Can You Use a Credit Card to Pay Your Student Loans?

By Kayla McCormack · October 16, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Can You Use a Credit Card to Pay Your Student Loans?

Making student loan payments with a credit card can be tempting. After all, if your credit card offers you rewards like points or miles, by putting your student loan payments on your card, you could be cashing in on points and scoring a free flight to Vegas, right?

On the flip side, you might be looking for a way to make your monthly student loan payment during a month when your checking account isn’t quite as full as you’d like.

So is it even possible to pay down your student loans with a credit card? The short answer is that it’s not possible to do so on federal student loans, though there may be ways to do so on some private student loans.

Can I Make a Student Loan Payment With My Credit Card?

Federal student loan servicers, as a rule, do not allow credit card payments directly. In order to pay student loans with a credit card, payments have to go through a third-party platform for a fee – which would usually negate any points you might have earned from using your card to pay off your loans. And if you’re keeping a balance rather than paying off your credit card bill immediately, you’ll have to contend with high credit card interest rates.

You may be able to pay off a private student loan with a credit card. To find out if student loan payment with your credit card is an option, consider calling your student loan servicer to find out. Some allow credit card payments in certain situations, such as if it’s the last day before your payment becomes overdue.

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Is Using a Credit Card to Pay on a Student Loan a Good Idea?

Even if your student loan servicer accepts credit card payments, the practice could have downsides.

As previously mentioned, there may be additional fees to use a credit card to pay student loans. Paying additional fees could offset the benefit of earning any additional points or miles on your credit card.

Another factor is that credit card interest rates are generally higher than your student loans. If you’re unable to make monthly payments in full on your credit card, you might end up paying significantly more interest by using your credit card instead of a modest interest often associated with student loans. Simply put, making a student loan payment on a credit card, especially a high yield one, can cost you much more.

So while racking up those credit card points can seem enticing, they might not be such a great deal if you’re paying more on your student loans in the long run.

How Paying Student Loans With a Credit Card Can Affect Your Credit

You might want to also consider your credit score. Your credit usage makes up 30% of your FICO® score. Typically, you don’t want to use more than a third of the credit available to you. If you put a large student loan payment on your credit card, you might use a bigger chunk of your available credit, which could potentially bring down your credit score.

If you’re unable to keep up with your student loan or credit card payments, you could end up with both student loan and credit card debt.

Both the mix of credit and length of credit history are two factors that inform your credit score. Paying off your student loans may result in a temporary dip in your credit score because you have closed the loan.

Is There a Better Way to Manage Student Loan Debt?

If you feel like you’re going to fall behind on student loan payments, using a credit card isn’t your only option.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

If you’re experiencing long-term financial difficulty, federal student loan borrowers may consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan (IDR). These plans are based on your discretionary income, are intended to make payments more affordable, and have terms that allow for loan forgiveness after a set amount of years. Here are the four IDR with their respective payment terms:

•   Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan: Borrowers typically pay 10 % of their discretionary income but not more than the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. Remaining balances are forgiven after 20 years of payment with this plan.

•   Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan: Borrowers typically pay 10 % of their discretionary income over the course of 20 years for loans for undergraduate study or 25 years for graduate or professional school loans. However, the repayment period can be as little as 10 years for undergraduate borrowers with balances under $12,000. And the minimum payment will fall to 5% of discretionary income starting in July 2024.

•   Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan: Student loan holders typically pay 10 % or 15% of their discretionary income but not more than the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan. After 20 or 25 years, depending on when the loan was first received, any remaining balance will be forgiven.

•   Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan: As a new borrower, student loan holders typically pay the lesser of these two: 20% of their discretionary income or a fixed payment over the course of 12 years. Any remaining balance will be forgiven after 25 years with this plan.

Consolidating Student Loans

A Direct Consolidation Loan could lower your monthly payment by giving you up to 30 years to repay your federal student loans.

If you’re not able to make your monthly payments, you could ask your loan servicer about forbearance or deferment, both of which pause payments until your financial situation improves. Student loan borrowers with both federal and private loans can consolidate their loans via private student loan refinancing. It’s important to note that consolidating the federal loans will release the borrower from federal loan forgiveness programs.

Refinancing Student Loans

You could also consider refinancing your student loans with a private lender. Refinancing combines existing student loans into a new loan, one ideally with a lower interest rate and a more favorable loan term, which may mean lower, more affordable monthly payments. (Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) To determine your interest rate, private lenders will generally conduct a credit check, evaluate your credit score, and income among other factors.

Recommended: 7 Tips to Lower Your Student Loan Payment

The Takeaway

Can you pay student loans with a credit card? In short, it’s possible, but may require the use of a third-party app or paying additional fees to the lender. These fees can outweigh the benefits of earned credit card points or miles. If you’re using a credit card because you’re struggling to make monthly payments on your student loan, you’re probably better off refinancing or using an income-driven repayment plan.

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.


Can I pay student loans with a debit card?

Generally, paying student loans with a debit card is not permitted. It may be possible, but there may be fees associated. For the most part, student loan servicers prefer payments made electronically from your bank account. Most lenders will allow borrowers to enroll in automatic payments, where the loan payment is automatically debited from the checking account each month.

Can you pay off student loans all at once?

It is possible to make a lump sum payment to pay off all of your loans at once. Your lender should be able to provide a payoff quote if you are interested in this option.

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

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

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