Can I Rent a Car With a Debit Card?

Can You Rent a Car With a Debit Card?

Renting a car with a debit card is possible at certain car rental agencies. For some people, this may be a preferable way to conduct this transaction, but you may have to take additional steps before you get behind the wheel.

If you don’t have a credit card, it’s a good idea to research which rental agencies allow you to use a debit card — and understand the extra steps you’ll have to take before they hand over the keys.

Learn more about what to expect here, including:

•   Can you use a debit card to rent a car?

•   Which companies let you rent a car without a credit card?

•   What are the pros and cons of renting a car with a debit card?

•   What are alternatives to renting a car with a debit card?

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Is It Possible to Rent a Car With a Debit Card?

So, can you use a debit card to rent a car? Yes! You’ve just got to find rental car agencies with a debit card policy. Though their policies differ and this list is not comprehensive, these are among the agencies that allow drivers to rent a car without a credit card:

•   Alamo

•   Avis

•   Budget

•   Dollar

•   Enterprise

•   Hertz

•   Thrifty.

Note that not every franchise follows corporate policy and that airport rental agencies may have additional requirements for renting a car with a debit card. It’s a good idea to call the specific location from which you hope to rent a car using a debit card. You can then make sure you understand what requirements must be met before you get behind the wheel.

If you’re renting a car with a debit card, a rental agency might require a security deposit and run a credit check on you. You may also have to provide multiple forms of identification and proof of return travel, be at least 25 years old, and/or have a debit card with a common logo, like Mastercard, Visa, or Discover.

Recommended: Cheapest Ways to Rent a Car

Why Do Many Car Rental Companies Require a Credit Card?

While you may be able to use a credit card like a debit card in some situations and vice-versa, renting a car is a special case. Can you rent a car with a debit card? Yes, in many situations. But do rental car companies want you to? Probably not.

Credit cards offer multiple types of assurances to a rental car agency. For starters, a credit card signals to them that you are trustworthy and responsible — two traits that a company might value before lending you a $30,000+ piece of heavy machinery.

Credit cards also enable rental car companies to collect money for any repairs, tickets, tolls, and other fees. Because of the open line of credit on the card, the rental agency knows it can charge you for incidentals as necessary — without requiring a large security deposit from you upfront.

Recommended: Can You Use a Debit Card Online?

Pros of Renting a Car With a Debit Card

Renting a car with a credit card certainly seems easier, but are there advantages to using a debit card? Most definitely. Here are some of the pros of using a debit card to rent a car:

•   No credit card necessary: The biggest advantage is also the most obvious. If you can’t qualify for a credit card or simply don’t want one, using a debit card allows you to rent a car without needing a line of credit.

•   No credit card interest: If you pay your credit card off in full each month, you probably aren’t worried about credit card interest. But if you suddenly have a charge for a car rental surpassing $1,000, you might be tempted to just make your minimum payment on your credit card — and rack up interest. By paying with a debit card upfront, you don’t risk accruing credit card interest.

•   No impact on credit utilization: High credit utilization can drive down your credit score. By using a debit card, you won’t tap into any of your available credit. However, if the agency runs a credit check for debit card users, the hard inquiry could impact your credit score temporarily.

Cons of Renting a Car With a Debit Card

Yes is the answer to “Can I rent a car with a debit card?” But paying for a rental car with a debit card can have drawbacks. Here are some of the top downsides of renting a car with a debit card:

•   No perks: By swiping your debit card, you may be missing out on credit card travel insurance offered to cardmembers. If you have a rewards credit card that earns cash back or points for every purchase, you may also be leaving money on the table by using a debit card.

•   Security deposit: When using a debit card, you’ll often have to pay the full cost of the rental upfront. On top of that, an agency may hold additional funds as a security deposit. This could reduce the cash you have in your checking account to spend while on your travels.

•   Credit check: Without a credit card, the rental car agency may perform a credit check before allowing you to get behind the wheel. This can result in a hard inquiry on your credit report.

•   More hoops to jump through: In addition, rental agencies may require multiple forms of ID, might have age requirements, and may even need to see proof of scheduled return travel to allow you to pay with a debit card.

Is It Better to Rent a Car With a Debit or Credit Card?

Do you need a credit card to rent a car? Not necessarily. If you cannot qualify for a credit card or do not want one, renting with a debit card is the right choice for you.

That said, using a credit card can offer some perks. Doing so is likely the better approach for many drivers since it won’t require a security deposit, may have built-in car insurance, and won’t necessitate a credit check by the agency.

Is It Safer to Rent a Car With a Debit or Credit Card?

If you’re wondering about using a credit card vs. debit card, renting a car with a credit card is generally safer than renting a car with a debit card.

While paying with both debit cards and credit cards is often an option, credit cards offer a heightened level of zero-fraud liability thanks to stricter federal regulations. Your credit card may also offer rental car insurance as part of its perks, meaning extra protection on the road.

Alternatives to Car Rentals With Debit Cards

You’ve just learned the answer to “Can I use a debit card to rent a car?” is often yes. But what if you don’t have a debit card or don’t want to use your debit card to rent a car? Consider some alternatives:

•   Using a credit card: The main alternative is paying for a car rental with a credit card. In fact, this is usually the better option for the driver and the rental agency.

•   Riding with another driver: If someone else in your party has a credit or debit card and is willing to pay for the rental, let them get behind the wheel. Many companies allow you to pay an additional fee to add a second driver if you’d also like a turn in the driver’s seat.

•   Paying with a prepaid card or cash: While rental car agencies will likely require a credit or debit card to secure the rental, some agencies may allow you to pay with a prepaid gift card, money order, or even cash at the end of the rental agreement — once the car has successfully been returned.

Recommended: Common Misconceptions About Money

Ways to Protect Yourself While Renting a Car

Renting a car can be stressful, but it also enables you freedom to travel, allows you to put miles on a car that isn’t yours during road trips, and may come in handy when your vehicle is being worked on. Here’s how you can protect yourself when renting a car:

•   Research the car before driving it: Once you know the year, make, model, and trim of your rental, you can research it online to understand any nuances to how it works, especially if you aren’t accustomed to newer safety technologies. The owner’s manual should be in the glove compartment and is worth reviewing if you’re uncomfortable driving an unfamiliar vehicle.

•   Carry insurance: Before renting a car, it’s a good idea to check with your car insurance agent and your credit card company to see what coverage you have. If you don’t have coverage for the rental through any other means, make sure you opt in for the insurance offered by the rental agency.

•   Follow the rules of the road: You should always abide by traffic laws, but they’re especially important when you’re learning a new vehicle. If you’re traveling in a foreign country, it’s a good idea to study their laws and traffic signs at home before your trip.

The Takeaway

Renting a car with a debit card is possible, but you’ll miss out on some of the perks of paying with a credit card — like potential cashback rewards and car insurance. Plus, rental agencies may require you to fulfill more requirements to get behind the wheel, like paying a security deposit or agreeing to a credit check.

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FAQ

Which rental car companies allow you to use a debit card?

Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, and Thrifty are just some of the rental car companies that allow you to pay with a debit card. However, these and other rental car companies may have additional criteria for renting the car using a debit card, like paying a security deposit or providing multiple forms of identification.

Are there any restrictions when renting with a debit card?

Each rental car company may have its own restrictions when you rent a car with your debit card. For example, they may require you to be 25 or older, pay a security deposit, and/or agree to a credit check. It’s a good idea to call the specific agency before arriving to understand what you’ll need in order to rent a car with a debit card.

What is the process of renting a car with a debit card?

Rental agencies have varying processes for renting a car with a debit card. It’s a good idea to check online and even to call the specific agency to understand the process ahead of time. In general, companies may require full payment plus a security deposit upfront, they may run a credit check, and they might want to see multiple forms of identification. If you’re renting at an airport, they may also require you to provide proof of a return plane ticket.


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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.


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

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How Long Do You Have to Pay Off Student Loans?

The standard time to pay off federal student loans is 10 years, but terms can range from five to more than 20 years depending on the type of loan and repayment program. Your situation will also determine how long it takes to pay off student loans, including how much you owe in student loans and how much of a payment you can afford to make each month.

Paying Back Student Loans

You need to start paying back student loans after you graduate from college, withdraw, or drop below half-time enrollment. Most federal loans, including Direct Subsidized and Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and many private loans, come with a six-month grace period, meaning your payments won’t actually be due for six months until leaving school.

When it comes time to pay back your student loans, one of the most important things you can do is make sure your payments are on time each month. Making late student loan payments or failing to make your payments can have serious consequences, including student loan default.

How Long to Pay Off Student Loans

Once your loans become due, you’ll have the option of choosing a student loan repayment plan. Options for federal student loans include the Standard Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. These various repayment options come with their own pros and cons, so it’s important to understand your needs and which one makes the most financial sense.

If you don’t make a choice, your federal loans will automatically be enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan. Here, the length of your repayment period is set to 10 years.

If you have private student loans, your repayment period is what you agreed to when you signed the loan. These will vary by lender and your personal situation. Those that can make larger monthly payments are typically able to pay off their loans in a shorter amount of time, assuming the debt loads are similar.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Standard Repayment Plan: 10 Years

You have 10 years to pay off your student loans under the Standard Repayment Plan. You’ll pay a set amount every month (minimum $50) and may pay less overall for the student loan because of the relatively short loan term. (Many income-driven repayment plans, for comparison, can have terms of up to 25 years!)

For most federal student loans, the standard repayment option includes a six-month grace period that allows recent graduates to get a head start on finding a job. The clock starts ticking the moment you graduate, leave school, or fall below half-time enrollment. Loans that offer a student loan grace period include:

•  Direct Subsidized Loans

•  Direct Unsubsidized Loans

•  Subsidized Federal Stafford Loans

•  Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans

While having extra time before making your first payment sounds nice, be aware that interest continues to accrue during those months on unsubsidized loans and will be added back into the loan, increasing the principal. Direct Subsidized Loans do not accrue interest during the grace period.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Standard Repayment Plans might not be a good choice for you if you’re trying to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Borrowers pursuing this program agree to work in underserved areas for a government entity or certain nonprofits and must meet rigorous requirements to have their loan forgiven after 120 qualifying payments. To qualify for this program, you’ll have to change to an income-driven repayment plan as opposed to the Standard Repayment Plan.

Direct Loan Consolidation

Combining your federal student loans on the Standard Repayment Plan into a Direct Consolidation Loan could open up several repayment options. Consolidation combines your federal loans into one loan with a single interest rate, which could simplify the repayment process. The interest rate is the weighted average of the loans you are consolidating, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of a percentage.

Your loan term will depend on the amount of student loan debt that you have, ranging from 10 to 30 years. Extending your loan term may lower your monthly payment, but keep in mind that you’ll most likely end up paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

Recommended: Student Loan Repayment Calculator

Graduated and Extended Plans

Graduated Repayment Plans: 10 Years Standard; Up to 30 Years Consolidated

Generally, all federal loan borrowers can opt for the Graduated Repayment Plan. This plan could be an option for borrowers who expect their income to rise over time. It starts off with low monthly payments that gradually increase at two-year intervals. The idea is that recent graduates’ salaries at entry-level positions may start off low, but will rise over 10 years via promotions or new jobs.

The downsides of the Graduated Repayment Plan are that you could be paying more over the life of the loan, and if your salary doesn’t increase as anticipated, the later payments can become burdensome. The bright side — you could switch to an income-driven plan or the Extended Repayment Plan (below) which may make loan payments more affordable.

So how long do you have to pay back your student loan under the Graduated Repayment Plan? Borrowers have between 10 and 30 years to pay off the loan.

Extended Repayment Plans: Up to 25 Years

Like the Graduated Repayment Plan, the Extended Repayment Plan allows qualified applicants to extend the term of the loan, making monthly payments smaller. Borrowers may end up paying more in interest the longer the loan term, but there are options for a fixed monthly payment or a graduated payment that will rise throughout the term.

Extended Repayment Plans are geared toward borrowers who owe sizable sums. To qualify, you must owe $30,000 or more in federal student loan debt.

Neither Graduated Repayment Plans nor Extended Repayment Plans qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-driven repayment plans are designed to make repayment easier if you can prove that paying back your student loans is a significant financial burden. This is based on factors including your discretionary income and family size. However, the longer terms mean you could easily pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

How long do you have to pay back student loans under income-driven repayment plans? Each of the following four plans has a different payback period. Under all four plans, remaining balances on eligible student loans are forgiven after making a certain number of qualifying on-time payments.

Saving On A Valuable Education (SAVE) — 10 to 25 Years

This is the newest IDR plan that replaced the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) program. Currently under SAVE, monthly payments are capped at 10% of your discretionary income. In July of 2024, that threshold will fall to 5% for borrowers with undergraduate loans. Graduate borrowers will pay a weighted average between 5% and 10% of their discretionary income.

Also starting next year, borrowers with original principal loan balances of $12,000 or less can have their remaining balances forgiven after 10 years of payments. For each additional $1,000 borrowed above $12,000, you’ll continue to make payments for another year, up to 20 or 25 years, depending on the degree.

Pays As You Earn (PAYE) — 20 Years

Your monthly payment is roughly 10% of your discretionary income and you’ll make 20 years of payments.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR) — 20 or 25 Years

Again, your monthly payment will be about 10% of your discretionary income. You’ll have 20 years to pay back the loan if you’re a new borrower on or after July 1, 2014. If you borrowed before that date, you will have 25 years to finish making payments.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — 25 Years

Under ICR, your monthly payment amount will be either 20% of your discretionary income, or the amount you would pay on a repayment plan with a fixed payment over 12 years, whichever is less. Any remaining balance is forgiven after 25 years.


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

Which Repayment Plan Is Right for You?

Choosing a student loan repayment plan is a personal decision that will depend on factors such as the amount of student loan debt you have, the industry you work in, your current income and expenses, your estimated future income, and your career goals. For example, if you plan to work in the nonprofit industry and are pursuing PSLF, switching to an income-driven repayment plan may make the most sense.

Are Repayment Terms the Same for Private Student Loans?

Private student loans are not required to offer the same benefits or repayment plans as federal student loans. The term and repayment plan available to you will be determined by the private lender at the time you borrow the loan. This is based on your credit profile and debt-to-income ratio, among other factors. If you have private student loans and have questions about your loan term, contact your lender directly.

Can You Shorten Your Student Loan Repayment Term?

It is possible to shorten your loan term. Borrowers can do this by refinancing their student loans and selecting a shorter term. Shortening the loan term can also decrease the total amount spent on interest over the life of the loan, especially if you qualify for a lower interest rate, too.

However, keep in mind that refinancing federal loans means you are no longer eligible for federal protections or payment plans. If you’re interested in using federal benefits like an income-driven repayment option or student loan forgiveness, refinancing may not make sense.

You can also indirectly shorten your student loan repayment term by making extra payments toward your loan, either monthly or as you can. Before making an extra payment, make sure to contact your lender and have them apply the extra payment to the principal amount. If you don’t do this, the payment may go toward your next month’s payment, which would include interest.

The Takeaway

How long you have to pay off student loans depends on the types of loans you have, the student loan repayment option you choose, and how large of monthly payments you can make.

Options for paying off student loans include the Standard Repayment Plan, Extended Repayment Plan, Graduated Repayment Plan, and income-based repayment plans. You can also choose to consolidate your federal loans into one loan with one monthly payment or refinance federal and/or private student loans into a new loan with a new interest rate.

If you choose to refinance your student loans, the benefits include the potential of a lower interest rate or a lower monthly payment. If you choose a shorter loan term, your monthly payment will be higher but you’ll most likely pay less in interest over the life of the loan. A longer loan term will get you a lower monthly payment, but you’ll pay more in interest overall.

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

Is there a time limit to pay off student loans?

There is a time limit for paying off student loans. This is determined by the loan term and repayment plan selected by the borrower. For example, under the Standard Repayment Plan, borrowers repay their student loans over a period of 10 years. On some income-driven repayment plans, the repayment period is extended up to 25 years.

Do student loans go away after 25 years?

For borrowers enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, the remaining balance is forgiven or canceled at the end of the loan term, which may be 20 or 25 years. This forgiven balance may be considered taxable income by the IRS, so be sure to understand if that is the case for you.

Are student loans forgiven after 7 years?

No, student loans do not go away after seven years. There are no federal programs offering loan forgiveness after seven years.


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


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


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

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

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How to Refinance Student Loans as an International Student

Refinancing your student loans can help save you money and reduce the amount of time you’ll be paying back your loan. However, as an international student, your options are limited. If you’re considering refinancing your student loans as an international student, it’s important to know where you can go and how it can help you.

How Refinancing Student Loans Works

Student loan refinancing is the process of replacing your current student loans with a new one, creating one monthly instead of several. You can refinance both federal and private student loans, potentially saving you money and time as you pay off your debt.

Student loan refinancing companies like SoFi offer fixed and variable interest rates that can be lower than what you’re currently paying on your student loans.

You can also choose from various student loan repayment options and terms, allowing you to pay off your loans as quickly as your budget allows. As you can guess, the shorter your repayment period, the more you’re likely to save on interest.

As you consider your strategy for paying off your student loan debt, refinancing can be a crucial element in helping you achieve your goal.

Another word you may hear that’s close to refinancing is consolidation. With other loans, the terms are typically synonymous. But with student loans, consolidation is generally associated with the federal direct loan consolidation program, while refinancing is typically done through a private lender.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? With SoFi’s no-fee loans, you could save thousands.

Where to Refinance Student Loans for International Students

It’s not always easy to know where to go, and it can be frustrating to get turned down over and over again because of your international student status. Many refinancing companies require you to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to be eligible but fortunately, some companies provide more flexibility for international students. For instance, SoFi as well as MPOWER can offer loans to international students. SoFi, for example, considers U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and people who hold a J-1, H-1B, E-2, O-1, or TN visa (as of the date of this article).

If you’re a permanent resident, you’ll need to either have at least two years left until your status expires or you’ve filed an extension. And if you’re a visa holder, you’ll need to have at least two years left before your status expires, or you’ve filed for a renewal or applied for permanent residency.

That said, qualifying based on your citizenship, resident, or visa status doesn’t necessarily mean you qualify based on all criteria. Student loan refinancing lenders also typically have credit and income requirements.

This means that if you don’t have an established credit history — which is not always the case for international students — you may have a tough time getting approved on your own.

If this is your situation, it might be worth getting a student loan co-signer, such as a trusted family member or friend who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, to apply with you to help strengthen the creditworthiness of your application. This can be helpful because this person acts as backup for your application — and lenders now can also rely on the co-signer for payment. Even if you do qualify to refinance your student loans on your own, a co-signer could help you get a lower interest rate.

To help improve your chances of getting approved with more favorable terms, such as a low rate, it’s a good idea to choose a co-signer who has a stellar credit history and a solid income.

Two Things to Consider Before Refinancing Your Student Loans

Refinancing might not be the right option for everyone. Here are three things to think about before you make your decision:

You May Not Qualify for a Lower Rate

Your eligibility and interest rate are based on several factors, including your credit history and income. As such, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, even with a co-signer.

Also, if you already have a relatively low interest rate with your current lender, you may have a hard time getting an even lower rate.

Fortunately, some lenders, including SoFi, allow you to check your rate before you officially apply. This is done with a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit score.

You May Not Qualify for a Lower Rate

Your eligibility and interest rate are based on several factors, including your credit history and income. As such, there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for a lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying, even with a co-signer.

Also, if you already have a relatively low interest rate with your current lender, you may have a hard time getting an even lower rate.

Fortunately, some lenders, including SoFi, allow you to check your rate before you officially apply. This is done with a soft credit check, which doesn’t impact your credit score.

Refinancing Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle

As you think through your student loan repayment strategy, keep in mind that refinancing isn’t the end of the line. Once you complete the process of refinancing your loans, it’s important to still make sure you’re paying down your debt.

For example, consider getting on a budget and looking for ways to put extra cash toward your student loan payments each month.

Also, you could go with a shorter repayment period to save even more time and money on your debt.

The Takeaway

Be sure to check your eligibility requirements when it comes to refinancing student loans as an international student with private lenders. Also, consider adding a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to strengthen your application.

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


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


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


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


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

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 Pay Off Student Loans with Your 401(k)?

If you’re one of the 44 million Americans who currently hold a portion of the country’s more than $1.7 trillion student debt—and are perhaps now back to making payments after a three-year pause—chances are you’re looking for solutions to get rid of that debt ASAP. After all, the average student who borrowed money to pay for school graduates with just over $37,000 in federal student loan debt alone.

Paying off that much debt is an impressive feat which takes discipline and commitment. If you’re currently living under the heavy weight of your student loans, you may have considered using your 401(k) for student loans. But should you really cash out your 401(k) for student loans?

It probably goes without saying that figuring out how you’re going to pay off your student loans is overwhelming—and there isn’t one definitive solution. And while it’s certainly tempting to just take the cash from your 401(k) and pay off a high-interest loan, there are some serious drawbacks to consider before running with that plan.

The Downsides of Using Your 401(k) to Pay Off Your Student Loans

A potential benefit of using your 401(k) to pay off student loans is that you can eliminate your debt in one fell swoop. However, withdrawing money from your 401(k) should be considered a last resort option—or maybe not an option at all. That’s because there are several major downsides to doing so:

•   Early withdrawal penalty: If you’re under the age of 59½, you’ll generally have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty on the amount you take out. The amount you withdraw will also be considered taxable income, which means you could owe a hefty tax bill for that year.

•   Opportunity cost: By using your 401(k) money to pay off student loans, you are potentially losing out on an overall higher return from your investments. For example, if your loan has an interest rate of 6% and your 401(k) returns an average of 8% per year, you essentially lose 2% a year by liquidating those funds to pay off your loans.

•   Difficulty catching up: With your stunted 401(k) balance, you’ll need to make much larger contributions going forward to make up for it, which could strain your budget. Plus, there is a cap on the total amount you can contribute to a 401(k) each year. You may never be able to fully make up for the growth you would have experienced if that money stayed invested.

When deciding whether or not to withdraw money from your retirement savings, it’s important to note that while you borrow loans for other expenses in life, there’s no such thing as a “retirement loan.” You’re responsible for ensuring you have enough money to live on in retirement.

While it can feel like student loans are preventing you from living your life or meeting your financial goals today, saving for retirement can be a valuable investment in your future.


💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

Alternatives to Help Control Your Student Loan Debt

If you’re struggling with student loan payments, there are alternatives to taking money out of your 401(k) that can help you get your student loan debt under control while keeping your retirement savings intact. Here are a few examples:

Applying for Income-Driven Repayment

One option is applying for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. These plans reduce your payments to a small percentage of your discretionary income. The term length also gets extended out to 20 or 25 years, depending on the specific program. At the end of the repayment term, any remaining debt is forgiven. The exception is the newest plan, Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), which awards forgiveness for some borrowers with smaller balances within as few as 10 years.

Keep in mind that extending your repayment term usually means paying more in interest over the life of the loan. Any canceled IDR debt may also be taxed as income. Still, if your payments are far too high to afford on the Standard Repayment Plan, income-driven repayment could provide much-needed relief. In fact, if your income is below a certain threshold, you could qualify for $0 payments.

Pursuing Loan Forgiveness

There are also many programs that forgive student loans after you’ve worked in a qualifying profession and made a certain number of payments. On the national level, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is one example. If you work for a qualifying employer in the public service sector, such as the government or a non-profit, you can have your loans forgiven after 120 payments. Other similar programs include Teacher Loan Forgiveness and National Defense Student Loan Discharge.

In addition to federal forgiveness programs, there are also hundreds of programs offered through states, schools, and other organizations.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

When you refinance your student loans, you take out a brand new loan from a private lender, who will review your credit history and other financial factors to determine how much they will lend to you and at what rate. You then use those funds to pay off your existing loan(s).

With a solid financial picture and credit history, you could qualify for a lower interest rate. This could result in lower monthly payments, as well as reducing the amount of money you spend in interest over the life of the loan (depending on the loan term, of course).

You could also lower your monthly payments by extending the length of the loan term. This results in paying more money in interest over the life of the loan, but could help free up some cash flow more immediately.

It’s important to note that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender means you’ll permanently lose access to federal loan benefits including income-driven repayment plans, forbearance, and deferment.

To help you decide if refinancing is a good idea, take a look at SoFi’s student loan payoff calculator to see when you might pay off your current loans. Then compare that with a potential new loan—you may be surprised at how much of a difference refinancing can make. And with more wiggle room in your budget, you could make headway toward student loan repayment and save for a retirement you’ll be able to enjoy.



💡 Quick Tip: When refinancing a student loan, you may shorten or extend the loan term. Shortening your loan term may result in higher monthly payments but significantly less total interest paid. A longer loan term typically results in lower monthly payments but more total interest paid.

Options for Using Your 401(k) to Pay Off Debt

If you decide to pursue using 401(k) funds to pay off student loans despite the many risks and drawbacks, there are a few ways to go about it. First, you’ll need to determine how much you are eligible to withdraw from your 401(k), and what penalties and taxes you would encounter. In most cases, you would be responsible for a 10% penalty and regular income taxes on a withdrawal from your 401(k) prior to age 59 ½.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you were laid off, you may be able to withdraw money penalty-free as long as certain requirements are met.

And depending on the exact terms of your 401(k) plan, you may be able to withdraw the money from your plan without penalty in certain hardship situations—like to cover tuition or medical expenses.

If you already attended college and are trying to use your 401(k) to pay back student loans, that doesn’t qualify for a hardship withdrawal. If you’re not sure what the exact rules of your plan entail, it’s worth contacting your HR representative or the financial firm that handles your company’s 401(k) program.

Again, using money from your 401(k) to pay off debt can be a risky proposition. While on the bright side it would potentially allow you to eliminate your student debt, it also puts your retirement savings at risk. You’ll not only potentially have to pay a penalty and taxes on the withdrawn amount, but you’ll also lose out on years of compounding returns on money you take out.

Still, depending on your circumstances, you might be considering cashing out your entire 401(k). Alternatively, however, you could borrow against your 401(k) by taking out a 401(k) loan. Here’s a bit more info about those two options.

Cashing Out Your 401(k)

Withdrawing money from your 401(k) can seem like a tempting idea when your student loan payments are causing you to stress at the moment and retirement feels like it’s ages away.

But making an early withdrawal comes with penalties. If you withdraw your money prior to the age of 59 ½ you’ll pay a 10% penalty on the amount you withdraw, in addition to regular income tax on the distribution itself. In addition to the taxes and the early withdrawal penalty, money that you withdraw loses valuable time to grow between now and retirement. That is why, as mentioned, simply withdrawing money from a 401(k) very rarely makes sense, when you consider the taxes, penalties, and lost growth.

To reinforce this point, let’s consider a (completely hypothetical) person who earns $68,000 per year and is a single filer, putting them in the 22% income tax bracket. (And remember, this is just an example – there are many other factors that can come into play, but this should give you a high-level glimpse into why withdrawing cash from your 401(k) might not be the best call.)

If this person cashed out $20,000 from their 401(k), they would have to pay a 10% penalty of $2,000 right off the top. Then they’d need to pay federal income taxes at the highest end of their bracket, totaling $4,400. So even though this person took out $20,000 from their account, they actually receive just $13,600. Depending on their state, they might also pay state income taxes, let’s not get bogged down on that right now.

Now let’s assume they used that money to pay off $13,600 in student loans, which have a 5% interest rate and five years left on the loan. In this scenario, they would save roughly $1,798.93 in interest.

So essentially, this person would have incurred $6,400 in penalties and taxes in order to save $1,798.93 in interest. Plus, had they let that money stay invested in their 401(k) over the next five years, that $20,000 could have grown to more than $28,000, assuming a 7% average return. That’s why cashing out a 401(k) to pay off student loan debt might not be a great idea.

Borrowing from Your 401(k)

When you borrow money from your own 401(k), you are really borrowing from yourself. You are accessing your retirement funds and then paying them back, with interest, in an attempt to replenish your savings. So these loans don’t require a formal application or credit check.

Not all companies offer 401(k) loans, so it’s important to check with your employer to confirm if the option is available to you. (And for the record, you can’t take out a loan from an employer-sponsored 401(k) if you’re no longer with that employer.)

In addition to the rules determined by your employer, the IRS sets limits on 401(k) loans as well. The current maximum loan amount as determined by the IRS is 50% of your vested balance
or $50,000, whichever is less. If you have a balance of less than $10,000, you may be able to borrow up to $10,000.

The IRS also requires that the money borrowed from your 401(k) be paid back within five years based on a payment plan that is established when you borrow the money. There is an exception; if you buy a house with the money you withdraw, you may be able to extend the repayment plan.

If you don’t pay the loan back according to the terms, it’s considered defaulted and the balance may be treated as a distribution instead. That means you’d owe penalties and taxes on that amount for that year.

Note that if you change jobs, your 401(k) plan will roll over, but not your loan. If you leave your employer with an unpaid 401(k) balance, you’ll face an accelerated payment plan.

Interest rates are usually set by your plan administrator, and are relatively low compared to other financing options. It could be a viable option for those interested in securing a lower interest rate for their debt, but don’t qualify for student loan refinancing due to their credit history or other factors.

A 401(k) loan typically offers a relatively low interest rate and doesn’t require a credit check.

You may want to crunch some numbers and compare the interest rates on your student loans with the interest rate on a 401(k) loan before you commit to this course of action.

If your student loan interest rate is lower than the potential interest rate on your 401(k) loan, it could make sense to keep your retirement savings intact.

The other factor to consider is the missed growth on the money you borrow from your 401(k), which is why 401(k) loans could make more sense for high-interest debt such as personal loans or credit cards, but are typically less ideal for low-interest debt such as student loans or mortgages.

Hardship Withdrawals

While a hardship withdrawal won’t be an option if you are looking to pay off your student loans, it could be worth considering if you are planning on attending graduate school or are assisting a family member with their college education.

To qualify for a hardship withdrawal, you must meet certain criteria. You must prove your need is immediate and heavy. Tuition for the school year usually qualifies as immediate.

Student loan repayment wouldn’t qualify because they provide a repayment plan over a set period of time. You must also prove the expense is heavy. Usually, that means things like college tuition, a down payment on a primary residence, or a qualifying medical expense that is 10% or more of your adjusted gross income.

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.

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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Can You Refinance Student Loans More Than Once?

Yes, you can refinance student loans with a private lender more than once in the quest for a lower interest rate and different repayment term.

How Many Times Can You Refinance Student Loans?

If you’re a graduate who has the credit score and income to qualify, you can refinance your student loans as many times as you’d like. In fact, some folks refinance multiple times.

But before you get too refi-happy, it’s important to know the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy.

What Are Some Advantages of Refinancing Multiple Times?

One of the biggest advantages of refinancing your student loans is that you may be able to qualify for a lower interest rate, whether you refinance once or several times. A reduced rate can help you save money in the long run.

For example, let’s say you’ve been paying down an older federal Grad PLUS loan that currently has a balance of $40,000 and an interest rate of 7.90%. You have 10 years of payments left, which are currently $483.20 per month.

You have good credit and qualify for a seven-year, fixed refinance rate of 6%. If you were to go through with the refinance, you’d actually increase your monthly payment by about $100. However, you’d save about $8,900 in total interest.

Later on, you might qualify for a lower fixed rate or an even lower variable rate, and so on.

Or you might find it helpful to refinance to a longer term, with lower monthly payments. That will likely mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan, but lower monthly payments may put you in a better position to accomplish your short-term financial goals.

Reputable lenders charge no application or origination fees, so refinancing each time will not cost you anything.



💡 Quick Tip: Get flexible terms and competitive rates when you refinance your student loan with SoFi.

What Are Some Disadvantages of Refinancing Multiple Times?

One disadvantage of refinancing your student loans is that your credit score could temporarily drop by a few points. Whenever you apply for a loan, the lender performs a hard credit inquiry. One or two inquiries usually have a small and temporary impact on your score. However, too many hard inquiries within a short time frame could cause some damage. The good news is that many student loan refinancing lenders allow you to shop for rates and get quotes online using a soft credit pull, which has no impact on your score.

Another factor to consider is your time. Though you can refinance as many times as you want, it helps to make sure it’s worth the effort. That means researching reputable lenders and the rates and terms they offer.

It’s important to point out that refinancing federal student loans even once will cause you to permanently forfeit government-backed protections and benefits, such as federal student loan forgiveness programs, deferment, and forbearance.

How Is Student Loan Refinancing Different Than Consolidation?

It’s important to make a distinction between refinancing and consolidation. When you refinance your student loans with a private lender, you are borrowing one new loan with new terms, such as a lower interest rate or different repayment term, and using the proceeds to pay off your existing loans.

When you consolidate federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan, you combine your existing loans into one. The term may be drawn out to up to 30 years, and the interest rate will be the weighted average of the original loans’ rates, rounded up to the nearest eighth of a percentage point. For this reason, your new rate may actually be higher than the rate of your previous lowest-interest loan.

Things to Look for When Refinancing

Whether you refinance your student loans for the first or sixth time, it would be smart to check that your new rate and term make sense for you.

You’ll encounter fixed-rate and variable-rate loans. Fixed-rate loans have one set interest rate that does not change over the life of the loan. The rates on fixed-rate student loans are typically higher than the initial rates of variable-rate loans. However, because the rate never changes, it can make budgeting easier.

Variable-rate loans have interest rates that start off lower, but can fluctuate based on the prime rate or another index. Rates can climb if the rate or index they are tied to goes up (and vice versa).

Variable-rate loans might be a good choice for shorter-term loans. The longer the loan term, the bigger the chance of a rate hike.

Also, beware of qualifying for a low interest rate that’s attached to a longer-term loan. Though monthly payments might be low, a longer term might mean you’ll end up paying much more in interest over the life of the loan. If you can afford the higher monthly payment, loans with shorter terms can be a good cost-saving option.

Consider looking for a refinance lender that offers competitive rates and flexibility in choosing the repayment term. And if you want to refinance both federal and private student loans into one new loan, look for a lender that does that.

Serious savings. You could save thousands of dollars.
We offer flexible terms and low fixed or variable rates.


Refinancing Your Student Loans More Than Once

It’s all about the great rate chase.

Having a low debt-to-income ratio can help you qualify for a lower interest rate. So if you have a higher salary, get a big bonus, or pay off other debts, your debt-to-income ratio might improve.

Similarly, if your credit score increases, you typically become more attractive to lenders. This could happen if you are using a small amount of your available credit, or if you find and correct a mistake on one of your credit reports. (Do student loans affect your credit score? Continuous on-time payments may have a positive effect.)

Married couples may want to consider refinancing student loans together to put the power of two earners to use. A solid cosigner could also be brought aboard.

If you’re thinking about a refinance, it could help to keep an eye on the federal funds rate, which is the rate banks charge one another for overnight loans. When the Federal Reserve raises or lowers short-term interest rates, private lenders respond in turn. (This does not apply to federal student loans, whose interest rates have been set by Congress once a year since 2006.)

Even if interest rates rise now, they could still be considered low by historical standards.

Refinancing Your Student Loans With SoFi

Is it bad to refinance multiple times? If it saves you money, that’s nothing but a good thing. Refinancing won’t be the right move for all people, but everyone should know the rates they’re paying, their total student debt load, and their repayment strategy.

SoFi is a leader in refinancing student loans, with low fixed or variable rates and flexible loan terms.

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

Can I consolidate student loans more than once?

You can consolidate federal student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan more than once only if you have federal loans that were not included in a previous consolidation, or if you previously consolidated loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) consolidation program. Remember that consolidation does not lower your loan rate.

How many times can you refinance a loan?

As many times as you qualify to do so.

How many times can you take out student loans?

When it comes to federal student loans, there is no time limit on how long a borrower can receive Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct PLUS loans, but annual and aggregate limits for Direct Unsubsidized Loans apply.

Private student loans, for which you must qualify or have a cosigner, usually have an annual limit equal to an institution’s cost of attendance minus other financial aid. Most have aggregate loan limits for undergraduate and graduate students.


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


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


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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