FirstMark Student Loans Servicer Review (a Complete Guide)

Firstmark student loans

Firstmark Student Loan Servicer Review: What You Should Know

Firstmark Student Loans Service is a payment and service partner for many student loan lenders.  For college graduates with private student loans, Firstmark may become their monthly payment and service partner.  Federal loans don’t always cover the entire cost of a college education.  As a result, many students are forced to take out private student loans to cover the difference. And, instead of collecting student loan payments themselves, many private lenders hire third-party loan servicers to handle that task. If you have federal student loans, you may already be familiar with Firstmark’s parent company, Nelnet.  They service the Federal student loans of more than 5 million borrowers.  But there’s a key difference — unlike Nelnet, Firstmark only handles private student loans.

You see, many private lenders prefer to focus on lending money rather than handling payments and providing customer service.  So, they partner with servicers like Firstmark to handle all of the customer interactions.  If your lender uses Firstmark to collect your payments, here’s what you need to know.

The Difference Between Federal Loans and Private loans

A federal student loan has fewer restrictions.  The process tends to be easier to undertake than taking out private loans.  During the application process, federal loans have slightly fewer variables to decide upon.

  • With private lenders, a borrower can choose between fixed and variable interest rates. However, with federal loans, the interest rate is fixed.
  • Unlike the federal loan, private student loans do not arbitrarily cap annual borrowing limits.  This can help a student to borrow more each year than just tuition fees if they desire. However, private lenders usually require a cosigner to help insure repayment for the loan.
  • The private loan comes with an option of 5, 10, 15, or 20-year repayment term.  Federal loans have their standard repayment term of 10 years.

What Is Firstmark?

Firstmark is a division of Nelnet, a Federal student loan service provider. Firstmark does not service Federal student loans. It only provides service for private educational loans.  If your lender has contracted with Firstmark, Firstmark will collect and process payments for your student loans. You’ll also work with Firstmark to release a cosigner, deal with late payments, or make extra payments on your loans.

What to Do If Firstmark Contacts You

If Firstmark calls, emails, or sends a letter to you, it is because they are servicing your student loans.  If, in fact, you owe private student loan debt, the first step you should take is to visit Firstmark’s website.  Once there, you can set up a borrower profile. You can use the green button in the upper right-hand corner of the website to register yourself.  Firstmark has important personal and financial information about you.  As a safeguard, you might consider registering for multi-factor authentication.

Once you’re registered, you can see the full details of your loan.  You can review your payment amount, due date, loan balance, and more.  If you have a cosigner on your loan, the cosigner can create their own user profile. They will recieve notification and full details on the loan as well.  Once Firstmark has your information, you can expect to receive bill statements and e-statements. The e-statements make it particularly easy to track when your payments are due.

How Do I Make My Firstmark Student Loan Payments?

With Firstmark, you have several options for making your payments.

  • Auto-Debit – Payments can be automatically debited from your bank account.  You can enroll online and click Set Up Auto Debit when you log into your account.
  • Online Payment – You can also pay online using the Payment Options – Make a Payment tab. Payments made before 4:00 p.m. central time will be processed at 4:00 p.m. Otherwise, the payment will be processed the next day.
  • Phone Payment – You can arrange payment over the phone.  The service number for Firstmark Student Loans Payment is (888) 538-7378.
  • Send a Check – Send your repayment five to seven business days before it’s due to make sure it gets there in time.  You can mail check repayments to the following address:  Firstmark Services, PO Box 2977, Omaha, NE 68103-2977

Firstmark Customer Service can help you.  They handle everything from delinquent loans to cosigner releases to extra payments. To contact them, call between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. (central time) on Monday through Friday. The number is: (888) 538-7378.  You can also email customer.service@firstmarkservices.com if you have a question during off-hours.

Firstmark Student Loans – Services for Borrowers

  • Providing the best method for you to conveniently repay your debt in a timely manner
  • Collect your payments and keep proper records
  • Be your first line of assistance if and when questions or problems arise

If you have any doubt whether Firstmark is your private student loan servicer, you should check immediately.  You can review a recent student loan statement or contact your lender and ask them. You can also check your credit report to see who services your student loan.  Once you are certain that Firstmark is your student loan servicer, you should contact them.  They should become your first contact when you have any questions about paying back your student loans.  Consider Firstmark to be an intermediary that connects you to your student loan lender.  Their job is to help you to pay the debt off as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Setting up your account with Firstmark

Firstmark gives customers multiple ways to reach them. You can get in touch with a member of customer service via telephone, email or written correspondence.  By far, the most convenient way to make your loan payments is online.  As a borrower, you can easily set up an online account:

  1. Register – Go to www.firstmarkservices.com and register as a borrower
  2. Identify Yourself – Your personal details are required.  You’ll be asked for information including name, date of birth, Social Security number and email address
  3. Set Username and Password – The final step is to create a username and a password so you can access your new account.
  4. Online Payments – You can log into your online account to make payments to Firstmark Services.
  5. Payments by Post – You can also mail payments to Firstmark Services, P.O. Box 2977, Omaha, NE 68103-2977.
  6. Phone Contact – If you want to reach Firstmark by phone, you can do so by calling 888-538-7378.

Can I pay off my Firstmark Student Loans Early?

Yes, you can. FirstMark doesn’t charge any penalties for prepaying private student loans. The simplest way is to occasionally make an additional online repayment.  Be sure to specify which loan you’d like the extra funds to go toward. Contact customer service if you’d rather make an additional repayment over the phone or by mail.  They can help you  and insure it is properly executed and credited.

How to pay off your student loans faster 

Many people want to pay off their student loans as soon as possible.  This reduces the total amount of interest that has to be paid by shortening the life of the loan.  The more you know about the repayment process, the more strategic you can be about paying off your loans.  You may find yourself with extra money from time to time.  You can put extra funds toward your student loans.  It will have the greatest financial impact if you  focus on high-interest loans first.

Many borrowers end up with multiple private loans with different interest rates.  Begin by paying off the one with the highest interest rate first. Keep in mind that when you make a payment, that payment is typically divided between all your loans. But if you pay more than the minimum due, the extra payment amount will automatically go toward the loan with the highest interest rate.  So, you can include extra funds whenever they are available.  This strategy will save you money over time.

Here are some other tips to help:

  • Budget Surplus: When you set up your daily spending budget, cut some expenses, such as cable or your daily coffee fix, to come up with extra money to go toward your student loans.
  • Extra Income: Explore other creative ways to raise cash that can go toward your student loan debt. For example, driving for Uber, doing freelance work or selling items on eBay could provide enough money to make a dent in your balance.
  • Pay more than the Minimum: Even if you can only put an additional $25 toward your student loan debt each month, it can make a difference over time.
  • Let Windfalls Pay Down Your Loans: Use bonuses and tax refunds to help you wipe away those student loans.

What Happens if you can’t make your Student Loan Payment? 

Some people make late payments because the due date falls right before payday. If you run into this situation, you can request a change to your due date as long as your account is current.  Life has its ups and downs, and there may be times when you face challenges paying off your private student loans. The worst thing you can do in this situation is to put your head in the sand. You want to work with your loan servicer to see if there may be a solution that can make both parties happy.  If you are in danger of making late payments because you don’t have the money, contact Firstmark immediately and let them know your situation. They will let you know if your lender offers an option that will help.

Here are some potential solutions that may be offered to you:

  • Get a break from paying your loans: Some loan programs offer repayment options that may make your payments more manageable. For example, you may be able to defer your loans for a short period of time depending upon the loan program. Forbearance — a temporary reprieve from making payments — may be an option. However, keep in mind that the interest on your loan continues to accrue even during forbearance so your balance (and your monthly payment) may be higher when you start making payments again.
  • Consolidate your loans: If your loan program doesn’t offer you the ability to defer or lower your payments, you may be able to consolidate your private loans. By choosing this option, you may be able to lower your monthly payments by taking out a longer repayment term. Of course, it is important to know that the longer you take to pay your student loans, the more interest you are likely to pay over time.
  • Get help from a co-signer: If you refinance your student loans to get a more manageable payment or longer term, you might also add a co-signer — someone with a good credit history who can help you qualify for better rates. With better rates, you may get a lower monthly payment. If you already have a co-signer on your current student loan, you might ask them to help you with payments temporarily as you get back on your feet financially. However, come up with a written agreement with that person about how and when you will pay them back to preserve the relationship.  Source: Credible.com

What Co-signers should know about Firstmark 

Private Student Loan Lenders consider your credit history when considering you for loan approval. Unfortunately, many students entering college have a limited credit history.  In general, the better the credit history, the better the interest rate you can qualify for.  With no credit history, it helps to add a co-signer.  This is someone who has a solid credit history.  Adding them to the loan can help the primary borrower qualify for better rates.  Essentially, the co-signer promises to pay back the loan if the student is unable to pay it.

Often, a parent or a relative will act as a co-signer for a college student on a private student loan. Firstmark allows the co-signer to also set up an account.  This is so they can have access to all information about the loans they co-sign.  This is an important feature for a co-signer. If a borrower fails to pay back the student loan, not only will the co-signer be obligated to pay, but their credit score will take a hit as well.

However, the co-signer is not the only party at risk.  If the co-signer files for bankruptcy, that could impact the borrower. A Firstmark customer service representative can answer any questions you have about your co-signer agreement.  Some lenders allow co-signers to be released from a loan if certain conditions are met. For example, the borrower might have to make a certain number of consecutive loan payments or prove that he or she now has the income and creditworthiness to qualify for the loan. You can contact Firstmark to find out if your lender allows co-signers to be released.  Source: Credible.com

Customer Reviews of Firstmark Student Loan Services 

A good way to get a feel for what a company is like is to see what other customers have to say. If you know someone else who has worked with Firstmark, ask them about the company’s customer service.  You can also learn a lot by checking social media, online reviews and even the Better Business Bureau.

The Better Business Bureau collects complaints about companies.  They give Firstmark Student Loan Services a B+ rating. The website has customer reviews, and not all of them are positive.  The common complaints can shed light on some of the concerns that other Firstmark customers have.

Firstmark Student Loans – Common Complaints

Firstmark Services complaints are numerous. Borrowers can file complaints with the BBB and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). There are three major complaints that seem to be the most common.

1. Mishandled Student Loan Payments

When you make a payment on your student loan, you expect it to go to the right place. Complaints recorded with the CFPB and BBB describe borrowers having trouble with how their payments are handled.

  • Two Loans – One borrower with two loans under Firstmark Services reported that the payment toward one loan was split between the two. This caused the loans to then appear delinquent. The borrower emailed and called Firstmark Services many times. They ended up making additional payments and paying $130 in interest for the mistake.
  • Lost in Transfer – Some borrowers have had their loans transferred to Firstmark Services. In the transfer process, it’s been reported that previous payments weren’t applied to the account.  Customers have a difficult time retrieving the mishandled payments.
  • Interest Rates Changed – In one borrower’s case, it was reported that the loan’s interest rates were changed.  During transfer, the rate was changed from fixed to variable. When the borrower tried to get copies of the promissory notes, they were never sent. Firstmark Services refused to reinstate the fixed interest rate or refund the interest.

Having your loan terms changed is an extreme example of mishandling. This sort of mistake can truly wreck your finances. A Firstmark Services borrower should monitor their account frequently, all the way up to pay off date.

2. Failure to close accounts when “Paid-in-Full”

Paying off a student loan is one of the best feelings — or at least, it should be. Firstmark Services has complaints from borrowers who have difficulty getting their account closed.

A borrower, whose account was paid in full, filed a complaint with the BBB stating, “I have contacted Firstmark every 2-3 business days since the college paid off the balance and I am continually told they are working on closing the account. To date, this account is past due and incurring late fees even though it has been paid in full for almost 45 days.”

In another case reported to the BBB, a borrower paid off their student loan in full. This was recorded on their debit card bank statement. The borrower then tried to buy a home. They requested a “paid in full” letter from Firstmark, as requested by the underwriting department for their mortgage. Firstmark claimed it could not issue a formal letter sooner than 30 days from the last and final payment. It did offer an informal letter, but this was rejected by the mortgage company.

When you pay off an account, it shouldn’t be a struggle to get it documented. It certainly shouldn’t stop a former borrower from buying a home and moving on with their financial future.

3. Terrible customer service and follow-through

The BBB and CFPB Firstmark Services complaints are filled with customer service complaints.

Drop in Credit Score

Bad customer service led to a drop in credit score and threats of being sent to collection for one borrower. They had inquired on a forbearance request before the next payment, due to unemployment.  The customer representative had said the borrower was eligible and promised to send a form via email and U.S. mail. Two weeks went by and no form arrived. So the borrower called Firstmark Services again. The representative said the form was never asked for, but they would put it in a request. Another week passed — still nothing.  Finally, after a months, the borrower received the form. Unfortunately, at this point, they were called multiple times a day for payment on a past-due loan.

Communication Gaps

Communication about payments is a major complaint. One borrower reported that their payments were reversed four times. Firstmark Services only contacted them once during this episode. The rest of the time, the borrower had to log in to check – only to find their account was past due.

Another customer tried to set up automatic payments four times over the course of the loan. Firstmark reported not receiving the requests when the borrower inquired. As a result, the borrower never received notifications from Firstmark Services about the missing payments. Instead, the borrower was contacted by the loan issuer when the account was past due.

Gaps in communication make it near impossible for a borrower to get set a successful payment schedule.  One way to stay on top of the situation is to check online regularly if you have loans with Firstmark. Stay in contact with them and document that you’ve always done your part. For some customers, managing their student loans with Firstmark Services was a bit of a challenge. This may or may not be the case for you.  Source: Studentloanplanner.com

What you can do if you have Firstmark student loans 

If you have loans with Firstmark Services and you’re not happy with it, you have options.  You don’t have to put up with a terrible service provider for the next decade.

  • Pay your Loan off  early– One of them is to increase your payments and pay off the loan faster.
  • Refinance your private student loan – If you’re serious about refinancing your student loans to avoid Firstmark Services, shop around for a new lender.  Look at the loan terms to ensure you’re getting the same or better interest rate. Make sure you can afford the payments and see if there are additional perks for refinancing with the new lender.

FirstMark Student Loans – Final Words

If you’re not happy with your FirstMmark experience, consider refinancing with a private lender.  Be sure to apply with a lender that uses a different servicer for student loans.  Also, check the online reviews regarding the new service provider before you make the switch.  You could end up worse off than before.

 

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