Can You Consolidate Student Loans and Credit Card Debt Together?

After attending college, you might have a hefty student loan you need to pay off, and you might also have some credit card debt you’re ready to eliminate.

Having two (or more) separate payments each month, as well as more than one interest rate, can get messy, and could negatively impact your credit if you don’t make all the minimum payments required. You may be wondering if it’s possible to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together to make things easier.

We’ll look at the differences between debt consolidation, debt refinancing, student loan consolidation, and student loan refinancing, plus explore your options to lower your interest rates and possibly get one single payment for all your student loan and credit card debts.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

There are two different ways you can change what your debt looks like: debt consolidation and debt refinancing.

It’s important to understand that when it comes to loans and credit cards, consolidating is different from refinancing. Refinancing refers to changing the financial terms of a debt. Maybe when you took out your student loan, for example, interest rates were higher than they are now. You might be able to refinance your loan with current, lower rates or you could refinance to extend the loan term.

Debt consolidation, on the other hand, refers to combining more than one debt into a new loan with a single payment. Maybe you have three different credit card balances and you take out a new loan to pay them off. Now, those three credit cards have a zero balance and you’re left with a single monthly payment and a new interest rate and terms with the new loan.

But is consolidating credit cards and student loans together possible? Or are they two different animals?

Consolidating Student Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers what’s called a Direct Consolidation Loan, which consolidates all your federal education loans that qualify into one new loan with a single interest rate, typically the average of the loans you’re consolidating. When you consolidate federal student loans, you keep federal benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness.

Student loan consolidation may be useful if you have federal loans from different lenders and are making more than one payment per month. However, your interest rate won’t necessarily be lowered, nor will you be allowed to consolidate private student loans or credit card debt.

So, what can you do if you have private student loans you want to consolidate or other loans that don’t qualify for the Direct Consolidation Loan? And what if you want to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together?

Before we get to the solution, let’s talk about consolidating credit cards.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Consolidating Credit Cards

Just like with student loans, you may have multiple credit cards each with their own balance, interest rate, and minimum payment due each month. This can make paying off all this debt next to impossible and feel like you’re treading water as you pay the minimum amount due on each card.

With credit card consolidation, you take out a new personal loan and pay off all outstanding credit card debt.
You then have one payment and one interest rate (which may often be significantly lower than some astronomically high rates for credit cards). You’re now making one monthly payment for all your credit card debt. Sounds good, right?

How to Consolidate Student Loans and Credit Card Debts

As discussed, with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you can’t add credit card debt to the consolidation loan. Direct Consolidation Loans are reserved for federal student loans only.

However, if you’re wanting to consolidate both student loans and credit card debts, there are options you can consider.

Personal Loan

One way to pay off different types of debt is with a personal loan. While personal loans may have higher interest rates than you’re paying for your student loans, the rates for personal loans may be significantly lower than credit card interest rates if your credit is good.

By taking out a personal loan, you may be able to pay off all of your student loans and credit card debt. Your debt is now rolled up into one monthly payment with one interest rate.

The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you may qualify for with a personal loan. But even if you don’t get a fantastic rate, you can extend the loan term to make your payments more manageable. And, of course, you can usually pay off a personal loan early without penalty, which can cut down on what you’d otherwise pay in interest.

Balance Transfer

If a personal loan isn’t for you, check to see if you have a credit card with a balance transfer offer. Often, credit cards will offer a promotion of 0% on any balances from other credit cards or loans transferred. Take note though: often these promotions end after a year, and then you’re stuck with the interest payment on the remaining balance.

A balance transfer makes sense if you know you can pay off your debts within a year. If you have a large amount of credit card debt or a high student loan, this may not be the best solution if you can’t pay it off quickly. Instead, you might consider transferring the amount of your debts that you know you can pay off within the timeframe.

Alternatives to Consolidation

If you’re hoping to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together, taking out a personal loan or using a transfer balance are two options to explore.

You might also look at a debt reduction strategy, such as the Avalanche Method or the Snowball Method.

The Avalanche Method

The Avalanche Method focuses on paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first. Once those are paid off, you put that money toward the debts with the next highest interest rates, and so on and so forth, until they are all paid off.

The Snowball Method

With the Snowball Method, you focus on the largest balance first. Put extra money toward paying that off, then when it’s paid off, move to the next largest balance.

Continue Payments

Whatever strategy you choose, the key is to keep making payments. And if possible, pay more than the minimum amount due. Even paying an additional $25 a month on a debt will help you pay it off faster and reduce the total amount of interest you pay overall.

Student Loan Refinance Tips from SoFi

Because student loans are often the largest debts people carry (even if they don’t have the highest interest rate), you may want to have a separate strategy for paying off your student loans.

When you refinance student loans, look for loans that offer a longer time period if you want a smaller monthly payment. However, keep in mind that with a longer loan term, you’re likely to pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Also, if you plan on using federal benefits, it’s not recommended to refinance with a private lender. Instead, look into a Direct Consolidation Loan or refinance your student loans once you’re no longer using federal benefits.


💡 Quick Tip: When rates are low, refinancing student loans could make a lot of sense. How much could you save? Find out using our student loan refi calculator.

The Takeaway

While it may be challenging to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together, you may be able to do so with a personal loan or a credit card balance transfer. Using one of these methods allows you to transfer these debts into a single loan with a single payment and interest rate.

However, if a personal loan or balance transfer credit card isn’t an option, you could consider refinancing your student loans to possibly lower your interest rate and save money each month. The money you save could then be put toward paying off your credit card debt.

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

FAQ

Do I lose my credit cards if I consolidate?

Consolidating credit card debt does not cause you to lose your credit cards. It merely wipes out the debt on each card you include in the consolidation.

Will consolidating my student loans lower my credit score?

If you use the Direct Consolidation Loan, this will not impact your credit score. However, if you consolidate your student loans with a personal loan or through student loan refinancing, it may impact your credit.

Can my student loans be forgiven if I consolidate?

If you consolidate your loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you’re still eligible for student loan forgiveness. However, if you refinance your student loans with a private lender, you are no longer eligible for federal benefits, including loan forgiveness.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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.

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.

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How to Fill Out Gift Tax Form 709

How to Fill Out Gift Tax Form 709

Form 709 is the way to report to the IRS any gifts made in the prior year that are subject to the gift tax. Don’t worry, though. Most people will never pay any taxes on gifts made over the course of their lives.

The annual gift tax exemption amount is fairly substantial; the lifetime gift tax exemption is stratospheric.

In any given year, you may give gifts under the annual threshold to an unlimited number of people and be free from filling out IRS gift tax Form 709. If you do need to report one or more gifts, again, you’re probably never going to have to pay gift taxes.

What Counts Toward the Gift Tax?

For taxpayers filing in 2024, the gift tax applies to anything worth over $17,000 that they gave another person while receiving nothing, or less than full value, in return.

Whether it’s cash, real estate, stocks, or the use of or income from property, the recipient must be able to have full and immediate access to the gift for the gift to qualify for the annual exclusion.

For gifts of over $17,000 per person, you can apply an amount you gift to the current lifetime estate tax exemption of $12.92 million (if you’re married, your spouse is allowed the same).

Gifts can include assets in any class or type of income, such as:

•   Real estate (including a down payment gift for a first home)

•   Stocks

•   Bonds

•   Digital assets

•   Cryptocurrencies

•   NFTs

•   Loans made with rates below IRS “applicable federal rates”

•   Transfer of benefits of an insurance policy

•   Student loan payments or other debt payments made for another person

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Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

What Is the Annual Gift Tax Exemption?

For tax year 2023 (taxes filed in 2024), you could have given any number of people up to $17,000 each without incurring a taxable gift ($34,000 for spouses “splitting” gifts). That is up from $16,000 in tax year 2022.

You do not have to file Form 709 for a gift you made worth up to $17,000.

The annual gift tax exclusion rose to $18,000 per recipient in tax year 2024, and the lifetime exemption to $13.61 million per individual.


💡 Quick Tip: When you have questions about what you can and can’t afford, a spending tracker app can show you the answer. With no guilt trip or hourly fee.

Examples of Gift Tax Rules in Action

Let’s say you gave $117,000 to your mother in 2023 for her birthday. You would report $100,000 of the gift to the IRS, but federal tax law provides you with that unified gift and estate tax exemption ($12.92 million for tax year 2023) to offset any gift tax you may owe.

A married couple you know has three children and five grandchildren they like to shower with generosity. Each spouse may give eight gifts of $18,000 in 2024 to their family members without touching their combined $27.22 million lifetime gift tax exemption or filling out Form 709.

You want to buy a house from a family member. The sale price must equate to what it would be between strangers unless the seller provides a gift of equity — the difference between the selling price and the home’s current market value.

The relative could give you a gift of equity worth the annual exemption ($18,000 in 2024, or $36,000 for spouses “splitting” gifts) without reporting that sum to the IRS. (Another perk: Most lenders will allow the gift to count as the down payment in a non-arm’s-length transaction.) In this example, the seller must report any gift of over $18,000, or $36,000 for spouses, and apply it to their lifetime gift tax exclusion.

Recommended: How Long Does It Take to Get a Tax Refund?

Does the Giver or Recipient Fill Out Form 709?

Form 709 is filled out by the giver of the gift. The donor is also responsible for paying the tax, whether it’s when the gift was given or after the giver’s death.

However, it is possible that the recipient may have to pay the tax if the donor does not.

How to Fill Out Form 709

Understanding what each part means and how to calculate the tax can be difficult. There are a lot of rules and exceptions to understand. When filling out Form 709, getting help from a tax professional is a good idea.

Form 709 is actually called the Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return. The generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT) exemption applies to certain gifts that skip a generation (or are transferred to anyone more than 37.5 years younger than the donor), such as a gift from a grandparent to a grandchild. It also includes trusts.

The GSTT exemption is separate from the gift and estate tax exemption.

Determine If You Are Required to Fill Out Form 709

You do not need to fill out Form 709 if you made contributions for the following reasons:

•   Payments made that qualify for the medical exclusion

•   Payments made that qualify for the tuition exclusion

•   Payments or transfers made to certain political parties or charities

•   Payments to spouses, except for gifts over $175,000 made to non-U.S. citizen spouses (for 2023) and $185,000 (for 2024)

To reiterate, gifts under the annual exclusion amount ($17,000 per person in tax year 2023) do not need to be reported on Form 709.

For couples splitting gifts, if either spouse makes a gift that exceeds the couple’s combined annual gift tax exclusion, or if each spouse makes gifts that exceed the individual annual gift tax exclusion, both spouses will need to file a Form 709, and each will need to provide consent to split gifts on the other spouse’s return.

Each gift tax return should also disclose one-half of the amount over the combined annual gift tax exemption as a lifetime gift.

Part 1: General Information

The first part to fill out is your general information, which is the same as when you’re filing taxes for the first time or you’ve been filing for years. This includes your name, address, and whether or not you elect to split gifts between you and a spouse.

Schedule A

Head to the next page to fill out Schedule A, a computation of taxable gifts, including transfers in trust.

The filer must include information about the gift recipient, a description of the gift, and the value of the gift. Reporting taxable gifts is divided into:

•   Part 1: Gifts subject only to gift tax

•   Part 2: Direct skips

•   Part 3: Indirect skips and other transfers in trust

•   Part 4: Taxable Gift Reconciliation

Schedules B, C, D

Next, fill out Schedules B, C, and D (if applicable). Schedule B is for gifts from prior periods; Schedule C is for claiming unused amounts of the exclusion for a deceased spouse; and Schedule D is for computation of generation-skipping transfer tax.

Part 2: Tax Computation

You’ll enter amounts from Schedules A, B, C, and D back on the first page of Form 709. Your tax return preparation software or professional will calculate the amount of gift tax owed.

If filing a paper return, you’ll need to use the Table for Computing Gift Tax found in the instructions.

The executor of a decedent’s estate will use Form 706 to decide whether any estate tax is owed. Form 706 is also used to compute the GSTT on direct skips.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

Understanding annual and lifetime gift tax exemptions is easy, but filling out Gift Tax Form 709 may require help from a professional. Remember that you can make an unlimited number of gifts valued at less than the annual limit and skip reporting them to the IRS.

Whether you’re logging gifts you make or figuring out what to do with your tax refund, a money tracker app can help you track your spending, debt, and investments.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

See exactly how your money comes and goes at a glance.

FAQ

Do I file Form 709 with my tax return?

Yes, Form 709 is filed with your federal tax return if you exceeded the annual gift tax exclusion.

What happens if I don’t fill out Form 709?

According to the IRS, filers who are required to fill out Form 709 but do not may be subject to penalties and criminal prosecution.

An audit could reveal a gift not reported. A generous gift might just stick out like a sore thumb. If you’re running behind, file Form 8892 by Tax Day for an automatic six-month extension of time to file Form 709 when you are not applying for an extension to file your individual income tax return.

What should I include with Form 709?

Include all gifts in excess of the annual threshold that were given during the tax year and that need to be reported to the IRS.

Do you have to file Form 709 every year?

IRS Form 709 must be filed every year that gifts worth more than the excluded amount were made. For tax year 2023, that’s any gift given by an individual that was over $17,000 in value; for 2024, it’s gifts over $18,000. Couples may “split” gifts.


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SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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.

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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Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Tax Refund Schedule for Tax Years 2023 and 2024

The earned income tax credit directly reduces the amount of income tax owed by lower-income working taxpayers. Depending on a tax filer’s number of children, tax filing status, and income, the tax credit can be in the thousands.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2023 EITC tax refund schedule and the 2024 EITC numbers.

What Is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?

The earned income tax credit, also known as the earned income credit (EIC), is a credit that low- to moderate-income workers can claim on their tax returns to reduce federal income tax owed.

Singles or married couples must have some form of earned income to qualify. Above a certain income level, they aren’t eligible for the credit. The number of qualifying children is also a key component of the tax credit.

The credit ranges from $600 to $7,430 for the 2023 tax year (taxpayers filing by April 15, 2024) and from $632 to $7,830 for 2024.

For those filing federal returns in 2024, the maximum allowable adjusted gross income (AGI) is $59,899 for a married couple filing jointly who have three or more children. Tables with amounts for the tax credit and maximum AGI are in the next section.

At the very least, the EITC reduces the amount of tax owed. At best, low-income people who have little or no income tax liability can receive the total credit in the form of a tax refund.

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How Does the Earned Income Tax Credit Work?

The EITC is a fairly complicated credit, even for taxpayers who are not filing taxes for the first time. In fact, the IRS sees errors in close to 25% of tax returns claiming it. Online tax filing software can help. The IRS also offers an “EITC Assistant” calculator.

The amount of the credit depends on the tax filer’s number of qualifying children, filing status, and earned income or AGI. (AGI is defined as gross income — including wages, dividends, capital gains, business income, and retirement distributions — minus adjustments to income, which can be student loan interest, contributions to a retirement account, educator expenses, or alimony payments.)

Investment income must be $11,000 or less in 2023 ($11,600 or less in 2024).

On your tax form, the credit is filed under the “payments” section, which is a way for the credit to be directly applied dollar for dollar to any income tax you owe.

Workers receive the credit beginning with their first dollar of earned income. The amount of the credit rises with earned income until it reaches a maximum level. Then it begins to phase out at higher income levels.

Taxpayers with earned income or AGI above a certain level won’t qualify for the tax credit at all. These amounts are listed below for tax years 2023 and 2024.

Tax Year 2023 EITC Tax Refund Schedule

Number of children or dependents

Maximum earned income tax credit

Maximum AGI for single, head of household, or widowed filers

Maximum AGI for married joint filers

0 $600 $17,640 $24,210
1 $3,995 $46,560 $53,120
2 $6,604 $52,918 $59,478
3 or more $7,430 $56,838 $63,398

Phaseout amount begins at:

•   Single, head of household, or widowed: $9,800 for no children; $21,560 with qualifying children.

•   Married filing jointly: $16,370 for no children; $28,120 with qualifying children.

Tax Year 2024 EITC Tax Refund Schedule

Number of children or dependents

Maximum earned income tax credit

Maximum AGI for single, head of household, or widowed filers

Maximum AGI for married joint filers

0 $632 $18,591 $25,511
1 $4,213 $49,084 $56,004
2 $6,960 $55,768 $62,688
3 or more $7,830 $59,899 $66,819

Phaseout amount begins at:

•   Single, head of household, or widowed: $10,330 for no children; $22,720 with qualifying children.

•   Married filing jointly: $17,250 for no children; $29,640 with qualifying children.


💡 Quick Tip: We love a good spreadsheet, but not everyone feels the same. An online budget planner can give you the same insight into your budgeting and spending at a glance, without the extra effort.

Who Qualifies for the EITC?

To qualify for the EITC, you must have earned income and meet certain AGI requirements.

Types of income include:

•   W-2 wages from employment

•   Self-employment (or gig or freelance) earnings

•   Certain disability benefits

•   Benefits from a union strike

•   Nontaxable combat pay

You do not have to include income from the following sources:

•   Social Security

•   Child support or alimony

•   Unemployment benefits

•   Pensions or annuities

•   Interest and dividends

•   Pay as a prison inmate

What Are ‘Qualifying Children’?

To claim a child for the EITC, a qualifying child must have a valid Social Security number, meet the four tests of a qualifying child, and cannot be claimed by more than one person.

The four tests for a qualifying child are:

•   Age: A qualifying child can be of any age if they are permanently and totally disabled; under age 19 at the end of the year and younger than you; or under age 24 at the end of the year and a full-time student for at least five months of the year and younger than you.

•   Relationship: A qualifying child can be a son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, brother, sister, half brother, half sister, stepsister, stepbrother, grandchild, niece, or nephew.

•   Residency: The child lived with you in your home for more than half the year.

•   Joint return: The child is not filing a joint return with anyone, such as a spouse, to claim any tax credits like the EITC.

Recommended: Guide to Understanding Your Taxes

Can You Claim the EITC If You Have No Children?

It is possible to claim the EITC if you have no children, but the income threshold is very low and the credit is small.

For tax year 2023, the maximum credit is $600 for filers without children. The maximum adjusted gross income is $17,640 for taxpayers filing as single, head of household, or widowed and $24,210 for married couples filing jointly.

For tax year 2024, the maximum credit is $632. The income figures are in the table above.

Requirements include:

•   A valid Social Security number

•   Not filing Form 2555 (foreign earned income)

•   Main home is in the U.S. for more than half the year

•   Not claimed as a dependent or qualifying child on another tax return

•   You are at least 19 (or 24 if you were at least a part-time student for at least five months of the year, or at least 18 if you are a former foster child after turning 14 or a homeless youth)

There are also special qualifying rules for clergy, members of the military, and taxpayers and their relatives who receive disability payments.

Recommended: Do You Qualify for the Home Office Tax Deduction?

How the EITC Can Affect When You Receive Your Refund

Your tax refund may be delayed if you claim the EITC and file early in the year. The IRS is required to wait until mid-February to issue refunds when the EITC is claimed.

Expect a tax refund by March 1, assuming there were no issues with your tax return and you opted for direct deposit, the IRS says.

Common Errors to Avoid When Claiming the EITC

The IRS lists five snags to avoid when claiming the earned income credit.

1.    Your child doesn’t qualify: The IRS states that most errors occur because the child doesn’t meet the four requirements relating to relationship, residency, age, and filing status.

2.    More than one person claimed the child: Only one person can claim the qualifying child. If the child counts as a qualifying child for more than one person (such as separated or divorced parents), the IRS has some guidelines on how to choose which person can claim the qualifying child.

3.    Social Security number or last name doesn’t match card: The Social Security number and name must be exactly how they appear on the Social Security card.

4.    Married and filed as single or head of household: Taxpayers cannot claim the EITC if they are married and file as single or head of household.

5.    Over- or underreported income or expenses: Be sure to include all types of income from IRS Forms W-2, W-2G, 1099-MISC, 1099-NEC, and other income unless it’s one of the exceptions listed above.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

The EITC offers income tax relief for lower-income workers. If you think you might qualify, look at the EITC tax refund schedules, seek tax help if you need to, and file electronically for a speedier refund. While filing taxes isn’t most people’s idea of fun, an online money tracker can make keeping your financial house in order much easier.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

SoFi helps you stay on top of your finances.

FAQ

When should I expect my EITC refund?

According to the IRS, a refund with an EITC will arrive around March 1 if you filed electronically and elected for direct deposit, and there were no issues with your return. By law, the IRS cannot issue a tax refund with an EITC before mid-February.

Most taxpayers of all stripes who file electronically should get a refund within 21 days, according to the IRS.

Will there be an EITC in 2024?

Yes, there is an EITC for 2024. It rises to a maximum of $7,830 for the 2024 tax year.

Will tax refunds be bigger in 2023?

No, not in general. Many taxpayers could see significantly smaller refunds in 2023, the IRS says, thanks to the expiration of expanded tax credits that served as pandemic relief.


Photo credit: iStock/sinseeho

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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.

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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How to Lower Down Payment Requirements in 2024

If you think you need a down payment of 20% of a property’s price in order to start home shopping, think again. Most homebuyers put down a significantly smaller amount. Opting for a lower down payment has the benefit of getting you into a home sooner than if you scrimped and saved for years. And you might reap the benefit from market appreciation as soon as you own a property.

Prospective homeowners may explore such options as mortgages with lower down payments (some are even available with 0% down to qualified borrowers), as well as down payment assistance programs.

Learn more here, including:

•   What is a down payment?

•   How much money should you put down to buy a house?

•   How can you lower down payment requirements when buying a property?

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


What Is a Down Payment?

First, the basics: What exactly is a down payment? A down payment is the amount of money that goes paid, in cash, toward the purchase price of the home. It must cover the gap between the purchase price of the home and the amount of the mortgage.

A down payment determines what kind of loan you can get, whether or not you’ll pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), what your monthly payment will be and even what your interest rate will be. A down payment doesn’t include closing costs.


💡 Quick Tip: Don’t overpay for your mortgage. Get a competitive rate by shopping around for a home loan.

How Much Should You Put Down on a House?

You might be wondering how much is a down payment and how long it will take you to save that down payment amount for. Here are some options to consider when it comes to down payment amounts:

•   20% Down payment: Many people believe mortgage lenders say this is the amount they must come up with, though that is not true. Yes, a bigger down payment lowers your mortgage. Your monthly mortgage payment is lower because of your higher down payment, and you’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan. Also, when your down payment is above 20%, your lender does not require you to purchase PMI, which can save you hundreds of dollars each month.

But paying 20% can take a lot of cash out of your pocket when you buy your home. For example, 20% on a home that costs $400,000 is $80,000 dollars. There are many people who want to buy a property, but simply can’t come up with that amount of cash or at least not until they’ve saved for a considerable amount of time.

•   8% Down payment: This is the average down payment on a house for first-time homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors®. (For repeat homebuyers, the figure jumps to 19%.) Making this much of a down payment means you won’t avoid PMI in most cases, but you’ll be able to buy a home with a smaller down payment and without having to save as much money. For a house that costs $400,000, that’s $32,000 you need to come up with.

•   3% to 5% Down payment: With a down payment between 3% and 5%, you’ll have a higher monthly payment because your loan amount is higher than if you were able to make a larger down payment. You’ll also pay more each month because of the PMI payment. Lower down payments mean you’ll also pay more interest over the life of the loan.

However, the main benefit of a low-down-payment loan is you’re able to buy a home sooner than if you wait to save a full 20%. For a $400,000 home, a 3% down payment is $12,000 and a 5% down payment is $20,000. Some loans have the option of eliminating PMI once the loan’s remaining principal balance drops to or below 80% of the original mortgage.

•   0% Down payment: Zero down payment options come with higher monthly payments, and there may be certain restrictions or qualifications (say, a certificate of eligibility for military members). They may be niche programs specific to a group of people or locality. Some zero-down programs do not require PMI, but may have an upfront cost to fund their own mortgage insurance, like USDA loans (more on those in a minute).

Considerations to Determine Your Down Payment

The large amount of cash typically needed makes first time homebuyers wonder how they can afford a down payment and if it’s possible to figure out how to lower a down payment on a house. A couple of points to consider:

•   It is possible to get a lower mortgage payment by paying down principal on your home with a larger down payment. A 20% down payment on a house eliminates the need to pay PMI every month, which saves you even more on your monthly payment. In this way, a larger down payment can benefit your cash flow and overall financial situation.

•   However, 20% of the price of a home in your market may be hard to save for. You can learn how to buy a house with no money down, but there are also 3%, 3.5%, or 5% down payment options available. A lower down payment may be able to help you buy a home sooner. You can begin reaping the benefits of home ownership that much soon and hopefully your home’s value will rise, contributing to your personal wealth.

Recommended: First-Time Home Buyer Programs

How to Lower Down Payment Requirements?

If you’re moving towards purchasing a home, you might be wondering if you can lower your down payment before closing. Generally speaking, you have a handful of options for lowering your minimum down payment amount requirement as you take out a home mortgage loan and become a homeowner.

Buy a Home in an Area Approved for USDA Loans

USDA loans have 0% down payment requirements, so if you can find a home in an area approved by USDA (typically but not always in a rural location), you may be able to get a 0% down payment loan. For the USDA loan, there are property and income requirements which are determined by the county you live in (or want to live in).

Use a VA Loan to Buy a Home

Qualifying veterans, active duty, National Guard, and Reserve members of the military can use a VA loan, a mortgage that comes with zero-down-payment financing.


💡 Quick Tip: Apply for a VA loan and borrow up to $1.5 million with a fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgage. The flexibility extends to the down payment, too — qualified VA homebuyers don’t even need one!†^

Pay the Minimum Amount for a Down Payment

One solution is to look for a loan without potentially restrictive eligibility requirements, as with a USDA or VA loan, and instead shop around for a loan that has low down payment policies. Many lenders offer mortgages with as little as 3% down, which may work well for some homebuyers.

Find a Down Payment Assistance (DPA) Program

Down payment assistance programs vary from area to area as far as requirements and amounts go. If you really need down payment assistance, try to buy a home in an area that offers one of these options. DPAs are usually reserved for first-time homebuyers or low- to moderate-income buyers. They typically come in three forms:

•   Second mortgage. DPAs are often offered in the form of a second mortgage with low or zero interest rates. Some second mortgages may not need to be repaid after living in the home for a certain period of time, while others may only need to be repaid when the property is sold.

•   Grant. With a grant, the money you receive is not expected to be repaid. However, there may be requirements for living in the home as a primary residence for a certain number of years for the grant to be forgiven.

•   Tax credit. Tax credits can reduce the amount of federal tax you owe if the local housing finance agency (HFA) issues you a mortgage credit certificate. This certificate can free up money for down payment and closing costs.

Some examples of DPA programs across the U.S. include:

•   Kentucky: Borrowers can receive up to $10,000 repayable over a 10-year period at 3.75% interest via the Kentucky Housing Corporation.

•   California: CalHFA has down payment assistance loans of up to the lesser of 3.5% of the purchase price or appraised value to qualifying homebuyers.

•   New York City: The HomeFirst Down Payment Assistance Program offers up to $100,000 for first-time homebuyers who qualify.

•   Montana: Borrowers can qualify for up to $15,000 in assistance for a down payment from Montana Housing. Repayment is either due when the home is sold or in the form of a 15-year loan.

•   Chenoa Fund: The Chenoa Fund is a nationwide down payment assistance program for creditworthy individuals on FHA loans up to 5% of the down payment needed for low- to moderate-income households. Both repayable and forgivable options are available.

In some areas, DPA programs can be hard to find or difficult to qualify for. Your lender can be an excellent resource if you need help buying a home with a small down payment. Discuss options with a representative and see what is available.

Negotiate for Lender Credits

Lenders want your business, especially in a high-rate environment. You can ask for credits to be applied to your closing costs. When your closing costs are covered by the lender, you can put more of your money toward your down payment.

Ask for Seller Concessions

When you negotiate the purchase of property, you can ask for seller concessions. These typically determine home’s purchase price and which closing costs the seller is willing to pay. Like lender credits, you can put more of your own money towards the down payment when a seller can cover some of your closing costs.

Ask for a Gift from Family

Of course, not every prospective homebuyer is blessed with a relative who has money in the bank they might give you or lend to you with generous repayment terms. But if you are in a spot and unable to come up with the funds otherwise, you might see if anyone is able and willing to help you out.

The Takeaway

While they may come with higher monthly mortgage payments, lower down payment mortgages can help borrowers buy homes sooner. Lowering your down payment requires a good amount of research on the part of the borrower, exploring different loans, programs, and other options to help you afford a property.

Even then, you may not find a perfect solution. That’s why it can be important to choose a mortgage partner who’s willing to be with you every step of the way.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

FAQ

How much money to put down on a house in 2024?

Deciding on how much money to put down depends on your individual financial situation, the area in which you live, and programs you’re able to qualify for. While putting down 20% could save you the money you would pay towards PMI, you may be able to get into a house sooner by paying a lower down payment amount (from 0% to 3.5%). First-time homebuyers are currently putting down 8% on average.

How can I get my house down payment lowered?

To get your down payment lowered, you can try: financing with a zero-down loan (such as a USDA or VA loan), asking for seller concessions, negotiating for lender credits, and looking for down payment assistance programs.

Will mortgage interest rates go down 2024?

It is looking likely that mortgage interest rates will stabilize or decline. At the start of 2024, both the Mortgage Bankers Association and Fannie Mae were calling for rates to decline to the 6% to 6.5% range in the year ahead.

Does having a cosigner lower your down payment?

A cosigner can help you qualify for a mortgage, but it won’t change the requirements of the mortgage. Different loan programs will each have their own down payment requirements.


Photo credit: iStock/aydinmutlu

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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 Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


Veterans, Service members, and members of the National Guard or Reserve may be eligible for a loan guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans are subject to unique terms and conditions established by VA and SoFi. Ask your SoFi loan officer for details about eligibility, documentation, and other requirements. VA loans typically require a one-time funding fee except as may be exempted by VA guidelines. The fee may be financed or paid at closing. The amount of the fee depends on the type of loan, the total amount of the loan, and, depending on loan type, prior use of VA eligibility and down payment amount. The VA funding fee is typically non-refundable. SoFi is not affiliated with any government agency.
^SoFi VA ARM: At the end of 60 months (5y/1y ARM), the interest rate and monthly payment adjust. At adjustment, the new mortgage rate will be based on the one-year Constant Maturity Treasury (CMT) rate, plus a margin of 2.00% subject to annual and lifetime adjustment caps.
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.

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.

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.

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A Guide to Reverse Mortgage Pros and Cons

A Guide to Reverse Mortgage Pros and Cons

For those who are at or getting close to retirement age and are looking for ways to rev up their cash flow, a reverse mortgage may seem like a wise move. After all, the TV ads make them look like a simple solution to pump up the money in one’s checking account.

A reverse mortgage can be a way to translate your home equity into cash, but, you guessed it: There are downsides along with the benefits. Whether or not to take out a reverse mortgage requires careful thought and research.

Here, you’ll learn the pros and cons to these loans, so you can decide if it’s the right move for you and your financial situation.

Reverse Mortgages 101

There are many different types of mortgages out there. Here are the basics of how reverse mortgages work.

•   A reverse mortgage is a loan offered to people who are 62 or older and own their principal residence outright or have paid off a significant amount of their mortgage. You usually need to have at least 50% equity in your home, and typically can borrow up to 60% (or more, but not 100%) of the home’s appraised value.

•   The lender uses your home as collateral in order to offer you the loan, although you retain the title. The loan and interest do not have to be repaid until the last surviving borrower moves out permanently or dies. A nonborrowing spouse may be able to remain in the home after the borrower moves into a health care facility for more than 12 consecutive months or dies.

•   Here’s another aspect of how reverse mortgages work: Fees and interest on the loan mean that over time, the loan balance increases and home equity decreases.

•   You may see reverse mortgages referred to as HECMs, which stands for Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. This is a popular, federally insured option.



💡 Quick Tip: Buying a home shouldn’t be aggravating. SoFi’s online mortgage application is quick and simple, with dedicated Mortgage Loan Officers to guide you through the process.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.


Pros of Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage offers older Americans the opportunity to turn what may be their largest asset — their home — into spendable cash. There are a variety of ways in which this can be attractive.

Securing Retirement

Many seniors find themselves with a fair amount of their net worth rolled up in their home but without many income streams. A reverse mortgage is a relatively accessible way to cover living expenses in retirement.

Paying Off the Existing Home Loan

While you have to have some of your home loan paid down in order to qualify for a reverse mortgage, any remaining mortgage balance is paid off with reverse mortgage proceeds. This, in turn, can free up more cash for other expenses.

No Need to Move

Those who take out reverse mortgages are allowed to remain in their homes and keep the title to their home the entire time. For established seniors who aren’t eager to pick up and move somewhere new — or downsize — to lower expenses, this feature can be a major benefit.

No Tax Liability

While most forms of retirement funding, like money from a traditional 401(k) or IRA, are considered income by the IRS, and are thus taxable, money you receive from a reverse mortgage is considered a loan advance, which means it’s not.

Heirs Have Options

Heirs can sell the home, buy the home, or turn the home over to the lender. If they choose to keep the home, under HECM rules, they will have to either repay the full loan balance or 95% of the home’s appraised value, whichever is less.

Thanks to FHA backing, if the home ends up being worth less than the remaining balance, heirs are not required to pay back the difference, though they’d lose the house unless they chose to pay off the reverse mortgage or refinance the home.

Recommended: Guide to Cost of Living by State

Cons of Reverse Mortgages

As attractive as all of that may sound, reverse mortgages carry risks, some of which are pretty serious.

Heirs Could Inherit a Loss

While heirs may not be forced to pay the shortfall of an upside-down reverse mortgage, inheriting a home in that scenario could come as an unpleasant surprise. Keeping a home in the family is an accessible way to build generational wealth and ensure that heirs have a home base for the future. Therefore, the potential for them to lose — or have to refinance — the house can be painful.

Losing Your Home to Foreclosure

Unfortunately, losing your house with a reverse mortgage is a possibility. You’ll still be required to pay property taxes, any HOA fees, homeowners insurance, and for all repairs, along with your regular living expenses, and if you can’t, even with the reverse mortgage proceeds, the house can go into foreclosure.

Reverse Mortgages Are Complicated

As you probably realize this far into an article explaining the pros and cons of reverse mortgages, these loans aren’t exactly simple. Even if you understand the basics, there may be caveats or exceptions written into the documentation.

Before applying for an HECM, you must meet with a counselor from a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. The counselor is required to explain the loan’s costs and options to an HECM, such as nonprofit programs, or a single-purpose reverse mortgage (whose proceeds fund a single, lender-approved purpose) or proprietary reverse mortgages (private loans, whose proceeds can be used for any purpose).

Impacts on Other Retirement Benefits

Although your reverse mortgage “income” stream isn’t taxable, it may affect Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income benefits, because those are needs-based programs. (Proceeds do not affect Social Security or Medicare, which are non-means-tested programs.)

Costs of Reverse Mortgages

Like just about every other loan product out there, reverse mortgages come at a cost. You’ll pay:

•   A lender origination fee

•   Closing costs

•   An initial and annual mortgage insurance premium charged by your lender and paid to the FHA, guaranteeing that you will receive your expected loan advances.

These can be rolled into the loan, but doing so will lower the amount of money you’ll get in the reverse mortgage.

Reverse Mortgage Requirements

Not everyone is eligible to take out a reverse mortgage. While specific requirements vary by lender, generally speaking, you must meet the following:

•   You must be 62 or older

•   You must own your home outright (or have paid down a considerable amount of your primary mortgage)

•   You must stay current on property expenses such as property taxes and homeowners insurance

•   You must pass eligibility screening, including a credit check and other financial qualifications

Recommended: How Homeownership Can Help Build Generational Wealth

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right for You?

While everyone interested in a reverse mortgage needs to weigh the pros and cons for themselves, there are some instances when this type of loan might work well for you:

•   The value of your home has increased significantly over time. If you’ve built a lot of equity in your home, you probably have more wiggle room than others to take out a reverse mortgage and still have some equity left over for heirs.

•   You don’t plan to move. With the costs associated with initiating a reverse mortgage, it probably doesn’t make sense to take one out if you plan to leave your home in the next few years.

•   You’re able to comfortably afford the rest of your required living expenses. As discussed, if you fall delinquent on your homeowners insurance, flood insurance, HOA fees, or property taxes, you could lose your home to foreclosure under a reverse mortgage.

There are options to consider. They include a cash-out refinance, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, and downsizing to pocket some cash.

The Takeaway

A reverse mortgage may be a way to turn your home equity into spendable cash if you’re a qualified older American, but there are important risks to consider before taking one out. While reverse mortgages can free up funds, they are complicated, can involve fees, and can wind up putting your home into foreclosure if you can’t keep up with payments.

Reverse mortgages are just one of many different mortgage types out there — all of which can be useful under the right circumstances. SoFi doesn’t offer reverse mortgages at this time but has an array of home loan products that may meet your needs.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

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 Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


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.

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.

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