How Much Does a Radiology Tech Make a Year?

The current median annual salary for a radiology tech is $67,180 or $32.30 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This career can be a good option for those who want to work in the medical field but don’t want to attend medical school. This role typically only requires an associate’s degree, so it can be easy to pursue this career without taking on a ton of student loan debt.

For those who wonder how much a radiology tech makes, read on for details and what else you should know about this career and its earning potential.

Check your score with SoFi

Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*


What Are Radiology Techs?

A radiology technologist, also known as a radiographer, is a healthcare professional responsible for conducting X-rays and other diagnostic imaging procedures on patients. It typically offers a medical career path without a college degree or graduate-level degrees. It therefore can sidestep many additional years of training and the expense of that education.

The key duties of radiology techs include:

•   Adjusting and maintaining imaging equipment

•   Adhering to precise instructions from physicians regarding the targeted areas of the body for imaging

•   Preparing patients for procedures by collecting medical histories and shielding unnecessary exposed areas

•   Positioning both the patient and equipment to obtain accurate images

•   Operating computerized equipment for image capture

•   Collaborating with physicians to assess the images

•   Deciding if further imaging is necessary

•   Helping to maintain patient records.

If you’re a “people person” who enjoys interacting with patients and colleagues daily, this position could be a good fit. However, as a job for introverts, it may not be enjoyable due to the social aspect.


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

How Much Do Starting Radiology Techs Make a Year?

When someone is working as an entry-level radiology tech, they can expect to earn less than their more experienced coworkers. The median annual wage for the lowest 10% of earners in this role is less than $47,760.

In terms of how much an experienced radiology tech could make, the highest 10% earn more than $97,940. Being able to earn close to $100,000 is a good salary for a role that only requires an associate’s degree.

What is the Average Salary for a Radiology Tech?

While the median annual wage for a radiology tech is $67,180, where someone lives can greatly impact how much they stand to earn. For example:

•   Florida radiology techs can expect to earn an average salary of $66,051.

•   Those working in Oregon earn an annual salary of $108,714.

The following table sheds more light on how radiology tech salaries and hourly wages stack up.

It will give you a detailed look at how earnings vary by state.

What is the Average Radiology Tech Salary by State for 2023

State Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
Oregon $108,714 $9,059 $2,090 $52.27
Alaska $108,369 $9,030 $2,084 $52.10
North Dakota $108,210 $9,017 $2,080 $52.02
Massachusetts $107,274 $8,939 $2,062 $51.57
Hawaii $105,948 $8,829 $2,037 $50.94
Washington $104,410 $8,700 $2,007 $50.20
Nevada $102,464 $8,538 $1,970 $49.26
South Dakota $102,270 $8,522 $1,966 $49.17
Colorado $101,476 $8,456 $1,951 $48.79
Rhode Island $100,695 $8,391 $1,936 $48.41
Mississippi $98,260 $8,188 $1,889 $47.24
New York $97,174 $8,097 $1,868 $46.72
Delaware $95,485 $7,957 $1,836 $45.91
Vermont $94,853 $7,904 $1,824 $45.60
Virginia $94,142 $7,845 $1,810 $45.26
Illinois $93,946 $7,828 $1,806 $45.17
Maryland $92,483 $7,706 $1,778 $44.46
Kansas $92,447 $7,703 $1,777 $44.45
Nebraska $90,537 $7,544 $1,741 $43.53
California $90,046 $7,503 $1,731 $43.29
Missouri $89,904 $7,492 $1,728 $43.22
South Carolina $89,113 $7,426 $1,713 $42.84
Pennsylvania $89,020 $7,418 $1,711 $42.80
New Jersey $88,951 $7,412 $1,710 $42.77
Wisconsin $88,122 $7,343 $1,694 $42.37
Maine $87,977 $7,331 $1,691 $42.30
Oklahoma $87,678 $7,306 $1,686 $42.15
North Carolina $87,273 $7,272 $1,678 $41.96
New Hampshire $86,552 $7,212 $1,664 $41.61
Idaho $86,116 $7,176 $1,656 $41.40
Texas $85,514 $7,126 $1,644 $41.11
Wyoming $85,210 $7,100 $1,638 $40.97
Minnesota $85,148 $7,095 $1,637 $40.94
Kentucky $84,779 $7,064 $1,630 $40.76
New Mexico $84,632 $7,052 $1,627 $40.69
Indiana $84,108 $7,009 $1,617 $40.44
Michigan $84,014 $7,001 $1,615 $40.39
Ohio $82,756 $6,896 $1,591 $39.79
Arizona $82,368 $6,864 $1,584 $39.60
Connecticut $82,133 $6,844 $1,579 $39.49
Iowa $81,424 $6,785 $1,565 $39.15
Montana $81,128 $6,760 $1,560 $39.00
Arkansas $80,164 $6,680 $1,541 $38.54
Alabama $80,115 $6,676 $1,540 $38.52
Utah $79,081 $6,590 $1,520 $38.02
Tennessee $79,008 $6,584 $1,519 $37.98
Georgia $74,633 $6,219 $1,435 $35.88
Louisiana $74,343 $6,195 $1,429 $35.74
West Virginia $68,751 $5,729 $1,322 $33.05
Florida $66,051 $5,504 $1,270 $31.76

Source: ZipRecruiter

Radiology Tech Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

Most radiologic and MRI technologists work full time. Because imaging is sometimes needed in emergency situations, some technologists work evenings, weekends, or overnight.

Almost six out of 10 radiology techs work in hospitals; about 20% work in medical offices. One thing to note is that, as you would expect, the job involves working with potentially dangerous radiation, so appropriate protective clothing may be worn and safety practices followed.

Recommended: What Trade Job Makes the Most Money?

Pros and Cons of Radiology Tech Salary

Because radiology techs stand to earn a solid income without having to pursue higher education, there aren’t any real disadvantages to their salary. The main disadvantage of the job though is being exposed to infectious diseases through patient interaction and equipment that uses radiation. Safety procedures are in place to help offset these risks, but some people may not find the salary worth it in light of the risks.

Benefits will of course vary depending on where a radiology tech works. Packages may include health insurance, paid sick days and vacations, retirement account matching contributions, and more.

Recommended: Best Jobs for Antisocial People

The Takeaway

Working as a radiology tech can be a great way to earn a living in the medical field without having to commit to the major time and expense that comes with pursuing careers like nursing or becoming a doctor. It can offer a solid salary, benefits, and the satisfying work of helping people with their health care.

With SoFi, you can keep tabs on how your money comes and goes.

FAQ

Can you make 100k a year as a radiology tech?

It is possible to earn $100,000 a year as a radiology tech but being able to do so depends on what state someone works in, as well as other factors like experience. For example, the average annual salary of a radiologist tech in Oregon, Alaska, and North Dakota is well over $100,000.

Do people like being a radiology tech?

Being a radiology tech can be very enjoyable if someone finds the work interesting and if they enjoy interacting with patients. However, for those who don’t like being in a health care setting, repeating procedures, or working with potentially dangerous radiation, it may not be a good fit.

Is it hard to get hired as a radiology tech?

Those who want to work as a radiology tech and who have the required credentials should have no problem doing so. The job outlook for radiology techs is positive with a projected 6% growth from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Each year, approximately 15,700 job openings for this role are expected to be available.


Photo credit: iStock/monkeybusinessimages

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

*Terms and conditions apply. This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed towards active SoFi accounts, such as your SoFi Checking or Savings account, subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.

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

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

SORL0124026

Read more
What Is Credit Card Protection? How It Works

The Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Protection and How to Use It

Beyond making purchases more convenient, credit cards can provide a number of additional and valuable layers of protections. For instance, they can help cover you if you are traveling abroad, buying something pricey or if you were to lose your job or otherwise become unable to pay your bills. Some credit card protections, like travel insurance, are perks of the card included in the annual fee. For others, like credit card payment protection, you may have to opt in and pay an additional fee.

Read on to learn more about the types of credit card protection that are available, how they work, and when they may be worth it.

What Is Credit Card Protection?

Credit cards may offer various forms of protection in their perks and benefits. These protections can help protect your purchases and ensure you don’t pay for charges that aren’t yours.

They can also help you in a dispute with a vendor. For example, if you ordered an item that never made it to you and the merchant won’t give you a refund, you could invoke a credit card chargeback with your credit card company.

Perhaps the most common form of protection associated with the term “credit card protection” is credit card payment protection insurance. This is an insurance plan that you can opt into for a monthly fee that would offer protection if something were to happen that prevented you from paying your bills.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

Types of Credit Card Protection

Read on for more details on the various forms of credit card protection.

Fraud Protection

One basic benefit of a credit card is typically fraud protection, and this can be why people use credit cards over debit cards or cash. If someone were to steal your credit card number or your physical card, fraud protection shields you from being responsible or liable for charges.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), creditors cannot “take actions that adversely affect the consumer’s credit standing until an investigation is completed.” This means that all credit card companies will launch an investigation if fraud occurs. During this time, you will not be held liable for the charge in question (though make sure to make your credit card minimum payment so you don’t incur late fees or ding to your credit during the investigation).

Some credit card companies may go beyond that and offer even more fraud protection, including $0 liability. (The FCBA caps liability in case of fraud at $50 if the thief presents the card. The liability is $0 if the card is not physically present, as in the case of someone stealing a credit card number and using it online).

While fraud protection can offer peace of mind, it’s also important to be proactive about recognizing fraud. If you lose your credit card, call your issuer to have the card frozen. And always let your issuer know ASAP if you notice a charge that isn’t yours.

Return Protection

Return protection is another form of purchase protection offered by some credit cards. It allows you to return an item for a set period of time defined in your membership agreement. This return window may offer more leeway than that of the merchant you made the purchase from (for example, 90 days instead of 30 days.)

There are exclusions to what can and can’t be returned. Further, there also may be a cap on the cost of the item being returned, as well as an annual cap per card, though it depends on how your credit card works specifically.

Price Protection

Have you ever bought something, only to see the item go on sale a week later? That’s where credit card price protection comes in. With this perk, you may be able to receive a refund for the difference in price if you purchased the item with your card.

Generally, it’s your responsibility to track price drops. And your issuer may have certain terms, such as limiting the protection to price drops within a set time period. Price protection also may exclude certain types of purchases, such as tickets to sporting events or concerts.

Purchase Protection

Similar to return protection, purchase protection can help protect you if purchases are lost or damaged or if services aren’t rendered or delivered as expected. Generally, you would bring the issue up with the merchant or service provider. But if they don’t initiate a refund, then you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. This process initiates what’s called a credit card chargeback.

There may be limitations and exceptions to purchase protection. It can be a good idea to talk directly with the merchant before reaching out to your credit card company.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can be a big reason to put a trip on a credit card. In fact, some card issuers offer insurance as a perk for using the card.

The specifics of credit card travel insurance depend on the card issuer, but it may include insurance for lost luggage or coverage for trip interruption or cancellation. In general, these insurance policies may not be as comprehensive as a standalone policy, but they can provide some peace of mind when planning a trip.

Car Rental Insurance

Car rental insurance is another type of insurance offered as a credit card perk. If you rent a car with the credit card, the card may provide insurance protection in case of damage. Generally, this includes collision/loss damage waiver coverage.

Car rental insurance through your credit card may allow you to forego the (sometimes pricey) insurance options offered by the car rental agency. However, as with any insurance policy, it’s a good idea to read the fine print to know exactly what is and is not covered.

How Credit Card Protection Works

Most protections are part of the overall perks and benefits of the card. But credit card payment protection is a little bit different. It’s generally an opt-in program that offers protection if you are no longer able to pay your credit card bill. The protection offered can be short term, such as for a life event like a change in employment, or long term, extending for 12 to 24 months in the event of a job loss or hospital stay.

Usually, credit card payment protection carries an additional monthly fee. Also note that payment protection doesn’t let you off the hook from paying the bill down the road. Rather, for a set period of time, your credit card issuer would offer a break on making payments or lower your minimum payments due, as well as pause any fees. Your issuer will continue to report your account in good standing during that time.

Tips to Keep Your Credit Card Safe

Protection programs can give you peace of mind. But losing a credit card or dealing with fraudulent activity can be stressful regardless of what protections you have in place. It can also potentially open the door to identity theft, which could potentially harm your credit.

That’s why it’s smart to set up some smart security behaviors. Read on for some tips for how to keep your credit card safe.

Practice Credit Card Protection From Day One

When you’ve applied for a credit card, keep an eye out for the card to arrive in the mail. It should come in between five and 14 days; your issuer may provide a timeline.

If you don’t receive your card within that time period, call your issuer. They will issue you a new one. And as soon as you do get your card, follow the steps to set it up for use.

Keep Your Account Number Private

Don’t write down your credit card account number, expiration date, and CVV. Don’t share this information with anyone else. Also consider whether or not you want to save payment information online. While it can be convenient, it could leave your information vulnerable. If you are using your credit card to make a payment, make sure that you are doing so through an encrypted service.

Keep Your Information Current

Make sure that the email address, mailing address, and telephone number on file with your card issuer are up to date. By doing so, you will be aware of any communication between you and your card issuer. Further, this will prevent a new card from being delivered to the wrong address.

Be Careful With Your Receipts

While federal law prohibits how much credit card information is on receipts, this may not be true in other countries. If you’re traveling abroad, it may make sense to be even more mindful about how you dispose of receipts. Don’t leave them lying around.

Secure Your Devices and Networks

Being mindful of how and when you use your credit card online can help you avoid fraud. Using your own network, rather than public WiFi, can be one security step. It can also be helpful to check that a website uses encryption for payment and that it’s a secure site.

Protect Yourself Online

When you’re using a credit card for payment, it’s important to be cyber-savvy. Credit card scams to try to obtain your information or your credit card number are not uncommon.

You’ll want to be on the lookout for phishing attempts. If a merchant or bank asks you to email your credit card number, call the merchant directly. Know that banks will never ask for sensitive information over email. Also be on the lookout for requests to “verify” your information via email or text. Again, these may well be scams designed to get your account information.

Additionally, pay attention to any odd links, misspellings (such as Citii for Citi), or emails that include a link. Instead of following the link within the email, consider manually typing in the URL of a website.

Check Your Account Often

It can be good to get in the habit of regularly checking your credit card balance. Doing so a few times a week, instead of just waiting for a statement to come out, can alert you to fraud as soon as it happens. And remember, a fraudster could steal your information even if your physical card has always been in your possession.

Report Lost Cards and Fraudulent Activity Right Away

If you see something odd on your credit card balance, let your card issuer know right away. The same goes if you can’t find your credit card.

Even if you’re 99% sure your card is somewhere in your house or car, it can be a wise idea to contact your card issuer. In some cases, they can freeze your card. This means that you’ll be able to unfreeze it once you’ve found it, without getting a new card and a new card number.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

What Does Credit Card Payment Protection Cover?

In general, credit card payment protection insurance has restrictions regarding when it applies, and it may require documentation.

Some reasons you may be able to request long-term credit card payment protection may include:

•   Job loss

•   Disability

•   Hospitalization

•   Death of a child, spouse, or domestic partner

•   Leave of absence (for family or child care, or for military duty)

•   Federal or state disaster

Meanwhile, you may be able to get short-term protection for the following reasons:

•   Marriage

•   Divorce

•   Graduation

•   Childbirth

•   Adoption

•   Retirement

•   New job and job promotion

•   A move to a new residence

Situations that may not qualify for payment protection include incarceration or voluntarily leaving your job, such as to pursue higher education.

Pros and Cons of Payment Protection

Is payment protection right for you? That depends. The opt-in program usually costs an additional fee. Plus, while paying your full balance each month is ideal, you could potentially pay the credit card minimum payment if you were going through hard times to keep your account in good standing, though your annual percentage rate (APR) would still apply.

In many cases, it may make sense to focus on bringing down your balance so your minimum payment is relatively low. That way, if the worst were to happen, you might still have enough room in your budget to manage minimum payments.

Pros of Payment Protection Cons of Payment Protection
Gives you a breath on monthly payments Will incur an additional monthly fee, adding to your balance
Offers peace of mind May be other assistance options with no added cost
Helps protect your credit in the event you can’t make payments Generally limited to two years of assistance
Pauses your credit card’s fees Limits on what qualifies for protection insurance to kick in

Is Credit Card Payment Protection Worth It?

Weighing the pros and cons of credit card payment can help you assess whether it makes sense for you. If you carry a very high balance and are in the process of paying it down, payment protection may give you peace of mind — especially if you don’t have a good APR for a credit card. But keep in mind that you could potentially switch to minimum payments during a hard time and still maintain your payment history.

To decide if credit card payment protection is right for you, it’s important to read the fine print and assess how these credit card fees would impact your overall financial outlook. Also take into consideration your current financial situation, your savings account balance, and the general stability and security of your job and lifestyle.

Credit Card Protection Scams and How to Avoid Them

As credit cards offer protection, scammers see opportunities — and these can be tailored, beyond just credit card skimming. There are several credit card protection scams that may target card holders, including:

•   Phone scams offering loss protection for a fee. Some scammers have been calling people and telling them they may be liable for charges beyond $50 on their credit card. They then try to get people to buy loss protection and insurance programs. If you get this call, know that credit cards include fraud protection at no additional fee — plus, your liability is limited to $50 by law. Call your credit card company if you have any questions about its fraud protection programs.

•   Scams claiming your account has been compromised. In this case, the scammer will ask you to provide personal details, such as your credit card number, claiming your account has been compromised. Don’t ever give sensitive credit information over text or via email. If someone calls claiming to be your credit card company, call the company directly from the number on the back of the card. Scammers can mask their true phone number and make it appear as if they are legit.

•   Fraudulent text alerts. Scammers also may send text messages asking for your CVV number on a credit card to “fix” a security problem or “verify” or “update” your account. A real credit card company would never ask for this information nor send text messages like this.

•   Fake account protection offers. Any account protection should come directly from your credit card company, not from a third party. If you receive these offers, don’t take them up on it.

The Takeaway

Credit card protection can be one of the great benefits of using a credit card. While some credit card protections are standard, including fraud protection, it can be helpful to consider what protection offers are most important to you before paying for additional services.

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

FAQ

Are there limits to credit card payment protection?

There may be limits on what qualifies for credit card payment protection, and your issuer may need to see proof of hardship. Further, there may be a time limit on how long credit card payment protection is offered.

Is there a time limit on credit card payment protection?

Generally, issuers have a time limit for credit card protection policies. These vary between issuers, but may be as short as several months or as long as two years, depending on the circumstances.

Should I get credit card payment protection insurance?

Credit card protection insurance may incur an additional fee, unlike other protection options offered as part of your overall perks and benefits within your card. That fee can add to your balance. If your credit card balance is at or near $0, credit card payment protection insurance may not be necessary.


Photo credit: iStock/9dreamstudio

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

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

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

SOCC0224021

Read more
History of Credit Cards: When Were Credit Cards Invented?

History of Credit Cards: When Were Credit Cards Invented?

The concept of a credit card can be dated back to the early and mid 1900s. There were actually a number of early iterations of what we know and use today as a credit card. Over the decades, these financial tools have evolved, and variations have multiplied.

Read on to learn about the major milestones in the history of credit cards and how this payment method came to be so popular, as well as what the future holds.

Invention of Credit Cards

There were several precursors to the modern version of the credit card. Credit card history can be traced back to 1914, when Western Union rolled out the idea of “Metal Money.” These metal plates were granted to a handful of customers and allowed them to push back payment until a later date.

The next version of credit cards was introduced in 1946, when New York City banker John Biggins introduced the Charg-it card. These charge cards were usable within a two-block radius of Biggins’ bank. Purchases made by customers were forwarded to his bank account, and merchants were reimbursed at a later date.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

When Were Credit Cards First Used?

Here’s an overview of which types of credit cards were used when, from the first store card to the first international card.

First “Use Now, Pay Later” Cards

The Diners Club Card was the first card that gained widespread use. The idea for the card arose when businessman Frank McNamara misplaced his wallet and couldn’t pay for dinner at a New York City restaurant. The good news is that his wife was there to cover the tab.

In 1950, McNamara returned to the same restaurant with his business partner, Ralph Schneider, where he used a cardboard card to pay the bill. That card was the Diners Club Card, and the dinner became known as the “First Supper.”

First Bank Cards

In 1958, American Express developed its first credit card that was made of cardboard. The next year, the plastic credit card was developed and released.

Also in 1958, Bank of America mailed its credit card to certain segments of the market in California, where it was based. The bank offered a pre-approved limit of $300 to 60,000 customers in Fresno.

Then, in 1966, Bank of America’s BankAmericard became the U.S.’s first general-use credit card, meaning more places would accept credit card payments with it.

First Interbank Cards

In 1966, a cluster of California banks joined together to form the Interbank Card Association (ITC). The ITC soon launched the nation’s second major bank card. Initially called the Interbank card and later the Master Charge, this card was renamed Mastercard in 1979.

First International Cards

The credit card soon went international, with Diners Club laying claim to being the first international credit card. It’s said to have become the first globally accepted charge card in 1953 when businesses in Cuba, Mexico, and Canada began accepting payments from customers with Diners Club cards.

And in 1970, Bank of America rolled its BankAmericard on a global scale, prompting the formation of the International Bankcard Company (IBANCO).

Regulation and Litigation

Over the decades, credit cards have undergone several rounds of regulation. Here’s a look at some of the major regulatory milestones in the history of credit cards:

1970:

•   The Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed to regulate the collection, access, and use of data concerning consumer credit reports.

•   Also this year, the Unsolicited Credit Card Act was introduced. It prohibited credit card issuers from sending credit cards to customers who didn’t request them.

1974:

•   The Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974 was created to protect consumers from unfair credit billing practices. For instance, it stated that consumers have the right to dispute unauthorized charges, charges made due to errors, and charges when goods weren’t delivered and services not rendered.

•   The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) was passed as well. This prevented lenders from discriminating against credit card applicants based on gender, race, age, religion, marital status, national origin, and whether you receive benefits from a public assistance program. It also specified that a lender can’t charge higher fees or a higher than average credit card interest rate for any of those reasons.

1977:

•   The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was introduced to prevent debt collectors from using deceptive, unfair, or abusive practices when collecting debt that is in default and handled by debt collectors. It limited calls from such agencies to between the hours of 8am to 9pm and prohibited contact at an unusual time or place. In addition, it specified that if you’re represented by a debt attorney, the debt collector must stop calling you and reach out to your attorney instead.

2009:

•   The CARD Act boosted consumer protection by “establishing fair and transparent practices related to the extension of credit.” It prohibits credit card issuers from offering credit without first gauging the consumer’s ability to pay. Additionally, it introduced special rules when it comes to extending credit to consumers under the age of 21. The CARD act also limits the amount of upfront fees an issuers can charge during the first year after an account is opened, as well as the instances that issuers can charge penalty fees.

Technological Evolution of Credit Cards

Here are some of the main technological milestones and changes of credit cards throughout their history:

1969: Magnetic Stripe

Credit card networks and banks started rolling out cards with the magnetic stripe, which became widely adopted. While it’s on the verge of being phased out, consumers still use magnetic stripe for payment today.

2004: Contactless Credit Cards

Contactless credit was used for the first time in 2004. They started to become more popular in 2008, when major credit card networks (including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express) started offering their own versions of contactless cards.

2010: Chip Cards

Pin-and-chip technology made its way to America in 2010. This credit card chip technology offers greater security than magnetic cards, which can be copied. These days, the majority of credit cards in America have EMV (which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) chips.

2011: Mobile Wallets

In 2011, Google introduced the first mobile wallets, and Apple followed in its footsteps in 2012. In 2014, Apple Pay was released, followed by Android and Samsung Pay in 2015. As mobile wallets are stored on your smartphone, they can grant greater security than physical cards, which can more easily be lost or stolen. Plus, smartphones have security features, such as fingerprint recognition and passcodes, which can provide higher levels of security.

How Do Credit Cards Work?

Credit cards are a tangible card that you can use to make purchases. If you’re wondering how credit cards work, they’re a type of revolving loan, which means that you can tap into your line of credit at any given time. You can borrow funds up to your credit limit, which is set when you apply. Your line of credit gets depleted when you make transactions, and it gets replenished when you pay back what you owe.

Here are some more details on how credit cards work:

•   Credit cards have an interest rate, expressed as annual percentage rate (APR). This represents how much interest you pay during an entire year and includes any fees and other charges along with the interest rate. You’ll only pay interest if you have a remaining balance after your payment due date. When you pay the full balance that you owe on your card, your balance is zero, and you will not owe interest.

•   If you pay more than you owe, or if a merchant issues you a refund for an amount larger than your total balance, then you have a negative balance on your credit card.

•   Credit cards may also come with perks, such as rewards points and cash back. Cardholders may also enjoy additional benefits like travel insurance and discounts at select merchants.

•   Credit cards also have built-in security features, such as pin-and-chip technology, fraud monitoring, and a three-digit CVV number on a credit card.

In terms of how to apply for a credit card, you’ll first want to know your credit score, as this will indicate which cards you may be eligible for. You may consider applying for preapproval to determine your odds of getting approved. When you’ve compared your credit card options and decided which one is right for you, then you can apply online, over the phone, or through the mail.

Credit Cards and Credit Scores

Credit cards can have a major impact on your credit score. For one, your account activity is reported to the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Making on-time credit card minimum payments can help build your credit, as payment history makes up 35% of your FICO consumer credit score. On the flipside, making late payments can drag down your score.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on how much of a balance you rack up relative to your total amount of credit available (aka your credit limit). Your credit utilization ratio, which measures how much of your available credit has been used, accounts for 30% of your score. It’s generally recommended to keep your credit utilization below 30% (10% is even better) to avoid adverse effects to your credit score.

Other factors related to how your credit card can impact your score include:

•   The length of your credit history, which makes up 15% of your score

•   Your mix of different credit types, which accounts for 10% of your credit score (more is better)

•   Having a longer credit history, meaning accounts open for longer, can help build your score

•   Not applying for too much new credit is also a way to build your credit score. Too many hard credit inquiries related to new lines of credit can make it seem as if you are more of a risk.

Types of Credit Cards

Today, there are a number of types of cards to choose from. Take a look at the different types of credit cards available.

Rewards Cards

Rewards cards feature a way to earn rewards through travel miles, cash back, or points. You usually collect rewards when you make purchases. For example, you may earn one point for every dollar spent and/or a multiple of that for certain types of purchases or ones made at specific retailers.

You usually can redeem the rewards you earn in different ways, such as on travel accommodations, airline tickets, gift cards, merchandise, or as credit toward your balance statement.

Low-Interest Cards

As the name suggests, low-interest cards feature a low APR. Having a card with a low APR can certainly benefit you if you carry a credit card balance or plan to use your card to make a large purchase, as you may be able to save money on interest.

When looking for low-interest credit cards, you usually need to have a strong credit score to qualify.

Credit-Building Cards

If you have a short credit history or less-than-stellar credit score, a credit-building card can help you boost your credit. As payments made on a secured credit card are reported to the three major credit bureaus, using your card can help build your credit as long as you stay on top of your payments.

While these cards are more accessible than many other credit cards out there, they also tend to have higher interest rates and fees. They may also offer a lower credit card limit.

Secured Credit Cards

If you have a low credit score, you might also look into a secured credit card, in which you put down cash, which becomes your credit card limit. Use these cards responsibly, and you may be able to graduate to a standard credit card.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Future of Credit Cards

As demonstrated in the past few decades, credit card technology is constantly evolving to meet the needs and demands of consumers. The next time you reach your credit card expiration date, you could see an updated product in the mail.

It’s expected that contactless payments, which increased in popularity during the pandemic, will continue to proliferate. In the future, it may even become possible to make payments via voice command tools. Wearable payments, such as paying for goods and services with payment technology that’s embedded in a wristband, ring, or keychain, is another avenue being explored.

Additionally, the security protocols used in credit cards will continue to evolve. It’s anticipated that magnetic stripe cards will soon fall by the wayside and be replaced by biometric cards, which use fingerprints and chip technology to enhance security.

The Takeaway

As you can see from learning the history of credit cards, a lot has changed since the payment method was first introduced. Credit cards remain as popular a payment method as ever, and it’s expected they’ll continue to evolve as technology and consumer needs shift. One thing that probably won’t change is the importance of understanding how credit cards work, what your card agreement’s fine print says, and how to use these cards responsibly.

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

FAQ

Who invented credit cards?

There were several early iterations of credit cards, so it’s difficult to pin down exactly who invented credit cards. The credit may go to businessman Frank McNamara and his business partner Ralph Schneider, who invented the Diners Club Card.

How were credit cards first used?

While the concept of paying by credit can be traced back to ancient civilizations, the first modern day example of paying with a credit card was the Diners Club card, which could be used at restaurants. However, this card had one major difference between modern credit cards: You had to pay off the balance in full each month.

What was the first type of credit card?

The first type of credit card was most likely the Diners Club card, introduced in 1950. It was the first credit card that could be used at multiple establishments.


Photo credit: iStock/DoubleAnti

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

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

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

SOCC0224022

Read more

A Complete Guide to Private Student Loans

The average cost of college in the U.S. is $36,436 per year, including books, supplies, and daily living expenses, according to the Education Data Initiative. While grants and scholarships can significantly lower your out-of-pocket expenses, they typically don’t cover the full cost of your college education.

Student loans, both federal and private, can help bridge this gap in financial aid to allow you to attend the college of your choice. Federal student loans are funded by the government. They tend to offer the best rates and terms but come with borrowing limits. If you still have gaps in funding, you can turn to private student loans.

Private student loans are funded by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Private lenders set their own eligibility criteria, and interest rates generally depend on a borrower’s creditworthiness. While private student loans don’t offer all the same borrower protections as federal loans, they can still be a smart choice to help you pay for educational expenses, as long as you do your research.

This guide offers private student loan basics, including what they are, how they work, their pros and cons, and how to apply for one.

What are Private Student Loans?

Often when people talk about student loans, they’re referring to federal student loans, which are provided by the federal government. Private student loans, by contrast, are given out by individual banks and lenders. Students typically turn to private student loans when federal loans won’t cover all of their costs.

You can use the money from a private school loan to pay for expenses like tuition, fees, housing, books, and supplies. Interest rates for private student loans may be variable or fixed and are set by the lender. Repayment terms can be anywhere from five to 20 years.

Unlike federal student loans, borrowers must pass a credit check to qualify for private student loans. Since most college students don’t have enough credit history to take out a large loan, a cosigner is often required.


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

How Do Private Student Loans Work?

How Private Student Loans Work

Loan amounts, interest rates, repayment terms, and eligibility requirements for undergraduate private student loans vary by individual lenders. If you’re in the market for a private student loan, it’s key to shop around and compare your options to find the best fit.

To get a private student loan, you need to file an application directly with your lender of choice. Based on the information you submit, the lender will determine whether or not you are approved and, if so, what rates and terms you qualify for.

If you’re approved, the loan proceeds will typically be disbursed directly to your university. Your school will apply that money to tuition, fees, room and board and any other necessary expenses. If there are funds left over, the money will be given for you to use toward other education-related expenses, such as textbooks and supplies.

Repayment policies vary by lender but typically you aren’t required to make payments while you’re attending school. Some lenders will allow you to defer payments until six months after you graduate. However, interest typically begins accruing as soon as the loan is dispersed. Similar to unsubsidized federal student loans, the interest that accrues while you’re in school is added to your loan balance.

The Pros and Cons of Private Student Loans

Pros of Private Student Loans

Cons of Private Student Loans

Apply any time of the year May require a cosigner
Higher loan amounts Less flexible repayment options
Choice of fixed or variable rates No loan forgiveness programs
Quick application process Can lead to over-borrowing
Statute of limitations on collection Not always discharged in death or disability
Options for international students No federal subsidy

If federal financial aid — including grants, work-study, and federal student loans — isn’t enough to cover the full cost of college, private student loans can fill in any gaps. Just keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same borrower protections that come with federal student loans. Before taking out a private student loan, it’s a good idea to fully understand their pros and cons.

The Benefits of Private Student Loans

Here’s a look at some of the advantages that come with private student loans.

Apply Any Time of the Year

Unlike federal student loans, which have application deadlines, you can apply for private student loans any time of the year. As a result, they can be helpful if you’re facing a mid-year funding shortfall or if your college expenses go up unexpectedly.

Higher Loan Amounts

Federal loans have annual maximums. For example, a first year undergraduate can borrow up to $5,500. The aggregate max you can borrow from the government for your entire undergraduate education is $31,000. Private student loan limits vary with each lender, but you can typically borrow up to the full cost of attendance minus any financial aid received.

Choice of Fixed or Variable Interest Rates

Federal loans only offer fixed-rate loans, while private lenders usually give you a choice between fixed or variable interest rates. Fixed rates remain the same over the life of the loans, whereas variable rates can change throughout the loan term, depending on benchmark rates.

Variable-rate loans usually have lower starting interest rates than fixed-rate loans. If you can afford to pay off your student loans quickly, you might pay less interest with a variable-rate loan from a private lender than a fixed-rate federal loan.

Quick Application Process

While federal student loans require borrowers to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, private student loans do not. You can apply for most private student loans online in just a few minutes without providing nearly as much information. In some cases, you can get a lending decision within 72 hours. By comparison, it typically takes three to five days for the government to process the FAFSA if you submit electronically, and seven to 10 days if you mail in the form.

Statute of Limitations

While you never want to default on your student loans (since it can cause significant damage to your credit), it can be nice to know that private student loans come with a statute of limitations. This is a set period of time that lenders have to take you to court to recoup the debt after you default. The time frame varies by state, but it can range anywhere from three to 10 years. After that period ends, lenders have limited options to collect from you.

However, that’s not the case with federal student loans. You must eventually repay your loans, and the government can even garnish your wages and tax refunds until you do.

Options for International Students

International students typically don’t qualify for federal financial aid, including federal student loans. Some private lenders, however, will provide student loans to non-U.S. citizens who meet specific criteria, such as attending an eligible college on at least a half-time basis, having a valid student visa, and/or adding a U.S. citizen as a cosigner.

When we say no fees we mean it.
No origination fees and late fees
when you take out a student loan with SoFi.


The Disadvantages of Private Student Loans

Private student loans also have some downsides. Here are some to keep in mind.

Requires a Cosigner

Most high school and college students don’t make enough income or have a strong credit history to qualify for private student loans on their own. Though some lenders will take grades and income potential into consideration, most students need a cosigner to qualify for a private student loan. Your cosigner is legally responsible for your student debt, and any missed payments can negatively affect their credit. If you can’t repay your loans, your cosigner is responsible for the entire amount.

The good news is that some private student loans allow for a cosigner release.That means that after you make a certain number of on-time payments, you can apply to have the cosigner removed from the loan.

Less Flexible Repayment Options

Federal student loans offer several different types of repayment plans, including Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans, which calculate your monthly payment as a percentage of your income. With the new Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan, for example, your monthly payments are generally equal to 5% of your discretionary income (which is the extra income you have after paying for basic necessities).

With private student loans, on the other hand, usually the only way to reduce your monthly payment is to refinance the loan to a lower interest rate, a longer repayment term, or both.

No Loan Forgiveness Programs

Federal student loans come with a few different forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), IDR forgiveness. and Teacher Loan Forgiveness. While these programs have strict eligibility requirements, they can help many low-income borrowers. Private lenders, however, generally don’t offer programs that forgive your debt after meeting certain requirements.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship, however. the lender may agree to temporarily lower your payments, waive a payment, or shift to interest-only payments.

Can Lead to Over-Borrowing

Private loans typically allow you to borrow up to 100% of your cost of attendance, minus other aid you’ve already received. Just because you can borrow that much, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Borrowing the maximum incurs more interest over the duration of your loans and increases your payments, which can make repayment more difficult.

Not Always Discharged in Death or Disability

Federal loans are discharged if the borrower passes away, which means that the debt will be cleared and won’t count against the borrower’s estate. With private student loans, however, lenders can try to collect any outstanding loan amounts against a borrower’s estate in the event of death. They can’t, however, try to collect from a relative who did not cosign the debt.

Also keep in mind that your private loan could go into automatic default if your cosigner passes away, even if you’ve been making your payments on time.

No Federal Subsidy

Subsidized federal student loans, awarded based on financial need, come with an interest subsidy, meaning the government pays your interest while you’re in school and for six months after you graduate. This can add up to a significant savings.

Subsidies don’t exist with private student loans. Interest accrues from day one; in some cases, you might need to make interest payments while still in school. If you don’t pay the interest as you go, it’s added to your debt as capitalized interest when you finish school. (This is also the case with federal unsubsidized loans.)

Federal vs Private Student Loans

Here’s a look at the key differences between federal vs. private student loans.

Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

The Application Process

Federal student loans are awarded as a part of a student’s financial aid package. In order to apply for federal student loans, students must fill out the FAFSA each year. No credit check is needed to qualify.

To apply for private student loans, students need to fill out an application directly with their preferred lender. Application requirements may vary depending on the lender. A credit check is typically required.

Recommended: Financial Aid vs Student Loans

Interest Rates

The interest rates on federal student loans are fixed and are set annually by Congress. Once you’ve taken out a federal loan, your interest rate is locked for the life of the loan.

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.

Private lenders, on the other hand, are free to set interest rates. Rates may be fixed or variable and depend on several factors, including your (or your cosigner’s) credit score, loan amount, and chosen repayment term. Private student loan rates range anywhere from 2.99% to 14.96% APR for fixed-rate loans and 2.99% to 14.86% APR for variable-rate loans.

Repayment Plans

Borrowers with federal student loans can select from several different federal repayment plans , including income-driven repayment plans. You can defer payments while enrolled at least half-time and immediately after graduation

Repayment plans for private loans are set by the individual lender. Many private student loan lenders allow you to defer payments during school and for six months after graduation. They also have a variety of repayment terms, often ranging from five to 20 years.

Options for Deferment or Forbearance

Federal student loan borrowers can apply for deferment or forbearance if they encounter financial difficulties while they are repaying their loans. These options allow borrowers to pause their loan payments (interest, however, will typically continue to accrue).

Some private lenders may offer options for borrowers who are facing financial difficulties, including short periods of deferment or forbearance. Some also offer unemployment protection, which allows qualifying borrowers who have lost their job through no fault of their own to modify payments on their student loans.

Loan Forgiveness

Borrowers with federal student loans might be able to pursue loan forgiveness through federal programs such as PSLF or Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or after paying down their balances on an IDR plan for a certain period of time.

Since private student loans aren’t controlled by the government, they are not eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs. Though private lenders will often work with borrowers to avoid default, private student loans are rarely forgiven. Generally, it only happens if the borrower becomes permanently disabled or dies.

Should You Consider Private Student Loans?

There are many different types of student loans. It’s generally a good idea to maximize federal student loans before turning to private student loans. That way, you’ll have access to income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs, and extended deferment and forbearance periods.

If you still need money to cover tuition or other expenses, and you (or your cosigner) has strong credit, a private student loan can make sense.

Private student loans can also be useful if your expenses suddenly go up and you’ve already maxed out federal student loans, since they allow you to access additional funding relatively quickly. You might also consider a private student loan if you don’t qualify for federal loans. If you’re an international student, for example, a private loan may be your only college funding option.

Another scenario where private student loans can make sense is if you only plan to take out the loan short-term. If you’ll be able to repay the loan over a few years, private student loans could end up costing less overall.

Recommended: When to Apply for Student Loans

How to Get a Private Student Loan

Here’s a look at the steps involved in getting a private student loan.

1.    Shop around. Your school may have a list of preferred lenders, but you’re not restricted to this list. You can also do your own research to find top lenders. As you evaluate lenders, consider factors like interest rates, how much you can borrow, the loan term, when you must start repayment, any fees, and if the lender offers any hardship programs.

2.    See if you can prequalify. Some lenders allow borrowers to get a quote by filling out a prequalification application. This generally involves a soft credit inquiry (which won’t impact your credit score) and tells you what interest rates and terms you may qualify for. Completing this step can help you decide if you need a cosigner.

3.    Gather your information. To officially apply for a private student loan, you typically need to provide your Social Security number, birthdate, and home address, as well as proof of employment and income. You may also need to provide other financial information, such as your assets, rent or mortgage, and tax returns. If you have a cosigner, you’ll have to provide their personal and financial details as well.

4.    Submit your application. Once you’ve completed your application, the lender will typically contact your school to verify your information and eligibility. They will then process the student loan and notify you about your approval and disbursement of your money.


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

Does Everyone Get Approved for Private Student Loans?

No. Requirements for private student loans will vary depending on the lender, but generally to qualify you need to:

•   Attend an accredited school (this typically includes four-year colleges and, sometimes, two-year community colleges and trade schools).

•   Have a strong credit score (usually in the mid-600s or higher).

•   Have a steady income that can cover your expenses.

If you don’t meet these qualifications you can apply with a cosigner who does.

Apply for a Private Student Loan with SoFi

Private student loans are offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders to help college students cover their educational expenses. They are not part of the federal student loan program, and generally do not feature the flexible repayment terms or borrower protections offered by federal student loans. However, private student loans come with higher loan limits, and the borrowing costs are sometimes lower compared to their federal counterparts. If you’re thinking about a private student loan for college, it pays to shop around to find the best rates and terms.

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.

FAQ

Why would someone get a private student loan?

Students typically turn to private student loans when federal loans won’t cover all of their costs. Private student loans come with higher borrowing limits than their federal counterparts. The aggregate max you can borrow from the government for your entire undergraduate education is $31,000. With private loans, on the other hand, you can typically borrow up to the total cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received, every year. This gives you more flexibility to get the financing you need.

Will private student loans be forgiven?

Private student loans aren’t funded by the government, so they don’t offer the same forgiveness programs. In fact, private student loan forgiveness is rare.

If you experience financial hardship, however, many lenders will work with you to stay out of default. They may agree to temporarily lower your payments, waive a payment, or switch to interest-only payments. Or, you might qualify for deferment or forbearance, which temporarily postpones your payments (though interest continues to accrue).

Are private student loans paid to you or the school?

Typically, lenders will send your private student loan money to your school, which will apply the loan to your current charges. The school will then transfer any balance to you to use towards other costs, such as school supplies and other living expenses.


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


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


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

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

SOIS1023029

Read more
books on the wall

Strategies for Lowering Your Student Loan Interest Rate

When you’re in college, you don’t have a lot of control over the interest rates on your student loans. With federal loans, the U.S. Department of Education sets the rate each year for all borrowers. And if you get private student loans, a limited credit history can make it hard for young people to score favorable terms.

But once you graduate, there are a few things you can try to save money on interest. Here are a few tips that may lower your interest rate on student loans.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Scoring discounts with your current servicer can help you get a lower student loan interest rate, but there is another option to consider. Depending on your financial profile, you may qualify for a lower student loan interest rate than what you’re currently paying with student loan refinancing.

There are multiple advantages to refinancing student loans. You can potentially lower your interest rate by bundling several loans (federal and private) into one new loan. And if you shorten your loan term, you may be able to pay off your student loans much faster and pay less in interest over the life of your loan.

Student Loan RefinancingStudent Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is ideal for borrowers with high-interest student loans who have good credit scores and know they won’t use any of the federal loan benefits, like student loan forgiveness. (All federal loan benefits, including income-based repayment, will be lost if you refinance.)

Here are a few things that can help you improve your chances of getting a lower student loan interest rate with refinancing:

•   A high credit score: Lenders typically have a minimum credit score requirement, so the higher your score, the better your chances of getting a low rate usually are.

•   A low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your income is also an important factor that lenders consider, especially as it relates to your overall debt burden. If a smaller portion of your monthly income goes toward debt payments, it shows you may have more income to dedicate to your new loan’s payments.

•   A co-signer: Even if your credit and income situation is in good shape, having a co-signer with great credit and a solid income might help your case.

•   A variable rate: Some student loan refinance lenders offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates may start out lower but increase over time with market fluctuations. Fixed rates, stay the same over the life of the loan. If you’re planning on paying off your student loans quickly, a variable rate might save you money.

•   The right lender: Each lender has its own criteria for setting interest rates, so it’s important to shop around to find the best lender for your needs. Some lenders, including SoFi, even allow you to view rate offers before you officially apply.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

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


Consolidate Your Student Loans

Have multiple student loans floating around that you’d love to combine into one? Consider loan consolidation, where you’ll merge all your student loans into one easy monthly payment with a single interest rate. Here’s the rub, though: Consolidation alone does not necessarily get you a lower student loan interest rate. It just offers you one payment instead of multiple.

When consolidating federal student loans, you can use a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new interest rate is simply the weighted average of all your current student loan interest rates. The weighted average might be a smidge higher than the interest rates you were paying previously. Often folks utilize consolidation to stretch out the life of their student loan, which lowers your payments but may increase the amount you owe over time.

Even though consolidation itself is not a direct way to get a better rate on your student loans, it can be helpful if you’re having trouble keeping track of your monthly payments. Consolidation may also be useful if you want to merge non-direct federal loans (like Perkins loans) with direct loans, in order to qualify for income-driven repayment and/or loan forgiveness programs.

By the way, the term “consolidating” is often used interchangeably with “refinancing,” but they technically mean different things. When refinancing student loans, you also happen to be consolidating, but it is done with the goal of achieving a more favorable interest rate on your student loans.

Recommended: The Basics of the Student Loans

Set Up Automatic Payments

Many student loan servicers — both federal and private — offer an interest rate discount if you set up autopay on your account. Depending on the servicer, you can lower your student loan interest rate. SoFi, for example, offers a 0.25% autopay discount.

The reason servicers offer this discount is that by setting up automatic payments, you’re less likely to miss payments and default on the loan.

In addition to getting a lower student loan interest rate, you’ll also (hopefully!) have peace of mind knowing that you won’t accidentally miss a payment. If you feel you’re putting a little too much money toward student loans, check with your loan servicer to see whether they offer an autopay discount.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Get a Loyalty Discount

In addition to an autopay discount, some private student loan companies also offer a loyalty discount when you have another eligible account with them.

If you’re already a member with SoFi, for instance, you receive an interest rate discount of 0.125% on all new loans.

Other lenders may require that you have an eligible checking or savings account with them to qualify for the bonus, and you may even get a bigger discount if you make your monthly payments from that account.

To get an idea of how a change in interest rate would impact your loan, take advantage of a student loan refinance calculator to see what your new payments could be.

Choose the Right Repayment Plan

If you don’t choose a specific repayment path, you’re typically opted into the Standard Repayment Plan. In this plan, your payments are generally based on a 10-year timeline. But this one-size-fits-all plan is not the best option for everyone.

The federal government also offers four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans — Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — where the monthly payments are based on your income and family size. While choosing one of these plans may lower your monthly payments, it will likely not alleviate how much interest you pay over time. In fact, you might even pay significantly more.

After 20 or 25 years, depending on the IDR plan, any remaining balance is forgiven. However, the amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS. So even though your student loan debt goes away, prepare yourself for a big tax bill that year.

Another money-saving repayment option for federal student loans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work in a qualifying public service job — for the government or a nonprofit organization — you might be eligible to have your student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

You can confirm whether your work qualifies here. You’ll want to submit an Employment Certification as soon as possible to be sure that you’re on track to qualify.

Recommended: 4 Student Loan Repayment Options, and How to Choose

Lower Your Student Loan Interest Rate

There are several ways to get a lower student loan interest rate. It can be as easy as calling your servicer to find out what discounts are available. You can also choose a new repayment plan, consolidate your federal loans, or refinance federal and private loans. With refinancing, you may secure a lower interest rate if you have a high credit score, low debt-to-income ratio, a cosigner, or a variable interest rate. Just know that when refinancing federal student loans, borrowers lose federal protections and forgiveness.

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

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


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


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


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

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.

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.

SOSL0923048

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender