Student loans have become a basic fact of life for many people in the UK. They're not much fun to deal with, but they're taken care of automatically so most people stop thinking about them after a while. That's a bit of a trap sometimes, and it's far too easy to fall into. For one thing, it turns out over 100,000 people started paying off their student loans too early in the last 3 years alone! The good news is that you can claim that cash back, if you ever realise you're owed it. In fact, thousands of people have been doing exactly that.

In the last 3 years, the Student Loan Company has paid back almost £730,000 to people who started paying their loans off too early. It doesn't take much time or effort to get your money back, and it could be worth over £300 on average.

What are the rules?

The student loan rules say you don't have to start paying your debt off until the April after you graduate. That's assuming you've hit the earnings threshold to pay it off at all, of course.

The repayments come out of your salary through PAYE, so they work more like a tax on your pay than an ordinary loan.

If you hit the repayment threshold before the April after graduation, there's a chance you're owed money back. This can happen either if you or your employer make a mistake in your paperwork, for instance.

Is it worth claiming the money back?

Of course, starting too early does mean paying off the full debt sooner. That might seem to make claiming the money back less useful.

Realistically, though, it all depends on how likely you are to pay it all off before the debt gets wiped out. Your student loan debt only lasts for 30 year after graduation. Anything you still owe after that gets written off. If you won't have paid the full amount back by then, starting too early only hurts you.

That rule only applies if you took out the loan in 2012 or later, though. The time limits vary for people who started Higher Education earlier than that. Scotland has different rules of its own, too. Make sure you know where you stand, and if you're a RIFT customer, just give our aftercare team a call if you need help.

Can I claim back if I overpaid for any other reason?

It's also worth noting that it's possible to end up making student loan repayments after you've already paid off the whole debt!

Basically, the Student Loan Company only gets updates from HMRC once a year. That means its information is often out of date, leaving hundreds of thousands of people paying too much. Thankfully, that's being fixed, according to November's Budget announcement. It'll apparently all be sorted out by 2019.

How to claim

So, once you've checked your payslips and realised you're owed some money back, your next step is claiming it. Incidentally, if you don't have the payslips to check, you can get the information by ringing the Student Loan Company (0300 100 0611). That same number will also be your first step to claiming back the money.

When you're part of the RIFT family, you can always come to us with problems and questions about things like this. If anything ever looks wrong in your payslips, or you don't understand where the money's going, get in touch. We're always there for you and there's no extra charge. We've been claiming tax rebates and tax returns since 1999 which means we know HMRC rules like the back of our hand.