What Is A Personal Line of Credit & How Do You Get One?

What Is a Personal Line of Credit & How Do You Get One?

A personal line of credit is a type of revolving credit line that can be used to pay for a variety of personal expenses. It works in a similar way to a credit card — a lender approves you for a specific credit limit, and you draw only what you need and pay interest only on the amount you use. This is different from a personal loan, which is a type of installment loan. With an installment loan, you receive a lump sum of money up front that must be repaid at specified intervals.

While both options allow you to borrow money, each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. Continue reading for more information on personal lines of credit and when this type of financing may make the most financial sense.

What Is a Personal Line of Credit?

A personal line of credit is what’s known as a revolving credit vehicle. It’s similar to a credit card in that:

•  It has a maximum credit limit.

•  A minimum payment is required every month.

•  When the debt on the credit line is repaid, money can be withdrawn again.

Although a personal line of credit doesn’t include a physical card, you can generally write checks, withdraw cash at an ATM, and transfer money into another account using the line. Generally speaking, the interest rates on a personal line of credit are lower than those on a credit card.

Personal lines of credit may be secured (requiring collateral) or unsecured (not requiring collateral). Whether secured or unsecured, some lines of credit require minimum payments of interest and principal, while others only require interest payments for a period of time, known as the draw period. That means that for a set period, you can draw money from your line of credit and only need to make interest payments during that time. After the draw period is over, the line of credit is no longer revolving (meaning, you can’t borrow against it anymore), and you’re typically required to make interest and principal payments.

Unlike personal loans, which tend to have fixed interest rates, a personal line of credit may have a variable rate during its draw period, then switch to a fixed rate once that period ends.

Where to Get a Personal Line of Credit

Personal lines of credit can be found at some banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions. However, not every lender offers them.

How to Get a Personal Line of Credit

The process for applying for a personal line of credit is usually similar to applying for other loans or credit cards. Lenders may accept applications online, in-person, or over the phone, and specific application requirements may vary by lender.

Before formally applying, it’s a good idea to review your credit score and shop around at different lenders to compare the rates and terms you may qualify for. Many lenders will allow you to see if you prequalify, which may require a soft credit check, which won’t impact your credit score. Also be sure to evaluate any fees associated with the line of credit and review the draw period and repayment periods.

Once you’ve determined which loan you’d like to apply for, you’ll need to gather the required documentation (such as statements for proof of income). Your chosen lender will generally have a list of required documents. From there, you’ll fill out the application and wait for approval. At this stage, the lender will usually complete a hard credit inquiry which may temporarily impact your credit score.

When to Use a Personal Line of Credit

Personal lines of credit typically offer greater flexibility when it comes to accessing the loan and repaying it than other types of financing, such as a personal loan.

If you’re planning to do a home renovation, for example, you may not need a big chunk of money all at once. A line of credit allows you to access money over time to pay for things in dribs and drabs as you pick out the tile for your kitchen and your contractor finally gets around to installing it. This flexibility can reduce your interest charges because you are only borrowing money you plan to use immediately.

Another benefit of a line of credit is that you can pay it off and then typically borrow from it again. This can make it a good backup to have in case you suddenly experience an expensive emergency that you don’t want to put on your credit cards.

You may also be able to choose a line of credit with a draw period that allows you to only pay interest on the money borrowed for a period of time.

Awarded Best Online Personal Loan by NerdWallet.
Apply Online, Same Day Funding

Drawbacks to a Personal Line of Credit

One drawback is that unsecured lines of credit can be more difficult to qualify for than some other types of loans, such as a home equity line of credit (HELOC). This is because unsecured loans are generally more risky for the lender. Without collateral, the lender needs to be sure that the borrower has the ability to pay back their loan. That’s why for some, it may be easier to qualify for a HELOC (which uses your home as collateral) than a personal credit line. However, keep in mind that with a HELOC, you are taking on some additional risk by putting your house on the line.

Also, the flexibility that comes with a line of credit may be a double-edged sword. The ability to keep borrowing for an extended period of time could lead to feeling tempted to take on more debt or take longer to pay off debt… all of which could mean more interest charges over time.

Using a Personal Loan as a Personal Line of Credit Alternative

When comparing a personal line of credit vs. a personal loan, the major difference is that a personal loan is an installment loan. Like a personal line of credit, personal loans can be used to pay for nearly any personal expense. Borrowers receive a lump sum payment and pay back the loan in installments.

A personal loan may make more sense for borrowers who have a firm idea of their budget or a fixed expense, such as for medical bills, buying an engagement ring, or consolidating debt. Additionally, depending on creditworthiness, the average interest rate on a personal loan may be lower than that of a personal line of credit. Though interest rates will vary by lender so evaluate the options available to you.

Also compare any fees or penalties associated with the personal loan. If a personal loan has a prepayment penalty, you may not be able to benefit from paying off the personal loan early.

Other Personal Line of Credit Alternatives

•   HELOC: With a home equity line of credit, borrowers tap into the equity in their home to borrow a line of credit. This is a secured loan where the home functions as the collateral. This can help borrowers qualify for a more competitive interest rate than with an unsecured personal line of credit, but it also means that if the borrower has issues repaying the HELOC, their home is at risk.

•   Credit Card: In certain situations, a credit card may be used to help pay for emergency expenses. Be aware that credit cards generally have high interest rates — the average credit card interest rate was 27.65%, as of June 4, 2024.

•   Secured loans for a specific purpose: For example, if you are buying a car, you may be better off with a car loan over a personal line of credit or personal loan.

The Takeaway

Personal lines of credit offer flexibility for borrowers because they are a revolving line of credit that functions similarly to a credit card. Borrowers can continue drawing on the line of credit for a set period of time to cover the cost of necessary expenses. For a one-time expense, however, you may be better off with a personal loan vs. a personal line of credit.

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

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

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.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

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.

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 .


Read more
How to save for your dream wedding

How To Save For Your Dream Wedding

Getting married can be a pricey proposition, with the average wedding in the U.S. now running $35,000. If you don’t have access to a large stockpile of cash, you may think you’ll never be able to afford the kind of wedding you envision. But that’s not necessarily the case. The key is to start budgeting and saving well ahead of the big day.

Whether you long for a fairy tale wedding or you prefer something more scaled back, there are ways to save for your dream day that will ensure you have the magical moment you’ve always wanted without having to start off your marriage mired in debt.

Set a Budget

Do you want a big lavish wedding worthy of the royals? A destination wedding? Or maybe you want something more intimate with just a few friends and family? There are different levels of spending when it comes to weddings, and deciding what is most important to you can help you determine just how much you’ll need to save.

Is the venue a priority? The number of people? The food? The DJ (or band)? It’s smart to start by making a list and getting a solid estimate of the costs for each of your need-to-haves and your want-to-haves. It’s also wise to leave a little wiggle room for unexpected wedding costs. Little things like the marriage license, dress or suit alterations, and even insurance costs, can start to eat into your budget pretty quickly.

Start a Savings Plan

Before you’ve locked in the date, you and your partner can start a savings plan. Some couples open a separate bank account and set up automatic monthly transfers to that account to build their wedding fund. When savings are automated, you often don’t notice the missing funds. And by picking an account with a competitive interest rate, your money can make money while you continue to plan and save.

If you’re thinking about financing part of your wedding, you’ll want to start investigating your options, which can range from credit cards to personal loans (which typically have lower rates than credit cards), early on and weigh the pros and cons of taking on debt.

Put the Wedding First

Sure, you may want to go on vacation, eat at fancy restaurants, and buy those new clothes, but that will put you further from your goal. Instead of spending on those luxuries now, cutting back and putting that money into your shared dream wedding account can help you get to your savings goal quicker.

There are also some simple ways to cut back that won’t make you feel deprived. For example, you can take local day trips or regional vacations instead of traveling afar. Eating out just once a month and cooking at home more can cut costs. You could even get swanky and hold cocktail hour with friends at your house instead of going to happy hour. Your new bank account will thank you.

Recommended: The Cost of Being in Someone’s Wedding

Do It Yourself

One way to keep wedding costs down is to plan the majority of the wedding yourself. If you already have experience managing projects, then this should be within the realm of your abilities. Researching the typical steps and fees associated with weddings before making any concrete decisions can be helpful. If that feels daunting, you may want to keep in mind that wedding planners cost an average of $2,100. And while there are advantages to using a planner (they already have a contact list of professionals and know their rates, saving you a lot of time and energy), the downside is you could be getting a one-size-fits-all experience instead of the personalized ceremony and party you may want.

Recommended: 8 Tips for a Budget Dream Wedding with Budget Breakdown

Comparison Shop

Just like other big expenses, getting more than one quote for each service you need can help you find the best price point to fit your needs and wants. Does your preferred venue charge a premium for a wedding, but a lower price for a party? You may want to consider negotiating the price. Calling multiple DJs and catering services can help you ensure you are not overpaying. New York City is going to have very different rates than, say, Asheville, North Carolina. This might even be a factor in deciding when to have your wedding, too. For a better idea of how much costs can vary, you can check out this comparison of costs by state .

You can wind up saving a ton of money by doing away with an expensive venue altogether and looking for a free or really inexpensive location, like parks, gardens and even beaches.

And if you’re able to hold your celebration on a weekday or during off-season, you’re likely to find some additional savings. For example, you can pick Friday instead of Saturday; or you can have a fall or winter event to help lower your costs.

Reassess the Dress

Maybe your dream wedding includes a Vera Wang gown, but your bank account can’t swing that. Consider shopping for a vintage dress and having it altered. Or if you want a more modern look, you don’t necessarily have to buy brand new — wedding dresses are usually only worn once and then either sit in the back of a closet or get sold or donated. Resellers often offer beautiful dresses at a fraction of the initial cost.

Consider this: Dresses less than three years old are usually sold for half their original price. And that Vera Wang might not be out of reach after all if you buy it used. Designer brands can sell for 60% to 70% of their original cost.

Recommended: What is the Ideal Wedding Budget?

Where not to Cut Costs

While you might not have much of an appetite on your big day, your guests likely will, so it’s a good idea not to scrimp on the food. It doesn’t have to be a five-star, multi-course meal, but if you want to create a memorable experience for all, it’s smart to offer quality food that doesn’t leave anyone grumbling about “wedding food.”

And what good is a dream wedding if you have bad or no photos to remember it? A good photographer can capture all of the moments of both you and your guests. These are photos that you will cherish when you are older and wiser, that will adorn your dresser and be sent out to family, so skimping here is best avoided if you can. The average cost of a wedding photographer is about $2,900, but It could end up being the best you put toward your special day.

Recommended: 2024 Wedding Cost Calculator with Examples

The Takeaway

Saving for your dream wedding might seem impossible, but it’s within your grasp if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. By cutting a few everyday costs and making automatic transfers into a high-yield savings account every month, you and your soon-to-be spouse will be able to slowly but surely build your wedding fund.

You can also find ways to trim wedding costs while still staying true to your vision for the day. If you find you’ll still need to rely on some type of financing to pay for your big day, be sure to look at all your options to find one with the least cost.

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

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

Photo credit: iStock/standret

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

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

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

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.

​​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.


Read more

Credit Card Residual Interest: Tips for Avoiding Fees

Credit card residual interest is interest that builds up between when your billing cycle ends and when the issuer actually receives your payment. Read on to learn more about what is residual interest, when it may apply, and how you can avoid it.

What Is Credit Card Residual Interest?

Residual interest, also called “trailing interest,” is one of the ways credit card companies make money. It’s a finance charge that’s applied to any balance that is carried over to the new billing cycle.

The charges accrue from the date your statement was issued until the bank receives your credit card payment.

How Credit Card Residual Interest Works

If you thought you paid your last credit card bill in full, you might be surprised to see a residual interest charge on your next statement. However, this can occur if you keep a rolling balance on your credit card, meaning you’ve carried an unpaid portion of your credit card balance from month to month.

Some credit card issuers charge interest based on a daily periodic rate. To calculate your daily periodic rate, the issuer divides your APR (annual percentage rate) by 360 or 365 days. Then, it adds the result to your daily balance.

Here’s where credit card rules around interest get tricky, so take a closer look:

•   Your card issuer is required by law to provide you with your billing statement at least 21 days before your credit card payment due date. If you always make on-time full payments, your card issuer typically won’t charge interest during this “grace period.”

•   However, if you’ve been rolling over a balance to your new statement, trailing interest on the old charges are applied. You’ll also lose your grace period for new purchases made during the billing cycle so interest charges accrue immediately. Each day that the balance goes unpaid, the residual interest compounds.

•   Since this residual interest is added during the days after your billing statement was sent, they can feel like unexpected credit card charges on your next billing period despite making the “full” payment the prior month.

Do All Credit Cards Charge Residual Interest?

Generally, the practice of charging residual interest is common across credit card companies. However, how and when it charges trailing interest varies between issuers.

If you’re unsure how your card issuer handles this type of interest charge, review your credit card agreement, or contact your issuer directly to learn more about its terms.

Why Is It Important to Keep Track of Residual Interest?

Residual interest can impact your finances in many ways. For starters, you’ll owe more money on interest fees and miss out on a grace period. Additionally, a residual interest charge can easily slip past your radar if you thought you’ve zeroed-out your credit card balance.

If you didn’t add new card purchases during a billing period, you might not even look at your new statement and can easily miss a residual interest charge. This seemingly small issue can snowball into a late payment — or worse, a missed payment — that adversely affects your credit rating.

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

Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Residual Interest

To avoid this costly mistake, make sure you’re practicing smart habits when using a credit card responsibly.

Making the Full Payoff Amount

Given how credit cards work, the best way to know your card’s true outstanding balance is to directly ask your credit card issuer for your “full payoff amount.” Since residual interest is charged daily, your full payoff amount will change each day your account goes unpaid.

On the day you’re ready to make your credit card payment, contact the phone number on the back of your credit card. Ask the associate for your full payoff amount to date. Or look for this information on the credit card issuer’s website or in their app. This is the payment amount you can make toward your bill to fully pay your account.

Paying Your Bills on Time

If you haven’t carried a balance between statements and your credit card offers a grace period, making a payment for the full statement balance by the credit card’s due date is enough to prevent residual interest. This can also help you maintain your grace period.

If you’ve already rolled over a balance, pay off your total account balance before the billing cycle closes. This can help you avoid trailing interest charges that start between the date your statement is sent and when the bank receives your payment.

Considering a Balance Transfer to a 0% APR Card

A 0% APR balance transfer card can be a useful tool if you have a balance that’s too large to pay off early or in one fell swoop. Balance transfer cards effectively allow you to pay a credit card with another credit card by transferring the prior balance onto the new card at no interest.

Keep in mind that the promotional interest rate is only valid for a short period of time. For example, the transferred amount might incur no interest for six months or a year, depending on the balance transfer terms. After that, the standard interest rate will apply.

When considering this strategy, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of a balance transfer card, such as the cost of a balance transfer fee. This fee might be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of the amount you’re transferring. Always do the math to ensure that the amount you’ll save on residual interest from your original card outweighs the balance transfer fees.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

How Long Does Credit Card Residual Interest Last?

Typically, if you’re hit with residual interest, it might take about two consecutive statement periods to clear out residual interest charges. However, you can get rid of residual interest faster by contacting your card issuer to request your full payoff amount.

The Takeaway

Carrying a balance into a new statement period results in losing your interest-free grace period on all purchases shown on that statement. You’ll owe residual interest on purchases carried over from the previous cycle, and you’ll also be charged interest immediately on new purchases made within the new billing cycle.

To avoid getting residual interest credit card charges, always pay your entire statement balance in full. By doing so, you can pay less interest (or none at all) on your credit card purchases.

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


What is credit card residual interest?

Residual interest is the interest that’s charged on purchases you’ve rolled over from one statement into the next. It starts accruing the day after your new billing cycle begins to the date when the bank receives your payment.

Do all credit cards charge residual interest?

Yes, most credit cards charge residual interest when you carry over a balance between billing statements. However, when and how your card issuer applies residual interest can vary; check your card’s terms of agreement to learn more.

How can I pay off residual interest?

If you see a residual interest charge on your credit card statement, the best way to pay it off is by making a payment for the full payoff amount, rather than just the statement balance. This helps you capture daily trailing interest charges as of the day you plan on making a payment.

Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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.


Read more
Credit Card Debt Collection: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Credit Card Debt Collection: What Is It and How Does It Work?

If you find yourself unable to make even the minimum payment on your credit card, your account may get sent to credit card collections. Credit card debt collection is the process by which credit card companies try to collect on the debt that they are owed.

The credit card companies may try to collect the debt themselves, or they may hire a third-party credit card debt collection firm to collect. In some cases, the debt owed may be sold to another company, who might then try to collect. Here’s a look at what happens when credit card debt goes to collections.

What Are Credit Card Collections?

Credit card collections is the process that lenders go through to try to get paid for outstanding debts they’re owed.

If you know what a credit card is, you’ll know that credit card issuers allow you to make purchases with the promise of eventual repayment. But if you don’t make even the credit card minimum payment, the credit card company eventually may send your debt to collections in an effort to recoup the money owed.

How Do Credit Card Collections Work?

Credit card credit card debt collection results from not paying your credit card bills. The best way to use credit cards is to always pay the full amount each month on the credit card payment due date. Even if you’re not able to, you’ll want to at least make the credit card minimum payment.

If you don’t make any payments toward your credit card balance, the credit card company may start the credit card collections process. At this point, a third-party debt collector will assume responsibility for trying to get you to repay the money owed, relying on the contact information the credit card company has on file to get in touch.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Credit Card Debt Collections Process

Most credit card companies will begin the credit card debt collections process by attempting to contact you directly to pay off the debt. If you haven’t made any credit card payments recently, the bank will likely try to email or send you certified letters. Then, if you still don’t make any payments and don’t arrange for a payment plan with your lender within 30 to 90 days, they’ll likely turn it over to a third-party debt collector.

Most credit card companies do not have the staff or business model to engage in a long-term credit card collection process. That’s why they will usually hire a third-party company or companies to do the actual debt collection. If these companies do not successfully collect the debt, it’s also possible your debt will be sold to another company, which will then try to collect on it. There are currently over 7,000 third-party debt collection companies in the U.S.

At any point, one of these companies may formally sue you in an attempt to collect the money from you, one of the many consequences of credit card late payment.

Features of Credit Card Debt Collections

The credit card collections process is not a pleasant experience. Persistent letters, emails, and phone calls are all features of the debt collections process.

At the beginning, when the credit card company itself is handling the collection process, it may be a bit better. However, once your debt has been sold and/or turned over to a debt collections agency, things often become more intense.

What Is a Collection Lawsuit?

If debt collectors are not successful in using phone calls, letters, or emails, the next step is often a lawsuit. A collection lawsuit is when either the debt owner or collector files in court asking you to pay the debt. If they win, the judge will issue a judgment, which could allow the debt collector to garnish your wages or put a levy on your bank account.

It’s important to note that different states have different rules for how long a debt collector has to file a lawsuit. In most states, if you incurred the debt, the debt collector can legally collect it, and if they have the correct amount, they can keep asking you to pay the debt. However, there may be a statute of limitations on how long they can initiate a collection lawsuit. Check reputable websites or with a lawyer if you’re not sure about the law where you live.

Responding to a Collection Lawsuit: What to Know

If you receive a collection lawsuit, you may be wondering if you should respond. In most cases, it’s a good idea to respond to the collection lawsuit, since that requires the owner of the debt to prove their case.

If they can’t show they own your debt and that you’re obligated to pay it, you may have the debt vacated. Further, you may also have your debt discharged if it’s past your state’s statute of limitations.

Consult with a debt relief lawyer if you’re not sure what to do in your particular circumstances.

What Happens If You Don’t Respond to a Collection Lawsuit?

If you don’t respond to a collection lawsuit, it’s possible that the judge will issue a default judgment against you. A default judgment means that the plaintiff (the debt collector) automatically wins, since the defendant (you) did not respond to the lawsuit. In that case, the debt collector or owner now has the legal right to garnish your wages and/or attempt to go after the money in any of your bank accounts.

How a Debt in Collection Affects Your Credit

Having debts that are in collection will have a negative impact on your credit score. The more recent the date of collection, the more of a negative impact it will have on your credit score.

In most cases, a debt that is in collection will stay on your credit report for seven years (though note this differs from how long credit card debt can be collected).

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

Guide to Dealing With Credit Card Debt in Collection

If you have a debt that’s already in collection, you may want to consult a lawyer that specializes in debt relief. While it may seem daunting to hire and pay for a lawyer, they may be able to help you settle the debt for a fraction of the original amount or even completely discharge the debt.

Taking Charge of Your Finances

If you’re worrying about credit card debt collections, you may feel like your finances have spun out of your control. Here are some tips to take charge once again:

•   Only spend what you can afford to pay off: One of the best tips for using a credit card responsibly is to avoid making purchases that you won’t be able to pay off each month. This will stop your spending from spiraling into debt.

•   Always try to pay off your credit card in full: When you pay your full credit card statement amount each month, you stay out of debt and are more likely to have a good or excellent credit score. Although credit card debt can be hard to pay off, doing so can have a positive impact on your credit score.

•   Address any debt head on: If you find yourself in the position of having credit card debt, the best thing to do is to openly acknowledge your situation and make a plan to pay off your credit card bill. Start a budget, cut expenses if needed, and use any monthly surplus amount to pay down your debt. It’s also smart to stop spending on your credit card until you’ve reduced or eliminated any outstanding balance.

The Takeaway

If you don’t pay the balance on your credit card, your credit card issuer may begin the credit card debt collection process. This may mean that they may contact you directly, hire a third-party collection company, or even sell your debt to another company. Having a debt in collections will have a negative effect on your credit score and is something to avoid if possible.

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


What happens when credit card debt goes to collections?

If you have an outstanding credit card balance that goes to collections, the credit card company likely will ask you to make at least the minimum payment on the debt. This may continue for the first few months, after which point they’ll likely hire a third-party debt collector. The debt collector will then start trying to collect the debt from you, which may include filing a lawsuit against you.

Can a debt collector force me to pay?

A debt collector company cannot directly force you to pay a debt. However, depending on the statute of limitations in the state you live in and how long ago the debt was incurred, they may be able to sue you in court. If they win, the court may issue a judgment, which would allow them to collect by garnishing your wages and/or levying your bank account.

How long can credit card debt be collected?

In most states, as long as it’s a valid debt, there is no statute of limitations for how long a debtor can ask for repayment. However, many states do limit how long legal action can be taken to collect the debt. Additionally, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act details what a debt collector can and cannot do while attempting to collect a debt.

Do debt collections affect your credit score?

If you have a debt in collection, especially one that has recently gone into collections, it’s likely to have a severe impact on your score. This is because payment history is one of the factors used in the calculation of your credit score, and credit card debt in collections is considered significantly past due.

Photo credit: iStock/courtneyk

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.

This article is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice.


Read more
What to Know Before Accepting Unsubsidized Student Loans

What to Know Before Accepting Unsubsidized Student Loans

When financial aid like scholarships and grants comes up short, federal student loans can help bridge the gap.

Unsubsidized Direct Loans may be offered to undergraduate and graduate students in a financial aid package.

Subsidized Direct Loans may be offered to undergrads only, and have benefits in terms of who pays the interest during certain periods.

When a college sends an aid offer, the student must indicate which financial aid to accept. Here, we’re looking at Unsubsidized Direct Student Loans and how they can help you pay for college.

What Is an Unsubsidized Student Loan?

The Department of Education provides Federal Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans as one of four options under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. (Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, and Direct Consolidation Loans are the other types.)

Unsubsidized loans provide undergraduate and graduate-level students with a fixed-rate financing option to help fund their college education.

Unlike Direct Subsidized Loans, unsubsidized student loans are not based on financial need. This means that any student may receive unsubsidized loan funding, as long as it meets the Department of Education’s general eligibility requirements.

How Do Unsubsidized Student Loans Work?

If you’re eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Student Loans, the amount you’re offered for the academic year is determined by your school, based on its cost of attendance minus other financial aid you’ve received (such as scholarships, grants, work-study, and subsidized loans).

You will need to complete entrance counseling to ensure you understand the terms and your obligation to repay the loan. Then you’ll sign a master promissory note stating that you agree to the loan terms.

The government will send the loan funds directly to your school. Your institution will then apply the money toward any unpaid charges on your school account, including tuition, fees, room, and board.

Any remaining money will then be sent to you. For example, if you were approved for $3,800 in unsubsidized loans but only $3,000 was applied to your education costs, the school will send the remaining $800 to you.

The Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office recommends accepting grants and scholarships first, then work-study, then loans. And it advises accepting a subsidized loan before an unsubsidized loan, and an unsubsidized loan before a PLUS loan.

A Matter of Interest

As soon as any student loan is disbursed, it starts accruing interest. For federal student loans and most private student loans, you can defer payments until after your grace period, which is the first six months of leaving school or dropping below half-time status.

Here’s the kicker: With a subsidized student loan, the government pays the interest while you’re in school and during your grace period and any hardship deferment.

With an unsubsidized federal student loan or private student loan, unpaid interest that accrues will be added into your loan’s principal balance when you start repayment.

Pros and Cons of Unsubsidized Student Loans

Although unsubsidized student loans offer many benefits, there are also some downsides to know.

Unsubsidized Loan Pros

Unsubsidized Loan Cons

Eligibility is not based on financial need Interest accrues upon disbursement
Available to undergraduate and graduate students You’re responsible for all interest charges
Can help cover educational expenses up to an annual limit Graduate students pay a higher rate
No credit check or cosigner required Interest capitalizes if payments are deferred
Can choose to defer repayment
Multiple payment plans are available

Applying for Unsubsidized Student Loans

Applying for federal financial aid starts with the FAFSA® — the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students seeking aid complete the FAFSA each year.

Where to Apply

Applying for the FAFSA can be done at studentaid.gov, or you can print out a paper FAFSA and mail it.

Based on the information you included in your FAFSA, each school that you listed will determine your financial aid offer, including whether you’re eligible for an unsubsidized loan.

Typical Application Requirements

You must have an enrollment status of at least half-time to be eligible for a Direct Loan. You must also be enrolled in a degree- or certificate-granting program at a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program.

The Department of Education has general requirements to be eligible for federal aid. Applicants must:

•   Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen

•   Have a Social Security number

•   Prove that they qualify for a college education

•   Maintain satisfactory academic progress

•   Sign a certification statement

In the certification statement, you’ll need to confirm that you aren’t currently in default on a federal student loan and don’t owe money on a federal grant, and affirm that you’ll only use aid funds toward educational costs.

How Long Will You Have to Wait?

After submitting your FAFSA, it can take the Department of Education three to five days to process your application. If you submitted your FAFSA by mail, processing can take up to 10 days.

Once you’ve told your school which financial aid you want to accept, loan disbursement timelines vary. Generally, first-time borrowers have up to a 30-day waiting period before they receive their funds. Other borrowers may receive funding up to 10 days before the start of the semester.

How Much Can You Borrow?

There are annual limits to how much in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans you can borrow. These limits are defined based on the year you are in school and whether you’re a dependent or independent student.

Here’s an overview of combined subsidized and unsubsidized loan limits per year for undergraduate students:

Undergraduate Year



First-year student $5,500 $9,500
Second-year student $6,500 $10,500
Third year and beyond $7,500 $12,500

Graduate students are automatically considered independent and have an annual limit of $20,500 for unsubsidized loans (they cannot receive subsidized loans).

There are also student loan maximum lifetime amounts.

Subsidized vs Unsubsidized Student Loans

Another type of loan available through the Direct Loan Program is a subsidized loan. Here’s a quick comparison of subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans.

Subsidized Loans

Unsubsidized Loans

For undergraduate students For undergraduate and graduate students
Borrowers aren’t responsible for interest that accrues during in-school deferment and grace period Borrowers are responsible for interest that accrues at all times
Borrowers must demonstrate financial need Financial need isn’t a requirement
Annual loan limits are typically lower Annual loan limits are generally higher

Alternatives to Unsubsidized Student Loans

Unsubsidized student loans are just one type of financial support students can consider for their education. Here are some alternatives.

Subsidized Loans

Direct Subsidized Loans are fixed-rate loans available to undergraduate students. As discussed, borrowers are only responsible for the interest charges that accrue while the loan is actively in repayment.

Scholarships and Grants

In addition to accessing potential scholarships, grants, and loans through the FAFSA, students can seek financial aid from other entities.

Scholarships and grants for college may be found through your state or city. Businesses, nonprofits, community groups, and professional associations often sponsor scholarships or grants, too. The opportunities may be based on need or merit.

Private Student Loans

Private lenders like banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions offer private student loans. Some schools and states also have their own student loan programs.

Private student loan lenders require borrowers, or cosigners, to meet certain credit thresholds, and some offer fixed or variable interest rates. Many lenders offer pre-qualification without a hard credit inquiry.

Private student loans can be a convenient financing option for students who are either ineligible for federal aid or have maxed out their federal student loan options. One need-to-know: Private student loans are not eligible for federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment.

SoFi Private Student Loan Rates

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

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


What are unsubsidized loan eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan, undergraduate and graduate students must be enrolled at least half-time at a qualifying school. They must also meet the basic eligibility requirements for federal aid, including being a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen, having a Social Security number, and completing the FAFSA.

How long does it take to receive a Direct Unsubsidized Loan?

Loan disbursement for first-time borrowers can take up to 30 days after the first day of enrollment. For others, disbursement takes place within 10 days before classes start.

What is the maximum amount of unsubsidized loans you can borrow?

Dependent students can borrow a maximum of $5,500 and $6,500 per year during their first and second academic years, respectively. Students in their third year of school and beyond can borrow an annual maximum of $7,500. The aggregate loan limit for dependent students is $31,000 in combined subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Graduate or professional students may receive up to $20,500 per year in unsubsidized loans. Their aggregate loan limit is $138,500 (which includes all federal student loans received for undergraduate study).

Photo credit: iStock/LPETTET

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 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.


Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender