Jobs that Pay for Your College Degree

While it can be a challenge to keep up with both work and school, getting a part-time job while in college can help you cover your expenses and gain valuable work experience at the same time. In addition, some employers may even offer to pay a portion of your college tuition as a part of their benefits package.

There are all kinds of jobs for college students — from on-campus jobs with regular hours to side gigs you can do in your spare time. While students often find work in the retail and service industry, it’s also worth exploring other avenues for employment, including office work and even jobs related to your field of study. Read on for a basic guide to finding a job that can help you pay for college.

Part-Time Jobs That Help Pay for College

Part-Time Jobs That Help Pay for College

Working part-time while you’re in college can help you pay for tuition and other expenses. These jobs typically offer flexible hours, allowing you to work around your class schedule.

You might start your search for jobs that help pay for college with businesses you already know and love. For example, you could see if your favorite cafe is hiring or ask about opportunities at the yoga studio you love. Even if they don’t have a paying position, some small businesses offer “service swaps” where you might be able to score free coffee, meals, or exercise classes for some light work. It pays to ask!

Here’s a look at other job opportunities that can help students earn money for college.


💡 Quick Tip: Make no payments on SoFi private student loans for six months after graduation.

On-Campus Jobs

Colleges and universities hire students for a variety of jobs on campus. Part-time on-campus jobs are not only convenient but typically provide flexibility so you can work around your class schedule. Plus, a lot of on-campus jobs can help you build relevant skills that will serve you after graduation.

The career center at your school will likely have lots of resources that can help you find employment on campus, including an online job board. Your school can also help you find a job campus through the federal work-study program. To see out if you’re eligible for work-study, which is a needs-based program, you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Below is just a sampling of on-campus job options you might consider, plus what they pay, on average, per hour:

•   Administrative Assistant: $16.80 per hour

•   Teaching Assistant: $17.56 per hour

•   Research Assistant: $20.62 per hour

•   Fitness or Recreation Center Attendant: $14.10 per hour

•   Lifeguard: $16 per hour

•   Peer Tutor: $12.73 per hour

•   Library Assistant: $14.49 per hour

•   Campus tour guide: $14.81 per hour

Paid Internships

Your school’s career center may also be able to provide information about internship opportunities in your field of study. Some college internships provide college credits, which can help you pay for college by reducing your tuition bill. In other cases, internships are paid. On average, college interns in the U.S. earn $24.63 per hour.

Don’t want to work during the school year? Summer can be a great time to focus on a career-boosting internship without distracting you from your coursework. According to a 2023 Glassdoor report , some summer internships are paying as much as $9,064 a month.

Securing a paid internship tends to be competitive, so it can be wise to apply early and make sure your application materials are compelling and complete. Internships can provide valuable learning opportunities and some of the top-rated internships even offer the opportunity for future full-time employment.

Serving, Bartending, or other Service jobs

Many college students work part time in the service industry because the hours are flexible and you can often earn tips in addition to an hourly pay. This can be especially helpful during peak hours and holidays because your income could be higher than usual. Here’s a look at some service jobs and their average hourly pay and tips:

•   Barista: $14.86 per hour (plus $20 in tips per day)

•   Restaurant server: $16.06 per hour (plus $100 in tips per day)

•   Restaurant host: $14.79 per hour (plus $35.00 in tips per day)

•   Bartender: $15.97 per hour (plus $150 in tips per day)

Recommended: Guide to Paying for College

Retail jobs

If you’re looking for a part-time job that will help pay for college, you might consider working in a local boutique or other type of retail store. These jobs also provide you with valuable human and workplace skills that can be used later in your professional career.

A retail sales associate is typically required to set up store merchandise and assist customers with their shopping needs. You also might even be able to get employee discounts or earn a commission. The average retail sales associate salary in the U.S. is $14.90 an hour.

Tutoring

You’ve been hitting the books and now it’s time to put all of that newfound knowledge to good use. You may be paying for your education, but there are also people out there willing to pay you to share what you’ve learned, which can help make college more affordable. Consider tutoring other college students or younger students in your area of expertise. Rates will vary based on location, subject matter, and your experience level. On average, private tutors earn $25.12 an hour.

Virtual Assistant

Sometimes small businesses and entrepreneurs need someone who can answer their emails, perform odd jobs online, and otherwise provide administrative support virtually. You might look for these gigs online or through your school’s career development office. Before you take on a role, it’s important to know what’s expected: Are they looking for someone to be available during specific hours or could you get everything done on your own time?

On average, a virtual assistant makes $19.19 an hour.

Recommended: 3 Summer Jobs Ideas for College Students

Babysitting or Caregiving

Babysitting can be another job option to help pay for college if you’re looking for flexibility. You can schedule jobs for weekends or nights if you’re worried about work conflicting with your school schedule. As a bonus, you may be able to squeeze in some studying while the little ones are asleep. On average, part-time college nanny jobs pay $25 an hour.

Keep in mind that caregiving isn’t just limited to little kids. You may find meaningful roles working with elderly or ill people who need help, either with day-to-day tasks or with errand running, housekeeping, or even just keeping someone company while they shop. On average, a part-time caregiver earns $15 an hour.

Dog Walking

Having flexibility during the day can mean everything for people who work 9 to 5 and need someone to care for Fido. Consider working for a walking service rather than striking it out on your own: It may provide guaranteed hours or jobs, so you can get to know the pooches you work with. The average salary for a dog walker in the U.S. earns $17 per hour.

Ridesharing or Delivery Driving

Driving for a ride-sharing or delivery service can be a good option during college, since you can generally set your own hours and fit the job into your schedule. How much you could make will depend on your location and the times you’re available to drive. Many Uber drivers make between $15 and $25 per hour, while the average hourly wage for food delivery drivers nationwide is $19/hour.

It can also be helpful to talk to locals to get the lay of the land — national earnings surveys may be very different from your local area, and it can be helpful to anticipate just how much demand there might be before you sign on.

Recommended: 11 Ways to Make Money While You Drive

Freelance or Start a Side Hustle

If you have a sought-after skill or talent, such as writing, website design, photography, or coding, you might consider starting your own freelance business or side hustle. You can advertise your skills on a freelance platform like Fiverr or Upwork. Or, you could solicit clients in your community. For example, you might be able to build a website for a local small business or get hired to manage an off-campus store’s online brand and marketing.

Consider Companies That Help Pay Your Tuition

Part-time jobs can be one option to help you pay for college, but what if you can find a job that not only pays you a salary but also pays for tuition? There are some major companies that offer stipends or reimbursements toward college tuition or expenses like books, even for part-time employees.

Companies That Help Employees Pay for College

Employers generally offer tuition assistance in one of three ways:

•   Tuition reimbursement Here, the company reimburses you for tuition you’ve paid. There may be a tuition cap and/or a requirement to work a certain number of hours or months before the benefit kicks in.

•   Direct payment Some employers will pay eligible college costs directly to the school. In some cases, they only partner with certain schools.

•   Scholarships Some employers offer education scholarships to employees for a set amount of money. As with other types of scholarships, you typically need to submit an application for the award and may also be required to maintain a certain GPA.

Here are some national companies that have well-publicized tuition assistance policies:

Chipotle

At Chipotle , tuition reimbursement (up to $5,250 each year) is available for both part-time and full-time employees. They also offer a Debt-Free Degree program, which covers the full cost of a four-year degree at one of 10 universities. Typically, employees must work at least 15 hours a week for four months to qualify for tuition benefits.

Smuckers

Smucker’s helps employees further their knowledge and skills by reimbursing them for some of the costs of qualifying continued and/or higher education. The company also offers a scholarship program for children of employees.

Publix

At Publix , associates with 90 days of continuous service who work an average of 10 hours a week are eligible to participate in the company’s tuition reimbursement program. The program covers graduate and undergraduate degree coursework, as well as some individual courses, online programs, and technical training.

Starbucks

Starbucks is often featured on these lists for a reason: They partnered with Arizona State University (ASU) to create the Starbucks College Achievement Plan which offers 100% tuition coverage for a first-time bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. All employees eligible for benefits (this includes part-time employees) may take advantage of this program.

If an employee doesn’t qualify for admission to ASU, they can take part in the Pathway to Admission program, which will help them qualify for admission, tuition-free.

UPS

UPS offers a tuition assistance program at most locations in the U.S. Through their “Earn and Learn” program, you can receive up to $5,250 per calendar year, with a lifetime maximum of $25,000. There are no course or subject restrictions.

Walmart

Walmart will pay 100% of tuition and books for an associate or bachelor’s degree program through several online accredited universities. This benefit is available to hourly part-time and full-time associates without a prior bachelor’s degree starting on day one.

Amazon

Amazon offers tuition assistance for employees seeking a Bachelor’s degree, a high school GED, or English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) proficiency certification. You’re eligible for the program after 90 days of employment for as many years as you work in a regular, full-time role at Amazon.

Recommended: Finding Jobs That Pay Off Student Loans

Think About Your First Job Out Of School

Another benefit of finding a job that helps pay for college: You can figure out what you do (and don’t) want to do for a living. It can also be helpful to assess certain job paths, including how much they may pay entry-level employees. While there are always lists of most and least lucrative majors, the reality is that your major doesn’t necessarily determine your career. Talk to alums and people a few years out of school and have them give you the lowdown on their job path.

When looking for your first full-time job out of college, it’s also important to consider not just your salary, but what benefits may come into play. For example, many companies now offer employees assistance in paying off student loans. How it works varies by company, but the typical plan offers matching funds or a predetermined recurring monthly payment towards your loan. Usually, there’s a maximum dollar amount you can receive and some employers require a minimum amount of time on the job.


💡 Quick Tip: Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans that are available: private student loans, federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.

The Takeaway

The combination of scholarships, student loans, and a part-time job can help you cover the cost of going to college for four (or more) years. A part-time job will not only help you earn some money, but it could also help boost your resume. In addition, some companies offer tuition reimbursement or assistance programs for part- or full-time employees pursuing higher education. These programs may have specific requirements, such as attending a certain school or working a set number of hours per week, so be sure you understand the requirements.

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

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

FAQ

How do you ask a company if they offer tuition reimbursement?

To find out if a company offers education benefits like tuition assistance, you can talk to your manager or HR representative (if you already work there). If you’re in the interviewing process, you can ask the recruiter or hiring manager. Or, you can check the company’s website (often they will describe their benefits, including who is eligible and any other stipulations).

What are the disadvantages of tuition reimbursement?

One disadvantage of tuition reimbursement is that you typically need to pay for your classes upfront, then submit the bill to your company for reimbursement. Some tuition reimbursement programs also have strict requirements and limitations, such as a cap on the amount of money that can be reimbursed, or only covering certain types of courses or degrees.

Also keep in mind that balancing work and courses can also be challenging for some employees to manage successfully.

Why would a company offer generous tuition reimbursement?

Many companies offer generous tuition assistance programs in order to attract, develop, and retain high-performing employees.


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


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


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

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

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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52 Companies that Offer Student Discounts in 2024

College comes with a lot of expenses. On top of tuition, fees, books, and housing, you might also want to occasionally go out and have fun. Maybe you want to go shopping, see a movie, or meet friends for lunch or dinner. That’s not always easy on a student budget. Fortunately, there are widely available deals and discounts designed just for college students. Here’s where you can find them.

Key Points

•   Major retailers like Amazon and Sam’s Club offer special pricing and membership benefits to college students.

•   Technology companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Dell provide discounts on products and software for students.

•   Clothing stores like J.Crew, Aeropostale, and Levi’s offer a percentage off purchases upon showing a valid student ID.

•   Restaurants including McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, and Buffalo Wild Wings provide various discounts and deals for students.

•   Travel and transportation services like Greyhound, Amtrak, and United Airlines offer reduced rates for students traveling domestically.

Major Retailers

1. Amazon

Amazon Prime Student gives you six free months of Amazon Prime, and after that it’s $7.49 per month (about half regular price). Plus, you’ll receive perks like free food delivery, 10% off flights and hotels, and one month free of homework help. You can cancel at any time.

2. Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club offers special membership pricing to college students through UNiDAYS , a site that verifies student status and offers exclusive student deals (sign-up is free). Once you register with UNiDAYS, you can get $40 off a Sam’s Club Plus Membership or 30% off a Club Membership. You’ll also qualify to get a $45 eGift Card when you spend $45.

3. Target

Target Circle’s College Student Appreciation program offers exclusive perks and discounts to students, which could come in handy when you’re shopping for your dorm room. To access deals, like 15% off your purchase, you need to join Target Circle for free, verify your student status (by uploading a student ID, class schedule, or tuition receipt), then check back later for offers.

4. Costco

A Costco membership can also help make college more affordable. College students who join Costco as a new Gold Star Member through UNiDAYS can receive a $30 Digital Costco Shop Card.


💡 Quick Tip: Some lenders help you pay down your student loans sooner with reward points you earn along the way.

Technology

5. Apple

Keep this in mind when you’re preparing for college: Apple offers special pricing for current and recently accepted college students (along with their parents). For example, you can get a 13” macbook air with the M2 chip for $999 (normally $1099) or an iPad air for $549 (normally $599).

6. Microsoft

Students (as well as parents and teachers) can save up to 10% off eligible computers and accessories with Microsoft’s student discount . You also get Office 365 and access to Teams for free.

7. Dell

Dell offers exclusive discounts on laptops, monitors, and accessories to students with a valid academic email address (such as one ending in .edu). Savings vary depending on the product, but currently you can save $300.00 (20%) on an XPS 15 Laptop.

8. Lenovo

College students get an extra 5% off their tech purchases at Lenovo . Incoming students can also access the deal by providing a letter of acceptance. You simply need to verify your student status through ID.me during checkout.

9. Adobe

Adobe Creative Cloud for Students allows you to get an All Apps plan for $19.99 a month for the first year, and $29.99 per month after that (it’s normally $54.99 per month). To get the deal, you need to provide a school-issued email address during purchase so you can be instantly verified.

52 Places with Student Discounts

Clothes

10. Aeropostale

Students can benefit from an extra 15% off at Aeropostale . To take advantage of the deal, you’ll simply need to register and verify your student status with UNiDAYS.

11. J.Crew

J.Crew gives students (and teachers) 15% off purchases when they present a valid college ID at checkout. The discount can be used up to four times a month.

12. Hanes

Need some basics, like tees or undergarments? Hanes offers students 10% off online purchases. To score your discount, you need to verify your student status through ID.me and get a promo code.

13. The North Face

The North Face gives students a 10% discount code to use at full-price locations (not factory stores), as well as online. You can redeem one code every 30 days.

14. Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger offers students 15% off online or in-store. First, you have to create or log in to your ID.me account.

15. Levi’s

Levi’s offers students 15% off online purchases after you verify your student status on the site.

16. Club Monaco

Students who are Club Monaco fans can get 15% off online and in-store. Simply register for an account with your .edu email address and a 15% off discount will automatically apply to your cart. If you’re shopping in-store, just present a valid student ID at the register.

17. Docker’s

Docker’s offers students a generous 25% off all purchases made online. You simply need to verify your student status through the site.

18. Outdoor Voices

Students shopping at Outdoor Voices can score 20% off through Student Beans (a site similar to UniDAYS that helps verify student status and offers discounts to partner stores). Once you register with Student Beans (which is free), you’ll get a discount code that you can use at checkout.

19. Champion

Champion offers 10% off to actively enrolled students. You simply need to verify your student status through ID.me to get the discount code.

Restaurants

20. McDonald’s

Right now, you can get a free Cheeseburger, Mayo Chicken, or McFlurry® Original when you buy any Extra Value or Wrap Meal and show your valid student or Student Beans ID.

21. Chick-fil-A

Student discounts vary by location, but many Chick-fil-As offer students a free drink with any purchase.

22. Dunkin’

Dunkin’ offers a 10% off student discount at participating locations. To claim the deal, simply show your student ID to your cashier.

23. Arby’s

You can save 10% on your Arby’s meal when you show your student ID at participating locations.

24. Buffalo Wild Wings

Want to catch the game and eat some wings with friends? Students can score 10% off at many Buffalo Wild Wings locations.

25. Waffle House

Looking for a late-night meal? Students can enjoy a 10% discount at participating Waffle Houses.

26. IHOP

If you don’t have a Waffle House nearby, many IHOP locations also offer 10% off for students.

27. Qdoba

Qdoba has two discount options for students at most locations: either a free drink with your purchase or a burrito meal for just $5.

28. Taco Bell

Craving a Crunchwrap Supreme? You can get a 10% student discount at participating Taco Bells.

Recommended: A Guide to Making Friends in College

Travel & Transportation

29. Greyhound

Through Student Advantage , Greyhound offers 10% off any fare. The Student Advantage card costs $30 a year and offers students — and parents — a wide range of discounts.

30. Amtrak

Students between the ages of 17 and 24 can travel by Amtrak train for 15% off when booking at least one day in advance.

31. United Airlines

United Airlines offers a 5% flight discount to any travelers who are 18 to 23 years old. To get the deal, you need to book through the United app.

32. Hotels.com

Through UNiDAYS, you can snag steep discounts at hotels.com , such as 35% Off last-minute hotel bookings and up to 40% off the site’s Weekend Getaway Deals.

33. FlixBus

You can get 15% off Flixbus tickets with Student Beans. Simply use your FlixBus student discount code at checkout.

34. Hertz

Hertz offers students 21 and older who have had a driver’s license for at least one year, 15% off cars and 20% off vans.

35. Budget Truck Rentals

Budget Truck Rentals offers students 20% off local moves and 15% off one-way moves any day of the week. Use the discount code TRUKU.

36. Penske

Penske offers college students a 10% discount on all truck rentals and unlimited miles on one-way moving truck rentals. Simply use the discount code STUDENT at checkout. You’ll need to provide a college ID or proof of enrollment status at pickup to receive the discount.

37. Red Coach

RedCoach offers high school, college, and graduate students up to 10% off tickets. To get the discount, check the student option at checkout then show your student ID card to the driver along with your ticket.

Recommended: College Move-In Day Tips for Parents

Entertainment

38. AMC

Students get a lower ticket price at select AMC theaters every day. Just bring your photo student ID (and maybe some extra money for popcorn).

39. Cinemark

Student discounts at Cinemark vary by location and time of day, so check with the local box office to see what kind of deal you can snag.

40. Apple Streaming

Apple’s Student Music plan is $5.99 per month for up to 48 months (normally $10.99 per month). You also get Apple TV+ (usually $6.99) free.

41. Hulu

Hulu offers students its ad-supported plan for just $1.99 a month (a 75% discount). If you’re interested in a bundle, check out the deal below.

42. Spotify Bundle

As a student, you can get Spotify Premium and Hulu (with ads) for just $4.99 per month. Spotify Premium normally costs $9.99 per month and Hulu (with ads) is $7.99 a month, so you can snag a monthly savings of $12.99 for as long as you’re going to college.

43. The Washington Post

The Washington Post has a digital all-access student subscription plan for just $1 every four weeks.

44. Paramount+

As a student, you can get a Paramount+ Essential monthly plan for just $4.50 per month (25% off). You can cancel anytime.

45. YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium (which allows you to enjoy YouTube and YouTube Music ad⁠-⁠free) is available to students at a discounted rate of $7.99 a month, after a free one-month trial. You can cancel at any time.

46. The Economist

The Economist offers students an annual digital subscription for a steep 75% off. You can get the Economist Espresso for $19.75 a year, or the Economist Digital for $52.25.

💡 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.

Home Goods

47. Ghost Bed

As a student or teacher, you can get 50% off your entire order at GhostBed . To take advantage of the deal, just click on the ID.me button and then “Student ID” to sign up and get verified.

48. Mattress Firm

After verifying your student status through ID.me, Mattress Firm will give you a single-use coupon code that can be used in-store or online. You get an extra 20% off select purchases or an extra 10% off Purple with the code.

49. Purple

You can also get a 10% discount directly from Purple . Once you verify your eligibility, you’ll be emailed a coupon for 10% off your order.

50. Helix

You can get a discount code for 15% off a mattress at Helix through UNiDAYS.

51. Puffy

Puffy offers a generous student and educator discount — $1,425 off any Puffy mattress.

52. Brooklyn Bedding

Brooklyn Bedding offers a 30% discount and free shipping to students. You simply need to verify your eligibility through ID.me.

The Takeaway

Student discounts can help you save on everything from food and clothing to electronics and entertainment. Even with these deals, however, you may still need help covering your college expenses.

If you completed the FAFSA and didn’t get enough financial aid to pay all of your school bills, keep in mind that you may be able to get a private student loan to help fill in any gaps. Unlike federal student loans, which have strict application deadlines, you can apply for private student loans at any time — including mid-semester.

Private student loans also allow you to borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance. Just keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the borrower protections — like income-driven repayment plans and deferment or forbearance — that come with federal student loans.

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

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

FAQ

How many times can you use a student discount?

It depends on the company. Some retailers and restaurants allow you to use your student discount once per visit or purchase; others limit you to a certain number of times per month or year.

How much is the average student discount?

Student deals typically give you 10% to 15% off, though you may find some discounts for 50% off or even higher. In some cases, a student discount may come with restrictions, such as only being able to use it on full-price merchandise. So it’s always a good idea to compare your student discount to any other available deals and sales.

Do student discounts only apply to college students?

Typically, student discounts only apply to college and graduate students. In some cases, high school students can get deals if they have an email that ends in .edu. The colleges and programs that retailers recognize can vary, but you can expect most major colleges and universities to be eligible.


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


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


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

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

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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A Complete Guide to Private Student Loans

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

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

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

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

What are Private Student Loans?

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

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

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


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

How Do Private Student Loans Work?

How Private Student Loans Work

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

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

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

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

The Pros and Cons of Private Student Loans

Pros of Private Student Loans

Cons of Private Student Loans

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

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

The Benefits of Private Student Loans

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

Apply Any Time of the Year

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

Higher Loan Amounts

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

Choice of Fixed or Variable Interest Rates

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

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

Quick Application Process

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

Statute of Limitations

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

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

Options for International Students

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

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


The Disadvantages of Private Student Loans

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

Requires a Cosigner

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

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

Less Flexible Repayment Options

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

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

No Loan Forgiveness Programs

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

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

Can Lead to Over-Borrowing

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

Not Always Discharged in Death or Disability

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

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

No Federal Subsidy

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

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

Federal vs Private Student Loans

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

Federal Student Loans vs. Private Student Loans

The Application Process

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

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

Recommended: Financial Aid vs Student Loans

Interest Rates

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

For the 2024-2025 school year, the federal student loan interest rate is 6.53% for undergraduates, 8.08% for graduate and professional students, and 9.08% for parents. The interest rates, which are fixed for the life of the loan, are set annually by Congress.

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

Repayment Plans

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

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

Options for Deferment or Forbearance

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

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

Loan Forgiveness

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

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

Should You Consider Private Student Loans?

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

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

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

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

Recommended: When to Apply for Student Loans

How to Get a Private Student Loan

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

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

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

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

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


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

Does Everyone Get Approved for Private Student Loans?

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

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

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

•   Have a steady income that can cover your expenses.

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

Apply for a Private Student Loan with SoFi

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

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


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

FAQ

Why would someone get a private student loan?

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

Will private student loans be forgiven?

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

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

Are private student loans paid to you or the school?

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


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


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


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

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

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Can You Consolidate Student Loans and Credit Card Debt Together?

After attending college, you might have a hefty student loan you need to pay off, and you might also have some credit card debt you’re ready to eliminate.

Having two (or more) separate payments each month, as well as more than one interest rate, can get messy, and could negatively impact your credit if you don’t make all the minimum payments required. You may be wondering if it’s possible to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together to make things easier.

We’ll look at the differences between debt consolidation, debt refinancing, student loan consolidation, and student loan refinancing, plus explore your options to lower your interest rates and possibly get one single payment for all your student loan and credit card debts.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

There are two different ways you can change what your debt looks like: debt consolidation and debt refinancing.

It’s important to understand that when it comes to loans and credit cards, consolidating is different from refinancing. Refinancing refers to changing the financial terms of a debt. Maybe when you took out your student loan, for example, interest rates were higher than they are now. You might be able to refinance your loan with current, lower rates or you could refinance to extend the loan term.

Debt consolidation, on the other hand, refers to combining more than one debt into a new loan with a single payment. Maybe you have three different credit card balances and you take out a new loan to pay them off. Now, those three credit cards have a zero balance and you’re left with a single monthly payment and a new interest rate and terms with the new loan.

But is consolidating credit cards and student loans together possible? Or are they two different animals?

Consolidating Student Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers what’s called a Direct Consolidation Loan, which consolidates all your federal education loans that qualify into one new loan with a single interest rate, typically the average of the loans you’re consolidating. When you consolidate federal student loans, you keep federal benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness.

Student loan consolidation may be useful if you have federal loans from different lenders and are making more than one payment per month. However, your interest rate won’t necessarily be lowered, nor will you be allowed to consolidate private student loans or credit card debt.

So, what can you do if you have private student loans you want to consolidate or other loans that don’t qualify for the Direct Consolidation Loan? And what if you want to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together?

Before we get to the solution, let’s talk about consolidating credit cards.


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

Consolidating Credit Cards

Just like with student loans, you may have multiple credit cards each with their own balance, interest rate, and minimum payment due each month. This can make paying off all this debt next to impossible and feel like you’re treading water as you pay the minimum amount due on each card.

With credit card consolidation, you take out a new personal loan and pay off all outstanding credit card debt.
You then have one payment and one interest rate (which may often be significantly lower than some astronomically high rates for credit cards). You’re now making one monthly payment for all your credit card debt. Sounds good, right?

How to Consolidate Student Loans and Credit Card Debts

As discussed, with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you can’t add credit card debt to the consolidation loan. Direct Consolidation Loans are reserved for federal student loans only.

However, if you’re wanting to consolidate both student loans and credit card debts, there are options you can consider.

Personal Loan

One way to pay off different types of debt is with a personal loan. While personal loans may have higher interest rates than you’re paying for your student loans, the rates for personal loans may be significantly lower than credit card interest rates if your credit is good.

By taking out a personal loan, you may be able to pay off all of your student loans and credit card debt. Your debt is now rolled up into one monthly payment with one interest rate.

The higher your credit score, the lower the interest rate you may qualify for with a personal loan. But even if you don’t get a fantastic rate, you can extend the loan term to make your payments more manageable. And, of course, you can usually pay off a personal loan early without penalty, which can cut down on what you’d otherwise pay in interest.

Balance Transfer

If a personal loan isn’t for you, check to see if you have a credit card with a balance transfer offer. Often, credit cards will offer a promotion of 0% on any balances from other credit cards or loans transferred. Take note though: often these promotions end after a year, and then you’re stuck with the interest payment on the remaining balance.

A balance transfer makes sense if you know you can pay off your debts within a year. If you have a large amount of credit card debt or a high student loan, this may not be the best solution if you can’t pay it off quickly. Instead, you might consider transferring the amount of your debts that you know you can pay off within the timeframe.

Alternatives to Consolidation

If you’re hoping to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together, taking out a personal loan or using a transfer balance are two options to explore.

You might also look at a debt reduction strategy, such as the Avalanche Method or the Snowball Method.

The Avalanche Method

The Avalanche Method focuses on paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first. Once those are paid off, you put that money toward the debts with the next highest interest rates, and so on and so forth, until they are all paid off.

The Snowball Method

With the Snowball Method, you focus on the largest balance first. Put extra money toward paying that off, then when it’s paid off, move to the next largest balance.

Continue Payments

Whatever strategy you choose, the key is to keep making payments. And if possible, pay more than the minimum amount due. Even paying an additional $25 a month on a debt will help you pay it off faster and reduce the total amount of interest you pay overall.

Student Loan Refinance Tips from SoFi

Because student loans are often the largest debts people carry (even if they don’t have the highest interest rate), you may want to have a separate strategy for paying off your student loans.

When you refinance student loans, look for loans that offer a longer time period if you want a smaller monthly payment. However, keep in mind that with a longer loan term, you’re likely to pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Also, if you plan on using federal benefits, it’s not recommended to refinance with a private lender. Instead, look into a Direct Consolidation Loan or refinance your student loans once you’re no longer using federal benefits.


💡 Quick Tip: When rates are low, refinancing student loans could make a lot of sense. How much could you save? Find out using our student loan refi calculator.

The Takeaway

While it may be challenging to consolidate student loans and credit card debt together, you may be able to do so with a personal loan or a credit card balance transfer. Using one of these methods allows you to transfer these debts into a single loan with a single payment and interest rate.

However, if a personal loan or balance transfer credit card isn’t an option, you could consider refinancing your student loans to possibly lower your interest rate and save money each month. The money you save could then be put toward paying off your credit card debt.

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

FAQ

Do I lose my credit cards if I consolidate?

Consolidating credit card debt does not cause you to lose your credit cards. It merely wipes out the debt on each card you include in the consolidation.

Will consolidating my student loans lower my credit score?

If you use the Direct Consolidation Loan, this will not impact your credit score. However, if you consolidate your student loans with a personal loan or through student loan refinancing, it may impact your credit.

Can my student loans be forgiven if I consolidate?

If you consolidate your loans with a Direct Consolidation Loan, you’re still eligible for student loan forgiveness. However, if you refinance your student loans with a private lender, you are no longer eligible for federal benefits, including loan forgiveness.


Photo credit: iStock/PeopleImages

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 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.

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How Long Does It Take Taxes to Come Back?

Waiting for the IRS to process your federal tax return? You might be wondering how long it takes for your tax return to come back. If you file electronically, your tax return will usually be processed within 21 days. A paper return can take six weeks or longer. If you include direct deposit information, your refund will come back much faster.

If you’re concerned because your federal tax return is delayed, you can check its status online or speak to an IRS representative. Keep reading to learn what’s going on behind the scenes at the IRS with your tax return and what factors may affect when you’ll see your refund.

How Long the IRS Takes to Process Your Taxes

The main factor affecting when you get your tax return back is how long the IRS takes to process your information. Processing time will vary depending on whether you file an electronic or paper return. On average, processing for e-file returns takes less than 21 days, whereas paper returns can take more than six weeks.

If you want to get your tax refund early, it’s best to file electronically, include direct deposit information, and file early in the tax season.

Check your score with SoFi

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




💡 Quick Tip: Online tools make tracking your spending a breeze: You can easily set up budgets, then get instant updates on your progress, spot upcoming bills, analyze your spending habits, and more.

How Long a Tax Refund Typically Takes

Once your return is submitted to the IRS, processing can be broken down into three stages: return accepted, refund approved, and refund sent.

For electronic returns, you will typically see an email from the IRS within 24 hours confirming that your return has been accepted. For paper returns, you can expect notification in about four weeks. The acceptance stage just means the IRS has verified your personal information and checked that your dependents haven’t been claimed by someone else.

Next, the IRS will take a closer look at the information you’ve provided and either approve it or send a letter by mail asking for a correction or more information. This is the part that takes less than 21 days if you’ve e-filed.

Paper returns take longer because they must be manually uploaded by a human. Once uploaded, the information you provide can then be compared to data in the IRS system. However, submitting a paper return isn’t the only factor that can slow down a refund.

Factors That Could Slow Down Your Refund

If your return was filed electronically more than 21 days ago and you haven’t seen your refund yet, there could be a number of reasons for the delay, including:

•   The return has incorrect or incomplete information

•   Your personal info has potentially been used in identity theft or fraud

•   The child tax credit or recovery rebate credit may need to be corrected

•   The return qualifies for an additional child tax credit, earned income tax credit, or injured spouse allocation (form 8379)

•   Your bank or credit union needs additional time to post the refund to your account

If the IRS needs more information or wants a corrected return, they will contact you via mail. Many issues can be quickly resolved, especially if your finances are organized, as in a budget planner app. In the event that you owe money, the IRS will work with you to develop a payment plan. A debt payoff planner can also help you determine how you can pay your outstanding taxes comfortably and quickly.

Recommended: What Is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax?

How to Track the Progress of Your Refund

The IRS offers two ways you can check the status of your refund: online or with a representative. An online tool called “Where’s my refund? ” allows you to check the status of your federal return. You’ll need the following information on hand:

•   Social security number

•   Filing status (Single, married–filing joint, married–filing separate, head of household, qualifying widower)

•   Refund amount

After inputting this information, you should be able to see whether your return has been accepted, processed, or sent back to you.

The IRS also has representatives who can research the status of your refund, either by phone (1-800-829-4477) or in person at a taxpayer assistance center . Note that the IRS probably won’t be able to give you much information if you e-filed less than 21 days earlier or by paper less than six weeks earlier.

As with the online checker, you’ll need to provide the representative with your social security number, filing status, and the refund amount you expect.

What to Do if Your Refund Arrives and Has a Mistake

If you receive your refund and realize there’s a mistake, you can file an amended return to correct it. Keep in mind, you can’t electronically file an amended return; you must send it by mail.

Some mistakes are identified by the IRS. In that event, you’ll receive a letter in the mail explaining the issue and how to respond.

If you’re still unsure of what to do, the IRS offers a hotline where you can ask for guidance.

•   Individual taxpayers: 800-829-1040 (TTY/TDD 800-829-4059)

•   Business taxpayers: 800-829-4933

How Long the IRS Has to Audit Your Taxes

If the IRS needs to review your tax return in more depth, you may be audited. Generally, the IRS tries to initiate audits as soon as they identify an issue with your tax return, but they may go back as far as three years. In cases where the error is substantial, they can audit up to six years of prior tax returns.


💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

The Takeaway

If you file electronically, your tax return will usually be processed within 21 days. A paper return can take six weeks or longer. If you include direct deposit information, your refund will come back much faster.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

See exactly how your money comes and goes at a glance.

FAQ

When can I expect my 2023 tax refund?

According to the IRS, nine out of 10 tax returns are processed within 21 days. To expedite the process, you can file your return electronically and include direct-deposit information. Paper returns are generally processed within 6 weeks.

How long does it take to get your tax refund direct deposit?

Most taxpayers who e-file and include direct-deposit info receive their refund in 21 days. If you submitted a paper return with direct-deposit info, you can expect your refund within 6 weeks.

How long does it take taxes to be returned?

Most taxpayers who e-file can expect refunds within 21 days. If you file via paper return, expect processing to take six weeks or more.


Photo credit: iStock/Baris-Ozer

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