Forbearance vs. deferment: what’s the difference

When you’re in the midst of a financial crisis, it can seem nearly impossible to dig your way out—especially if you’re paying off loans. However, there are various alternatives to ease the strain on finances, like forbearance or deferred payments. Forbearance and deferment are terms often used interchangeably—but, there are differences between the two. We’ve broken down the basics of forbearance and deferment, so you can decide what works best for you and your financial situation.


What is forbearance?

A forbearance is an agreement between a borrower and lender to temporarily suspend or reduce payments. People typically request forbearance when they’ve experienced a temporary financial setback, like job loss or illness.

How does forbearance work?

During a forbearance agreement, lenders agree to accept reduced payments or no payments for up to 12 months. When the forbearance period ends, the borrower must resume payments and repay what they owed during the forbearance period, plus interest and possible fees. Repayments can be made in a lump sum or up to 12 installments added to regular monthly payments.

Most people request a forbearance on their mortgage or student loans. But, forbearance works differently depending on each situation.

Homeowners can request a mortgage forbearance to catch up on payments and avoid foreclosure. Most lenders require proof that homeowners are enduring a temporary financial hardship, as well as assurance that the borrower can pay back what they owe when the forbearance period is over. During the forbearance period, lenders stop foreclosure proceedings and allow the borrower to make reduced payments or no payments. If your financial trouble lasts longer than anticipated, or you don’t have the funds to make repayments, you can discuss options with your lender, like a loan modification.

Student loan borrowers can apply for forbearance when they are facing a temporary hardship and don’t qualify for deferment. With student loan forbearance, you can temporarily halt payments for up to 12 months at a time with no set maximum for federal loans. You do not need a specific, qualifying event to apply for student loan forbearance.

Are you still charged interest during a forbearance?

Interest accrues on both mortgage and student loan forbearance, unless otherwise stated. Because of COVID-19, federal student loans were placed on administrative forbearance, and interest rates were reduced to 0%, so they’re not accruing interest right now. For mortgage forbearance, interest accrues on skipped or lowered payments. So, you will have to pay back what you owed during the forbearance period, plus interest. For student loan forbearance, the amount you owe will always increase—at the end of your forbearance period, interest may capitalize, which means it’s added to your loan’s current principal balance. From there, interest will be calculated on the new amount.

Does a forbearance impact your credit score?

Mortgage forbearance can lower your credit score—but, it depends if your lender reports it to the credit bureau. If they do, then your credit score could dip. And, if you wanted to refinance or purchase a new home, you have to reestablish yourself as a credible borrower, so you must repay what you owe. Still, a temporary drop in your credit score from a forbearance is much better than a missed payment—and it helps avoid foreclosure, which can stay on your credit report for seven years. For student loans, forbearance does not affect your credit score.


What is deferment?

Deferred payments, sometimes called payment holidays, allow you to delay or suspend payments on a loan—generally a consumer loan. If you’re experiencing financial hardship, deferring a payment could be beneficial, as it temporarily halts the burden of making repayments. It could impact you in the long run—you may end up with higher monthly payments, and your loan’s term will increase.

How does deferment work?

Similar to a forbearance, during a deferment period, payments are suspended but for a shorter amount of time. And, unlike forbearance, you are not required to pay back what you owe all at once. What you owe is usually tacked onto the end of your loan’s term, which is why your loan term often increases. Most people request deferred payments on their auto loans or student loans. Again, deferred payments work differently depending on the circumstances.

Lenders will sometimes allow you to defer your car payment for a month or sometimes up to three months. Most lenders ask you to provide a brief explanation as to why you need to defer your payment, and they may also review your credit score or credit report. It can be a viable solution in the short run. But, deferring a car payment isn’t always the best long-term choice. If you realize your financial trouble may last longer than anticipated, discuss refinancing options with your lender.

Similarly, borrowers can request a deferment on their student loans to relieve the financial burden. Unlike forbearance, you must have a specific, qualifying event to be approved. Student loan deferment generally works best if you have a subsidized federal student loan or a Perkins loan. And, deferment length depends on the type of deferment—some last up to three years, while others last as long as you qualify.

Are you still charged interest during a deferment?

For student loans, interest does not accrue on subsidized federal student loans and Perkins loans. For other consumer loans, whether or not you’re charged interest depends on your loan type, so it’s best to check with your lender first. You may be responsible for interest that accrues while your payment is postponed. You could potentially receive a break if your interest rate only applies to your principal balance—which means you won’t be charged interest on the interest that accrues. Once you restart payments, the interest that accrued during your payment holiday could be added to your principal balance, and your interest rate would then be applied to the new, larger principal balance—meaning even more interest could accumulate once you resume your regular payments.

Does a deferment impact your credit score?

Deferred payments usually don’t impact your credit score. When your application is approved, your lender reports to the credit bureau that your payments are deferred. But, if you stop making payments or miss a payment due date before you’re approved, those missed payments could damage your credit. If you missed payments before you applied for a payment holiday, those won’t be removed from your credit history, either. You must continue making your payments until you have verification that your payments are deferred.

Deciding to apply for forbearance or deferment is an enormous decision, and there are various factors to consider. It’s critical to think about how long you anticipate a lapse in finances, your needs, and the potential outcomes.

If you’re facing financial trouble, you’re not alone—at Georgia’s Own, we’re here to help and provide financial advice and resources to get you through whatever financial struggles you’re facing. If you require financial assistance because of COVID-19, click here to see how Georgia’s Own is helping members during this time of need.

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