What Is the Minimum Age to Be an Authorized User on a Credit Card?

What Is the Minimum Age to Be an Authorized User on a Credit Card?

How old an authorized user has to be really depends on the credit card issuer. Some set the minimum age for an authorized user on a credit card at 13, while others require that an authorized user is 15 or even 16. Many issuers don’t specify a minimum age requirement at all.

In other words, it’s largely up to the adult’s discretion whether a minor seems old enough to become an authorized user. While it can serve as an educational tool and help build their credit, it also can lead to racking up debt and impacting both parties’ credit. You’ll want to make sure you know what you’re getting into in order to determine if it’s the right arrangement for you.

How Old Does an Authorized User Have to Be?

While the minimum age to get a credit card of your own is 18, an authorized user on a credit card can be as young as 13.

That being said, the minimum age for an authorized user on a credit card ultimately depends on the credit card company, as each issuer has its own age requirements. Some set the minimum age to 13 years old, while others may make authorized users wait to get a credit card at 16 or 15. Some credit card issuers don’t specify a minimum age for authorized users on credit cards.

Factors to Consider Before Adding a Minor as an Authorized User

Before you add a minor as a credit card authorized user, consider the following factors.

Whether You’ll Have to Pay a Fee

Depending on the card, you might have to pay an additional annual fee to add an authorized user. The fee might apply per authorized user, or it may cover, say, three users added to your account.

Check with your card card issuer to see if you might get hit with a fee for adding authorized users to your account.

If They’re Old Enough to Handle the Responsibility

Even if you can add an authorized user as young as 13 to your card, doing so might not be in your best interest — or theirs. For instance, a child in their early teens might not have a basic grasp of managing finances, or they might not be mature enough to handle the financial responsibility and abide by basic credit card rules.

If you’re adding your minor as an authorized user to help them establish credit, a few years is enough time for them to be on their way. Plus, should you slip on your credit, it could also impact your child’s credit.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

How You’ll Track the User’s Purchases

Most credit cards don’t issue unique card numbers to each authorized user. That means if you have multiple authorized users on an account, you won’t be able to easily figure out who made which purchases. Before you go ahead with adding an authorized user, make sure you have a system worked out so you’re not stuck covering their spending.

Whether You’ll Give Access to the Card

While you can give an authorized user their own card, you don’t have to, especially if you’re worried about how they’ll spend with it. If you’re strictly adding a child to your card to help them build credit, there’s no need to hand them a card. They don’t need to have access to your credit card number, either.

Steps to Add a Minor as an Authorized User

First and foremost, you’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of adding someone under the age of 18 as an authorized user. If you have decided that you want to proceed, you’ll need to do the following.

1. Educate the Child About Credit Card Basics

Before adding a minor as an authorized user and giving them the privilege to spend on your card, sit them down and walk them through how credit cards work. For instance, you’ll want to explain what a credit limit is, how interest rates work, what one’s financial responsibility is when putting purchases on a card, and why it’s beneficial to build credit.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

2. Reach Out to the Credit Card Company

Next, you’ll need to contact the credit card company to let them know you’d like to add an authorized user to your card. You can do so by calling the number on the back of the card, or by logging onto your account online.

You usually need to provide the following information about the individual you’re adding as an authorized user:

•   Name

•   Date of birth

•   Social Security number

•   Address (for them to receive the card)

•   Additionally, you may be able to set spending limits or restrictions for the authorized user at this point in the process.

3. Check Your Account

To make sure the authorized user was correctly added, log on to your account on the issuer’s website or through the app. Double-check to make sure the minor’s name and details are all correct. You might also receive an email notification informing you of this change.

The Cost of Adding an Authorized User

Many credit card issuers do not charge a fee to add an authorized user to an account. However, premium credit cards or cards that already charge annual fees, may charge an annual fee for adding authorized users. This fee may apply per authorized user, or you may pay a flat cost for up to a certain number of users.

Beyond this potential fee, there are other costs you could incur by adding an authorized user. For instance, additional purchases made by the authorized user could cause you to rack up a balance. Plus, their activity can impact your credit utilization, which could hurt your credit score.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card?

Pros and Cons of Adding a Minor as an Authorized User

Here’s an overview of the advantages and downsides of adding a minor as an authorized user to your credit card:

Pros

Cons

Helps to build credit May cause you to rack up debt
Allows you to earn more rewards Can’t easily track who’s making purchases
Serves as an educational tool Can impact credit of both primary cardholder and authorized user

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

Pros

Adding an authorized user can have the following benefits:

•   Helps to build credit: A major upside of adding a minor as an authorized user is that it will help them establish credit at a young age. They’ll have a more firm financial footing as a result.

•   Allows you to earn more rewards: Another person making purchases on your card means there’s greater potential to earn more rewards. You can more quickly than if you would if you were the sole user.

•   Serves as an educational tool: If you take the time to teach them, adding a minor as an authorized user to your card can help your child learn credit basics and how to manage credit card debt.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card?

Cons

Beware of the potential downsides of having an authorized as well:

•   May cause you to rack up debt: It can be easy to rack up debt and overspend on the credit card with an authorized user. This is especially possible if you’re giving a child access to your card who is still wrapping their head around financial basics.

•   Can’t easily track who is making the purchases: Because purchases aren’t tracked by the authorized user, it might be tough to figure out which person was responsible for which transaction with your card. This is particularly tricky when you have, say, a joint account user and several authorized users.

•   Can impact credit of both primary cardholder and authorized user: If having several users on your card equates to carrying a higher balance, that can up your credit utilization ratio. As credit usage makes up 30% of your credit score, you’ll want to keep that ratio under 30%. Beyond potentially hurting your credit, also know that any irresponsible credit behavior on your card can hurt your authorized user’s credit. For instance, if you are late on a credit card payment, both your credit and the credit of the minor you added to your card can suffer.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

Tips for Managing a Minor as an Authorized User

If those possible downsides are making you nervous, here are a few things you can do to ensure your minor uses their privileges responsibly:

•   Set limits. Talk to your child and give them an amount they can spend on the card each billing cycle. Also, determine if they’ll be responsible for helping you pay off their share. Or perhaps you might consider an alternative arrangement, such as doing chores around the house to cover purchases they made on their credit card. Hash this out beforehand.

•   Treat the card as a teaching tool. Sit down with your child and go over basics of a credit card, such as how interest fees work, how to read a billing statement, and what can happen if you’re late or miss a payment. You’ll also want to teach them how repayment works.

•   Set alerts. To keep an eye on your child’s spending, consider setting alerts on your credit card. You can set it up so you get notifications for transactions over a certain amount, or any transactions made online, in person, or over the phone.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Removing a Minor as an Authorized User

Removing a minor as an authorized user from a credit card is a relatively simple and painless process. To do so, you call the number on the back of the card and let them know the name of the person you’d like taken off. If you have several authorized users on a card, be sure to specify which card user you’re removing.

It’s not a bad idea to leave a paper trail and send a letter to the credit card company reiterating that you’ve requested the change over the phone.

The Takeaway

The minimum age for an authorized user on a credit card varies depending on the credit card issuer. Some require an authorized user to be 13, while others set the age limit at 15 or 16, or even have no formal limit at all.

While you can add a minor as an authorized user on a credit card, you’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons before doing so. If you decide to add a child as a user, set some ground rules and teach them credit and financial basics beforehand.

Looking for your next credit card? If you get the SoFi Credit Card, you can earn generous cash-back rewards on all purchases.

FAQ

Do some issuers allow authorized users with no minimum age?

Usually the minimum age requirement to add an authorized user to a credit card is at least 13. However, there are several credit card issuers that don’t note a specific minimum age.

How many authorized users can I add to my account?

It depends on the credit card issuer. Some allow up to four, while others allow up to seven. Some credit card issuers have no limit as to how many authorized users you can add to a credit card. The number of authorized users might also depend on what type of card it is, such as a rewards or travel credit card.

Is an authorized user relationship or a joint account holder better?

It depends on what kind of privileges you want the additional card user to have and the reason you’d like to add them. If you want to help boost someone’s credit and not have them responsible for making payments, then an authorized user could be the better route. If you’d like the user to be equally responsible for making payments and have access to make changes on the account, a joint account holder might make sense.


Photo credit: iStock/Manuel Tauber-Romieri



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.

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 .


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Conventional Loan Requirements

Conventional loans — mortgages that are not insured by the federal government — are the most popular type of mortgage and offer affordability to homebuyers.

Private mortgage lenders originate and fund conventional loans, which are then often bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, publicly traded companies that are run under a congressional charter.

By buying and selling conventional conforming mortgages, Fannie and Freddie help to ensure a reliable flow of mortgage funding.

Requirements for Conventional Loans

It can be confusing to know how to qualify for a mortgage.

Just realize, for one thing, that a higher credit score is usually required for a conventional loan than an FHA loan, popular among first-time buyers.

Here are factors a lender will consider when sizing you up for a conventional loan.

Your Credit Score

You’ll usually need a FICO® credit score of at least 620 for a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

The FICO score range of 300 to 850 is carved into these categories:

•   Exceptional: 800 to 850

•   Very Good: 740 to 799

•   Good: 670 to 739

•   Fair: 580 to 669

•   Poor: 300 to 579

In general, the higher your credit score, the better the interest rates you’re offered.

Down Payment

Putting 20% down is desirable because it means you can avoid paying PMI, or private mortgage insurance, which covers the lender in case of loan default.

But many buyers don’t put 20% down. The median down payment on a home is 13%, according to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors®.

Conventional loans require as little as 3% down, and the down payment can be funded by a gift from a close relative; a spouse, fiancé or domestic partner; a buyer’s employer or church; or a nonprofit or public agency. The gift may require a gift letter for the mortgage.

Just keep in mind that the smaller the down payment, the higher your monthly payments are likely to be, and PMI may come along for the ride until you reach 20% equity.

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


Debt-to-Income Ratio

Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) helps a lender understand your ongoing monthly debt obligations relative to your gross monthly income.

To calculate back-end DTI:

1.    Add up your monthly bills (but do not include groceries, utilities, cellphone bill, car insurance, and health insurance).

2.    Divide the total by your pretax monthly income.

3.    Multiply by 100 to convert the number to a percentage.

In general, lenders like to see a DTI ratio of 36% but will accept 43%.

The Fannie Mae HomeReady® loan, for lower-income borrowers, may allow a DTI ratio of up to 50%.

In any case, the lower your DTI ratio, the more likely you are to qualify for a mortgage and possibly better terms.

Loan-to-Value Ratio

The loan-to-value ratio (LTV) is the amount of the mortgage you are applying for compared with the home value. The higher the down payment, the lower the LTV ratio.

Fannie Mae typically sets LTV limits at 97% for a fixed-rate mortgage for a principal residence (think: 3% down) and 85% for a fixed or adjustable loan for a one-unit investment property.

When LTV exceeds 80% on a conforming loan, PMI will likely apply, although some borrowers employ a piggyback loan to avoid mortgage insurance.

Conventional Conforming Loan Limits

Many loans are both conventional and conforming — meaning they meet the guidelines of secondary mortgage market powerhouses Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy such mortgages and often package them into securities for investors.

Conventional conforming loans fall below limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) every year.
Staying under a conforming loan limit often equates to a lower-cost mortgage because the loan can be acquired by Fannie and Freddie.

The conforming loan limits for 2022 in many counties in the contiguous states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico rose with market prices:

•   One unit: $647,200

•   Two units: $828,700

•   Three units: $1,001,650

•   Four units: $1,244,850

In high-cost areas like Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the 2022 conforming loan limits were:

•   One unit: $970,800

•   Two units: $1,243,050

•   Three units: $1,502,475

•   Four units: $1,867,275

Nonconforming Loans

Word games, anyone? Nonconforming loans are simply mortgages that do not meet Fannie and Freddie standards for purchase. They usually take the form of jumbo loans and government-backed loans.

A homebuyer or refinancer who needs a mortgage beyond the FHFA limits can seek a jumbo mortgage loan. A jumbo loan is still a conventional loan if it’s not backed by a government agency; it’s just considered a “nonconforming” loan.

FHA, VA, and USDA mortgages — those backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — are also nonconforming loans.

Nonconforming mortgage rates may be higher because the loans carry greater risk for lenders, but at times the rates might skew lower than conventional conforming rates.

The Takeaway

Conventional loan requirements are good to know when you’re looking at the most popular type of mortgage around. Then again, a jumbo loan may sound pretty good.

SoFi offers both, each with special features. Check out the advantages of SoFi mortgage loans. And then, within minutes…


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


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.


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

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, 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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Credit Cards Are for Spending, Not Saving, Right? Not Necessarily.

Credit Cards Are for Spending, Not Saving, Right? Not Necessarily.

Whether you’re new to saving for retirement or an old pro, you can use your credit card for funding your IRA or other retirement accounts.

How exactly does this work?

5 Steps for Using a Credit Card To Save for Retirement

Step 1: Learning About IRAs & Other Retirement Funds

If you don’t already have a retirement account, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types that are available. You may want to consider opening an IRA, stocks, or a mutual fund — a package of stocks and bonds that includes many different companies — to help offset risk.

💡 Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Retirement Plans

Step 2: Finding the Right Credit Card

Once you’ve figured out how and where you want to invest, you can begin your search to find the right credit card; specifically, a cash-back credit card. These cards offer a percentage back (most offer about 2%) for every dollar you spend. But instead of putting that money directly into your regular bank account or using “points” (which usually don’t have as much value) to shop or get discounts, you can flip that money into your shiny new retirement fund, where it will earn compound interest.

💡 Recommended: How to Choose a Credit Card That Fits You

Step 3: Putting Your Cash-back Rewards To Work

As with any credit card, it’s important to keep your spending in check so that you can pay it off every month. After all, paying interest pretty much negates the whole cash-back thing. But it can be a good idea to put big purchases on your card (as long as you can pay it off that month).

So if you need a new computer for work, you can buy it with your credit card. Bonus: Your card may offer insurance on such a purchase. So it’s a good idea to read the fine print and find out.

Same goes for paying rent with your credit card, as long as your landlord doesn’t charge a fee for credit card payments. Your monthly bills too. The average American pays about $8,600 a year in bills (not including rent or mortgage). If you have to pay for these services anyway, why not earn a few hundred dollars a year by paying them with your credit card?

Again, in order to really benefit from these cash-back rewards, it’s important to pay off your credit card bill every month. Paying interest will just eat into your rewards.

💡 Recommended: Guide to Cash-Back Rewards

Step 4: Mixing & Matching Your Cash-back Cards

Some cards give you a flat cash-back rate. Others offer tiered rewards for specific purchases like groceries, gas, or dining out. If you want to get the most cash-back rewards possible, it’s a smart idea to look at your spending. Figure out what areas you spend the most on each month, and choose a card (or multiple cards) that offer the best rewards for those categories.

Step 5: Automating Your Payments & Investments

To make sure you don’t give in to temptation, you may want to consider automating the cash-back payments to your retirement fund. While you’re at it, you can automate your monthly bill payments so you don’t have to lift a finger to earn those cash-back rewards. You can do the same with your monthly credit card payment to ensure you always pay it on time.

💡 Recommended: Guide to Investing With Credit Card Rewards

The Takeaway

The keys to saving successfully for retirement are to start early, pay off debt quickly, and be consistent with investments. That’s especially true if you want to retire early. And while credit cards can be dangerous when used carelessly, they can obviously offer a great advantage for people who can pay off their credit card bills every month.

If you want to get started on saving for your retirement with a credit card, you can check out SoFi’s very own credit card, which offers 2% cash-back rewards points. Pair it with a SoFi IRA, and you’re in business.

FAQ

How do credit cards help save money?

Credit card companies are essentially providing you with free loans, but only if these two things are true: First, you pay off your bills in full every month to avoid accruing interest. And second, you’re paying no annual fee. In that case, you can say that credit cards are saving you money.

Can I fund my IRA with a credit card?

Yes, you can actually fund your IRA with a credit card. The way it works: Investment companies like Schwab, Fidelity, and Morgan Stanley partner with credit cards offering cash back. The cash back you earn on those cards can be directly deposited into your IRA with that company. You’d have to spend $300,000 to earn $6,000 in cash back — the 2022 IRA limit for people under 50 — but it’s possible.

How do I contribute to an IRA?

The first step is to open an IRA account, either through your employer, a bank, traditional investment company, or online financial institution. Then make one or more deposits up to the annual limit. Deposits can come directly from your paycheck, an online transfer, or even a cash-back credit card.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio




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INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

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.

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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Why Are Student Loan Interest Rates So High?

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

Student loan interest rates are rising. Over the past two years, rates have jumped by 2.24 percentage points. That’s an increase of 81.5% for undergraduate loans, and 52% for graduate loans. Why are student loan interest rates so high? Some of it comes down to perception: Interest rates are up after a decade of historical lows. But other factors also come into play.

We’ll take a closer look at how student loan interest rates are set, why interest rates are going up, and the different options available for managing high-interest student loans.

How Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Are Determined

The short answer is that Congress sets federal student loan interest rates, while private loan rates depend on the borrower’s (and student loan cosigner’s) credit rating. But that’s not the whole story.

The federal government adjusts federal student loan rates every year based on 10-year Treasury notes, plus a fixed increase. Rates are also capped, so they can’t rise above a certain limit. Here are the formulas:

•  Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Undergraduates:

   10-year Treasury + 2.05%, capped at 8.25%

•  Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Graduates:

   10-year Treasury + 3.60%, capped at 9.50%

•  PLUS Loans to Graduate Students and Parents:

   10-year Treasury + 4.60% Capped 10.50%

Federal student loan interest rates are fixed over the life of the loan. That means, if you get a federal student loan for your freshman year, the rate it was issued with won’t change despite Congress setting a new rate every year. If you need to take out another federal student loan for your sophomore year, you’ll then get the new rate, not the previous one.

Private student loan lenders set rates according to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) or the prime rate. These benchmarks are a reflection of larger economic forces and market prices.

Another factor is that student loans are unsecured. Unsecured loans are not tied to an asset that can serve as collateral. Secured loans, by comparison, are backed by something of value, such as a car or house, which can be seized if you default. But lenders can’t seize a degree. So student loan interest rates are typically higher than secured loan rates because the lender’s risk is higher.

Take control of your student loans.
Ditch student loan debt for good.


Historical Student Loan Interest Rates

Federal student loans interest rates for the 2022-2023 academic year range from 4.99% for undergrad loans to 6.54% for graduate loans. Compare that to 2020-2021, when rates were 2.75% and 4.30%. (Of course, for more than two years, the national payment pause on federal student loans has gifted loan holders a 0% interest rate.) The post-pandemic jump prompted students and parents to wonder why student loan interest rates are so high.

The truth is that rock-bottom rates seen during the pandemic were an anomaly. Historically, student loan interest rates have been closer to current levels than to the previous lows. From the 1960s through 1992, Congress set fixed interest rates for student loans that ranged from 6% to 10%. In the 2000s rates became variable for a while and hovered around 6% or 7%, until becoming fixed again in 2006. Then the recession hit.

The 2009 recession caused interest rates to fall across the board, with student loan interest rates lingering at 3-4% for undergraduate loans and close to 5% for graduate loans. They dipped further during the pandemic. Which brings us to today: A healthier economy means higher interest rates in general, which is good for savings accounts but tough on student loans.

Recommended: Student Loan Refinancing Guide

How To Manage High Interest Rate Student Loans

Whether you’re still in school, just graduated, or considering continuing your post-grad education, you have options that may save you money. But you have to be proactive.

Here are some potential action items depending on where you are in your education:

If You’re Still in College or Grad School

Borrowers with Direct Unsubsidized loans are responsible for the interest that accrues while they’re in school and immediately after. They don’t have to make payments while enrolled, but not making payments means interest will “capitalize” — that is, it will be added to the principal. In other words, you’ll be paying interest on the interest!

To save yourself money on interest, consider making interest-only payments during school until your full repayment period begins after graduation. It will take a small bite out of your budget now, but it can save you money in the long run.

If you have Direct Subsidized loans, no interest will accrue until your grace period ends. No matter what type of student loans you have, you might be interested in our Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money.

If You Graduated

Student loan forbearance ends December 31, 2022. That means borrowers will have to make monthly payments again come January, and the principal will start to accrue interest. If you’re worried about how federal student loan payments will impact your budget, you may want to change your repayment plan.

Borrowers are automatically placed on the Standard Repayment Plan, unless they select another option. The standard repayment plan spreads repayment over 10 years. Other options extend the repayment term, which can make payments more manageable in the present, but that means you may pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Income-driven repayment plans can lower your bill to 10%, 15%, or 20% of your discretionary income, based on your salary and family size. Repayment periods are for 10, 12, or 15 years.

But what if you don’t qualify for income-driven plans, and you don’t want to shell out more in interest? You might consider refinancing. Refinancing your student loans is one way to potentially lower your interest rate or your monthly payments. By using our student loan refinance calculator, you can check the interest rate and repayment terms you qualify for — and find out if refinancing makes sense for your situation.

If You’re Considering Grad School

It can be daunting to consider grad school while staring down undergraduate student loans. The good news is that federal student loan payments are deferred while you’re in grad school at least half time. However, keep in mind that interest continues to accrue during a student loan deferment. If you can afford to make payments, even interest-only payments, you’ll save yourself money down the line.

When it comes time to take out loans for grad school, make sure to consider private student loans as well as federal loans. For undergrads, federal student loan interest rates tend to be lower than private rates. But that’s no so for graduate students: PLUS loans have the highest interest rates and origination fees of any federal student loans.

Also, there are no borrowing limits with private student loans, as there are with federal student loans. So if you’ve exhausted your federal loan limits and you have the credit score to secure a low interest rate, private student loans may be the right choice.

Refinancing Student Loans

As mentioned above, refinancing is one way to deal with high-interest student loan debt if you don’t qualify for federal protections. You can potentially lower your interest rate or your monthly payments. And managing your student loans responsibly is a great way to establish credit and boost your credit score.

Wondering if you should refinance your student loans? You could be a strong candidate if:

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

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

Federal Student Loan Forgiveness

Another important factor to weigh is how likely you are to benefit from the current federal student loan forgiveness plan. Under Biden’s plan, federal student loan borrowers earning up to $125,000 (as individuals) or $250,000 for those filing jointly may qualify for up to $10,000 in forgiveness. Pell Grant recipients may qualify for up to $20,000 in forgiveness.

If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 unrefinanced ($20,000 for Pell Grant recipients) to receive your federal benefit.

Interest Rates for Federal Student Loans vs Private Student Loans

As mentioned above, federal student loans have their interest rate set by Congress annually, based on the 10-year Treasury note. With private student loans, lenders can determine their own rates. And since 2006, federal student loans are offered at fixed interest rates, whereas private refinancing can be offered at either a fixed or variable interest rate.

Unlike the single rate set annually for federal student loans, students can shop around for interest rates with private student loan providers. Rates will vary at each lender based on their underwriting criteria, market conditions, and the borrower’s financial profile.

Recommended: Refinancing Without a Cosigner

Do Private Student Loans Have Lower Interest Rates Than Federal Loans?

Federal student loans generally have lower interest rates than private student loans.

The exception is federal PLUS loans for grad students, which have the highest interest rates. Private student loans may have lower rates than PLUS loans for qualified applicants.

The Takeaway

Federal student loans generally have lower interest rates than private student loans. The exception is PLUS loans, which have the highest interest rates and may have origination fees. Graduate students and their parents who have excellent credit may find a lower rate among private student loan lenders.

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

If you’re struggling with high interest rates, consider refinancing your student loans with SoFi. SoFi is a leader in the student loan space, offering both private student loans to help pay your way through school, and refinancing options to help you save on the loans you already have. Check out your interest rate in just a few minutes — with no strings attached. And there are never any fees, including origination fees.

SoFi was named a 2022 Best Company for Student Loan Refinance by U.S. News & World Report.


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For the 2024-2025 school year, the federal student loan interest rate is 6.53% for undergraduates, 8.08% for graduate and professional students, and 9.08% for parents. The interest rates, which are fixed for the life of the loan, are set annually by Congress.


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.


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.

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 .

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 Marriage Can Affect Your Student Loan Payments

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

Your marriage status can affect your financial life in unexpected ways, and student loans are no exception. If you have an income-driven repayment plan, your spouse’s income might change your monthly payment calculation. But such challenges also present opportunities. For instance, you may be able to rejigger your student loan payments to save money on interest, lower your monthly payment, or shorten your repayment term so you can become debt-free faster.

Here we’ll show you how getting married affects student loans. Learn strategies for restructuring your debts, and tips for saving money that you can put toward other goals.

Marriage and Student Loan Repayments

Your marital status can affect everything from loan payments to tax breaks. Understanding how marriage impacts student loans (yours or your partner’s) can help you craft a new repayment plan and get ahead of your other financial goals. That way, you can focus on more urgent matters, like who’s making dinner tonight.

How Marriage and Student Loans Can Affect Your Taxes

If you paid student loan interest in the previous tax year, you may qualify for a student loan deduction. But your eligibility can change depending on if you are filing jointly or separately.

According to the IRS, as of the 2021 tax year, a single person (or head of household) with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) under $85,000 may be able to deduct up to $2,500 of qualified student loan interest paid in a given year. (Eligible MAGI for married filing jointly for this deduction is under $170,000.)

However, if you’re married but filing separately, that student loan interest deduction goes away. You can only take advantage if you file jointly. (See below for other deductions you may not qualify for if filing separately.)

Helping Each Other with Repayments

If you want to help your spouse with their student loan repayment, whether they have private or federal loans, you can. When one spouse takes out a loan before the marriage, typically that loan still belongs to the original borrower. However, you can choose to put both your names on the loan, and be equally responsible for the debt, by refinancing together.

Refinancing student loans gets you a brand-new loan in both your names. At the same time, you may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate or better terms. However, you will forfeit your federal student loan benefits if you refinance federal loans with a private lender.

Marriage Could Complicate Your Income-Driven Repayment Plan

When you’re married and filing separately (vs. jointly), student loan servicers count only your individual income. But if you file jointly and you or your spouse is enrolled in the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan — one of four income-driven repayment plans — you could see your monthly payments increase. When filing your taxes jointly, your combined AGI replaces your individual income in REPAYE’s calculations.

For the three other income-driven repayment plans — Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — you can potentially avoid higher payments by filing separately. However, when you do this you lose the ability to use the student loan interest deduction.

Filing separately also means you’ll no longer be able to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Credit, and Lifetime Learning Credit. There is no one blanket answer for every married couple. Given the complexity of tax law, you’ll want to consult a tax professional to determine which option is best for you both.

Tips for Tackling Student Loan Debt Together

So what’s the best strategy for paying down student loans without letting them come between you and your spouse? Here are five tips to a debt-free happily ever after.

Tip #1: Create Your Big Financial Picture

Preparing to take on a big financial goal usually requires some conversation and preparation upfront. Before making any decisions, sit down and talk about your short- and long-term financial objectives, and make sure you’re both on the same page (or as close to it as possible). This can be an overwhelming topic, so see if you can break it down into chunks.

Have you established a household budget? How do student loans — and paying them off — fit into your long-term and short-term goals? Should you start aggressively paying off debt, or might it be better for you to ramp up over time? What other factors (e.g., buying a home, changing careers, having children) might influence your decisions?

Not only can this exercise give you more clarity to create an action plan, it can also be kind of fun. After all, planning a life together is part of the reason you got married in the first place. The key is to listen to each other.

Tip #2: Take Advantage of Technology

Once you’re clear on the big picture, it’s time to get into the weeds. Many people have more than one student loan, often with multiple lenders, so a good place to start is to gather all of your loan information together. You can use an online student loan management tool (try https://studentaid.gov/loan-simulator/) to compare repayment options and analyze prepayment strategies.

After crunching the numbers, your debt payoff strategy may include putting extra money toward your loans each month, which means creating and sticking to a budget that supports that goal.

Using a debt payoff planner can help you keep track of your debt payments, maintain spending within a budget, and show how close you are to paying off your debt in full. Tracking your spending may not feel good at first, but over time, this kind of discipline can help you see where your money goes and make conscious choices about your spending. Once you have your budget in place, these apps can be set up to alert you both when spending is getting off track.

Tip #3: Define the Who, What, When

Whether your finances are separate or combined, you’ll probably want to come to an agreement on how to collectively pay all of your financial obligations. Many couples address this based on each person’s share of the total household income.

For example, if one person contributes 40% of the household income, and the other 60%, the former might pay 40% of the shared bills and the latter 60%. Others find it simpler and more cohesive to have one household checking account and pay all bills from there. Or you can combine the two tactics, and have each spouse contribute a prorated amount to the joint bank account.

However you decide to split things up, consider setting up automatic payments for all household bills, because missed student loan payments can potentially impact both spouses’ credit. And a weak credit rating can make your future financial objectives tougher to achieve.

Tip #4: Look For Opportunities to Optimize

So now you’ve established a plan and a budget, and you know who’s on point for each bill. You’re on the path to getting student loan debt off your plate. Is there anything else you can do to speed up the process?

Short of winning the lottery, the most common ways to accelerate student loan payoff are prepayment (meaning, paying more than the minimum) or lowering the interest rate, the latter of which is most commonly accomplished through refinancing.

If you qualify to refinance your student loans, you’ll have to decide on your primary goal:

•   Lower your monthly payment by choosing a longer term. This frees up money in your budget, but you’ll potentially pay more in interest over the long term.

•   Lower your interest rate. This saves you money in interest over the long term. (It can also lower your monthly payment, but don’t count on it.)

•   Shorten the repayment period. This can save you money on interest over the life of the loan, and get you debt-free faster.

Tip #5: Be on the Same Team

Living with debt is stressful for any couple. But being in a committed relationship has its advantages. There’s a reason that weight loss experts often recommend finding a “buddy” to help cheer you on and keep you honest on your diet and exercise journey. The same applies to achieving a big financial goal like paying off student loan debt.

Keep it positive and the lines of communication open, and you may find that the journey to being debt-free makes your marriage stronger.

Refinancing Student Loans Separately vs. Jointly

If you and your new spouse decide you want to do more things with your money — have a child, buy a home, or invest more in retirement savings — it may be time to refinance student loans. Once again, you’ll need to run some numbers and decide whether to refinance your student loans together or separately.

When you apply to refinance your student loans, lenders typically evaluate your credit score and financial fitness. This determines your new interest rate and loan terms. The goal is for the new loan to be a better deal than your existing loans.

With a lower interest rate, you can reduce the amount of money you spend over the life of the loan. And with only one monthly student loan payment to worry about, your finances can be easier to manage.

But are you better off going it alone or together?

Refinancing Student Loans Separately

When you’re married, refinancing your student loans separately has pros and cons.

Advantages of refinancing separately Disadvantages of refinancing separately
You’re not responsible for anyone’s debts but your own. Financial responsibility may not be equitably distributed.
You can choose the loan you want, without compromise. If you hit a financial rough spot, you alone are on the hook for payments.
Your own credit score and history determine your interest rate and loan terms. If your credit score is weak, you’ll pay a higher interest rate.

Even if you’re married, refinancing student loans separately may be right for you if any of the following statements are true:

•   Your credit score and history are much stronger than your spouse’s, and you want to qualify for the lowest interest rate possible.

•   You and your spouse have different goals for refinancing — for instance, a lower monthly payment vs. saving money in interest.

•   Your spouse hopes to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

•   Your spouse is enrolled in an income-based repayment plan or is taking advantage of other federal repayment protections.

•   One of you has a much higher student loan balance, while the other has almost paid off their loans.

Refinancing Student Loans Jointly

On the other hand, there are compelling arguments for being married and refinancing student loans jointly.

Advantages of refinancing jointly Disadvantages of refinancing jointly
One of you is a stay-at-home parent who can’t qualify for refinancing alone. It can be difficult to get out of spousal consolidation if your relationship sours.
You want to simplify your student loans into one single payment. If your spouse dies before the loans are paid off, you’ll have to shoulder the burden alone (federal student loans are forgiven upon death only if held separately).
It’s possible you’ll both benefit from a lower interest rate than you’ll qualify for separately. There are few lenders who allow spousal consolidation of student loans.

Refinancing student loans jointly may be right for you given one of these scenarios:

•   Your credit score and history are much weaker than your spouse’s, and you can’t afford the interest rate and loan terms you qualify for alone.

•   You’re a stay-at-home parent with no earned income, making it difficult to qualify separately.

•   It’s important to both of you to be on the same team financially.

Refinance Student Loans With SoFi

For some couples, a lower interest rate can mean more flexibility and a more manageable repayment plan. After all, the average graduate holds 8-12 student loans. That gives married couples 16-24 different loan payments to make each month. Refinancing together can transform a student loan mess into a single, affordable payment.

To see how refinancing might impact your student loans and your partner’s, take a look at SoFi’s student loan refinance calculator. With SoFi, there are no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.

Thinking about refinancing your student loans? Save thousands of dollars thanks to flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.

FAQ

Does getting married affect student loan payments for you and your spouse?

If you or your spouse is enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, you may see your payments increase after marriage. You can potentially avoid higher payments by filing your taxes separately. However, you’ll forfeit the ability to use the student loan interest deduction.

Is my spouse responsible for my student loans?

Loans taken out before the marriage still belong to the original borrower. Your spouse is not responsible for them unless they cosigned the loans with you. You can choose to put both your names on your loans, and be equally responsible for the debt, by refinancing together.

Does marriage affect financial aid?

Marriage typically has a positive effect on qualifying for financial aid. If you are under 24 and married, your parents’ income will no longer be considered in financial aid calculations, but your spouse’s will — this usually means your household income drops. However, if your spouse has significant income or assets, that can negatively affect your eligibility for financial aid.


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 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.


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.

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