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Personal Loan vs Personal Line of Credit

When it comes to a personal loan vs. a personal line of credit, the two main differences are how the loan funds are disbursed to the borrower and how the credit is repaid.

There are also similarities between these two financial products. Funds from each can be used for a variety of expenses, with few exceptions. Also, to approve a personal loan or line of credit, lenders will run a hard credit check during the application process.

Deciding whether a personal loan or a personal line of credit might be right for you can require looking at a few different factors. Here, you’ll learn more about this important topic so you can make the best choice for your specific situation.

What Is a Personal Line of Credit and How Does It Work?

A personal line of credit (LOC) is a type of revolving credit similar to a credit card. But funds are typically accessed by writing checks provided by the lender or requesting a funds transfer to your checking account instead of by using a card.

An LOC typically allows the borrower to withdraw funds repeatedly, up to the credit limit. Any funds that are withdrawn are subject to repayment with interest. When they are repaid, they can be accessed again up to your particular credit limit. There may be a limit on the number of years the line of credit is available.

Additional points to know:

•   Some lenders may assess fees associated with an LOC. There may be a maintenance charge for inactive accounts. There may also be ongoing fees, monthly or annual, even if the LOC is being used. Some other expenses may include application fees, check processing fees, and late fees, among others. It’s important to be aware of any potential fees before you sign an LOC agreement.

•   Personal lines of credit are usually unsecured, although you may be able to put up collateral to get a lower interest rate. A home equity line of credit, or HELOC, is an example of a secured line of credit.

•   Typically, a personal LOC will be offered by a bank or credit union, and you might have to have another account with the lending institution to be considered for an LOC.

•   If your LOC is unsecured, the interest rate will probably be variable, which means it could go up or down during the loan’s term, and your payments could vary. But you’ll only be charged interest on the amount you withdraw. If you’re not using any LOC funds, you won’t be charged interest.

If you expect to have ongoing expenses or if you have a big expense (like a wedding or home renovation) but don’t know what your final budget will be, this type of borrowing might be a useful financial tool.

A personal LOC also may be the right fit if you need some flexibility with your borrowing. For example, self-employed workers who know they’ll be paid by a client but aren’t sure exactly when, can tap into their line of credit to pay expenses while they wait. They can pay that money back when they receive payment from the client, and they won’t have to use high-interest credit cards or borrow from other savings to make ends meet.

Of course, there are downsides to that easy-to-access money. Here’s a closer look:

•   Since unsecured lines of credit are considered by lenders to be riskier than their secured counterparts, it can be more difficult to qualify at a favorable interest rate.

•   Once you have access, it may be tempting to use the funds for purposes other than originally planned. Keeping in mind the intended purpose for the funds may help you stick to it and not use the funds for other purchases.



💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and get you out of debt sooner.

Pros and Cons of Personal Lines of Credit

Having funds that can be accessed as needed can be helpful. But there are also some drawbacks to consider. Take a look at how the pros and cons stack up for personal lines of credit.

Pros of Personal Lines of Credit

•   Easy access to funds.

•   Open-ended vs. set distribution of money.

•   Minimal limits on use of funds.

•   Can be useful for ongoing expenses.

Cons of Personal Lines of Credit

•   May have a higher interest rate than other forms of credit.

•   Typically are unsecured, so may be more difficult to qualify for than other forms of credit.

•   Interest rate may be variable, presenting a budgeting challenge.

•   Ease of access can be tempting to use for impulse shopping.

What Is a Personal Loan and How Does It Work?

A personal loan, on the other hand, is a fixed amount of money disbursed to the borrower in a lump sum. If the loan has a fixed interest rate, as is typical for personal loans, the payments are in fixed installments for the term of the loan. If the loan has a variable interest rate, the monthly payments may fluctuate as the interest rate changes in accordance with market rates.

Because personal loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards, they’re often used to pay off other debts such as home and car repairs or medical bills, or to consolidate other higher-interest debts such as credit card balances into one manageable — and potentially lower — monthly payment.

Here are some more ways these loans are often used:

•   A personal loan can be a helpful tool for debt consolidation. If you can qualify for a personal loan that has a lower interest rate than your other outstanding debts, you may be able to save money in the long run by consolidating those debts. In order for this financial strategy to work, it’s important to stop using the old sources of credit to avoid going deeper into debt.

•   A personal loan also could be a suitable choice for paying for a wedding or home renovation. But it’s important that you feel confident about being able to repay the loan on time and in full. If you don’t responsibly manage a personal loan — or any kind of debt, for that matter — your credit can be adversely affected.

•   You can apply for a secured or unsecured personal loan. A secured loan, which is backed by collateral, is typically considered less of a risk by lenders than an unsecured loan is. Collateral is an asset the borrower owns — a vehicle, real estate, savings account, or other item of value. If the borrower fails to repay a secured loan, the lender has the right to take possession of the asset that was put up as collateral.

Here are a few more points about how the process of getting a personal loan can work:

•   An applicant’s overall creditworthiness will be considered during the approval process. Generally, an applicant with a higher credit score will qualify for a lower interest rate, and vice versa.

•   Some lenders charge personal loan fees such as origination fees or prepayment penalty fees. Before signing a loan agreement, it’s important to be aware of any fees you may be charged.



💡 Quick Tip: In a climate where interest rates are rising, you’re likely better off with a fixed interest rate than a variable rate, even though the variable rate is initially lower. On the flip side, if rates are falling, you may be better off with a variable interest rate.

Pros and Cons of Personal Loans

When you need a set amount of money for an expense, a personal loan can be a good choice. Along with the benefits of using this financial tool also come a few drawbacks to consider.

Pros of Personal Loans

•   May be a good choice for large, upfront expenses.

•   Typically have fixed interest rates.

•   Steady payments may be easier to budget for.

•   May have a lower interest rate than credit cards.

Cons of Personal Loans

•   Unsecured personal loans may have higher interest rates than other forms of secured credit.

•   May need a higher credit score to qualify for lower interest rates.

•   If not used responsibly, it can add to a person’s debt load instead of alleviating it.

•   May have fees.

Major Differences Between Personal Lines of Credit and Personal Loans

When you’re looking for the right source of funding for your financial needs, it can help to compare different types. Here are some specifics to consider when looking at personal LOCs and personal loans.

Personal Line of Credit

Personal Loan

Typically has a fixed interest rate More likely to have a variable interest rate
Fixed interest rate may make it easier to budget payments Variable interest rate may present a budgeting challenge
Fixed, lump sum Open-ended credit, up to approved limit
Interest is charged during entire loan term Interest is only charged on withdrawn amounts
Revolving debt Installment debt

Considering the Type of Debt

When you’re thinking about applying for a personal LOC or a personal loan, it’s important to consider the effect borrowing money can have on your credit score. If you borrow money without a repayment plan in place, you could run into trouble no matter which borrowing option you go for. But each is looked at differently by the credit bureaus.

A personal LOC is revolving debt, which means it will factor into your credit utilization ratio — how much you owe compared to the amount of credit that’s available to you. This can count as the second most weighty factor (at 30%) toward your score.

For a FICO® Score, keeping your total credit utilization rate below 30% is recommended. That means if your credit limit on is $15,000, you would use no more than $4,500.

•   Using a large percentage of your available credit can have a negative effect on your credit score. And lenders may see you as a high-risk applicant because they may assume you’re close to maxing out your credit cards.

•   Using a small percentage of your available credit can work in your favor. If your credit utilization ratio is low (under 10%), it signifies to potential lenders that other lenders have determined you to be a good risk, but you don’t need to use the credit that’s been extended to you.

•   Having a low credit utilization rate by using just a little of your available credit could actually have a more positive effect on your credit score than not using any of it at all. Lenders generally look for signifiers of a healthy relationship with credit.

A personal loan is installment debt and isn’t considered in your credit utilization ratio. In fact, if you pay off your revolving debt with a personal loan, it potentially can lower your credit utilization ratio and have a positive effect on your credit score. A personal loan also can add some positive variety to your credit mix — something else that’s calculated into your credit score.

Personal LOC or Personal Loan: Which Is Right for You?

Before you decide to take out a line of credit or a personal loan, it’s wise to compare lenders. Look at the annual percentage rate and whether it’s fixed or variable. You can also take into account any fees you might have to pay, including origination fees, annual fees, access fees, prepayment penalties, and late payment fees.

Estimating the total cost of the loan until it’s paid in full, including the principal loan amount, interest owed, and any fees or penalties you could potentially be charged, will help you figure out how much the loan will actually cost you.

You might use an online personal loan calculator to help you assess these total costs.

The Takeaway

Deciding when and how to borrow money can be a tough decision. Personal loans and personal lines of credit each have their pros and cons. Personal lines of credit allow you to borrow up to a credit limit, while personal loans disburse a lump sum. Interest rates, fees, and other features may vary. It’s wise to consider your needs and options carefully, reading the fine print on possible offers.

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 2023 winner for Best Online 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.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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

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

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

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What Is a Liquid Certificate of Deposit?

Guide to Liquid Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

If you’re in search of a low-risk way to grow your money, a liquid certificate of deposit (CD) might be worth a closer look. A liquid CD gives you a fixed, guaranteed rate of interest for a specific term, but unlike standard CDs, you don’t pay a penalty if you withdraw the funds before the maturity date.

Granted, the returns you earn on a liquid CD may not compete with stock market investments, but knowing that your money is earning interest and likely won’t incur any losses can be powerful benefits.
Here, you’ll learn more about liquid CDs, including:

•   What a liquid CD is

•   How to withdraw money from a liquid CD

•   The pros and cons of liquid CDs

•   Alternatives to liquid CDs.

What Is a Liquid Certificate of Deposit?

Before you think about investing in a CD, here’s a look at definitions:

•   A certificate of deposit, or CD, is a savings vehicle that usually gives you a bit of interest with virtually no risk, provided you keep the money in place for a certain term. If, however, you withdraw funds before the CD matures (or reaches the end of its term), you are usually penalized. You will likely lose some or all of the interest earned and perhaps even a bit of the principal. In other words, are certificates of deposit liquid? Usually not.

•   A liquid certificate of deposit, on the other hand, gives you flexibility. It allows the account holder to withdraw money from their account prior to the maturity date without incurring penalties. This means you can access funds in the CD should you need them without penalty. However, the rates for liquid CDs tend to be lower than other kinds of CDs.


💡 Quick Tip: Typically, checking accounts don’t earn interest. However, some accounts do, and online banks are more likely than brick-and-mortar banks to offer you the best rates.

Understanding a Liquid CD

You may be wondering, “What are liquid assets?” In the realm of finance, the concept of “liquid” means that an asset can quickly be converted to cash. A liquid CD is a time-bound deposit account where you can earn interest for a specific period of time. Compared to traditional CD’s however, liquid CDs will not charge you early withdrawal penalties. This means you can easily liquidate (turn into cash) your CD without taking a hit in terms of its value.

As noted above, there’s a “but” to this proposition, which you may hear referred to as no-penalty CDs: Liquid CDs typically pay less than traditional CDs. Depending on which financial institution you go to, these products can offer various terms, either as little as a few months or up to several years or longer. Your fixed interest rate will vary according to the length of the term you’ve chosen. Typically, the longer you hold your money in the liquid CD, the higher the rate of return.

What can be a big plus about CD rates is that they are locked in during the full term. This means even if interest rates decrease, your rate would not change. Some financial institutions may require a minimum deposit for these CDs, and they can be significantly higher than traditional CDs; some are at the $10,000 and up level. What’s more, the minimum deposit may go up if you are seeking a higher interest rate, while others don’t have a minimum deposit requirement at all.

How Do You Withdraw Money From a Liquid CD?

If you have decided that you need to withdraw from your liquid CD, here’s what usually happens:

•   Check with your bank about how long it will take to process a withdrawal and whether you need to withdraw a certain percentage at a time. (Some banks may require you to close the account entirely.)

•   When ready, notify your bank of your withdrawal.

•   You will likely have to wait about a week after opening the liquid CD before you can start withdrawing.

•   Wait for your funds. Withdrawal is likely not as quick as withdrawing funds from a checking or savings account; your financial institution might require anywhere from a week to a month to process the transaction.

Recommended: What Happens If a Direct Deposit Goes to a Closed Account?

Liquid CD: Real World Example

Once you have decided a no-penalty CD is right for you, you will need to go to a bank or credit union that offers this account. Once you’ve opened an account, you have to fund it.

How it grows will depend on the principal, your APY (annual percentage yield), and how often the CD compounds the interest, which could be, say, daily or monthly.

•   If you invested $10,000 in a liquid CD with a three-year at a rate of 5.30%, at the end of the three-year period with interest compounded monthly, you will have a total balance of about $11,719.28.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Pros of a Liquid CD

When evaluating liquid CDs, it’s worthwhile to review the benefits of these accounts. Some of the key upsides are:

•   Liquidity. You can access and withdraw your funds prior to the term’s end. Perhaps you’re having an emergency that requires cash, or you decide to move around your money to better meet your financial goals. It’s possible!

•   No penalties. If you dip into the account before it matures, you won’t be assessed a fee.

•   Security. Liquid CDs are safe investments. These accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per insured institution. You’ll know your money is protected when you open a liquid CD with a bank or credit union. Even in the very rare situation of a bank failure, you’re covered as noted.

•   Guaranteed returns. When you start a liquid CD account, you usually know the interest rate upfront. It may not be stratospheric, but it’s a sure thing.

Cons of a Liquid CD

Now that we’ve explored the good things about a liquid CD, we need to give equal time to the potential downsides:

•   Lower rate of return. The interest rates are significantly lower compared to certificate of deposit rates.

•   Withdrawal rules. Yes, these accounts are more accessible, but after your deposit has been in place for a week, your withdrawal guidelines may be quite specific. For instance, you may have to remove all your funds if you want to make a withdrawal, or the amount might be limited to a certain percentage that doesn’t suit your needs. Check before starting a liquid CD investment.

•   Tax implications. Earnings on your liquid CD will be taxed at your federal rate, which is something to keep in mind as that will take your return down a notch.

Recommended: How to Automate Your Personal Finances

Alternatives to a Liquid CD

If the idea of a liquid CD doesn’t sound like an appealing low-risk investment option, there are alternatives to also consider.

Traditional CDs

Traditional certificates of deposit require you to stow your money away for a certain period of time. In exchange, you receive a return at the end of that period. The catch is, you are not able to withdraw your funds during this holding period. If you have a financial emergency, for example, and need the money from your CD, you will receive penalties for withdrawing your cash before the period of maturity.

However, this might be a gamble you are willing to take, especially if you have a nice, healthy emergency fund set aside. You’ll earn a better rate of return than with a liquid CD.

Laddering

CD laddering usually involves opening CDs of different term lengths. This strategy allows you to invest long-term CDs which provide higher rates of return, while having the ability to access your funds through a shorter-term CD maturing.

Money Market Account

Another CD alternative is a money market account, which is similar to a savings account with some added benefits. Money market accounts typically require minimum balances and offer rates comparable to savings accounts, which can change over time. While the rates may be lower than a CD, money market accounts typically allow you to withdraw and transfer your money six times per month or more.

Emergency Fund

An emergency fund, or a rainy-day fund, is a savings account that should only be used in times of financial emergencies or unexpected expenses. Depending on your financial position, you can have an emergency fund in a regular savings account, money market account, CD, or liquid CD. It depends on how much you plan to access your emergency fund and how much interest you want to earn in the account.

High-Yield Savings Account

A high-yield savings account can offer a competitive rate of interest, depending on the financial institution offering it (online banks tend to pay more than traditional ones). And you’ll have more liquidity than a CD because you can deposit and withdraw from the account more frequently, though the specifics may vary with each bank. If you want easy access to your funds plus interest, a high-yield bank account may be a good option.

The Takeaway

Liquid CDs are a financial product that offers the safety and guaranteed return of a traditional CD with the bonus of not being penalized if you make an early withdrawal. For those who are comfortable locking their money into a CD but worry an emergency or other need might pop up, this accessibility can be very attractive. Worth noting: Expect lower interest rates from a liquid CD than a standard one. Alternatives to a liquid CD can include a high-yield savings account.

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


Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Are CDs liquid investments?

Traditional CDs are not liquid investments. Funds held in a CD cannot be accessed until the account term is reached. If you need to withdraw money from your CD prior to its maturity date, you will have to pay a penalty. A liquid CD, however, offers flexibility to withdraw money from your account prior to its term date without the usual fees.

What is a non-penalty CD?

A non-penalty CD, also known as a liquid CD, is a time deposit that offers interest on your money. However, the rate is usually somewhat lower than the rate for a typical CD (the kind with penalties). The longer the term you choose for your liquid CD, the more you usually can earn.

How much is the penalty for early withdrawal from a CD?

Each financial institution has its own way of calculating this, but it usually involves losing some of all of the interest you have accrued. If you have a two-year traditional CD and withdraw funds early, the fee could vary considerably; a recent search found anywhere from two months’ to a year’s’ worth of interest. If you have a liquid or no-penalty CD, you will of course avoid these fees.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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What is a No-Interest Loan? A Personal Loan Guide

What Is a No-Interest Loan? A Personal Loan Guide

No-interest loans offer borrowers a way to obtain financing without the additional cost of interest. Instead, you are only responsible for paying back the original amount you borrowed, or the principal.

That may sound like a great deal, but financing offers that tout a 0% annual percentage rate (APR) often come with a catch: If you don’t follow the terms outlined in your loan agreement to the letter, you can end up paying interest on the full amount that you borrowed. In addition, some lenders charge fees for short-term zero-interest loans, which means you’ll end up paying back more than you borrow.

Read on to learn what no-interest loans are, how they work, and any potential costs that may be involved.

Are Interest-Free Personal Loans Real?

Yes. It is possible to get a personal loan with no interest. Also referred to as zero-interest or 0% APR loans, no-interest loans are essentially loans that let you borrow money without additional interest charges, provided you closely follow the loan’s terms and conditions.

What you can use a no-interest personal loan for will depend on the lender and type of loan you apply for. For example, some zero-interest loans, like certain auto loans, can only be used for financing a car, while others are only available for a specific retail purchase.

Interest-free loans aren’t necessarily cost-free, however. Some of these loans come with fees, such as a set-up, origination, or application fee. Also, many so-called “interest-free loans” charge something called deferred interest.

Deferred interest is a delay in interest charges for a set time period. If you pay off your loan balance in full by the end of the zero-interest term, you won’t pay any interest. If you don’t pay the loan in full by that time, the lender may charge retroactive interest charges going back to the day you took out the loan, even if you’ve already paid off a good portion of your balance.

If you get hit with any of these charges, an interest-free loan could end up being more expensive than a regular personal loan.


💡 Quick Tip: Some personal loan lenders can release your funds as quickly as the same day your loan is approved.

How Do Interest-Free Personal Loans Work?

With a standard personal loan, you pay back both the principal amount plus interest in regular (fixed) installments over the term of the loan. Interest is the cost of borrowing the funds. With a no-interest loan, however, you skip that additional interest charge. Instead, you only repay the original amount borrowed in regular installments.

Typically, no-interest loans have introductory offers that provide 0% APR for a set period of time. For example, a furniture or appliance store may say you can get interest-free financing for 24 months. If you don’t pay the balance in full by then, you’ll pay interest on any remaining balance (and, in some cases, the full balance).

Zero-interest loans are typically facilitated through third-party lenders, not by the stores themselves. These lenders may have specific eligibility criteria that borrowers must meet to qualify for 0%-interest personal loans, such as a certain minimum credit score, income level, and employment history.

No-Interest Loan Options

Here’s a look at some of the different types of 0-interest loans available.

Nonprofit Loan With No Interest

Some nonprofit and local organizations offer no-interest loans to people in financial need, individuals who have experienced emergencies, or businesses that operate in low-income communities. In some cases, there are strings attached, such as having to use the loan for a specific purpose.

In addition, some universities offer 0% APR emergency loans to students that are experiencing a financial emergency.

Medical Loans

Medical care can be expensive. To help make the cost of treatments and procedures more manageable, some doctors and medical practices participate in a no-interest loan program. While these services can be helpful, some charge a high interest rate if you don’t pay your bill in full by a certain deadline.

Recommended: How to Pay for Medical Bills You Can’t Afford

Car Loans

Some auto dealerships offer no-interest car loans to attract buyers. They may only do this at certain times of the year (to clear out space for new models) or when they want to get rid of slower-selling cars.

While a 0%-interest car loan is tempting, these loans often have shorter repayment terms, which means monthly payments may be high. Taking the 0-percent car financing deal could also mean missing out on incentives such as generous manufacturer rebates.

Recommended: Smarter Ways to Get a Car Loan

Retail Loans

Stores that sell furniture, appliances, electronics, and other big-ticket items will often offer no-interest loans to incentivize buyers to close a deal. But borrower beware: These loans often charge deferred interest, which means that if you don’t pay off the entire amount by a set time period, you’ll pay interest on the entire amount, even if you’ve already paid off most of the balance.

Buy Now, Pay Later Programs

Some online retailers offer buy now, pay later (BNPL) programs that provide interest-free loans for any shopping you do on their site. These plans often split up costs over several payments scheduled two to four weeks apart.

As long as you make payments as agreed, you typically won’t pay interest. However, if you miss a BNPL payment, you may be charged late fees and/or interest on your unpaid balance. Depending on the amount charged by the BNPL lender and how these fees are structured, they can add up quickly.

Pros of a 0%-Interest Personal Loan

Interest-free personal loans come with some significant advantages. Here are some to consider.

Complete a Purchase Without Waiting

An interest-free loan can make it possible to buy something you need now, even if you don’t have the available cash to cover the cost. Often, these loans allow you to pay for a purchase in multiple installments over time without any added expense.

Potential Savings in Interest Charges

A 0%-interest loan could help you save a significant amount of money in interest compared to putting a purchase on a credit card and carrying a balance over several months.

Flexible Qualification Requirements

Some lenders offer interest-free loans with a low bar to entry. Some BNPL companies, for example, won’t run a credit check. As long as you have a checking account with a positive balance and a steady paycheck, you may be able to get approved.

Cons of No-interest Personal Loans

Interest-free loans also have several potential downsides. Here are some you’ll want to keep in mind.

Fees

Some interest-free loans and BNPL apps offer no-interest loans but charge fees. Lenders may charge set-up fees, account maintenance fees, and/or late payment fees.

Deferred Interest

If you don’t follow the terms outlined in your loan agreement, you could end up paying interest on the original amount that you borrowed, not merely your unpaid balance.

Encourages Impulse Buying

Zero-interest loans, where you only need to repay the principal balance, often lure people into impulsively buying expensive items, like cars, appliances, and other luxury goods, they can’t really afford.

Pros of a No-Interest Loan

Cons of a No-Interest Loan

Allows you to get a needed purchase right now May come with fees that can increase the amount you have to repay
Saves money on interest If you don’t pay in full by a set date, the lender may charge interest retroactively
May not require a credit check Could encourage impulse purchasing

Interest-Free Loan Alternatives

An interest-free loan may be a good idea for some borrowers. But they won’t fit everyone’s financial situation. Here are some alternatives you may want to consider.

Personal Loans

A traditional personal loan is money you can borrow from a bank, credit union, or online lender that can be used for nearly any purpose. Common uses include paying off credit card debt, financing a large purchase, covering emergency expenses, or paying for a major expense like a wedding or a home renovation.

A personal loan comes with a set repayment period and consistent monthly payments. Most personal loans are unsecured, so you won’t have to put down collateral to borrow the money. One of the biggest benefits of a personal loan is that they often charge lower fixed interest rates when compared to other forms of lending, like credit cards.


💡 Quick Tip: If you’ve got high-interest credit card debt, a personal loan is one way to get control of it. But you’ll want to make sure the loan’s interest rate is much lower than the credit cards’ rates — and that you can make the monthly payments.

0% APR Credit Card

With a 0% introductory purchase APR credit card, you won’t be charged interest on your purchases for a certain period of time, such as 12 or 18 months. If you use this type of card to make an expensive purchase and pay it off within the introductory period, it’s like an interest-free loan. At the end of the promotional period, however, any outstanding balance on your account would be subject to the regular purchase APR, and you’d be expected to pay the balance with interest.

Borrow Money From Loved Ones

Sometimes, asking a friend or family member for a loan might not be a bad option. As with any loan, you want to make sure you can repay it. Clear communication with a loved one in a strong financial situation — and perhaps a contract to define the terms of the loan, including whether or not interest will be charged — is a good way to keep money from hurting your relationship.

Recommended: Family Loans: Guide to Borrowing & Lending Money to Family

The Takeaway

Zero-interest loans do have their appeal. But they may cost you more than other financing alternatives in the end. Many zero-interest loan lenders charge fees. Plus, borrowers who fail to repay their balance before the interest-free period is over may face interest charges retroactive to the beginning of the loan term.

Before you jump at a 0-interest loan offer, it’s a good idea to take a close look at the terms of the deal, along with your budget. Are there any fees involved? If so, it may not be a great deal after all. Will you be able to meet the requirements necessary to maintain a 0% interest rate? If not, you may want to consider a more affordable alternative financing option.

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 2023 winner for Best Online Personal Loan overall.


Photo credit: iStock/MicroStockHub

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


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

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

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

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Can You Open a Bank Account Without an ID? All You Need to Know

How Do You Open a Bank Account Without an ID?

If you’re wondering, “Can you open a bank account without an ID?” here’s the short answer: No. You must have identification. Not only is this the law, but it would also be negligent if it weren’t a requirement because money is at stake. If accounts are opened without an ID, there’s all kinds of potential for funds to go to or from the wrong individual. That could create a very bad financial situation, as you might guess.

So read on to learn about opening a bank account without ID and your options when you are in this situation.

Can I Open a Bank Account Without an ID?

Some people may wonder why anyone other than a scammer would wonder how to open a bank account without an ID. But unfortunately this kind of situation can happen.

Think of the possibilities: You’ve moved, you’ve lost a vital folder of credentials, or you were robbed — life can throw you all kinds of curveballs. Or maybe you are new to the US and don’t have the required ID papers. But if you lack identification and you need to get a new bank account going, sorry: It’s not happening.

💡 Quick Tip: Don’t think too hard about your money. Automate your budgeting, saving, and spending with SoFi’s seamless and secure online banking app.

ID Rules for Opening a Bank Account

In the United States, identification is required to open a checking or savings account. Banks must abide by federal regulations that establish guidelines for opening new accounts. (While you cannot open a bank account without ID, you’ll learn more about what qualifies as identification in a moment.)

The US Patriot Act makes a customer identity program, or CIP (also called Know Your Customer), mandatory for all US financial institutions as a terrorism deterrent. Section 326 of this law allows banks to set their own criteria for verifying a new account holder’s identity, but must include at least:

•   Name

•   Address

•   Date of birth

•   Taxpayer identification number.

Not only must banks get the information, they must also verify it.

In terms of what kind of number is needed, a U.S. citizen needs either of these two options:

•   A Social Security number

•   A taxpayer identification number.

Otherwise, the kind of identification needed is:

•   A passport number and country of issuance

•   An alien identification card number

•   A number and country of issuance of any government-issued document that shows nationality or residence and has a photo.

Recommended: Guide to Safety Deposit Boxes

Opening a Bank Account Without an ID

Now, here are the steps you’ll follow to open one or multiple bank accounts, depending on the form of ID you possess.

Understand the Verification Process

Because documents can be fake, the bank must take steps to be sure they are accurate. They can do this by going to sources like the credit reporting agencies or checking the applicant’s references with other financial institutions. In the end, the bank must be confident that you are who you say you are before they will open an account.

Why are these documents so vital? Rules to prevent bank fraud and money laundering make it necessary for you to prove your identity when you apply for a bank account. Put yourself in the bank’s shoes for a minute. They have to adhere to the rules and regulations.

There’s no wiggle room. Imagine the liability issues the bank would face if they failed to properly vet an applicant for a new account and that person commits fraud.

Know the Requirements

Understanding what a bank needs is the first step; making sure you comply comes next. If you know the bank requires a name, address, and Social Security number, for example, be sure you can provide that information, and that the details are correct from any third-party from whom they seek verification.

Be sure you review a copy of your credit report to see if there are errors. Also make sure your personal information is accurate with utility companies and any government agencies the bank might seek input from. You’ll then have all your ducks in a row for opening your account.

Have an Identification Number (ITIN, SSN)

There are some numbers that you really need if you’re going to function in society, like an ITIN and SSN.

•   An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a social security number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number “9.”

To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual.

•   As for a Social Security number, you may well already have one. It’s how our government tracks earnings, and it’s used at many critical “adulting” moments, such as when you apply for a job or a federal loan. If you don’t have one, then you must complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card.

You’ll also need to submit evidence of your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. It can be a wise move to get one ASAP; a Social Security number is how government agencies can identify individuals and businesses in their records to track their financial information.

Have a Proof of Address

This is another key piece of information needed to open a bank account. When it comes to providing evidence of where you live, you have some flexibility. Banks generally will accept things like:

•   A utility or cell phone bill

•   A credit card statement

•   A lease agreement.

If you don’t get your bills mailed to you, you can always print out a statement from your online account.

Get up to $300 when you bank with SoFi.

Open a SoFi Checking and Savings Account with direct deposit and get up to a $300 cash bonus. Plus, get up to 4.60% APY on your cash!


Do Any Types of Bank Accounts Not Require an ID?

The bottom line is that you will need some form of identification to open a bank account. If you don’t have a driver’s license, passport, or a state-issued identification card (all of which are considered primary ID sources), you will have to work overtime to try to find a bank that has some flexibility in terms of what they will take as identification.

Some institutions will consider you for an account if you have two secondary ID sources. What’s a secondary source, you ask? A bank might take two of the following:

•   A birth certificate

•   A school or college ID card

•   A voter registration card

•   A Medicare card

•   An employment badge with your photo and signature

•   A major credit card

•   A social services (Welfare, etc.) photo card.

In addition, search for options based on your particular circumstances. For instance, if you are an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, you may find that some Hispanic-American-owned credit unions have programs specially designed to help you get a bank account.

Recommended: Guide to Opening a Bank Account as a Non-US Citizen

The Takeaway

Now that you’ve read this, the message has probably gotten through loud and clear: You likely cannot open a bank account without ID.

That said, if you don’t have identification like a driver’s license, passport, or a state government-issued card, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t open a bank account. Do your research to find out what institutions require for secondary identification. Two of those may get you in the door and on your way to getting your very own account.

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


Better banking is here with up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Can I open a bank account without an ID?

You cannot open an account without some form of identification. Banks are required by law to get and verify that you are who you say you are. That said, if you don’t have the most common forms of ID, you may still be able to start an account with some smart substitutions.

How do I get an ITIN?

To obtain an ITIN, you must complete IRS Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The Form W-7 requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity for each individual.

How can I open a bank account without ID proof?

If you don’t have a primary form of ID, like a driver’s license, passport, or state-government issued id card, you will have to find an institution that will accept two secondary forms of identification.

What can I use instead of an ID to open a bank account?

A bank might take two of the following: birth certificate, school or college ID, voter registration card, Medicare card, a major credit card, or a social services card (like Welfare) photo ID.


Photo credit: iStock/akinbostanci

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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students studying at library mobile

What Is a Pell Grant?

A Pell Grant is a type of federal funding that’s awarded to eligible undergraduate students who have exceptional financial need, and is provided to help pay for their education. In general, unlike a loan, Pell Grants usually don’t need to be repaid. The maximum amount that you can receive varies each year, with the 2023-24 school year’s maximum being $7,395.00.

Factors that play a role into what you might receive include your Expected Family Contribution (or EFC), the cost of attending your specific school for your specific program, whether you’ll be attending full-time or part-time, and whether you intend to attend school for the entire academic year.

Applying for a Pell Grant

If you believe you might qualify for the Pell Grant, then step one is the same as for every type of federal funding for students — to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). Note that you’ll need to fill out this form every year that you’re attending school to apply for federal aid, including but not limited to the Pell Grant.

If you receive Pell Grant funding, then your school can apply these funds to your school costs or pay you — or use a combination of these two methods.

Pell Grant Eligibility Requirements

In order to qualify for a Pell Grant, you’ll need to meet the grant’s eligibility requirements.

Income

Pell Grants are awarded to individuals who exhibit exceptional financial need. There are no official income limits for the Pell Grant. Instead, award amounts are determined by your Expected Family Contribution, the program cost of attendance, and your status as a full- or part-time student.

Academic Achievement

Renewal of the Pell Grant each year is based on the student making satisfactory academic progress. The specific policy for academic progress will be outlined by your school, but it generally includes things like a minimum GPA and the number of class credits you need to complete in order to make progress toward your degree.

Completing FAFSA

To apply for the Pell Grant, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA. In order to continue receiving the Pell Grant, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA each year you are enrolled in school.

Recommended: FAFSA Guide

Being an Undergraduate Student

Pell Grants are generally only awarded to undergraduate students. Though, there may be some exceptions for students enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs.

Maintaining Eligibility for a Pell Grant

To maintain your eligibility for a Pell Grant, you’ll need to stay enrolled in your undergraduate program. Additional Pell Grant requirements, among others, include that you need to either be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen.

You’ll also need to have a valid Social Security number and must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in an eligible educational program.

This program is available to qualifying students for 12 semesters.


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

Loans vs Scholarships vs Grants

Before taking a deeper dive into federal Pell Grant eligibility, it can help to delve into the differences between student loans, scholarships, and grants.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

Student Loans

Student loans are borrowed funds that need to be repaid, typically with interest. There are both federal student loans that the government offers, and private ones offered by financial institutions.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are offered to students based on data included in the FAFSA. Some federal student loans are unsubsidized, while others are subsidized. With an unsubsidized loan, the interest begins accumulating as soon as funds are dispersed. So, while you’re in school, even if you aren’t making payments yet, interest is accruing.

With a subsidized loan, though, the government will pay your interest until you graduate or drop below half-time status.

You usually need to start paying back federal loans after the grace period, which is six months after you graduate or your enrollment drops below half-time.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are usually used after federal student loan options have been exhausted. They may have a fixed or variable interest rate, and do not come with the same borrower protections as federal student loans. Different lenders may have different terms and rates and they’ll likely evaluate a potential borrower’s credit score and history, among other factors, to make their lending decision.

Recommended: Private vs Federal Student Loans

Scholarships

There are thousands of scholarships available to help students finance their college education. Some are based on financial need, others on merit, and sometimes both. The beauty of scholarships is that, unlike loans, they usually don’t need to be repaid. It can take some time to find the right scholarships for your situation.

Your high school counselor or college advisor may be able to help, and there are scholarship databases that you can search. Scholarships come with different requirements and different deadlines, so it typically helps to start early.

Grants

Like scholarships, grants typically don’t need to be paid back. They can be obtained from a variety of sources, including state governments, the federal government, your university, and private/non-profit organizations.

To receive a grant, you often need to meet financial criteria, and this kind of funding is usually based on financial need. And, this brings us full circle to a popular type of grant for college students today: the federal Pell Grant.

How Do Pell Grants Work?

To become eligible, you must fill out the FAFSA. If it’s determined you’re an undergraduate student with exceptional financial need — and you haven’t yet earned a bachelor’s degree (or a graduate or professional one) — then you may qualify for this grant funding.

Because each school that participates in the federal Pell Grant program receives enough funding annually to pay the full amount of Pell Grants to eligible students, if you’re eligible, you’ll receive the full amount you qualify for — and, if you qualify for other student aid, this does not have an impact on your Pell Grant eligibility.

Understanding Expected Family Contribution

As mentioned earlier, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) plays a role in what you’ll be awarded. This is an index used by college financial aid departments that allows them to calculate how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive if you attended their school. The financial aid departments make these calculations based upon information provided in your FAFSA.

Sometimes, students qualify for 150% of scheduled Pell Grants, and you might hear this referred to as “year-round Pell.” That’s because, sometimes, you can also receive Pell Grant funding during the summer semester. If this interests you, you’ll need to talk to your school’s financial aid department about the requirements for this type of Pell Grant.

Additional Pell Grant Funding for Military Service in Afghanistan or Iraq

Students may be eligible for more funding if their parent or guardian was a:

•   member of the U.S. military who died as a result of service performed in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, post 9/11

•   public safety officer who died in active service in the line of duty

Eligibility requirements also include that, at the time of this death, you were younger than 24 years old or were enrolled in college or a career school on at least a part-time basis. If you qualify and are eligible for a Pell Grant, then your eligibility will be calculated as if you had an EFC of zero. If you’re attending less than full-time, then payments will be adjusted accordingly.

What Sorts of Expenses Can the Pell Grant Be Used For?

The Pell Grant can be used to cover qualified education-related expenses, including:

Tuition

Pell Grant funds can be used to pay for the cost of tuition.

Educational Expenses

You can use your Pell Grant to pay for other education-related expenses, such as the cost of books, lab fees, or other supplies like a graphic calculator or other expenses related to your course of study.

Living Expenses

It’s also possible to use the Pell Grant to pay for living expenses. This could cover room and board at your college or university. Or, if you live off-campus, this could cover the cost of rent.

Is There Ever a Reason Not to Take a Pell Grant?

Because the Pell Grant does not typically need to be repaid, it is a desirable type of financial aid. If you expect to earn a larger award in the future — for example if you plan on transferring to a more expensive institution or anticipate your EFC to be less — you may consider declining your award in the hopes of qualifying for a larger award in future years.

When You Still Need More Money

The FAFSA, which is required to qualify for the Pell Grant, is also required for other forms of financial aid. In your financial aid award, you’ll also be able to review any scholarships, grants, work-study, or federal student loans you may have qualified for.

Generally, scholarships, grants, and work-study are relied on before student loans. Then federal student loans, particularly Direct Subsidized Loans which, as mentioned, do not accrue interest until after a student graduates or drops below half-time enrollment.

Private Scholarships

Thoroughly investigate scholarship opportunities, as well as grants. To increase your chances of successfully receiving these kinds of funding, it can really help to carefully prepare to apply for them. Materials you will likely need include transcripts, personal references, and a personal statement.

You can ask a trusted adult, whether that’s a teacher, parent, or guidance counselor, to read over what you’ve written. And, although some of the scholarship or grant amounts might at first look small, multiple smaller awards can really add up.

Part-Time Job

If you don’t qualify for or can’t find a work-study job, you can still seek employment on your own. Colleges often provide job boards that list opportunities for employment, either on or off campus.

You can also check job sites that aren’t connected with the college, and ask guidance counselors, professors, and friends and family for leads.

No matter how you find a job, having one can help you to earn money for college while also helping you to build a resume that could prove valuable as you look for full-time employment after graduation.

Private Student Loans

You can fill in the gap between what you can obtain with federal student loans, scholarships, and grants with private student loans. These loans differ from federal loans in many ways, with federal ones having fairly static criteria, including fixed interest rates, multiple plans for repayment, and options for loan forgiveness.

Private loans, as mentioned, are offered by financial institutions, such as banks and online lenders. To request funds, you fill out an application, just like you might for a car loan, a mortgage, or a personal loan. To qualify, the lender will typically review your income and your credit score — and those of your cosigner, should you need one — among other financial factors.

Private lenders set their own criteria for loan approvals, as well as their own terms. Private student loans can come with multiple benefits and, in many cases, they can provide the funding that would ultimately make a difference between being able to pay tuition — or not.

There are also downsides to borrowing private student loans. They don’t have the loan forgiveness programs that are available with federal student loans, or income-driven repayment plans. This means that private student loans are generally considered only after all other options have been evaluated.

If private loans may make sense for you, shop around to compare lenders and find the option that is best for you. To help determine what your payments might be with private loan funding, you can use this student loan calculator to get an idea.

Recommended: I Didn’t Get Enough Financial Aid: Now What?

The Takeaway

Pell Grants are awarded to students who exhibit exceptional financial need. Pell Grants do not typically need to be repaid and the amount awarded to each student may vary based on their personal financial circumstances. The maximum award for the 2023-24 school year is $7,395.00.

Other options for paying for college include federal student loans, scholarships, work-study, and grants.

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

What disqualifies you from getting a Pell Grant?

The Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate exceptional financial aid. To determine this, factors like your family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and the cost of your school will be evaluated. Students who don’t demonstrate exceptional financial need generally won’t qualify for a Pell Grant.

Individuals who are incarcerated are also not eligible to receive a Pell Grant.

Will you ever need to pay back a Pell Grant?

In most cases, you won’t be required to repay a Pell Grant. In certain situations, a student may need to repay all or a portion of their grant — such as if they dropped out of school or dropped from full-time to part-time enrollment.

Is there a minimum GPA required for a Pell Grant? Does it have to be maintained for your whole degree?

In order to maintain eligibility for a Pell Grant, you’ll need to make satisfactory academic progress toward your degree. The specific requirements will be outlined by your school, but may include a minimum GPA.


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.

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