## APR vs Interest Rate: What’s the Difference?

When the interest rate and annual percentage rate (APR) are calculated for a loan — especially a large one — the two can produce very different numbers, so it’s important to know the difference when evaluating what a loan will cost you.

Basically, the interest rate is the cost of borrowing money, and the APR is the total cost, including lender fees and any other charges.

Let’s look at interest rates vs. APRs for loans, and student loans in particular.

## What Is an Interest Rate?

An interest rate is the rate you pay to borrow money, expressed as a percentage of the principal. Generally, an interest rate is determined by market factors, your credit score and financial profile, and the loan’s repayment terms, among other things.

Nearly all federal student loans have a fixed interest rate that is not determined by credit score or financial standing. (However, a credit check is made for federal Direct PLUS Loans, which reject applicants with adverse credit, except in specific circumstances.)

Rates on federal student loans are rising: For loans made from July 1, 2024, to July 1, 2025, rates are increasing by roughly half a percentage point:

•   Direct Loans for undergraduate students. 6.53%, up from 5.50% for 2023-24.

•   Direct Loans for graduate students. 8.08%, up from 7.05% in 2023-24.

If a loan were to have no other fees, hidden or otherwise, the interest rate and APR could be the same number. But because most loans have fees, the numbers are usually different.

## What Is APR?

An APR is the total cost of the loan, including fees and other charges, expressed as an annual percentage.

Compared with a basic interest rate, an APR provides borrowers with a more comprehensive picture of the total costs of paying back a loan.

The federal Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to disclose a loan’s APR when they advertise its interest rate.

In most circumstances, the APR will be higher than the interest rate. If it’s not, it’s generally because of some sort of rebate offered by the lender. If you notice this type of discrepancy, ask the lender to explain.

## APR vs Interest Rate Calculation

The bottom line: The interest rate percentage and the APR will be different if there are fees (like origination fees) associated with your loan.

Let’s say you’re comparing loans with similar interest rates. By looking at the APR, you should be able to see which loan may be more cost-effective, because typically the loan with the lowest APR will be the loan with the lowest added costs.

So when comparing apples to apples, with the same loan type and term, APR may be helpful. But lenders don’t always make it easy to tell which loan is an apple and which is a pear. To find the best deal, you need to seek out all the costs attached to the loan.

You may find that a low APR comes with higher upfront fees, or that you don’t qualify for a super low advertised APR, reserved for those with stellar credit.

## How APR Works on Student Loans

Not all students (and graduates, for that matter) understand the true cost of their student loans. Borrowers may think that only private student loans come with origination fees, but that is not the case.

Most federal student loans have loan fees that are taken directly out of the balance of the loan before the loan is dispersed. It’s on the borrower to pay back the entire amount of the loan, not just the amount received at disbursement.

Federal student loan fees from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2024, are as follows:

•   Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans: 1.057% of the total loan amount

•   Direct PLUS Loans: 4.228% of the total loan amount

While interest on many other loans is actually calculated monthly or annually, interest on federal Direct Loans is calculated daily. As a result, it is slightly more difficult to do an interest rate-to-APR calculation on a federal student loan.

## Comparing Private and Federal Student Loans

Federal and private student loans have their pros and cons. In general, Direct Subsidized Loans offer competitive rates that are not dependent on the borrower’s credit.

When a federal student loan is subsidized, the borrower is not responsible for paying the interest that accrues while the student is in school and during most deferment periods.

Additionally, federal student loans offer flexible repayment plans, including income-driven repayment options. Federal student loans have fixed rates, and private loans may have fixed or variable rates.

Private student loans typically take borrowers’ credit into consideration. They can be useful in bridging gaps in need if you reach a cap on federal student loan borrowing.

## Understanding Interest Costs

Being able to compare an APR to another APR may help level the playing field when shopping for loans, but it’s not the only thing to consider.

You might want to take into consideration the repayment period of the loan in question, because it will also affect the total amount you’ll owe in interest over the life of the loan.

Two loans could have the exact same APR, but if one loan has a term of 10 years and the other has a term of 20 years, you’ll pay more in interest on the 20-year loan even though your monthly payments may be lower.

To illustrate this, imagine two \$10,000 loans, each at a 7% interest rate, but with 10- and 20-year repayment terms.

10-year repayment:

\$116.11 monthly payment
Total interest paid: \$3,933

20-year repayment:

\$77.53 monthly payment
Total interest paid: \$8,607

As you can see, the monthly payment on the 20-year loan is lower, but you pay significantly more in interest over time.

The reverse is also true: Shortening the payback period should lower the amount that you pay in interest over time, all else being equal.

## Can Refinancing Help?

When you refinance student loans, you pay off your existing federal and/or private student loans with a new loan from a private lender, aiming for a lower interest rate or a repayment timeline that works better for your finances. A brand-new loan means dealing with only one monthly payment.

Refinancing may be a good idea for working graduates who have high-interest Unsubsidized Direct Loans, Graduate PLUS Loans, and/or private loans. Just realize that when borrowers refinance federal student loans, they give up benefits like income-​driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness.

To understand how interest rates, loan repayment terms, and total interest charges interplay with one another, check out this student loan refinancing calculator.

## The Takeaway

APR vs. interest rate is what you may want to look at when deciding on a loan, because the APR reflects the fees involved. Even when it comes to federal student loans, fees are part of the story.

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.

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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## Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Guide

The Department of Education announced that federal student loan interest rates are increasing to 6.53% for the 2024-25 school year on undergraduate loans, up from 5.50% from the previous year.

Here, we’ll discuss how federal student loan interest rates are determined, how they have changed over the years, and when they may be higher than private lender rates.

## Overview of Federal Student Loan Interest Rates

The 2024-25 interest rate on Direct Subsidized loans for undergraduates is now 6.53% — the highest it’s been in history.

Below is an overview of how rates have increased over the last four years:

School Year 2021 – 2022

School Year 2022 – 2023

School Year 2023 – 2024

School Year 2024 – 2025

Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans for Undergrads 3.73% 4.99% 5.50% 6.53%
Direct Unsubsidized Loans for Graduate or Professional Students 5.28% 6.54% 7.05% 8.08%
Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate or Professional Students or Parents of Undergrads 6.28% 7.54% 8.05% 9.08%

Recommended: What’s the Average Student Loan Interest Rate?

## Why Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Can Vary From Year to Year

The reason that federal student loan interest rates fluctuates has to do with how and when federal student loan rates are set. By federal statute, they are determined once a year and are based on the high yield of the 10-year Treasury note last auctioned in May (for the upcoming school year).

That yield is then added to a required percentage to get the federal interest rate for loans disbursed on or after July of that year.

So in May 2020, when businesses were in lockdown due to Covid-19, the high yield of the 10-year Treasury note was less than 1%. In May 2022, as the Federal Reserve began to try to curb inflation by raising its rate, the high yield or index rate on the 10-year Treasury note was 2.94%, and in May 2023, as the economy was looking up in terms of inflation, the index rate was 3.448%.

💡 Quick Tip: Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.

### Required Markups to the 10-Year Treasury Index Rate to Determine Federal Student Loan Interest Rates

The required percentage added to the high yield of the 10-year Treasury note last auctioned in May 2023 depends on the type of loan and borrower. The added percentages follow this schedule:

•   For Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students, the added percentage is 2.05%.

•   For Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students, the added percentage is 3.60%.

•   For Direct PLUS loans for parents of undergraduate students and for graduate or professional students, the added percentage is 4.60%.

## How Federal Student Loan Interest Rates Have Been Set Over the Years

The federal student loan program began in the 1960s. Over time, the way rates are set has changed due to legislative action. Here’s a general timeline of how federal student loan interest loans have been set:

### From the 1960s to 1992

Originally, Congress set the interest rates for student loans. The rates were fixed and ranged from 6% in the beginning to 10% for the years 1988 to 1992.

### From 1993 to 2003

Congress amended the law so that rates were variable rather than fixed and reset annually. The formula for federal student loan interest rates was the interest rate on short-term Treasury securities at a set time plus 3.1%. The rate was capped at 9.0%. Over the next six years, Congress lowered the added percentage and the cap.

Soon after switching to variable rates, Congress passed the Student Loan Reform Act, which authorized the Direct Loan program. The law changed the formula for calculating interest rates so that they were pegged to 10-year Treasurys, which aligned with the term or length of student loans. The markup was lowered to 1.0%, and the new formula was to be used starting in five years.

But in 1998, because the Direct Loan program was taking longer than expected to replace the old loan program, where banks provided the loans instead of the government, Congress postponed when the new formula would be used until 2003. In the meantime, the old formula was used but with a 2.3% add-on (instead of 3.1%).

### From 2003 to Present

Several bills have been passed trying to make student loans more affordable, including a bill that fixed the rate at 6.8% starting in 2006. For Direct Unsubsidized loans for undergraduate students and Direct Unsubsidized loans for graduate and professional students, the federal student loan interest rate stayed at 6.8% through 2013.

In 2013, a law enacted the current formula used to calculate federal student loan interest rates.

## How Private Student Loan Interest Rates Differ From Federal Loan Rates

Of course, private student loan rates will fluctuate with market trends and from lender to lender. That said, private student loan rates for 10-year loans are generally higher than the federal interest rate when you are comparing rates concurrently on offer.

However, this isn’t always the case when it comes to student loans for parents or graduate/professional students. For the 2024-25 school year, the interest rate on Direct PLUS loans is 9.08%. But in June 2024, some private student loan rates are actually lower.

Also, private student loan rates (and refinance rates) can be lower for a loan that has a shorter term length than the standard 10 years of federal loans.

What’s more, private student loan rates and student loan refinance rates that are currently on offer can very well be lower than the federal interest rate you received at the time of getting your loan.

💡 Quick Tip: It’s a good idea to understand the pros and cons of private student loans and federal student loans before committing to them.

## What Private Lenders Consider When Determining Your Interest Rate

As mentioned earlier, private lenders will look at your creditworthiness when determining your interest rate. This involves considering such factors as:

•   Credit History – When entering college, most students have little to no credit history. That means the lender could be unsure of their ability to repay the loan since students don’t typically have a history of paying any loans. This can lead to a higher interest rate.

•   Your School – Most four-year schools are eligible for private loans, but some two-year colleges aren’t. Additionally, applicants typically have to be enrolled at least half-time to qualify for private student loans.

•   Your Cosigner’s Finances – Since many private student loan applicants are relatively new to debt and have no credit history, they might be required to provide a cosigner. A cosigner shares the burden of debt with you, meaning they’re also on the hook to pay it back if you can’t. A cosigner with a strong credit history can potentially help secure a lower interest rate on private student loans.

## The Takeaway

Federal student loan interest rates have fluctuated over the years. Currently, they are higher for 2024-25 than they were for 2023-24.

Typically, federal interest rates are lower than private student loans rates offered in the same year. But they can also be higher, particularly for parents borrowing to pay their children’s tuition and for graduate or professional students.

Also, private student loan rates (and refinance rates) on offer at the present time can be lower than federal interest rates from previous years or they can be lower on loans for term lengths shorter than the standard 10 years.

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.

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

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

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

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

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## How Often Should You Monitor Your Checking Account?

Many people find that monitoring their checking account once or twice a week is a good cadence, but there’s no frequency that’s right or wrong. It’s a personal decision: Your checking account is likely to be the hub of your financial life, and so you may want to peek at your balance often or see what transactions have been conducted. At a minimum, it is recommended that individuals check their account monthly.

Key Points

•   Monitoring your checking account regularly is crucial for managing finances effectively.

•   Checking your account monthly at a minimum can help spot fraud and manage fees.

•   Many people prefer checking their accounts daily or weekly.

•   Regular monitoring helps detect unauthorized transactions and keep track of spending.

•   Setting calendar alerts can aid in remembering to check account activities regularly.

## How Often Should You Check Your Bank Statement and Bank Account?

There is no exact science when it comes to how often you should monitor your checking account. How often you should check your bank account is a very personal decision.

At the very bare minimum, it can be important to check it at least once per month to look for signs of fraud and fees that were charged to the account, as well as to see how your money is being spent. Doing so can be an important part of better money management.

However, for most people, once per month is not enough. One benchmark study found that 36% of Americans check their bank account every day, while 30% check it once a week.

### Should You Check Your Bank Account Every Day?

There are many reasons why you might want to monitor your bank activity as often as once per day. Doing so can help you take control of your finances in such situations as:

•   You have a tight budget and worry about your balance slipping too low when you pay bills.

•   You are a freelancer and want to see if a paycheck you deposited has cleared.

•   Your debit card is lost, and you’re worried it fell into the wrong hands and someone is swiping away with it.

•   If there was a data breach of some kind. While checking accounts are generally safe, it is wise to check your balance every day if you think you’ve been phished, scammed, or hacked. Closely monitoring your account can help you quickly detect and report bank account fraud.

However, for others, the answer to “How often should you check your bank account?” will be less frequent, perhaps weekly.

### What Should You Monitor When You Have a Bank Account?

When you have a bank account, it’s wise to regularly check the following:

•   Your balance. Is it getting lower than you’d like?

•   Transaction history. Are there any unauthorized or erroneous charges?

•   Fees and charges. Are you aware of what charges you may be incurring?

•   Spending trends. Has your occasional sushi lunch become an almost daily debit card expense?

💡 Quick Tip: Make money easy. Enjoy the convenience of managing bills, deposits, and transfers from one online bank account with SoFi.

## The Benefits: Why You Should Monitor Your Checking Account

Whether you decide that the right cadence for checking your bank account is daily, weekly, or another frequency, here are some of the rewards of keeping tabs on your checking.

### Spot Hidden Fees

By regularly checking your bank account, you can keep an eye on fees you may be paying. Some financial institutions are notorious for charging hidden and/or excessive fees.

You might be surprised to see such charges as monthly account fees, ATM charges, overdraft and NSF fees, and more. You might want to dispute charges that you feel should not have been assessed.

Or, if you see that these fees are eating away at your cash, you might want to switch to a new bank.

### Monitor for Fraud or Scams

Unfortunately, hackers and scams are part of life. Even with protective measures in place, it is possible for your account to be compromised. By checking your account regularly, you can keep an eye on any suspicious activity, such as an automatic withdrawal you don’t recognize or a debit card charge that isn’t yours.

The sooner you spot such issues, the faster you can deal with them. This can help you be liable for no or lower losses.

•   You are only responsible for up to \$50 if you notify your bank within two business days of unauthorized charges with your debit card.

•   That figure rises to \$500 if you notify your bank after two days but before 60 days after the bank statement showing the unauthorized transactions was issued.

•   If you take longer than 60 days to notify your bank, you could be liable for the full amount drawn on your account.

### Stay on Track with Your Budget

Here’s why tracking your expenses and balancing your checking account can be important: These actions can help you follow your budget. For instance, if you’ve created a line-item budget and have been successfully sticking to it, you may still encounter an unexpected expense, such as a big dental bill or pricey car repair.

By knowing where your bank balance stands, you can determine if you can afford to pay that bill from checking or whether this counts as a good reason for when to use your emergency fund.

## How to Monitor Your Accounts

Thankfully, banks generally offer a variety of ways to keep tabs when managing your checking account.

•   You can use your bank’s website or app to click your way to your account details.

•   Another digital option is to use a third-party app or website, where account holders can connect all of their accounts and see a comprehensive display of their money.

•   Some financial institutions will offer banking alerts for checking accounts. For instance, if your bank account is low or goes into overdraft or there’s suspected fraud, you might receive a text message, email, and/or push notification as an alert. This can help you keep in touch with where your account stands.

•   You can often check your balance at an ATM.

•   If you bank with a traditional vs. online bank, you can go into a branch in person. You could ask a teller for help viewing your balance.

•   Banks may also offer services via phone, where customers can call in and request their balance.

## When to Get in Touch With the Bank

When your monitor your bank account, you may encounter a few key times when it’s important to get in touch with your bank:

•   If you see a fraudulent charge on your account, contact the bank as soon as possible. Many banks offer 24/7 customer assistance so customers can get in touch any time of day.

•   If you are charged fees for an overdraft or a bounced check, contact your bank. You might be able to get those fees reversed. A bank may only do this in the first or second instance or take a part of the fee off, but it’s better than nothing.

•   Another reason to call a bank is to see if there are any promotions available. Customers might be able to open a new high-yield checking account, receive a bonus, or lower their monthly fees. Banks may be willing to give customers perks so that they can retain their business.

Recommended: What Does a Pending Transaction Mean?

## The Takeaway

Regularly checking your bank accounts is a vital part of keeping your finances on track. The exact frequency with which you look at your accounts is a personal decision, but what’s important is that you stay on top of your checking account.

Consider setting a calendar alert or reminder if you are having trouble remembering to review your accounts. Many people find that checking their account daily or once or twice a week is the right cadence.

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 SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

## FAQ

### Does it hurt to have too many checking accounts?

There may be times when you’d want to open up more than one checking account to keep, say, your income from your full-time job and your side hustle separate or to cover different kinds of expenses. However, you will likely need to keep an eye on all of your accounts and could potentially have to pay account fees and meet balance requirements for each.

### What should you monitor when you have a checking account?

It can be important to monitor your checking account for a low balance or overdraft, for errors, for hidden fees, and for unauthorized transactions and other signs of fraudulent activity.

### Do banks look at your checking account?

Banks may look at your accounts for a variety of reasons such as monitoring for fraud, gathering information on what services customers might need, and determining credit eligibility (say, if you have applied for a home loan).

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 recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit 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, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, 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.

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.

SOBK0124072

## Mutual Funds vs Index Funds: Key Differences

Mutual funds and index funds are similar in many ways, but there are some key differences that investors need to understand to effectively implement them into an investment strategy. Those differences might include investing style, associated fees and taxes, and how they work.

The choice between an index fund and an actively managed mutual fund can be a hard one, especially for investors who are unsure of the distinction. The differences between index funds and other mutual funds are actually few — but may be important, depending on the investor.

Key Points

•   Index funds aim to mirror the performance of a specific market index, using a passive investment strategy.

•   Mutual funds are actively managed by fund managers who select securities to potentially outperform the market.

•   The costs associated with mutual funds are generally higher due to active management fees.

•   Index funds typically have lower expense ratios, making them a cost-effective option for investors.

•   The choice between index and mutual funds depends on individual investment goals and preferences for active versus passive management.

## What’s the Difference between Index Funds and Mutual Funds?

Index funds and mutual funds are similar in many ways, but they do differ in some others, such as how they work, associated costs, and investment style.

💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

### How They Work

Index funds are a type of mutual fund, interestingly enough. Index funds are distinguished by their investing approach: Index funds invest in an index, and only change the securities they hold when the index changes, or to realign their holdings to better match the index they invest in.

Rather than rely on a portfolio manager’s instincts and experience, an index fund tracks a particular index. There are benchmark indexes across all of the different asset classes, including stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities. As an example, the S&P 500® Index tracks the stocks of 500 of the leading companies in the United States.

An index fund aims to mirror the performance of a given benchmark index by investing in the same companies with similar weights. With these funds, it’s not about beating the market, it’s about tracking it, and as such, index funds typically follow a passive investment strategy, known as a buy-and-hold strategy.

A mutual fund is an investment that holds a collection — or portfolio — of securities, such as stocks and bonds. The “mutual” part of the name has to do with the structure of the fund, in that all of its investors mutually combine their funds in this one shared portfolio.

Mutual funds are also called ’40 Act funds, as they were created in 1940 by an act of Congress that was designed to correct some of the investment abuses that led to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It created a regulatory framework for offering and maintaining mutual funds, including requirements for filings, service charges, financial disclosures, and the fiduciary duties of investment companies.

To get people to invest, the portfolio managers of a given mutual fund offer a unique investment perspective or strategy. That could mean investing in tech stocks, or only investing in the fund manager’s five best ideas, or investing in a few thousand stocks at once, or only in gold-mining stocks, and so on.

### Fees and Taxes

There may be different associated costs with index funds and mutual funds as well.

Mutual-fund managers generally charge investors a management fee, which comes from the assets of the fund. Those fees vary widely, but an active manager will generally charge more, as they have to pay the salaries of analysts, researchers, and the stock pickers themselves. Passive managers of index funds, on the other hand, simply have to pay to license the use of an index.

An actively-managed mutual fund may charge an expense ratio (which includes the management fee) of 0.5% to 0.75%, and sometimes as high as 1.5%. But for index funds, that expense ratio is typically much lower — often around 0.2%, and as low as 0.02% for some funds.

### Investing Style

The two also differ on a basic level in that index funds are a passive investing vehicle and mutual funds are typically actively managed. That means that investors who want to take a hands-off approach may find index funds a more suitable choice, whereas investors who want a guiding hand in their portfolio may be more attracted to mutual funds.

Mutual Funds vs. Index Funds: Key Differences

Mutual Funds

Index Funds

Overseen by a fund manager Track a market index
May have higher associated costs Typically has lower associated costs
Active investing Passive investing

## Index vs Mutual Fund: Which is Best for You?

There’s no telling whether an index or mutual fund is better for you — it’ll depend on specific factors relevant to your specific situation and goals.

When deciding how to invest, everyone has their own unique approach. If an investor believes in the expertise and human touch of a fund manager or team of professionals, then an actively managed fund like a mutual fund may be the right fit. While no one beats the market every year, some funds can potentially outperform the broader market for long stretches.

But for those individuals who want to invest in the markets and not think about it, then the broad exposure — and lower fees — offered by index funds may make more sense. Investing in index funds tends to work best when you hold your money in the funds for a longer period of time, or use a dollar-cost-average strategy, where you invest consistently over time to take advantage of both high and low points.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that opening a brokerage account typically doesn’t come with any setup costs? Often, the only requirement to open a brokerage account — aside from providing personal details — is making an initial deposit.

## The Takeaway

Index funds and mutual funds are similar investment vehicles, but there are some key differences which include how they’re managed, costs associated with them, and how they function at a granular level.

The choice between index funds and other mutual funds is one with decades of debate behind it. For individuals who prefer the expertise of a hands-on professional or team buying and selling assets within the fund, a mutual fund may be preferred. For investors who’d rather their fund passively track an index — without worrying about “beating the market” — an index fund might be the way to go.

Ready to expand your portfolio's growth potential? Alternative investments, traditionally available to high-net-worth individuals, are accessible to everyday investors on SoFi's easy-to-use platform. Investments in commodities, real estate, venture capital, and more are now within reach. Alternative investments can be high risk, so it's important to consider your portfolio goals and risk tolerance to determine if they're right for you.

Invest in alts to take your portfolio beyond stocks and bonds.

## FAQ

### Do index funds outperform mutual funds?

Actively-managed funds, such as mutual funds, tend to underperform the market as a whole over time. That’s to say that most of the time, a broad index fund may be more likely to outperform a mutual fund.

### Do people prefer index funds over mutual funds, or mutual funds over index funds?

The types of funds that investors prefer to invest in depends completely on their own financial situation and investment goals. But some investors may prefer index funds over mutual funds due to their hands-off, passive approach and lower associated costs.

### Are mutual funds riskier than index funds?

Mutual funds may be riskier than index funds, but it depends on the specific funds being compared — mutual funds do tend to be more expensive than index funds, and tend to underperform the market at large, too.

An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. This and other important information are contained in the Fund’s prospectus. For a current prospectus, please click the Prospectus link on the Fund’s respective page. The prospectus should be read carefully prior to investing.
Alternative investments, including funds that invest in alternative investments, are risky and may not be suitable for all investors. Alternative investments often employ leveraging and other speculative practices that increase an investor's risk of loss to include complete loss of investment, often charge high fees, and can be highly illiquid and volatile. Alternative investments may lack diversification, involve complex tax structures and have delays in reporting important tax information. Registered and unregistered alternative investments are not subject to the same regulatory requirements as mutual funds.
Please note that Interval Funds are illiquid instruments, hence the ability to trade on your timeline may be restricted. Investors should review the fee schedule for Interval Funds via the prospectus.

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## Student Loan Refinancing: What Happens If There’s Overpayment?

If there’s an overpayment on your student loan refinance, the money might be returned to you or go towards your next payment on your new loan. Another possibility is that you may have to request a student loan overpayment refund.

These kinds of situations do occur, and they are typically resolved without too much effort. Here’s a closer look at student loan overpayment when you are refinancing your debt and what you can do to get your money back.

## Student Loan Overpayment Explained

Student loan overpayment occurs when you pay off more than the amount you owe to your loan servicer. If you owe \$1,000 on your loan and make a \$1,500 payment, you’ve overpaid by \$500.

This might happen for a couple of reasons.

•   For one, you might send an extra payment before your loan servicer has processed your previous one. It might take some time for your payments to reflect in your account. If you send an extra payment before the servicer has applied your last one, you could end up overpaying your balance.

•   Overpaying loans can also happen when you refinance student loans. When you refinance, your new loan provider will pay back your old balances. Specifically, it will send the amount that’s agreed upon when you sign the Truth in Lending (TIL) Disclosure, which is one of the documents you must sign to finalize your loan refinance.

If you make a payment on your old loans after you’ve signed the TIL Disclosure but before your new refinancing provider has disbursed the payment, the amount sent to your old servicer will exceed your balance. Your new lender will have paid off your old loan and then some, resulting in a student loan overpayment.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t keep paying back your student loans while you’re waiting for refinancing to go through. In fact, it’s important to keep up with repayment so you don’t miss any due dates and end up with a negative mark on your credit report. Wait until your new refinanced student loan is up and running before you stop paying your old student loans.

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

## What Happens When a Student Loan Is Overpaid?

There are a few things that can happen when there’s an overpaid student loan. For one, a loan servicer might send the extra payment back to you via check or direct deposit.

If a refinancing provider overpaid your account, your old servicer might send the payment back to them. Then, that refinancing lender could send you back the payment or apply it toward your new, refinanced student loan.

Let’s say, for instance, that you decide to refinance your federal student loans with Alpha (a made-up company for the sake of this example). You understand that refinancing with a private student loan means you forfeit federal benefits and protections, and you know that if you refinance for an extended term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan. If Alpha sends an overpayment to your existing loan servicers, those servicers will generally return the extra amount to Alpha. Then, Alpha will apply that overpayment retroactively to the principal balance on your new Alpha loan, a process that may take about six to eight weeks.

In some cases, your old servicer will send the payment back to you. For example, a lender might send a refund to the borrower directly if the overpaid amount is less than \$500. In this case, the amount might be sent back to you via check using the address it has on file.

You can also receive a direct deposit, but you may need to request it specifically. Reach out to your loan servicer to find out how it deals with excess payments and any steps you need to take to receive your student loan refund.

💡 Quick Tip: If you have student loans with variable rates, you may want to consider refinancing to lock in a fixed rate before rates rise. But if you’re willing to take a risk to potentially save on interest — and will be able to pay off your student loans quickly — you might consider a variable rate.

## What Should I Do With My Refund?

Finding out you overpaid your student loans can result in a windfall of cash. You may be wondering what to do with your student loan refund. Here are a few options worth considering.

### Put Towards Next Payment

If you already used that payment toward your old loans, you might put it toward your new refinanced loan to pay down your balance faster (if your new servicer hasn’t already sent it there). After all, you’d already designated that cash for a student loan payment, so you may not miss having it in your bank account.

Making extra payments on your student loans can help you pay your student loan off early and save on interest charges. Let’s say, for example, that you owe \$5,000 at a 7% interest rate with a five-year repayment term. If you make an extra payment of \$500, you’ll get out of debt eight months sooner and save \$292 in interest.

Use this tool for calculating student loan payments and finding out how much you can save by making extra payments. If you choose this route, instruct your loan servicer to apply the extra payment to your principal balance, rather than saving it for a future payment.

### Use For Personal Expenses

Another option is putting that student loan refund toward personal expenses or your own savings. If you’re struggling to pay your rent or have other high-interest debt, for instance, covering those costs might be a priority over prepaying your student loans.

It’s also useful to have an emergency fund on hand that you can draw on if you lose your job or encounter unexpected expenses. Funneling that student loan refund into an emergency fund could save the day if you run into financial hardship.

However, using that refund on vacation or non-essential expenses might not be the best idea if you’re dealing with debt or don’t have an emergency fund in place. Consider your financial goals and priorities to determine the best use for that student loan refund.

## The Takeaway

Overpaying student loans may be an inconvenience, but don’t worry about losing that money forever — you’ll get it back in the form of a refund or a payment toward your new, refinanced student loan. The exact process may vary by lender, so reach out to yours to find out what will happen next and whether there are any steps you must take to get your refund. Ensure that your loan servicers have your current address on hand, too, in case they need to mail you a check.

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.

## FAQ

### What happens if you overpay a student loan?

If you overpay a student loan, your servicer will issue a refund. That refund may go to you or, in the case of refinancing, to the third-party servicer that issued the payment. The exact process may vary by lender, so get in touch with yours to find out where it will send your refund.

### What happens to excess student loan money?

When you borrow a student loan, the lender usually sends the amount directly to your financial aid office, which applies it to required expenses like tuition and fees. It then sends any excess funds to you so you can use the money on books, supplies, living expenses, and other education-related costs. If you find you borrowed more than you need, you could consider returning the amount to your lender. If you return part of a federal student loan within 120 days of disbursement, you won’t have to pay any fees or interest on the amount.

### Does refinancing affect student loan forgiveness?

Refinancing student loans can affect your eligibility for loan forgiveness. Most loan forgiveness programs are federal, and when you refinance federal loans with a private lender, you lose access to federal programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness.

Photo credit: iStock/stefanamer

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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.

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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