you have strong credit – and if interest rates don’t rise significantly.

If you plan to repay loans over time, and you’d rather have a steady interest rate than a fluctuating one, a fixed rate may work best for you. For long-term savings, it’s best to lock in a fixed rate when interest rates are low. The Federal Direct Consolidation Loans website offers an online calculator to compare interest rates. If you have private loans, they won’t be covered under the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, but you can still lower your interest rate through consolidation.

If your life circumstances are changing, you may want to adapt your loan repayment plan to match.

Refinancing may give you more options to reduce your monthly payment and interest rate, but refinancing federal loans can eliminate some of the benefits of federal loans.Many students and graduates take out multiple loans. If you’re in this category, you’ve probably considered combining all those loans into one—a common process known as either student loan consolidation or student loan refinancing.Consolidation is the process of combining several student loans into one consolidation loan that retains all the benefits of federal loans: flexible repayment options if you lose your job or go back to school and forgiveness programs after years of service in certain qualifying fields.Loans combined into a Direct Consolidation Loan can’t be removed. Also important to know: you can’t consolidate private student loans with federal student loans.Fewer payments every month may sound like a no-brainer, but consolidation’s not best for everyone. If you want to roll private and student loans together, you’ll need to explore refinancing your student loans.

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Private student loans base interest rates on your credit score. All consolidation paperwork must be processed and approved in those six months for the in-school rate.