If you borrowed private student loans, you probably won’t pay them back directly to your lender. Instead, you’ll send payments to a third-party loan servicer, such as Firstmark. A division of Nelnet, Firstmark handles payments and customer service for some private student loans.
This Firstmark Services review explains more about what the loan servicer does, what its customers are saying about it and what you should know if Firstmark is handling your student loan repayment.
Firstmark — founded in 1997 — is a division of Nelnet, a student loan servicer that manages federal student loans for millions of borrowers and provides refinanced and private student loans through Nelnet Bank and U-fi by Nelnet.
However, Firstmark doesn’t service federal student loans or lend money to students. Instead, Firstmark services private or refinanced student loans by:
- Helping borrowers organize their payments through tools such as autopay
- Processing monthly student loan payments on behalf of the lender that originated the loan
- Providing customer service
Lenders set loan terms like APRs and eligibility terms, whereas a loan servicer like Firstmark handles your loan payments. If your lender has partnered with Firstmark, you must use it. You don’t get to choose your servicer as a borrower.
Firstmark works with a number of lenders, including:
Note that some of these lenders work with multiple servicers.
Firstmark is the primary contact for customer service-related issues and is in charge of reporting payment information to the credit bureaus. Additionally, Firstmark will help with other tasks, such as pulling a document if you need to show the status of your payments.
Firstmark student loan services manages your student loan repayment. Firstmark offers services like KwikPay, which deducts your monthly payments automatically, and provides access to an online account where you can see:
- The status of your loan
- Your payment schedule
- Your completed payments
Cosigners can register for their own Firstmark accounts to access loan information. They can also make payments toward student loans. While cosigners are not eligible to receive loan statements by mail, they can opt in for electronic correspondence.
For borrowers who want to release a cosigner, first check with your lender to see if it offers this feature. Some lenders will let you remove a cosigner from your loan after a certain number of on-time payments.
If your lender allows cosigner release, contact Firstmark about next steps. You might need to file some documentation to show that you meet eligibility requirements.
Firstmark doesn’t determine who is eligible for student loans, as it is simply a payment collector. You would need to borrow loans from a private student loan lender that works with Firstmark, such as Citizens Bank. (Check our list of private student loan lenders for more information.)
Multiple factors determine your eligibility for borrowing a private student loan or refinancing a student loan, including:
- Whether you have a co-borrower
- Your choice of school
- Your credit history
If a private student loan lender confirms your eligibility and approves the student loan, your lender will indicate who your student loan servicer is in your promissory agreement.
However, if you haven’t heard from the lender or servicer, ask your lender or look at your most recent student loan statement to see if Firstmark is listed.
You’ll want to figure out this information as soon as possible to make sure you’re on top of any payments. It’s important to read all correspondence that comes through about your student loan in case there are any changes or updates to your account.
There are a few ways you can find out who’s servicing your private student loans, whether Firstmark or another loan servicer. First, Firstmark should contact you if it is servicing your private student loan through a letter or email.
But you don’t have to wait for this communication to find out who’s servicing your loan. You can check your private student loan statements to see if they list your loan servicer.
You can also reach out directly to your lender to see if it has information on your servicer. And finally, you can order a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com for information on your loan.
Note that your federal student loans will be managed by one or more different servicers, since Firstmark only works with private loans. You can find your federal loan servicers by logging into your Federal Student Aid account.
Once you’ve determined that Firstmark is servicing your student loan, you can follow a few simple steps to set up your account:
- Go to the Firstmark website and click “Log in/Register” in the top right corner. Make sure to click on the “Borrowers” option. You’ll be led to the login page, so click the “Register” button to continue.
- You’ll need to enter your Social Security number, full name, email address and date of birth.
- Create a username and password and click “Continue.”
- After answering and setting up security questions, verify that your contact information is correct, make any necessary changes and submit.
- Review the terms and conditions.
- If you agree to the terms and conditions, select the checkbox and click “Go to My Account.”
The easiest way to make payments to Firstmark is through your online account. You can make one-time payments or set up monthly autopay.
Alternatively, you can make your payments via mail or over the phone.
- Pay by mail: Send your student loan payments to Firstmark Services, P.O. Box 2977, Omaha, NE 68103-2977.
- Pay by phone: Call 888-538-7378 to make payments over the phone.
If you need additional information, you can call Firstmark at 888-538-7378 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central, Monday through Friday or email [email protected]
Firstmark customers tend to cite negative experiences with the loan servicer online. On Better Business Bureau, for example, 41 reviewers give Firstmark an average of 1.12 stars out of five. On Facebook, the average is similarly low — 1.1 stars based on 62 reviews.
Some customers complain that Firstmark didn’t process their payments correctly, resulting in late fees or unfair derogatory marks on their credit reports. Others said that customer service was unhelpful or difficult to reach.
Another reviewer said that Firstmark lost their documentation for cosigner release and delayed the process for months. Others wrote that the company was “incompetent” and working with them was a “stressful nightmare.”
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for student loan borrowers to have negative experiences with student loan servicers. In fact, some loan servicers have successfully been sued for misleading borrowers.
Since you don’t have a choice when it comes to your loan servicer — unless you refinance with a different lender — it’s worth checking in with your student loan accounts to make sure everything looks as it should.
Here are answers to some common questions about Firstmark:
There are no prepayment penalties, though Firstmark will still deduct your regular payment from your bank account each month if you enrolled in autopay.
Late fees will differ by lender. Call Firstmark customer service at 888-538-7378 or check your promissory note for more information.
You could be subject to a returned payment fee if your payment method is denied.
Missing student loan payments can not only result in late fees but also damage your credit. If you’re worried that you’ll forget to make your payment, sign up for auto debit so Firstmark can automatically withdraw it from your account.
If, on the other hand, you can’t afford your payments, reach out to Firstmark to see if it can help. It might be able to adjust your monthly payments or offer other forms of help.
Here are a couple of solutions that Firstmark might be able to offer, though these options can vary depending on your lender:
- Change your payment due date. If you’re not able to pay because your bill falls before payday, Firstmark might be able to adjust your deadline so it falls at a better time of month.
- Temporarily pause payments. Some lenders offer temporary forbearance or deferment of payments if you’ve run into financial hardship. Note that interest will continue to accrue on your balance.
- Skip a payment. Some lenders let you skip a payment if you’ve made a certain number of on-time payments. Note that you’re not skipping this payment completely; it will just be tacked on to the end of your loan term.
It’s worth reaching out to Firstmark as soon as possible to see if you can resolve your problem before you miss a student loan payment.
You can refinance a loan that’s being serviced by Firstmark, as long as you meet certain credit requirements. Your new lender will issue a disbursement, so you’ll need to contact it rather than Firstmark if you have any questions.
Depending on the refinancing lender you choose, you might end up paying back Firstmark again or working with a new loan servicer.
If you can afford extra payments, you can always pay off your student loans early without penalty. Here are some tips to help you chip away at your balance faster:
- Reduce your spending. Take a look at your budget and identify areas where you can cut back. Even an extra $25 per month on your student loans could help you get out of debt faster and save on interest.
- Find ways to increase your income. Whether you work a side hustle or start your own online business, increasing your income could help you afford extra debt payments.
- Instruct Firstmark on how to apply your extra payments. Make sure that Firstmark is applying your extra payments to pay down your principal balance, rather than saving them for future payments.
- Use the debt avalanche method. If you have multiple loans, target the ones with the highest interest rate first (while still making the required payments on all your debts). With this strategy, you can save the most on interest.
This guide gives additional tips on how to pay off your student loans ahead of schedule.
Jordi Lippe-McGraw and Sarah Li Cain contributed to this report
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