*Updated January 30, 2020
If you’ve taken out student loans to help pay for college and you have American Education Services (AES) as your loan servicer, make sure that you know where you stand in terms of your AES student loans and learn about your repayment options. This is crucial if you want to put your best “financial” foot forward and be in control of your student loans.
Here’s what you need to know to manage your AES student loans.
1. What is AES?
The U.S. Department of Education is your lender, but federal loans are serviced by nine loan servicing organizations/companies assigned to help the government manage the billing and other services for your loan.
Like FedLoan Servicing, AES is an organization established by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) to help service student loans. Unlike FedLoan, however, AES services only FFEL loans — issued under the Federal Family Education Loan Program — and private student loans. FFEL loans were discontinued on June 30, 2010, but AES continues to service the loans disbursed before that date.
AES is one of the largest student servicers, handling nearly $85 billion in student loans and serving millions of students.
You could have more than one loan servicer if you have multiple loans. To confirm, check the National Student Loan Data System.
2. AES Login – How to create an online account to manage your AES student loans
The process is easy. To sign up for Online Access, go to the “Create an Account” page and fill in the required information, including your name, email address, birthdate, and AES account number or social security number.
You can also create an account using AES’s mobile Android or iOs app. But reviews of the app on both Google Play and the App Store are mixed: 3.9 stars for Android and 4.8 stars for iOS in January 2020.
Once you’ve set up an account, or if you already have an online account, you can log in via the “Account Access” box.
This online portal makes it easy for you to review and manage your account. You can:
- Get your loan balances;
- See the interest rates being charged;
- Make your payments; and
- Update your personal information.
You can also get other helpful information on AES’s website, including repayment options.
3. How to contact AES customer service
You can phone, email, fax and/or mail AES.
Mon–Fri: 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM (ET)
Mon–Fri: 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM (ET)
|TTY #||DIAL 711 — support for hearing and speech-impaired callers|
Mon–Fri 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM (ET)
- Email: Log into your Account Access to send a secure email.
|Payments (Except Payoffs)||American Education Services (AES) |
PO Box 65093
Baltimore, MD 21264-5093
|Payments (Payoffs only)||AES — Paid in Full|
P.O. Box 2251
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2251
|Letters & correspondence||American Education Services|
P.O. Box 2461
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2461
|Express/overnight deliveries||American Education Services|
1200 N. 7th St.
Harrisburg, PA 17102
|Credit Disputes||AES Credit|
P.O. Box 61047
Harrisburg, PA 17106-1047
|Contact Office of Consumer |
|Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency|
The Office of Consumer Advocacy
1200 North 7th Street
Harrisburg, PA 17102
4. What if you have a problem with AES?
While AES is one of the biggest loan servicers, it is not without its problems.
AES gets just three stars — out of five — for overall satisfaction, based on 200 ratings submitted to Consumer Affairs.
In the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report issued in October 2019, AES and its parent company PHEAA ranked second highest in both federal student loan complaints (2,050) and private student loan complaints (180) for the 12 months starting on September 1, 2018 and ending on August 31, 2019.
In addition, 200 complaints were filed with the Consumer Affairs against AES in the last year.
AES’s parent company PHEAA was also sued by Massachusetts’ attorney general in August 2017, allegedly for mishandling the federal student loan forgiveness programs.
PHEAA has denied the allegations.
“PHEAA remains committed to appropriately resolving any outstanding borrower issues while following the U.S. Department of Education’s policies, procedures and regulations as mandated by the Agency’s federal contracts,” PHEAA spokesman Keith New said in a statement.
Unfortunately, you can’t change loan servicers assigned to you — not unless you refinance. If you have FFEL loans, you need to think carefully before you choose to refinance, as you will lose the benefits of your FFEL loans.
So, what should you do if you have questions, concerns or issues with loans serviced by AES?
Contact AES right away by phone, email, fax and/or mail.
If AES cannot or does not resolve your problem, or you disagree with the resolution, you should contact the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman Group. You can also file a complaint with Federal Student Aid and/or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
At all times, it would help if you have identified the nature of your loan problem and have documented all the details, such as notes of phone conversations, identity of AES representatives, etc.
Note: Be sure to include your AES account # on all your written communications with AES, including payment instructions.
5. What’s the best way to deal effectively with AES?
The Department of Education has provided several tips on this, including keeping careful notes of conversations, following up in writing after a conversation, keeping copies of correspondence and replies sent by mail, sending letters by certified mail, and more.
6. What are the payment methods?
You can make your AES payments in many ways, including Direct Debit and by mail. Before you proceed, know that you can choose a payment date that works best for you.
- If you choose Direct Debit, your loan payments will be automatically deducted from your checking or savings account on your due date each month, even if your due date falls on a weekend or holiday. But you may save 0.25% using this method. To avoid missing a payment, be sure to send a payment using other methods until AES confirms you are set up for Direct Debit.
- Paying online is the most flexible option. Be sure to schedule your payment for a business day, even if your payment falls on a weekend, so your payment is not considered late.
- You can pay by mobile app anytime, using AES’s android or iOS app.
- You can also pay by phone by calling 800-233-0557. You should have your 10-digit account number handy for the call. You can select a payment date that’s up to 60 days ahead.
- If you prefer to send your payment by mail, make your check or money order payable to American Education Services. Be sure to include your remittance slip and your account number on the check or money order. If you have any special instructions for your payments, you should submit them on a separate piece of paper as AES won’t consider instructions on the check itself or the remittance slip. (Be sure to include your account number on your written instructions.) Mail your payment along with your special instructions, if any, to the designated address for payment (see contact info above). Your payment should be mailed at least 5-7 business days before your due date to ensure receipt by due date.
- For payment by third-party bill-pay services, be sure that they have the correct mailing address (the one for payment by mail above). The downside of using this method is that you will not receive any incentive or interest rate reduction for Direct Debit payments made via third-party bill-pay services. Also, you will still need to contact AES directly if you have additional instructions.
- You can make up to eight advance payments in a 60-day period by setting them up ahead of time. The only limitation is that you can’t schedule them for Saturdays or Sundays, or on a holiday when using your phone to make payments. Be sure that you will have the funds available to cover the scheduled payments.
When AES receives a payment, it is first applied either to accrued interest or late fee, depending on your lender and type of loans you borrowed, as follows:
- Accrued interest → Late fee (if applicable) → Current principal balance
- Late fee (if applicable) → Accrued interest → Current principal balance
If you have multiple loans serviced by AES, you may receive one consolidated statement for all of them, in which case, you can make one payment to cover those loans. If you prefer not to have your loans grouped together, you should call AES and have the loans separated.
7. Should you make extra payments?
If you have extra money in your budget, the answer is definitely YES. This will help you pay off your loans faster and save you money.
Extra payments are automatically applied to the principal balance due of a future bill or invoice, if any. But the extra payments will NOT be applied towards future principal balance if you qualify for $0 payment under the income-driven repayment option (explained below).
If you have multiple AES loans, however, extra payments will be allocated and applied based on the amount due for each loan.
For maximum benefit, though, you should target the extra payments to unsubsidized loans, loans with high balances, or loans with higher interest rates — whichever will save you more money in the long run. Use this Repayment Estimator to help you figure out how much you can save.
8. How to make your extra payments
You can make extra payments on individual loans by Direct Debit, online or by writing to AES.
Direct Debit is the most convenient method if you want to pay extra every month. You can specify how the extra payments should be allocated and set it up so specific loans are automatically targeted every month. It is possible to change your target, though, at any time via AES’s website.
The online method is best for one-time extra payments. To do so, simply sign in to “Account Access” and follow these steps:
- Click “Make a Payment”
- Select “Specify Loan Payment Amounts”
- Enter payment amount — this should cover the minimum amount due on each loan + the extra payment
- Confirm by clicking “Make a Payment”
If you want AES to apply all future extra payments to specific loans, however, you can submit your written instructions on a separate piece of paper by mail or fax, or by email after signing in to “Account Access.”
Note: If you’re sending written instructions to target payments along with your payment, use the payment address above. Otherwise, mail the written instructions to the correspondence address.
9. What are your repayment options for your FFEL loans?
Although you make your payments to AES, it is the Department of Education that provides the repayment options for FFEL loans. Your options may vary by the type of loan you have.
Here are the standard repayment options:
- Standard Repayment Plan: This plan saves you the most money because it allows you to pay off your loan most quickly — within 10 years if you have unconsolidated loans, and within 10-30 years if you have consolidated loans. However, since the fixed monthly payments are higher, this is not a viable option for borrowers seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). By the way, this will be your default option if you don’t choose a repayment plan.
- Graduated Repayment Plan: With this plan, you will start with low monthly payments that will increase every two years. You pay off your loan within 10 years if you have unconsolidated loans, and within 10-30 years if you have consolidated loans. This plan may be a good fit for borrowers whose current income is low but expect an increase over time. It’s generally not an option for those seeking PSLF.
- Extended Fixed Repayment Plan: If you need to lower your monthly payments, this plan gives you the option to extend your payment period up to 25 years. You will have a fixed monthly payment. To qualify, your loan(s) must have been disbursed on/after October 7, 1998 and your outstanding loan amounts must be more than $30,000. This plan is not an option for those seeking PSLF.
- Extended Graduated Repayment Plan: This plan also gives you the option to extend your payment period up to 25 years, but your lower monthly payments increase over time. To qualify, your loan(s) must have been disbursed on/after October 7, 1998 and your outstanding loan amounts must be more than $30,000. This plan is not an option for those seeking PSLF.
Additionally, there are two income-driven repayment plans (IDR), in which payments are based on a percentage of the borrower’s discretionary income. The percentage varies based on the plan.
- Income-Sensitive Repayment (ISR): Your monthly payments are calculated based on your monthly gross income and student loan debt. Use this Income Sensitive Repayment Form if you need to apply for ISR plan for the next 12 months. Send the completed form along with documentation, such as pay stubs, showing your most recent total monthly gross income from all sources.
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR): The percentage will be 15% of your discretionary income. Payments for the IBR plan are recalculated each year and are based on your updated income and family size, so you must update your income and family size each year (even if there are no changes). The IBR plan is a good option for those seeking PSLF, which forgives the remaining balance on FFEL loans after borrowers have made 300 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.
Contact AES for more details if you are thinking of a different repayment plan.
You can also use the Repayment Estimator to help you figure out what your approximate monthly payment would be under the repayment plan(s) you’re considering.
10. What are your repayment options for your private student loans?
The AES repayment options for private student loans vary depending on your lender. If you would like to change your repayment plan, contact AES for information.
11. What if you’re having trouble paying back your loans?
Get in touch with AES right away if you’re struggling to make your monthly payments. You don’t want a situation where your loan becomes delinquent or in default, because it will affect your credit score.
An account is “delinquent” the day after a first missed payment, and is deemed “in default” when it is 270 days delinquent. So, if you miss one or two payments, your loan is delinquent. But if you miss several payments, your loan will be at risk of default.
If you’re in default, check here for the steps you need to take on your FFEL loan(s) as well as private student loans.
If you have money for your monthly payments but you forget, simply changing your method of payment to Direct Debit will ensure timely payments.
If you have problems making monthly payments on the due date, contact AES and request that they change your due date. To qualify, you must be in repayment status, make your first scheduled payment, be current on your monthly payments, and request a date between the 1st and 28th of the month. In addition, your loans must be eligible — some private student loans may not be eligible. Since it could take up to two billing cycles (60 days) for your due date change to take effect, be sure to make payments due until then. Also, depending on the due date requested, you may have to make two payments within one billing cycle (30 days).
If you can’t afford your monthly payments, however, you need to check into lowering your monthly payments. Here are a few options:
- You can apply to reduce your payments by changing your payment plan. Reminder — more details are in the “repayment options” section.
- If you have multiple federal loans, you can apply to consolidate some or all of the loans into a single loan called a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan through StudentLoans.gov. In your application, be sure to note if you are interested in PSLF. The consolidated loan will bear a fixed interest rate based on the average of the interest rates on the loans being consolidated. There is NO application fee. Once consolidated, you will have a single monthly payment to make for all the loans you consolidated. Check out the potential advantages and disadvantages before you apply for consolidation.
- Another option is to refinance your loans through private lenders. Refinancing, like consolidation, allows you to roll multiple loans into one loan. Your interest rate is typically determined by your credit score. The caveat: borrowers who refinance FFEL loans lose benefits provided by federal loans, including access to the IBR plan that may qualify them for loan forgiveness after 330 payments.
If you’re in a situation where you need to postpone your monthly payments temporarily, you have two options: deferment or forbearance. Both programs could have a major impact on the amount you have to pay back. Neither program is ideal, particularly if you’re working towards loan forgiveness as it may delay the time it takes to qualify for loan forgiveness. A better option may be to apply for a change to your payment plan instead.
The bottom line
To ensure compliance with your loan obligations and for maximum savings, you should learn the terms of your FFEL and private student loans. And don’t hesitate to contact AES if you have any questions, issues or concerns.
Susan Chu is a writer and editor who likes to write about trends in higher education.