Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance for the student debt assistance group, American Student Assistance, makes sure to tell borrowers to stay away from consolidation loans that combine federal and private loans.

Consolidating both types of loans excludes borrowers from federal protections.

consolidating student loans other debt-25consolidating student loans other debt-34consolidating student loans other debt-57

This can be attractive to borrowers because the consolidation frequently results in longer repayment periods and lower monthly payments.

When it comes to consolidation, the types of loans you have matters, but most federal loans, including Stafford, Perkins, Direct Plus and Supplemental loans, can be consolidated with other federal student loans."The interest rate on (federal) consolidation loans is an average of the interest rates on the (federal) loans you're consolidating," says Ken O'Connor, director of student advocacy for Fynanz, a New York City firm providing technology for the private student loan market.

And once consolidated, they usually have variable interest rates, O'Connor says. Consolidating private student loans when interest rates are low (like now) "could potentially save thousands of dollars." It also means your interest rate can fluctuate higher as the years tick by.

Unlike federal loans, it can be trickier to get your private loans consolidated.

Instead of making multiple payments to multiple lenders, the borrower only has to pay off the new consolidation loan, says Michelle Pezzulli, vice president of operations for Credit Union Student Choice, a student lending service provider in Washington, D.

C."That new loan will have its own interest rate; it will have its own repayment terms; it will have its own terms and conditions," she says.

Regardless of how the market fluctuates, borrowers will never pay more than 8.25 percent on their consolidation loans.

Private loans can typically only be consolidated with other private loans.

Should borrowers pay off their loans early, they can save hundreds, sometimes thousands, in interest charges."Would it be nice to have just one loan where you make that one loan payment every month? We ask that you stay focused on the story topic, respect other people's opinions, and avoid profanity, offensive statements, illegal contents and advertisement posts. Bankrate reserves the right (but is not obligated) to edit or delete your comments.