Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: What It Is and How It Works

Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: What It Is and How It Works

If you’re overwhelmed by credit card debt, you might consider credit card debt forgiveness, which can involve paying less than you owe. This type of credit forgiveness is rare, however, and it usually comes with some financial consequences.

Still, if you’re unable to repay your credit card balance, it may be an option worth exploring. Read on to learn how to get credit card debt forgiven and what options there are to credit card forgiveness.

What Is Credit Card Debt Forgiveness?

Credit card debt forgiveness occurs when a portion of your credit card debt is effectively erased. However, this rarely happens. And when it does, it usually comes at a high cost.

As part of the terms and conditions you agreed to when signing up for a credit card, you likely committed to repaying your credit card debt accrued from swiping your card to make purchases. For this reason, it’s unlikely the credit card company will forgive your debt unless you have a compelling reason for why you don’t have to repay it.

(If your identity was stolen and a fraudster ran up your credit card bill, for instance, you’re probably not responsible for repaying the outstanding balance. In this case, you may consider disputing a credit card charge.)

When you don’t pay your credit card bill for an extended time, the credit card company may sell your debt to a debt collector. At this point, the debt collector will reach out to try to get you to repay all or a portion of the debt you owe. However, if you agree to repay a portion of your debt, they may forgive the rest, resulting in credit debt forgiveness.

Recommended: Charge Card Advantages and Disadvantages

How Does Debt Forgiveness Work for Credit Cards?

If a debt collector forgives your debt, you’ll generally still have to pay off a portion of the amount you racked up. Here’s a look at how credit card debt forgiveness works:

•   Say that you owe $10,000 in outstanding credit card debt. If you haven’t paid your bill for the last six months — not even your credit card minimum payment — your credit card company may have sold the debt to a debt collector.

•   At this point, you’ll no longer communicate with your credit card company about debt negotiations since the debt collector is now responsible for recouping the loss.

•   If you agree to repay $5,000 of the debt, your debt collector may require you to make a lump sum payment or installment payments over a set period of time.

•   This means that the other $5,000 of your outstanding credit card balance is now forgiven, meaning you don’t have to pay it.

While this may seem like a relief, here’s one important point to note: You’re still responsible for paying taxes on the amount of credit card forgiveness you receive in most cases. Essentially, you will claim the forgiven debt as taxable income and report it on your tax return.

When Does Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Work Best?

When you’ve fallen behind on your credit card payments and your creditor sells your debt to a debt collector for a fraction of the total balance, this is usually the best time to request credit forgiveness. Typically, debt collectors are more willing to settle some of your debt since they purchased your debt for a portion of what you owe. In other words, any debt you agree to pay back will help the debt collector make a profit from the transaction.

However, if your debt has not yet gone to a debt collector and the creditor is about to charge-off your account, you could still consider credit card forgiveness. A charge-off means that the creditor is accepting your debt as a loss. Therefore, they can recoup the funds by selling your debt to a debt collector. So, before they sell the debt, they might be willing to negotiate credit card debt forgiveness with you.

How Credit Card Debt Forgiveness May Affect Your Credit

The most significant financial implication of credit card debt forgiveness is the negative impact it can have on your credit. When you don’t pay your credit card bill for an extended amount of time, the creditor may report this as a charge-off to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). A charge-off indicates that you didn’t follow through with your financial commitments to a lender, and it can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

Because credit bureaus use this information to calculate your credit score, a charge-off could lower your score for a while. A lower credit score may make it challenging to qualify for future loans or credit cards. And if you do qualify, you may have to pay a higher than average credit card interest rate, which can make borrowing more expensive.

To avoid this situation, it’s best to contact your credit card issuer as soon as you get behind on payments. Credit card companies may be willing to help you if you’ve fallen on hard times. They may offer a hardship plan, which can lower your monthly payments or reduce your interest for a set amount of time and ultimately help you get back on your feet. This is only a temporary solution though, so if your financial issues are more significant, you may need to explore another solution.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Debt Forgiveness

If you can’t make your credit card payments, credit card forgiveness might be a viable option. But, while getting your debt forgiven can help alleviate the financial burden, it also can harm your credit and cost you financially.

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of pursuing credit card debt forgiveness.

Pros

Cons

Potentially avoid bankruptcy Can harm your credit score
Repay only a portion of the debt you owe Will remain on your credit report for up to seven years
Pay off debt in a shorter time frame Must pay income tax on forgiven debt

Alternatives to Credit Card Debt Forgiveness

An alternative to credit card debt forgiveness may make more sense for your financial situation. Exploring all of your options in advance can help ensure that you make the best decision for your needs.

Debt Management

Third-party credit counseling agencies offer debt management plans that help you establish a plan for debt repayment. Working with one of these agencies may help you lower the fees you owe as well as your interest rate. However, you usually must agree to repay the total amount of outstanding debt before moving forward.

With a debt management plan, you’ll make one monthly payment to the credit counselor, who will then distribute the funds among the creditors you owe. Most plans help you repay your debt within three to five years. During this time, your account will still accrue interest, though your creditor might be willing to offer a lower rate.

To use one of these plans, you usually have to close your credit card account. This can negatively impact your credit score since it lowers your total credit card limit, thus increasing your credit utilization rate. Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most significant factors credit bureaus use when calculating your credit score.

Also, you will likely have to pay a monthly fee to your credit counselor. If considering this option, carefully vet the counselors you are considering and make sure the one you are working with has a good reputation.

Debt Settlement

Working with a debt settlement company can help you to lower the amount of debt you owe. For example, if you owe $10,000 as your credit card balance, the credit debt settlement company may try to help you settle your debt for $5,000 instead. But, of course, this strategy will only work if the creditor would rather have some of your debt repaid instead of having you default on the account.

Debt settlement also can harm your credit. Usually, debt settlement companies require you to stop making credit card payments while they negotiate with your creditor. At this time, your payments will go toward the debt settlement company so they can offer your creditor a lump sum payment as an incentive to settle your debt. However, pausing payments can negatively impact your debt since payment history is another factor used to calculate your credit score.

While debt settlement may sound good in theory, you should use it as a last resort option before filing bankruptcy. This solution is risky since it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll settle your debt. Your creditor could reject the offer.

Debt Consolidation

If your credit isn’t damaged too much, you might be able to qualify for a debt consolidation loan. While this isn’t technically a debt relief option, it can help you to consolidate your debt and potentially lower your interest rate, allowing you to save money.

To consolidate your debt, you’ll apply for another loan, ideally one with better terms than your existing debt. You’d use the loan to pay off your outstanding credit card debts. Then, you will make installment payments to the lender instead of paying the creditors.

Before you apply for a debt consolidation loan, compare your options to identify the loans with the most competitive terms and interest rates.

Declaring a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Depending on your situation, declaring Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may make the most sense. For instance, if you can’t make the payments with a debt management or debt settlement plan, bankruptcy could be an option to avoid going deeper into debt. But before you declare bankruptcy, consider speaking with a bankruptcy attorney to weigh out the pros and cons of this solution.

Bankruptcy should be one of your last resorts since it can drastically harm your credit. Also, it will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years after the filing date. To settle your debts with bankruptcy, you may also be forced to sell some of your assets.

The Takeaway

Credit card debt forgiveness involves paying less than the full amount you owe. While this prospect may sound great in theory, in reality it can harm your credit and end up costing you financially. If you find yourself starting to struggle with debt repayment, contact your credit card company to see if they will offer a hardship plan. If they’re unwilling to help or your financial troubles require a more long-term solution, you can explore credit debt forgiveness and other alternatives.

While credit cards can land you in a heap of debt, they can also be a great financial tool when used responsibly.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

How long does it typically take before a debt is forgiven?

Depending on the route you go, the time frame for debt forgiveness may vary. For example, bankruptcy can take four to six months, while debt settlement can take 36 months or more.

Does debt forgiveness hurt your credit score?

Yes, once you become delinquent on payments, your credit score can be negatively impacted. Then, when your credit card company sells your debt to a debt collector, they may report your balance as a charge-off or a complete loss, which can also impact your credit drastically.

How do you get your credit card balance forgiven?

Usually, once a creditor sells your outstanding debt to a debt collector, the debt collector may agree to forgive some of your credit card debt. But, you must agree to repay a portion of the debt for this to happen.


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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Photo credit: iStock/damircudic
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What Is Financial Wellness & How Do You Achieve It?

In theory, financial wellness is something we all want. But it also sounds a little vague and potentially complex. What exactly does it mean? And, how do you achieve it?

Simply put, financial wellness is the ability to lead a successful financial life. It’s being able to meet your basic needs and manage your money for both the short- and long-term. You can enhance your financial wellness by improving various aspects of your personal finances, including budgeting, saving, investing, managing debt, and planning for the future.

Surprisingly, achieving financial wellness isn’t just about having a substantial income; it’s about how effectively you manage and utilize your resources to build a secure financial future. That means anyone can get there, no matter where they are in their financial journey or how much money they have (or don’t). Read on for a closer look at financial wellness, including what it is, why it matters, and how to apply the basic elements of financial wellness to your own life.

Key Points

•   Financial wellness refers to the ability to lead a successful financial life, meeting basic needs and managing money for the shortand long-term.

•   It involves improving various aspects of personal finances, including budgeting, saving, investing, managing debt, and planning for the future.

•   Financial wellness is not solely dependent on income but on effectively managing and utilizing resources for a secure financial future.

•   It encompasses being able to manage current bills, pay debts, handle unexpected financial emergencies, and plan for long-term goals.

•   By addressing budgeting, savings, debt management, and investing, individuals can take proactive steps towards achieving financial wellness.

What Is Financial Wellness?

Financial wellness describes a condition in which you can manage your current bills and expenses, pay your debts, weather unexpected financial emergencies, and plan for long-term financial goals like saving for retirement and a child’s education. As defined by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, financial well-being (another term for financial wellness) is a condition in which “a person can fully meet current and ongoing financial obligations, can feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow them to enjoy life.”

Just like overall “wellness” requires adopting practices — like exercising more and eating healthier foods — to help you live a better life, financial wellness is about adopting everyday money habits — like budgeting and saving — to secure your financial stability and freedom. Also like overall wellness, financial wellness is not an end state or final destination but, rather, a way to live day to day.

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The Four Elements of Financial Wellness

Financial wellness is often broken down into four key areas of your personal finances. While these elements can overlap, and one can affect another, you can achieve greater results by bringing each under control. By addressing each of these pillars of financial wellness, you can start improving your financial well-being.

1. Budgeting and Financial Planning

Creating a budget that aligns with your income, expenses, and financial goals lays the foundation for financial wellness. Budgeting enables you to allocate resources efficiently, prioritize expenses, and plan for short- and long-term financial goals.

2. Savings and Emergency Funds

Establishing a habit of creating and maintaining an emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses allows you to build financial security. Having savings acts as a safety net during emergencies and ensures financial stability, since you won’t have to rely on high-interest credit cards or loans in the event of a financial set-back.

3. Debt Management

Effectively managing long-term debt, and eliminating high-interest consumer debt, are vital components of achieving financial well-being. This frees up funds that can then go towards savings and investing and, in turn, help reach your financial goals.

4. Investing for the Future

Investing is a key underpinning of financial wellness because it allows for wealth-building and long-term financial stability. When it comes to reaching your retirement goal, saving as much as possible and starting as early as possible can be keys to success.

7 Tips to Improving Your Financial Wellness

Maybe you don’t meet the definition of financial wellness right now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get there. What follows are seven relatively simple steps that can help you improve your current and long-term financial health and security.

1. Set Clear Financial Goals

Building financial wellness requires coming up with systems for spending, savings and investing. But before you can focus on specific habits and strategies, it helps to have a sense of what your financial life is like now, and where you want it to be months and years down the road.

You may want to jot down some specific and realistic objectives, such as going on a vacation in three months, buying a house in two years, and being able to one day retire. Having clear short-, mid-, and long-term objectives can help you create a roadmap towards achieving them.

2. Create and Stick to a Budget

To achieve your goals, you’ll need to develop a realistic budget that considers your monthly income and expenses and also allows you to put some money towards savings and debt repayments (beyond the minimum) each month.

A budget is simply a plan for how you’ll direct funds toward all areas of your financial life, such as necessary expenses, discretionary (“fun”) purchases, debt payments, personal savings goals, and investing for retirement.

There are all different ways to budget — the best approach is the one you’ll stick with. One simple and popular budgeting framework is the 50/30/20 rule, in which you divide your monthly take-home income into three categories, spending 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and extra debt payments.

3. Pay Yourself First

A simple way to make sure you achieve your monthly savings goal is to automatically transfer a set amount of money into a savings account each time you get paid — in other words, pay yourself first. If you wait to see what’s leftover after you pay your bills and do your shopping, you may not have much — or anything — to set aside.

To get started with saving, you may want to open a dedicated savings account then set up a recurring transfer from your checking account into that account on a set day each month (ideally, right after you get paid). You can base the transfer amount on the savings goal you set out in your budget.

If you want to earn a high rate and pay the lowest fees on your savings, consider storing your savings in an online account. Without the added expenses of large branch networks, online banks are typically able to offer more favorable returns than national brick-and-mortar banks.

💡 Quick Tip: Most savings accounts only earn a fraction of a percentage in interest. Not at SoFi. Our high-yield savings account can help you make meaningful progress towards your financial goals.

4. Build an Emergency Fund

If you don’t have one already, you’ll want to build an emergency savings fund that covers at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses. (If you’re self-employed or work irregularly, you may want to aim for six to 12 months’ worth of expenses.) This gives you a cushion should you lose your job or get hit with a large, unexpected expense — like a medical bill or major car or home repair.

Ideally, you’ll want to keep this money separate from your spending and other savings in an account that is accessible but pays a competitive yield, such as high-yield savings account or online savings account.

5. Protect Your Assets

While the emergency fund provides you with some protection, insurance provides more security in other situations. You’ll want to make sure you have adequate coverage when it comes to health, home, and auto insurance. This can offset large, sudden and unexpected expenses and losses, and reduce the possibility of going into debt.

You may get your health insurance through your employer. But with home and auto insurance, it often pays to shop around to find the best deal.

Recommended: Which Insurance Types Do Your Really Need?

6. Pay Off High-Interest Debts

If you’re paying only the minimum on your credit card balances, you may be spending thousands on interest. That leaves you with a lot less money to put into savings or investments to grow your wealth. Coming up with a plan to knock down — and eventually eliminate — high-interest consumer debt will help you save money in the long term and improve your overall financial health.

There are a number of strategies for reducing debt. One is the debt avalanche method, which prioritizes paying down your debts in order of the one with the highest interest rate to the one with the lowest, while still making the minimum payment on the other each month. Another approach is the debt snowball method, which involves paying down your debts in order from largest to smallest, while continuing to pay the minimum on the others each month.

7. Start Investing

The key to building a nest egg large enough to live on in retirement is to start investing regularly as early as you can. Even if you have a low salary and can only afford to put a small amount into your retirement account each paycheck, that money will go a lot further if you start now. That’s thanks, in part, to the power of compound interest, which is the interest your interest accumulates.

If your company has a 401(k) or other retirement savings plan, consider contributing a portion of each paycheck into that account. If your employer matches a portion of your contributions, even better — that’s free money toward your future.

What’s the Difference Between Financial Wellness vs. Financial Literacy?

Financial wellness and financial literacy are interconnected concepts, but they are not the same thing.

Financial wellness involves the overall state of a person’s financial health, encompassing their behaviors, attitudes, and actions towards money management. It includes actions like budgeting, saving, investing, and debt management. Achieving financial wellness requires applying financial knowledge effectively to attain financial stability and security.

Financial literacy, on the other hand, refers to possessing knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and principles, such as budgeting, investing, loans, and credit management. While financial literacy is essential, achieving financial wellness involves not only understanding these concepts but also implementing them effectively to manage finances and achieve financial goals.

The Takeaway

Financial wellness is about more than just the numbers in a bank account — it’s a holistic approach to managing your money that encompasses various elements of personal finance. People who are financially well can comfortably pay their bills and manage their monthly expenses, without living paycheck to paycheck. They can also set money aside for emergencies, as well as short- and long-term goals. They’re quick to bounce back from any financial setbacks because they have the right resources and strategies in place.

By integrating budgeting, saving, debt management, and investing into your overall financial strategy, you can take proactive steps towards financial wellness, paving the way for a more peace of mind now, and a more secure financial future.

Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.


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FAQ

What is an example of financial wellness?

An example of financial wellness is an individual who consistently lives within their means, has minimal debt, regularly contributes to savings and retirement accounts, and has a well-thought-out financial plan to achieve their financial goals.

What’s the difference between financial wellness and financial well-being?

The terms financial wellness and financial well-being generally refer to the same thing — your ability to live within your means and manage your money in a way that gives you both satisfaction and peace of mind. It includes balancing your income and expenses, staying out of debt, and saving for the future.



SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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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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Important FAFSA Deadlines to Know

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®, is a form students should fill out each school year to apply for college grants, work-study programs, federal student loans, and certain state-based aid.

Typically, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1 for the following academic year. The 2024-2025 academic year, however, is an exception. Due to form revisions and adjustments to how student aid is calculated, the latest FAFSA became available on December 31, 2023.

The three-month delay has had a domino effect, pushing out deadlines for college admissions and financial aid offers.

Try not to let this throw you off your game. If you fail to complete the form or miss the FAFSA deadline, you may not receive financial aid that could help you pay for college. In fact, you should aim to fill out your FAFSA as early as possible, since there is a limited amount of aid available.

Read on for updated federal, state, and institutional FAFSA deadlines to know.

What Is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the online form that you must fill out to apply for financial aid from the federal government, state governments, and most colleges and universities. The form requires students and their parents to submit information about household income and assets. That information is used to calculate financial need and determine how much aid will be made available.

If you are a dependent student, you will need to submit your parents’, as well as your own, financial information. If you are considered independent, you are not required to submit your parents’ financial information.

If you are already in school, remember that the FAFSA must be filled out every year, even if your income and tax information haven’t changed.

Federal financial aid includes student loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study jobs. In general, federal and state aid requires that students:

•   demonstrate financial need. Though there is some non-need based aid, such as unsubsidized student loans.

•   be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.

•   be enrolled in a qualifying degree or certificate program at their college or career school.

For further details, take a look at the basic eligibility requirements on the Student Aid website .


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

FAFSA Open Date and Deadline

ASAP: File Your FAFSA for Next Year

Generally, it makes sense to submit the FAFSA promptly after the application release. Some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so submitting it early can improve your chances of receiving financial help for college.

May 1 – June 1: College Decision Time

May 1 is traditionally National College Decision Day, when applicants must inform the colleges they applied to whether they’ll be attending. With the FAFSA delays, many colleges are pushing that deadline out to May 15 or even June 1. This is to ensure that students have their financial aid offer in hand before they decide which college to attend. Make sure you understand the deadlines for the colleges you applied to — they may be different.

June 30: File Your FAFSA for Last Year

You must file the FAFSA no later than June 30 for the school year you are requesting aid for. For the academic year 2023-24, you must file by June 30, 2024, at the very latest, and for the academic year 2024-25, the final federal deadline is June 30, 2025.

This FAFSA deadline comes after you’ve already attended and, likely, paid for school. You generally don’t want to wait this long. However, if you do, you can often receive grants and loans retroactively to cover what you’ve already paid for the spring and fall semester. In some cases, you may be able to apply the funds to pay for 2023 summer courses.

State and Institutional FAFSA Deadlines

Individual states and colleges have different financial aid deadlines — which may be much earlier than the federal deadline. Here’s a look at two other key FAFSA deadlines to know.

Institutional FAFSA Deadlines

While students have until the end of the school year to file the FAFSA, individual schools may have earlier deadlines. That means you need to get your FAFSA application in by the school’s date to be considered for the college’s own institutional aid. So if you are applying to several colleges, you may want to check each school’s FAFSA deadline and complete the FAFSA by the earliest one.

While filling out your FAFSA, you can include every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t been accepted to college yet.

State FAFSA Deadlines

States often have their own FAFSA deadlines. You can get information about state deadlines at
Studentaid.gov
. Some states have strict cutoffs, while others are just best-practice suggestions — so you’ll want to check carefully. States may have limited funds to offer as well.

Federal FAFSA Deadline

Typically, the FAFSA becomes available on October 1, almost a full year in advance of the year that aid is awarded. For the 2024-25 academic year, the FAFSA opened a few months later than usual. However, the federal government gives you until June 30 of the year you are attending school to apply for aid.

It’s generally recommended that students fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after it’s released for the next school year’s aid to avoid missing out on available funds. Plus, as noted above, there are often earlier school and state deadlines you’ll need to meet.

Recommended: FAFSA Delay: 5 Steps to Help Ensure Your State and College Aid Aren’t Affected

Taking the Next Steps After Submitting the FAFSA

So what happens after you hit “submit” on your FAFSA? Here’s a look at next steps:

•   Wait for your Student Aid Report (SAR) . If you submitted your FAFSA online, the U.S. Department of Education will process it within three to five days. If you submit a paper form, it will take seven to 10 days to process. The SAR summarizes the information you provided on your FAFSA form. You can find your SAR by logging in to fafsa.gov using your FSA ID and selecting the “View SAR” option on the My FAFSA page.

•   Review your SAR. Check to make sure all of the information is complete and accurate. If you see any missing or inaccurate information, you’ll want to complete or correct your FAFSA form as soon as possible. The SAR will give you some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid. However, the school(s) you listed on the FAFSA form will use your information to determine your actual eligibility for federal — and possibly non-federal — financial aid.

•   Wait for acceptance. Most college decisions come out in the spring, often March or early April. If you applied to a college early action or early decision, you can expect an earlier decision notification, often around December. Typically, students receive a financial aid award letter along with their acceptance notification. This letter contains important information about the cost of attendance and your financial aid options. However, due to the FAFSA delays, you may be waiting longer on your financial aid offer.

Understanding Your Financial Aid Award

Receiving financial aid can be a great relief when it comes to paying for higher education. Your financial aid award letter will include the annual total cost of attendance and a list of financial aid options. Your financial aid package may be a mix of gift aid (which doesn’t have to be repaid), loans (which you have to repay with interest), and federal work-study (which helps students get part-time jobs to earn money for college).

If, after accounting for gift aid and work-study, you still need money to pay for school, federal student loans might be your next consideration. As an undergraduate student, you may have the following loan options:

•   Direct Subsidized Loans Students with financial need can qualify for subsidized loans. With this type of federal loan, the government covers the interest that accrues while you’re in school, for six months after you graduate, and during periods of deferment.

•   Direct Unsubsidized Loans Undergraduates can take out direct unsubsidized loans regardless of financial need. With these loans, you’re responsible for all interest that accrues when you are in school, after you graduate, and during periods of deferment.

•   Parent PLUS Loans These loans allow parents of undergraduate students to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received. They carry higher interest rates and higher loan origination fees than Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans.

If financial aid, including federal loans, isn’t enough to cover school costs, students can also apply for private student loans, which are available through banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

Private loan limits vary by lender, but students can often get up to the total cost of attendance, which gives you more borrowing power than you have with the federal government. Each lender sets its own interest rate and you can often choose to go with a fixed or variable rate. Unlike federal loans, qualification is not need-based. However, you will need to undergo a credit check and students often need a cosigner.

Keep in mind that private loans may not offer the borrower protections — like income-based repayment plans and deferment or forbearance — that come with federal student loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Parents and sponsors with strong credit and income may find much lower rates on no-fee private parent student loans than federal parent PLUS loans. Federal PLUS loans also come with an origination fee.

The Takeaway

Completing the FAFSA application allows you to apply for federal aid (including scholarships, grants, work-study, and federal student loans). The FAFSA form is generally released on October 1 of the year before the award year and closes on July 30 of the school year you are applying for.

The 2024–25 FAFSA was delayed until December 31, 2023. That application will close on June 30, 2025. However, individual colleges and states have their own deadlines which are typically earlier than the federal FAFSA deadline. Try to submit your form as soon as possible, since some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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-criteria 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.


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.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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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Can You Use a Personal Loan to Pay Taxes?

Tax Day appears dependably every year and, ideally, you don’t end up owing the IRS money. Or if you do, hopefully you can easily pay your taxes. But that’s not always the case. If you do end up owing money to the IRS after filing your taxes, you may have options. Of course, you can dip into your emergency fund, but if you don’t have one yet, there are other options available for borrowing money when you’re in a pinch.

Everyone’s financial situation is different, so there’s not one right answer for covering your tax bill. We’ll go through the pros and cons of using a credit card, an IRS payment plan, or even a personal loan to pay your tax bill.

We should, of course, mention that this article is a broad overview of this matter. It’s always a good idea to consult a licensed tax professional for questions and help with tax-related matters.

Can I Get a Loan to Pay Taxes?

You may be able to get a loan for taxes you owe as long as you can qualify for a loan with the lender you choose. If you can qualify for a loan, you may want to consider whether it’s the right choice for your financial situation or if there may be a different option that works better for you.


💡 Quick Tip: Before choosing a personal loan, ask about the lender’s fees: origination, prepayment, late fees, etc. SoFi personal loans come with no-fee options, and no surprises.

What Is a Tax Loan?

A loan for taxes is a personal loan that is used to pay taxes owed to the IRS. The borrower receives the funds in a lump sum and spends the personal loan funds to pay their tax debt.

When looking for a lender that does tax loans, you might consider traditional banks, credit unions, or online lenders, among other financial institutions.

Recommended: How to Apply for a Personal Loan

How Does a Tax Loan Work?

If a taxpayer does not have the funds to pay the taxes they owe the IRS, one option to pay the debt is to borrow money to do so. Often, this is in the form of a personal loan, which can be either secured or unsecured. After receiving the loan proceeds, the borrower pays the IRS and begins making regular installment payments to the lender.

How to Qualify for Tax Loan

Qualifying for a tax loan is like qualifying for a personal loan intended to pay for any other expense.

Lenders will look at an applicant’s credit score, employment history, income, other debt, and possibly other lender-specific criteria. Generally, the more creditworthy an applicant is, the more favorable their loan terms and interest rate.

There are a variety of lenders who offer personal loans, so if you don’t qualify at one, you might consider looking at other places to get a personal loan.

Reasons For Tax Refund Loans

If you’re getting a tax refund, you might want the money sooner than the IRS sends it to you. For that reason, you might consider getting a tax refund loan. Also called a refund advance loan (RAL), this type of loan is a short-term loan based on the amount of tax refund you are expecting.

RALs are often offered by your tax preparation service right after you file. Similar to other loans, the interest and fees for a tax refund loan will vary by provider.

Reasons Against Tax Refund Loans

The key word in “tax refund loan” is loan — a debt. There are considerable reasons not to use this option to get an anticipated tax refund amount quickly.

•   While some tax preparers will offer tax refund loans without any interest or fees, these loans often come with costs.

•   Even if your tax refund is smaller than expected, you still have to repay the full loan amount, including any interest and fees charged by the lender.

•   If the IRS denies, delays, or garnishes your tax refund to pay another debt, you still owe the RAL — including any interest and any fees charged by the lender.

•   Interest rates on RALs offered by payday lenders tend to be high, with APRs sometimes 10 times higher than average credit card interest rates.

Filing your taxes electronically and getting your tax refund, if you’re getting one, via direct deposit generally results in you getting your money faster, often in less than 21 days.

What Happens if You Can’t Pay Your Taxes?

If you owe taxes, you may not have enough cash on hand to make that payment to the IRS, particularly if it’s a large amount. Paying a tax debt in full is ideal, but there are options if you cannot do that.

Options to Pay Tax Debt

IRS Payment Plans

The IRS offers payment plans and the potential for an “offer in compromise,” which may allow you to settle your debt for less than you owe if paying in full would create financial hardship. In some instances, you may also be able to temporarily delay collection until your financial situation improves. Depending on your situation, there can also be set-up fees, application fees, interest, and penalties that continue to accrue, increasing the amount you owe until it’s paid in full.

Credit Cards

Another option is to charge your tax expense to a credit card. The IRS charges a processing fee , which varies depending on the payment system you choose, if you pay with a credit card.

If you fail to pay off your credit card balance when it’s due, interest will accrue until the balance is paid in full. If you qualify for a credit card with a zero-percent introductory period and pay the full amount before the promotional period ends, you could pay your taxes with a credit card without incurring any interest charges.

Loved Ones

Asking a friend or family member for a loan for taxes is an option some people consider. Borrowing from someone you know generally means you won’t have to undergo a credit check. So if you don’t have great credit but are able to repay a loan, this may be an acceptable option. A close friend or family member who is confident you’ll repay the loan may not charge you interest, or charge a lower percentage rate than you might qualify for with a bank or other lender.

If you do choose to borrow money from friends or family, be clear about expectations from the beginning. For example, setting up a repayment plan could lessen the chance for miscommunication and hurt feelings.

Payday Loans

Payday loans are high-cost, short-term loans for small amounts that are often made to people who have bad or nonexistent credit. Unfortunately, this borrowing option often works in the best interest of the lender, not the borrower.

Interest rates on payday loans are much higher than other types of loans, sometimes up to 400% APR. Even using a credit card, with their relatively high-interest rates, is generally a better option than a payday loan.

The repayment term for a payday loan is small — typically, the loan needs to be repaid with the borrower’s next payday. If your tax bill is too large to pay by the time the payday loan is due, the loan may need to be renewed, adding additional fees and accruing more interest on the initial loan balance. This strategy could lead to a cycle of debt that is difficult to break.

Lines of Equity or Credit

Whereas a loan lets you borrow a set amount of money in one lump sum, a line of credit (LOC) gives you a maximum amount of credit from which you can borrow, repay, and borrow again, up to the credit limit. You make at least a minimum payment each month toward your balance due. LOCs can be secured or unsecured — a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is an example of a secured LOC, using your home as collateral.

One advantage to a LOC is the typically lower interest rates they offer compared to credit cards. However, interest rates on a LOC are often variable and can rise over the life of the loan. A drawback to a HELOC is that if you can’t repay the loan, you could lose your home.

Personal Loans

You can apply for either a secured or unsecured personal loan, the former requiring collateral to back the loan. A secured loan may have a lower interest rate because the lender can seize the collateralized asset if you default on the loan. Essentially, this lowers the lender’s perceived risk.

It’s a good idea to compare the interest rates on personal loans. They tend to start out lower than credit cards, but they can vary widely depending on your creditworthiness. The average personal loan interest rate was 11.91% as of Feb. 14, 2024. However, the rate can range anywhere from 6.40% to 35.99% depending on the lender and your unique financial circumstances.


💡 Quick Tip: Generally, the larger the personal loan, the bigger the risk for the lender — and the higher the interest rate. So one way to lower your interest rate is to try downsizing your loan amount.

Pros and Cons of Using a Personal Loan To Pay Taxes

Using a personal loan to pay taxes comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a look at how they stack up.

Pros of Paying Taxes With a Personal Loan

Cons of Paying Taxes With a Personal Loan

Typically unsecured, so no risk of losing an asset such as a car or home Some lenders may not lend small amounts
Potentially low interest rates if you have good credit Interest rate may be higher than an IRS repayment plan’s interest rate
With a fixed interest rate, monthly payments will be the same over the life of the loan Some lenders may not allow a personal loan for taxes

Recommended: Paying Tax on Personal Loans

The Takeaway

When Tax Day rolls around and you discover that you owe taxes to the IRS, it’s a good idea to consider multiple options to settle the bill. If you don’t have enough money in your bank account to pay your tax bill, you might turn to an IRS repayment plan, your credit cards, a loan from a loved one, or a personal loan.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Can I get a loan to pay taxes?

Yes, a personal loan can be used to pay taxes in most cases. Applicants must meet qualification requirements like any other personal loan, which typically include a credit check, employment and income verification, and other criteria.

What is a tax loan?

A tax loan is a personal loan used to pay taxes owed.

How does a tax loan work?

Tax loans are personal loans, either secured or unsecured. The borrower uses the loan proceeds to pay the IRS and then makes loan payments to the lender.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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 website .

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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.

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.

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Do Part-Time Students Have to Pay Back Student Loans?

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

One question that can come up for part-time students is whether they need to pay back student loans if they’re not attending classes full time. In short, if a student meets their school’s requirements for half-time enrollment, they are generally not required to make payments on federal student loans. Private student loans have their own terms and depending on the lender, students may be required to make payments on their loan while they are enrolled in school.

Part-time college enrollment is expected to increase 10% by 2031. Students may be part-time because of financial reasons, caregiver or parental duties, medical issues, or other reasons, but for all scenarios, balancing college with other duties and needs can be a struggle.

What Is a Part-Time College Student?

A part-time college student is someone who is not taking a full course load during any given academic quarter or semester. Individual schools set the standards for what counts as a full- or part-time student, but in general, full-time students may take about 12 credits or four classes at a time.

Part-time students may take anywhere from six to 11 credits or two to three classes per academic period.

Students may choose to attend college part-time in order to take care of family obligations, work a day job, or because of other circumstances that don’t allow them to take four classes at one time.

Repaying Student Loans as a Part-Time Student

In general, part-time students may not need to pay back their federal student loans while they are attending school as long as they don’t drop below half-time enrollment — or as long as they haven’t graduated.

What does this mean in practicality? If you’re a part-time student and you are taking at least half of the full-load credit hours, you generally won’t need to start paying off your federal student loans until you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. Federal loans also come with a grace period, meaning you technically won’t be required to make payments for six months after graduating, withdrawing, or dropping below half-time enrollment.

For example, if a full course load at your school is 12 credits, and you’re taking six credits this semester, you are still enrolled at least half-time, and wouldn’t normally be required to start paying back your federal student loans.

If, however, you drop down below half-time enrollment by taking only one three-credit class, you would no longer be attending school at least half-time and may be required to start paying off your federal student loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

When Do I Have to Start Paying Back My Student Loans?

If you are a part-time student who graduates, withdraws, or drops below half-time enrollment, you may not need to start paying back your federal student loans right away. Many new grads, or those entering a repayment period for the first time, are given a six-month grace period, as mentioned above, before they have to start paying federal student loans back.

The exact length of any grace period depends on the type of loan you have and your specific circumstances. For example, Federal Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans all have a standard six-month grace period before payments are due.

Factors That May Influence the Grace Period

If you’re a member of the armed forces and are called to active duty 30 days or more before your grace period ends, you could delay the six-month grace period until after you return from active duty.

Another situation that could impact your grace period is if you re-enroll in school at least half-time before the end of the grace period. You will receive the full grace period again on your federal student loans when you graduate, withdraw, or drop below part-time enrollment.

This is because, in general, once you start attending school at least half-time again, you’re no longer obligated to start making payments on federal student loans. In this situation, you would still get a grace period after you graduate, even though you may have used part of a grace period while you were attending school less than half-time. Note that most loan types will still accrue interest during the grace period.

You may lose out on any grace period if you consolidate your federal student loans with the federal government during your grace period. In that scenario, you’ll typically need to start paying back your loan once the consolidation is disbursed (paid out).

Repayments for Private Student Loans

If you have private student loans, don’t count on getting a grace period before you start paying back your loans. Student loans taken out from private lenders don’t have the same terms and benefits as federal student loans, which means that private student loans may not offer a grace period at all or it may be a different length than the federal grace period.

Some lenders may require students make payments on private student loans while they are enrolled in school. If you have a private loan or are considering a private loan, check with the lender directly to understand the terms for repayment, including whether or not there is a grace period.

How Do I Pay Back My Student Loans?

There are things you can do to make paying back your loans as painless as possible. When you enter loan repayment on a federal student loan, you’ll be automatically enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan, which requires you to pay off your loan within 10 years.

However, there are other types of federal student loan repayment plans available, including income-driven repayment plans like the SAVE Plan and loan forgiveness programs for public service, and it is always worth learning about the different plans so you can make an educated choice.

Recommended: Student Loan Forgiveness Guide

As mentioned, private student loans have different requirements than federal student loans. Individual lenders will determine the repayment plans available to borrowers.

Take a Look at Refinancing

One option you may want to consider is refinancing your student loans with a private lender. Refinancing your student loans allows you to combine your federal and/or private student loans into one new, private loan with a new interest rate and new terms.

It’s important to remember, however, that student loan refinancing isn’t right for everyone. If you refinance your federal loans, they will no longer be eligible for any federal repayment assistance, such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program or income-driven repayment plans.

The Takeaway

Part-time student loans who are enrolled at least half-time, based on the definition at their school, are generally not required to make payments on their federal student loans. Private student loans have terms and conditions that are set by the individual lender, and may require students make payments on their loans while they are enrolled in school.

If your student loan payments are due and you’re hoping to lower your interest rate or monthly payment, consider refinancing them with SoFi. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) SoFi offers an easy online application, competitive rates, and no origination fees. It takes just two minutes to fill out an application and your credit score will not be impacted during the prequalification stage.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

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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