Why Are Student Loan Interest Rates So High?

Though college students are unlikely to have amassed much wealth, federal and private student loan interest rates tend to be a bit higher than for other kinds of “good” debt, such as mortgages or car loans.

Current rates for federal student loans disbursed after July 1, 2021 are 3.73% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans for undergraduates,5.28% for Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate or professional students, and 6.28% for Direct PLUS loans for graduate or professional students or parents of undergraduate students.

As of June 2021, current interest rates for private student loans can range to 14.49% (and possibly higher) for fixed rate loans and to 12.23% (and possibly higher) for variable rate loans.

When compared to other types of loans, these rates might feel high. For example, on June 10, 2021, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage averaged 2.96%, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data . In general, why do student loan interest rates tend to be somewhat higher than some other common loans? This (mainly) comes down to the differences between secured versus unsecured loans.

Unsecured loans, like student loans, are not tied to an asset that can serve as collateral. Secured loans, in comparison, are backed by something of value. If you don’t pay your mortgage or auto loan, the lender can seize your house or car.

But a lender can’t seize a college degree! In other words, student loan interest rates are typically higher than secured loans’ rates because the lender’s risk is higher.

How Have Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Changed?

Though interest rates on federal student loans have fluctuated over the last few decades, they’ve been fairly steady in recent years. From the 1960s to 1992, Congress set fixed interest rates for student loans that ranged from 6% to 10%.

Over the past couple of decades, federal interest rates varied depending on whether borrowers were in school, in the six-month grace period after leaving school, or in repayment.

Until 2006, rates for federal student loans were a bit all over the spectrum. After 2006, rates became fixed again, but differed based on the type of loan (for example, Direct Subsidized vs. Direct Unsubsidized).

These rates hovered around 6% or 7% until the 2009 recession, then fell to 3% or 4% for undergraduate loans and closer to 5% for graduate ones. In the 2020-2021 school year, amidst the pandemic, rates sunk to lows that hadn’t been seen in many years. But compared to that year, federal student loan interest rates for the 2021-2022 academic year rose nearly 1% across the board.

How Do Private Student Loan Interest Rates Differ From Federal Loan Rates?

Federal student loans have their interest rate set by Congress annually, based on the 10-year Treasury note auction in May. The interest rate is fixed over the life of the entire loan; meaning, if you get a federal student loan for, say, your freshman year,the rate it was issued with won’t change despite Congress setting a new rate every year. But, if you need to take out an additional federal student loan, say, for your sophomore year, you will get the new rate for it, not the previous rate.

With private student loans, lenders can determine their own rates based on the borrower’s creditworthiness and market conditions. Unlike federal student loans, private student loan interest rates can be either fixed or variable:

•  Fixed, meaning the rate might be a bit higher than a variable rate, but it won’t change over the life of the loan.

•  Variable, meaning they typically start out lower but can change over time depending on the market.

As with any choice, there are upsides and downsides to picking a fixed versus variable interest rate loan. Depending on your financial picture and the offered interest rate on the loan, the choice will likely vary.

Since so much depends on the applicant, the rates vary widely among private lenders. Private student loan rates will fluctuate with market trends, but they’re also dictated by additional factors. When applying for a private student loan, unlike with a federal student loan, private lenders will look at factors including (but not limited to):

•  Credit History – When entering college, most students have little to no credit history. That means the lender could be unsure of their ability to pay the loan back since students don’t typically have a history of paying any loans. This can lead to a higher interest rate.

•  The School You Are Attending – Most four-year schools are eligible for private loans, but some two-year colleges aren’t. Additionally, applicants typically have to be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for private student loans.

•  The Finances of Your Cosigner – Since many private student loan applicants are relatively new to debt and have no credit history, they might be required to provide a cosigner. A cosigner shares the burden of debt with you, meaning they’re also on the hook to pay it back if you can’t. A cosigner with a strong credit history sometimes means a lower interest rate on private student loans.

In addition to the above factors, students can shop around for interest rates with private student loan providers, unlike the single rate set annually for federal student loans. Rates will likely vary at each lender based on their underwriting criteria and your financial profile.

While federal student loan rates are annually set, private student loans will vary across a variety of factors from lender to lender.

Managing High Interest Rate Student Loans

Student loan rates can be higher than that of other loans, and if you’re struggling to make your monthly student loan payments because of high interest, it might be time to consider an alternative.

Federal Repayment Plans

If you took out federal student loans, you qualify for various federal repayment plans. Borrowers are automatically placed on the Standard Repayment Plan, unless they select another option. The standard repayment plan spreads repayment over 10 years.

Other options extend the repayment term, which can make payments more manageable in the present, but also means that you may pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Those struggling to make payments on the Standard Repayment Plan might consider one of the other repayment plans available to federal borrowers. These include the Graduated and Extended repayment plans and other income-driven repayment options.

There are five income-based repayment plans to choose from; here is some basic information about each of these federal plans:

•  Revised Pay as You Earn Plan (REPAYE) — In this plan, payments will be 10% of discretionary income each month. The payment amount will be recalculated each year based on income and family size.

•  Pay as You Earn Plan (PAYE) — Similar to REPAYE, your payments will be 10% of monthly discretionary income, but they will never be more than what would be paid on the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

•  Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) — To qualify for this plan, borrowers must have high debt relative to income. Monthly payments will be 10% to 15% of discretionary income and will be reevaluated annually.

•  Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR) — For ICR, repayment is either 20% of discretionary income, or “the amount you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years, adjusted according to your income.”

•  Income-Sensitive Repayment Plan — Loan payments will be based on the borrower’s annual income. Under this plan, a borrower’s loan will be repaid in 15 years.

Additional detail can be found on the Federal Student Aid website , which is operated by the Department of Education. To qualify for income-driven repayment, applicants must meet specific requirements. Private student loans aren’t eligible for the repayment plans described above.

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

In some instances, you may qualify for forgiveness on some or all of your federal student loans. Loan forgiveness is possible under a few specific circumstances, including:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness — If you work for the government or a qualifying nonprofit, you may be eligible to receive some form of loan forgiveness.

You have to make 120 qualifying on-time payments on the loan and generally work full time for the organization. Unfortunately, many applicants find the process of applying for public service loan forgiveness challenging, and not all non-profits or government work qualify.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness —, Teachers who work full-time for five years in a qualifying low-income school are eligible for forgiveness on their federal loans. If you qualify for forgiveness, you may be eligible for up to $17,500 on your Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans.

These student loan forgiveness plans are only for federal student loans, not private student loans.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has a strict application process that requires a lengthy commitment from applicants. November 2020 – April 2021 data shows that nearly 98% of forms did not meet requirements. Pursuing federal loan forgiveness might require considerable attention to detail as there are many program requirements that must be met in order to get approved for loan forgiveness.

Refinancing Student Loans

If you’re saddled with high-interest student loan debt, and don’t qualify for one of the federal programs mentioned above, it might be time to consider your options around refinancing. Refinancing your student loans is one way to potentially lower your interest rate or your monthly payments.

Among many other factors that vary by lender, you could be a strong candidate for student loan refinancing if:

You’ve improved your credit score since you first took out your loans. Unlike when you were first headed to college, you may now have a credit history for lenders to take into account. If you’ve never missed a payment and continually grown your credit score, you might qualify for a lower interest rate.

You have a stable income. Being able to show consistent income to a private lender may help make you a less risky investment, which in turn could also help you secure a more competitive interest rate.

The Takeaway

As mentioned above, federal student loans generally have lower interest rates than private student loans. And since 2006, federal student loans are offered at fixed interest rates, whereas private refinancing can be offered at either a fixed or variable interest rate.

Please note that if you are refinancing federal loans with a private lender, you’ll give up all federal student loan protections such as forbearance, or benefits like income-driven repayment programs. Refinancing won’t be the right fit for everyone, but for qualified borrowers it could help them secure a more competitive interest rate.

SoFi is a leader in the student loan space, offering both private student loans to help pay your way through school, or refinancing options to help you save on the loans you already have. Check out your interest rate in just a few minutes—with no strings attached.


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IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO REFINANCE FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS PLEASE BE AWARE OF RECENT LEGISLATIVE CHANGES THAT HAVE SUSPENDED ALL FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN PAYMENTS AND WAIVED INTEREST CHARGES ON FEDERALLY HELD LOANS UNTIL SEPTEMBER 1, 2022 DUE TO COVID-19. PLEASE CAREFULLY CONSIDER THESE CHANGES BEFORE REFINANCING FEDERALLY HELD LOANS WITH SOFI, SINCE IN DOING SO YOU WILL NO LONGER QUALIFY FOR THE FEDERAL LOAN PAYMENT SUSPENSION, INTEREST WAIVER, OR ANY OTHER CURRENT OR FUTURE BENEFITS APPLICABLE TO FEDERAL LOANS. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

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How to Avoid Using Savings to Pay Off Debt

Paying down debt can be an important financial priority, but should you use your savings in order to do so? While it can be tempting to throw your full efforts into paying off debt, maintaining a healthy savings account for emergencies and saving for retirement are also important financial goals.

Continue reading for more information on why it may not always make sense to use savings to pay off debt and ideas and strategies to help you expedite your debt repayment without sacrificing your savings account.

The Case Against Using Savings to Pay Off Debt

Emptying your savings account to pay off debt could cause you to rely on credit cards to cover expenses, which has the potential to create a cycle of debt. Think of it this way — it can be much harder to get yourself out of debt if you keep using credit cards to cover unexpected costs.

Consider creating a plan to pay off high interest debt while maintaining or building your emergency fund. This way, you’ll be better prepared to deal with unexpected expenses — like a trip to the emergency room.

How to Start Paying Off Debt Without Dipping Into Your Savings

First off, if you do not have an established emergency fund, consider crafting a budget that will allow you to build one while you simultaneously focus on paying down debt. The exact size of your emergency fund will depend on your personal expenses and income. A general rule of thumb suggests saving between three and six months worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account. Having this available to you can help you avoid taking on additional debt if you encounter unforeseen expenses.

Make a Budget

Now’s the time to update or make a budget from scratch. Understanding your spending vs. income is essential to help you pay off your debt and avoid going into further debt. Review all of your expenses and sources of income and figure out how to allocate your income across debt payments, while still allowing you to save for your future.

Establish a Debt Payoff Strategy

Review each of your debts. Make note of the amount owed and interest rates. This is important to create a full picture for how much you owe. Then, pick a debt pay-off strategy that will work for you. Popular debt payoff strategies include:

•   The Snowball Method. For this method, list debts from smallest balance to largest — ignoring the interest rates. While making minimum payments on all debts, all extra payments should go toward the smallest debt. As the debts are paid off, move to the next largest debt until all debts are paid off.

•   The Avalanche Method. Similarly to the snowball method, this debt payoff strategy focuses on paying off debts with high-interest rates first. By focusing extra payments on the highest interest rate debts, this strategy helps minimize the amount of interest you pay, which might save you money in the long term.

•   The Fireball Method. This strategy combines both the Avalanche and Snowball methods. Individuals group their debts into good or bad categories. Good debt is considered debts that help build net worth and generally have an interest rate of 7% or less. While making the minimum payments on all accounts, the Fireball focuses on paying the highest interest loan with the smallest balance first.

Different people may prefer one strategy over another, the key is to select something that works best with your debts, income, and financial personality.

Recommended: Explaining the Snowball Method of Paying Down Debt

Consider Debt Consolidation

If you have debt with a variety of lenders, one option is to consider consolidating your debt with a personal loan. Instead of making multiple payments across lenders you’ll instead have just one payment for your personal loan. One common use for personal loans include consolidating credit card debt. Because credit card debt generally has a high interest rate, consolidating it into a lower-interest personal loan can potentially lower the amount of money owed in interest during debt-payoff.

There are a couple different types of personal loans. For example personal loans can be secured or unsecured and may have either a fixed or variable interest rate. To find the best personal loan for you, review the options available at a few different lenders.

Review the application requirements with your chosen lender. Having the required documentation ready can streamline the application process and hopefully, get your personal loan approved. During the application process lenders evaluate factors including your income and credit history, among other considerations, to make their lending decisions.

How to Reduce Spending to Pay Off Debt Quicker

Reducing your spending can make more room in your budget for debt payments. Making overpayments can help speed up debt payoff, but it can be challenging to amend your spending habits. To lower your spending, take an honest look at your current expenses and spending habits. Review your budget and credit card statements to see where your money is going.

Think seriously about your needs vs. your wants. Start making spending cuts in the wants category, for example reducing the amount of takeout you order, limiting streaming services, or other indulgences.

For less luxurious expenses like internet or your cell phone bill, call your service provider and see if they are willing to negotiate with you or evaluate if you are able to switch to a less expensive plan.

If you’ve already got a tight budget, the alternative is to increase your revenue stream. Consider a side hustle to boost your income and funnel that additional money toward debt payments. You may even be able to find a side gig that allows you to make money from home.

Paying Off Debt the Smart Way

It can be tempting to throw your savings at debt to avoid racking up expensive interest charges. But draining your savings account — or failing to save at all — in favor of debt payoff might not be a smart strategy. With little or no savings, you’ll be less prepared for any emergency expenses in the future, which could lead to even more debt. Consider building your savings while paying off debt by creating a budget, cutting your expenses or boosting your income, and finding (and sticking to) a debt repayment strategy.

One option worth considering is using a personal loan to consolidate your debt. Using a personal loan to pay off debt may sound counter-intuitive at first, by securing a personal loan with a more competitive interest rate than your existing debts, you could lower the amount you spend in interest. To see how using a personal loan to consolidate your debt might benefit you, take a look at SoFi’s personal loan calculator.

If you are looking at borrowing a personal loan, consider SoFi. Qualifying borrowers can secure competitive interest rates and some loans may qualify for same-day funding.

Looking to tackle your debt with a personal loan from SoFi? There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties. See your rates in one minute.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Understanding How P2P Lending Works

Understanding How P2P Lending Works

Sometimes you need a loan for a venture that a traditional bank might not approve. In these instances, a peer-to-peer (P2P) loan might be what you’re looking for. Peer-to-peer lending, also known as social lending, rose out of the 2008 financial crisis. When banks stopped lending money as freely as they had in the past, potential borrowers had fewer loan options. At the same time, low interest rates meant lower returns from savings accounts or CDs.

Enter P2P lending sites. P2P lenders essentially cut out the middleman (banks and traditional lenders) and created a space for borrowers and investors to do business. Since then, the concept of lending person-to-person has taken off, with the rise of a number of peer-to-peer lending platforms.

Wondering if a P2P loan is right for you? Or if investing in P2P lending is a smart way to diversify your portfolio? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.

What Is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending?

P2P lending links up people who want to borrow money with individual investors who want to lend money. P2P lending sites like Lending Club, Prosper, and Upstart — three of the largest P2P lenders — provide low-cost platforms where borrowers can request loans and investors can bid on them.

Most of the personal loans offered on P2P platforms range from $1,000 to $40,000 and have repayment periods of approximately 36 months. Interest rates can vary widely, from around 6% to 36%, depending on factors including the purpose of a loan and the individual’s credit history and perceived risk.

The lending platforms make money from serving as the intermediary in this process. In exchange for keeping records and transferring funds between parties, they charge a fee — typically a 1% annual fee — to the investors lending the money. Some platforms also charge origination or closing fees to the borrowers, which typically range from 1% to 5% of the loan amount.

In addition to personal loans, many P2P platforms may also offer small business, medical, and education loans as well.

Is Peer-to-Peer Lending Safe?

The bulk of the risk of peer-to-peer lending falls onto investors. It’s possible that borrowers will default on their loans, and that risk increases if the investor opts to lend to those with lower credit ratings. If the loan were to go into default, the investor may not get paid back.

Further, peer-to-peer lending is an investment opportunity, and returns are never guaranteed when investing. There is the risk that investors could lose some or all of the amount they invest. Unlike deposit accounts with a traditional bank or credit union, P2P investments are not FDIC-insured.

How Does Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending Work?

The basic P2P lending process works like this: A borrower first goes through a quick soft credit pull with the P2P lending platform of their choice to determine initial eligibility. If eligible to continue, the lender likely will conduct a hard credit pull and then assign a borrower a “loan grade,” which will help lenders or investors assess how much of a risk lending to them might be.

The borrower can then make a listing for their loan, including the interest rate they’re willing to pay. With most P2P lending platforms, the borrower has an opportunity to make a case for themselves; they can provide an introduction and describe why they need the loan. A compelling, creative listing might have more luck grabbing a lender’s attention and trust.

Next, lenders can bid on the listing with the amount they can lend and the interest rate they’d be willing to offer. After the listing has ended, the qualified bids are combined into a single loan and that amount is deposited into the borrower’s bank account.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending Examples

With the rise of P2P lending, there are now a number of lending platforms to choose from. Here are some examples of popular peer-to-peer lending sites:

•   LendingClub: LendingClub offers loans of up to $40,000 that can be used for a variety of purposes, including paying down high-interest debt or funding a home improvement project. Borrowers can receive funding in as little as 24 hours upon loan approval.

•   Prosper: Prosper can provide loans in amounts anywhere from $2,000 up to $40,000. Loan terms are three or five years, and funding can happen in as little as one business day.

•   Upstart: Upstart can offer borrowers loans of up to $50,000, with loan terms of either three or five years. It’s possible to check your rate in minutes, and most loans are funded within one business day after signing.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending for Bad Credit

It is possible to get a peer-to-peer loan with a bad credit score (meaning a FICO score below 580). However, those with lower credit scores will almost certainly pay higher interest rates.

Additionally, those with bad credit may have more limited options in lenders, though there are peer-to-peer lending for bad credit options. Many platforms have minimum credit score requirements, which tend to be in the range of fair (580-669) to good (670-739). For instance, Prosper, one of the major P2P lending platforms, requires a minimum score of 680.

If you have bad credit and are seeking a P2P loan, you might first work to improve your credit score before applying. Or, you could consider getting a cosigner, which can increase your odds of getting approved and securing a better rate if you’re finding it hard to get a personal loan.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lenders Fees

Peer-to-peer lending platforms can charge fees to both borrowers and investors. Which fees apply and the amount of these fees can vary from lender to lender.

A common fee that borrowers may encounter is an origination fee, which is typically a percentage of the loan amount. Other fees that borrowers may face include late fees, returned payment fees, and fees for requesting paper copies of records.

Investors, meanwhile, may owe an investor service fee. This is generally a percentage of the amount of loan payments they receive.

Pros of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending

There are upsides to peer-to-peer lending for both borrowers and investors. However, the benefits will differ for both parties involved.

Pros of P2P Loans for Borrowers

•   Easier eligibility: The biggest advantage for a borrower getting a personal loan peer-to-peer is being eligible for a loan they might not have been able to get from a traditional lender.

•   Faster approval and competitive rates: P2P lenders might approve your loan faster and offer a more competitive rate than a traditional lender would.

•   Possible to pay off credit card debt: One way that people are using P2P loans is to crush their credit card debt. People with high credit card balances could be paying up to 20% APR or higher in interest charges. If they can wipe it out with a P2P loan at a lower interest rate, it can save them a lot of money.

•   Option to finance upcoming expenses: Those who are facing a lot of upcoming expenses might find it more cost-effective to take out a P2P loan rather than put those expenses on a high-interest credit card.

Pros of P2P Loans for Investors

•   Promising alternative investment opportunity: Some see P2P lending as a promising alternative investment. When you lend money P2P, you can earn income on the returns as the borrower repays you. Those interest rates can be a few percentage points higher than what you might earn by keeping your money in a savings account or a CD. While there is some risk involved, some investors see it as less volatile than investing in the stock market.

•   Option to spread out risk: P2P lenders also offer many options in terms of the types of risk investors want to take on. Additionally, there are ways you can spread the amount you’re lending over multiple loans with different risk levels.

•   Sense of community: For borrowers and investors, the sense of community on these sites is a welcome alternative to other forms of lending and investing. Borrowers can tell their stories and investors can help give their borrowers a happy ending to those stories.

Cons of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending

Though there are upsides to peer-to-peer lending, there are certainly problems as well. These include:

•   Risk for investors: The biggest disadvantage of P2P lending is risk. Since P2P loans are unsecured, there’s no guarantee an investor will get their money back. The borrowers on a P2P site might be there because traditional banks already declined their application. This means investors might need to do extra legwork on their end to evaluate how much risk they can take on.

•   Potentially higher rates for borrowers: For borrowers, while P2P lenders might approve a loan that a traditional bank wouldn’t, they might offer it with a much higher interest rate. In these cases, it could be wiser to search for alternatives rather than accepting a loan with a costly interest rate.

•   Effort and personal exposure for borrowers: There can be a lot of effort and personal exposure involved for the borrower. Borrowers have to make their case, and their financial story and risk grade will be posted for all to see. While we’re used to sharing a lot of our lives online, sharing financial information might feel like too much for some borrowers.

•   Relatively new industry with evolving regulations: Then there’s the risk of P2P lending itself. The concept is still relatively new, and the decision on how best to regulate and report on the industry is still very much a work in progress. Some lending platforms have already hit growing pains as well. As regulations around the industry change and investors are tempted elsewhere, the concept could lose steam, putting lending platforms in danger of closing.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Loans vs Bank Loans

When it comes to P2P loans compared to bank loans, the biggest difference is who is funding the loan. Whereas bank loans are funded by financial institutions, peer-to-peer loans are funded by individuals or groups of individuals.

Further, bank loans tend to have more stringent qualification requirements in comparison to P2P loans. This is why those with lower credit scores or thinner credit histories may turn to peer-to-peer lending after being denied by traditional lenders. In turn, default rates also tend to be higher with peer-to-peer lending.

The Takeaway

Peer-to-peer lending takes out the middleman, allowing borrowers and investors to do business. For borrowers, P2P loans can offer an opportunity to secure financing they may be struggling to access through traditional lenders. And for investors, P2P loans can offer an investing opportunity and a sense of community, as they’ll see where their money is going. However, there are drawbacks to consider before getting a peer-to-peer loan, namely the risk involved for investors.

Whether you’re getting a P2P loan or a loan from a traditional lender, it’s important to shop around to find the most competitive terms available to you. SoFi makes it easy to compare personal loan rates, and you can then apply online in just one minute.

Check out SoFi personal loans today to learn more!

FAQ

Is peer-to-peer lending safe?

There are certainly risks involved in peer-to-peer lending, particularly for investors. For one, borrowers could default on their loan, resulting in investors losing their money. Additionally, there’s no guarantee of returns when investing.

What is peer-to-peer lending?

Peer-to-peer lending is a type of lending wherein individual investors loan money directly to individual borrowers, effectively cutting out banks or other traditional financial institutions as the middlemen. This can allow borrowers who may have been denied by more traditional lenders to access funds, and provide investors with a shot at earning returns.

What is an example of peer-to-peer lending?

Some popular P2P lending sites include Lending Club, Prosper, Upstart, and Funding Circle. Borrowers can use peer-to-peer loans for a variety of purposes, such as home improvement, debt consolidation, small business costs, and major expenses like medical bills or car repairs.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

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Is Your Credit Card Spending Limit Too High?

The credit limit on a credit card is the maximum amount you can spend before needing to repay it. You can request a credit limit increase, but credit card issuers sometimes automatically increase the credit limit of those who have improved their credit scores or who have shown to manage credit well. But is a higher spending limit a good thing? It may not be for everyone’s financial situation. Here’s how to know if your credit card spending limit is too high.

How Does My Credit Card Spending Limit Work?

Credit cards are a form of revolving debt, which means that there is an upper spending limit, but the credit can be repaid and used again. It revolves between being available to use, being unavailable because it’s being used, and being available to use again after it’s been repaid.

A credit card issuer typically bases the credit limit on factors such as the applicant’s credit score, income, credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and others. However, every credit card company is different in what it considers and how much emphasis it places on each component.

There may be multiple types of credit limits on the same credit card, e.g., a daily spending limit or cash advance limit.

Need help climbing out of credit card debt?
See what a SoFi personal loan can do for you.


Why Your Credit Card Issuer Increased Your Spending Limit

Your spending limit isn’t set in stone, though. Even if you haven’t specifically requested a credit limit increase, your credit card issuer may automatically increase the credit limit on your card.

There are various reasons this might happen.

•   Your credit has improved, resulting in a higher credit score.

•   Your income has increased.

•   The credit card issuer wants to retain you as a customer by offering a higher credit limit.

By increasing your credit card spending limit, the credit card issuer may have hopes that you’ll carry a balance on your card.

One stream of revenue for them is interest charges and fees. If you carry a balance, rather than paying your balance in full each month, you’ll be charged interest on the outstanding amount. And if you fail to make at least the minimum payment due or pay the bill late, you’ll likely be charged a late fee.

Both interest charges and fees are then added to the balance due on the next statement, and themselves incur interest. Essentially, you’ll be paying interest on interest.

Pros of a High Credit Card Spending Limit

For some people, and for their financial needs or goals, there may be practical reasons for having a high credit card spending limit.

•   It can be helpful in an emergency situation. Even if you’ve accumulated an emergency fund or rainy day fund, there might be instances when you need more than that. For instance, if your refrigerator suddenly stops working, you’ll probably want to replace it sooner rather than later. Large appliances can cost several thousand dollars to purchase and have installed.

•   Having a high credit limit while using a small percentage of it can lower your credit utilization rate. Your credit utilization rate is the relationship between your spending limit and your balance at any given time. If your limit is $10,000, and your balance is $1,500, your credit utilization is 15%. Generally, the lower your credit utilization rate, the better.

•   If you have a rewards credit card, having a higher spending limit on it could mean reaping greater rewards, whether that’s cash back, miles, or another type of reward. Being financially able to pay the account balance in full each month is key to making the most of this strategy.

Cons of a High Credit Card Spending Limit

As attractive as the benefits might sound, there can be drawbacks to having a high credit card spending limit.

•   You might be tempted to spend because you can, even if you can’t pay your credit card balance in full at the end of the billing period. This will result in purchase interest charges being added to the unpaid balance, and interest will accrue on this new, larger balance. It can become a debt cycle for some people.

•   Having a high credit limit and using a large percentage of it can increase your credit utilization rate. This rate is one of the most important factors in the calculation of your credit score — it accounts for 30% of your FICO® Score, and is considered “extremely influential” to your VantageScore®. It’s generally recommended to keep your credit utilization rate to 30% or less.

•   Requesting an increase in your credit card spending limit could cause your credit score to decrease slightly. The credit card issuer might do a hard credit inquiry into your credit report, which can mean a ding of a few points to your credit score, depending on your overall credit. It’s usually a temporary drop, but if you’re planning to apply for a loan or other type of credit, it could make a difference in the interest rate you’re offered.

What Happens if You Go Over Your Spending Limit

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (Credit CARD Act) put consumer protections against unfair credit card practices into place. One of the stipulations in this Act is that credit card issuers cannot charge an over-the-limit fee unless the card holder opts into an agreement for charges above the credit limit to be paid.

If you choose not to opt in to this agreement, any charges you try to make that exceed your credit card spending limit will be denied.

If you do opt in, the excess charges will be paid, but the credit card issuer may charge a fee for covering the overage amount. Generally, the first-time fee can be up to $25. If you exceed your spending limit a second time within six months, you could be charged up to $35. The fee can’t be larger than the amount you went over your credit limit by, though. So, if you charge a purchase that’s $100, but you only have $90 of available credit, the over-limit fee would be $10.

Before you opt in to an agreement like this, the credit card issuer must tell you what potential fees there might be. They must also provide you with confirmation that you opted in.

If you opted in to an over-the-limit agreement, but no longer want it, you can opt out at any time by contacting your credit card issuer’s customer service department.

Recommended: Maxed-Out Credit Card: Consequences and Steps to Bounce Back

Taking Control of Credit Card Debt

A higher spending limit can be a good thing if it’s used responsibly. Looking for a credit card that has more favorable rewards or offers perks that your current credit cards don’t have could be a good option for managing your debt.

The SoFi Credit Card may be one to explore. Its cash-back rewards could go toward debt payments, helping you pay down your debt. SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.

If you’re struggling with credit card debt and a higher credit card spending limit is not an option for your financial situation or comfort level, another possible option could be to consolidate high-interest credit card debt with a personal loan.

With a credit card consolidation loan, all your balances are merged into one new loan with just one monthly payment and one interest rate instead of several. This new interest rate could end up being lower than the rates on your current individual credit cards, which could lower your monthly debt payment. Also, a personal loan is installment debt, which means there will be a payment end date. Credit cards are revolving debt with no firm end date.

The Takeaway

A higher credit card spending limit may or may not be a positive thing, depending on your financial situation. You may have requested a credit limit increase or your credit card issuer may have automatically increased your spending limit because of factors such as an improved credit score or increased income, among others. But if the amount of credit you’ve been approved for results in poor financial decision making or increased debt, your credit card spending limit may be too high.

Multiple high-interest credit cards could be consolidated into one new personal loan. A SoFi Personal Loan is a fixed-rate loan with interest rates that may be lower than the rates on your current credit cards.

Transferring multiple balances to a credit card that has more favorable rewards or offers perks that your current credit cards don’t have could be another option for managing your debt.

The SoFi Credit Card may be one to explore. Its cash-back rewards could go toward debt payments, helping you pay down your debt. SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1

Learn more about the SoFi Credit Card


1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
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Tips for Paying Off Outstanding Debt

A car loan, a mortgage, student loans, credit cards. It might feel like a dark debt cloud is looming over you sometimes. If you carry some debt on your personal balance sheet, you’re not alone.

The Federal Reserve’s most recent report shows that total household debt in the U.S. has reached more than $15.84 trillion. That includes everything from mortgages to credit cards to student loans. We’re a heavily indebted nation, and for some, it may take a psychological toll. If that’s you, here’s the comforting news: There are some tried-and-true strategies for paying back outstanding debt.

What Is Considered Outstanding Debt?

What is outstanding debt? Outstanding debt refers to any balance on a debt that has yet to be paid in full. It is money that is owed to a bank or other creditor.

When calculating debt that’s outstanding, add all debt balances together. This could include credit cards, student loans, mortgage loans, payday loans, personal loans, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, and others. You should be able to find outstanding balance information on your statements.

How to Find Outstanding Debt

When paying off outstanding debt, you first might need to track it all down.

As you move throughout the debt payoff journey, you may find it helpful to start a file for your statements and correspondence. Also, you could create a list or input information into a spreadsheet. Organizing your information is necessary for building a debt payoff strategy.

Build a list of all debts with the most useful information, such as the outstanding balance, the interest rate, the monthly payment, the type of debt, and the creditor. If you have an installment loan, such as a personal loan, the principal amount of the loan is another helpful piece of information.

What if I Can’t Find All My Outstanding Debts?

If you feel as though you’ve lost track of some debts, you may want to start by requesting a credit report from at least one of the three major reporting agencies, Experian®, TransUnion®, or Equifax®. You are legally entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three agencies per year. It’s easy to request a credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com .

A credit report includes information about each account that has been reported to that particular agency, including the name of the creditor and the outstanding debt balance.

It is possible that some outstanding debts may have been sold to a collection agency. The name of the original creditor may be included on the credit report. If that is not the case, you may need to investigate further.

Recommended: Statute of Limitations on Debt: Things to Know

Some outstanding debts may not appear on a credit report. Creditors are not required to report to the agencies, but most major creditors do. That said, a creditor could choose to report to none, one, two, or all three of the agencies. If you’re in information-collecting mode, you may want to consider requesting reports from more than one agency, or all three.

Outstanding Debt Amounts

Aside from how a debt is structured — revolving or installment debt — it can also be thought of as good debt or bad debt.

Generally, if borrowing money, and thus incurring debt, enhances your net worth, it’s considered good debt. A mortgage is one example of this. Even though you might incur debt to purchase a home, the value of the home will likely increase. As it does, and as you pay down the mortgage balance, your net worth has the potential to increase.

Bad debt, on the other hand, is debt taken on to purchase something that will depreciate, or lose value, over time. Going into debt to purchase consumer goods, such as cars or clothing, will not enhance your net worth.

Each person has a unique financial situation, level of comfort with debt, and ability to repay debt. What one person may be able to justify may be completely unacceptable to another.

How Does an Outstanding Debt Impact Your Credit

One thing lenders may consider during loan processing is the applicant’s debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Lenders will look at this number to determine their potential risk of lending. Different lenders have different stipulations about this ratio, so asking a potential lender about theirs is a good idea.

Calculating DTI is done by dividing monthly debt payments by gross monthly income.

•   Monthly debt payments can include rent or mortgage payment, homeowners association fee, car payment, student loan payment, and other monthly payments. (Typically, monthly expenses such as utilities, food, or auto expenses other than a car loan payment are not included in this calculation.)

•   Gross income is the amount of money you earn before taxes and other deductions are taken out of your paycheck.

Someone with monthly debt payments of $1,000 and a gross monthly income of $4,000 would have a DTI of 25% ($1,000 divided by $4,000 is 25%).

Generally, a DTI of 35% or less is considered a healthy balance of debt to income.

Should I Pay Down Outstanding Debt?

Barring extenuating circumstances, it’s a good idea to make regular, consistent payments on your debt. Whether or not you decide to pay the debt back on an expedited schedule is up to you.

Some may not feel the need to aggressively tackle their outstanding debt. They may be just fine to continue paying off a balance until the loan’s maturity date. This may apply to people with manageable debt payments, those who have debts with lower interest rates, or those focusing on other financial goals.

For example, someone with a low-interest-rate mortgage loan may not feel the need to pay it down faster than the agreed-upon schedule. So they continue to make regular, scheduled payments that make up a manageable percentage of their monthly budget. Therefore, they are able to work on other financial goals in tandem, such as saving for retirement or starting a fund for a child’s college.

Other scenarios may call for a more aggressive strategy to pay down debt. Some reasons to consider an expedited plan:

•   Debt levels, and therefore monthly payments, feel unmanageable.

•   Carrying debts with higher interest rates, like credit cards.

•   Missed payments and added fees.

•   It could also be as simple as wanting to have zero debt.

Carrying a large debt load could negatively affect your credit score. One factor in a credit score calculation is the ratio between outstanding debt balances and available credit on revolving debt, like a credit card — the credit utilization rate.

Using no more than 30% of your available credit is recommended. So, if a person has a $5,000 credit limit on a card, that would mean using no more than $1,500 at any given time throughout the month. Using more could result in a ding on their credit score.

Carrying debt also means paying interest. While some interest may not be avoidable, it’s generally a sound financial strategy to pay as little in interest as possible.

Credit cards tend to have some of the highest interest rates on unsecured debt. The average interest rate on a credit card is nearly 17%, as of June 22, 2022. Penalty rates can reach nearly 30%. With high rates, it’s worth seriously considering paring back debt balances.

Outstanding Debt Management Strategies

The next step is to pick a debt reduction plan.

Two popular strategies for paying off debt are called the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. Both ask that you isolate one source of debt to focus on first.

Simply put, you’ll make extra payments or payments larger than the minimum monthly payment on that debt until the outstanding balance is eliminated. You’ll continue making the minimum monthly payment on all your other debts.

Debt Snowball

A debt snowball payoff plan involves working on the source of debt with the smallest balance. For example, a person with three credit cards would pick the one with the lowest outstanding balance and work on paying it down.

The idea here is that there’s a psychological boost when a card is paid off, so it makes sense to go after the smallest first. That way, when a person works up to the card with the next highest balance, they can focus singularly on it, without a bunch of annoying, smaller payments getting in the way of the ultimate goal.

It’s called a snowball because the strategy starts small, gaining momentum as it goes.

Debt Avalanche

Alternatively, the debt avalanche method starts with the debt with the highest interest rate. Because this source of debt costs the most to maintain, it is a natural place to focus.

The debt avalanche is the debt payoff strategy of choice for those who prefer to look at things from a purely mathematical standpoint. For example, if a person has one credit card with an 18% annual percentage rate and another with 12%, they’d focus on that 18% card with any extra payments, no matter the balance.

Of course, it is also possible to modify these strategies to suit personal preferences and needs. For example, if one source of debt has a prepayment penalty, maybe it drops to the bottom of the list. If there’s a particular credit card you tend to overspend with, perhaps that’s a good one to focus on.

Outstanding Debt Payoff Methods

Once you decide on a strategy, whether it’s one discussed above or something that works better for your financial situation, you’ll need to figure out where the money will come from to pay down outstanding debt.

Starting by simply listing your monthly income and expenses is a good first step. If you find that you have enough money to begin making extra payments toward your outstanding debt balances, then you might choose to start right away.

Some people choose to keep a 30-day spending diary to get a clear picture of what they spend their money on. This can be a good way to pinpoint areas you might be able to cut back on to have more money to apply to outstanding debt.

If your existing budget is already tight and won’t accommodate extra payments, you might consider looking for some other financial strategies.

Increasing Income

Sometimes the answer is just to make more money. That could mean getting a part-time job or selling things you no longer need or want. You might also think about asking for a pay raise at your regular job.

Using Personal Savings

Tapping into money you’ve saved can be another way to pay down outstanding debt. Savings account interest rates, even high-yield savings accounts, pay much less interest than you might be incurring in interest on your outstanding debts. Keeping enough money in a savings account as an emergency fund is recommended, but if you have a surplus in your personal savings, putting that money toward your debt balances is a good way to make headway on outstanding debt.

Consolidating With a Credit Card

Using a credit card to pay off debt may seem an unlikely choice, but it can make sense in some situations. If your credit score is healthy enough to qualify for a credit card with a zero- or low-interest promotional rate, you might consider transferring a higher-rate balance to a card like this.

The benefit of this strategy is having a lower interest rate during the promotional period, potentially resulting in savings on the overall debt.

There are some drawbacks to transferring a balance in this way, though. One is that promotional periods are limited, and if you don’t pay the balance in full during this period, the remaining debt will revert to the card’s regular rate. Also, it’s typical for a promotional-rate card to charge a balance transfer fee, which can range from 3% to 5%, or more, of the balance transferred. This fee will increase the amount you will have to repay.

Consolidating With a Personal Loan

Using one new loan to pay off multiple outstanding debt balances is another debt payoff method. A personal loan with a lower overall rate of interest and a straightforward repayment plan can be a good way to do this.

In addition to one fixed monthly payment, a personal loan provides another benefit — the balance cannot easily be increased, as with a credit card. It’s easy to swipe a credit card for an additional purchase, potentially undoing the progress you’ve made on your debt repayment plan.

To consolidate with a personal loan, you might want to look around at different lenders to get a sense of what interest rates they might offer for you. Typically, lenders will provide a few options, including loans of different lengths.

The Takeaway

Outstanding debt can be a heavy burden. Many people owe large amounts of debt, but don’t know how to start making a dent in their balances. A good place to start is by identifying income and expenses to see your overall financial picture. From there, you may decide to focus on paying down certain debts over others. Choosing one method to pay down your debts and finding the money to do so are the next steps.

If you decide to pursue a debt payoff strategy, an unsecured SoFi Personal Loan may be an option for you. SoFi offers unsecured, no-fee, low fixed-rate personal loans to help guide your financial journey.

Ready to kick-start your debt payoff strategy? A personal loan from SoFi could help you consolidate your debt into one easy-to-manage monthly payment.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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