Paying off student loans can be a challenging process, so it’s natural to look for creative ways to accomplish your goal. One question some student loan borrowers have asked is whether they can use a credit card to pay student loans.
Technically, it is possible, but it’s generally not a good idea. Here’s what you should know before you try it.
Can You Use a Credit Card to Pay Student Loans?
Unfortunately, making monthly student loan payments with your credit card isn’t an option. The U.S. Department of the Treasury does not allow federal student loan servicers to accept credit cards as a payment method for monthly loan payments.
While that restriction doesn’t extend to private student loan companies, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that will offer it.
That said, paying off student loans with a credit card is technically possible through a balance transfer. Many credit cards offer this feature primarily as a way to transfer one credit card balance to another, and if you’re submitting a request directly to your card issuer, that’s typically the only option.
However, some card issuers will send customers blank balance transfer checks, which gives you some more flexibility. For example, you can simply write a check to your student loan servicer or lender and send it as payment. Alternatively, you can write a check to yourself, deposit it into your checking account, and make a payment from there.
Balance transfer checks often come with introductory 0% APR promotions, which give you some time to pay off the debt interest-free. That said, here are some reasons why you should generally avoid this option:
- Once the promotional period ends, your interest rate will jump to your card’s regular APR. The full APR will likely be higher than what your student loans charge.
- Balance transfers come with a fee, typically up to 5% of the transfer amount, which eats into your savings.
- Credit cards don’t have a set repayment schedule, so it’s easy to get complacent. You may end up paying back that balance at a higher interest rate for years to come.
- Credit cards have low minimum payments to encourage customers to carry a balance, which could cause more problems.
- You won’t earn credit card rewards on a balance transfer, so you can’t count on that feature to help mitigate the costs.
So if you’re wondering how to pay student loans with a credit card, it is possible. But you’re better off considering other options to pay down your debt faster.
Can You Use a Student Loan to Pay Credit Cards?
If you’re still in school, you may be wondering if it’s possible to use your student loans to pay your credit card bill. Again, technically, yes, it is possible. But there are some things to keep in mind.
The Office of Federal Student Aid lists acceptable uses for federal student loans, and private student lenders typically follow the same guidelines. Your loans must be used for the following:
- Tuition and fees
- Room and board
- Supplies and equipment necessary for study
- Transportation to and from school
- Child care expenses
If you incur any of these expenses with your credit card, you can use student loan money to pay your bill. However, if you’re also using your credit card for expenses that aren’t eligible for student loan use, it’s important to separate those so you aren’t using your loans inappropriately.
Also, the Office of Federal Student Aid doesn’t list credit card interest as an eligible expense. So if you’re not paying your bill on time every month and incurring interest, be careful to avoid using your student loan money for those expenses.
How to Pay Down Your Student Loans More Effectively
If you’re looking for a way to potentially save money while paying down your student loans, consider student loan refinancing.
This process involves replacing one or more existing student loans with a new one through a private lender like ELFI. Depending on your credit score, income, and other factors, you may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate than what you’re paying on your loans right now.
If that happens, you’d not only save money on interest charges, but you could also get a lower monthly payment.
Refinancing also gives you some flexibility with your monthly payments and repayment goal. For example, if you can afford to pay more and want to eliminate your debt faster, you can opt for a shorter repayment schedule than the standard 10-year repayment plan.
Alternatively, if you’re struggling to keep up with your payments or want to reduce your debt-to-income ratio, you could extend your repayment term to up to 20 or even 25 years, depending on the lender.
Keep in mind, though, that different refinance lenders have varying eligibility requirements. Also, just because you qualify, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can get more favorable terms than what you have now.
However, if you’re having a hard time getting approved for qualifying for better terms, most lenders will allow you to apply with a creditworthy cosigner to improve your odds of getting what you’re looking for.
Before you start the process, however, note that if you have federal loans, refinancing will cause you to lose access to certain programs, including student loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. But if you don’t anticipate needing either of those benefits, it won’t be an issue.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for ways to pay off your student loans more effectively, you may have wondered whether you can use your credit cards. While it’s possible, it’s generally not a good idea. Also, if you’re still in school, it’s important to be mindful of how you’re allowed to use your student loan funds, especially when it comes to making credit card payments.
A better approach to paying down your student loan debt is through refinancing. Take some time to consider whether refinancing your student loans is right for you, and consider getting prequalified to see whether you can get better terms than what you have on your current loans.