4 Ways to Use Credit Card Rewards to Pay Down Student Loans

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Earning credit card rewards can lead to flights, hotel stays and more. But did you know that credit card rewards can help you pay back your student loans?

While you generally can’t pay your student loans using a credit card, you can leverage credit card rewards to help chip away at your student loan debt.

Is there a best credit card to pay off student loans? We’ll break down some ways you can use credit card rewards to pay down your student loans.

Find a credit card to maximize financial rewards
Redeem points toward student loan payments
Consider a credit card with a 0% introductory APR
6 credit card do’s and don’ts
Credit cards and student loans: Final word

Find a credit card that can help you maximize financial rewards

You can use a credit card for payments you’re already making every month, whether it’s rent, gas or groceries. But this is only a good idea if you can pay back your balance in full each month.

If you’re planning this, it may make sense to consider a rewards card. It’s important to note that rewards cards may have annual fees and are usually reserved for cardholders with good credit. That being said, they come with perks like miles, cash back and points.

If you have some bucket list trips planned, a rewards credit card that incentivizes travel can help you get free flights. Then, you could put the money you would have spent on the trip toward your student loan payments.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card lets you Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn a $50 statement credit towards grocery store purchases.

If you’re already spending that cash on monthly bills, it may make sense to put your bills on this card and reap the rewards. Or, you may get a credit card with gas rewards to help minimize the amount you spend on commuting. The point: Focus on how you spend your money now, then look for credit card rewards that fit your habits.

Redeem credit card points toward student loan payments

In the past, some credit cards allowed cardholders to link their credit card rewards to their student loan account. While there are no credit cards that currently offer this, you could earmark cashback rewards to pay down your student loans.

For example, Citi allows ThankYou points to be converted into a check to pay your student loan servicer. In this system, 1 point is equivalent to 1 cent. A card like the Citi Rewards+® Card rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase, while you can earn Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X ThankYou® Points on All Other Purchases..

So, for example, 2,500 points translates to $25 to pay off your student loans.

If you use this option, your student loan payment would be mailed to your loan servicer, so it’s important to see if it accepts third-party checks and find out if there’s a special mailing address.

Of course, you can follow a similar strategy with other cashback rewards credit cards and send the additional check yourself. For example, say you get 1% back on all your purchases. Typically, when you redeem your rewards, you can opt for a statement credit, check or other form of payment. Rather than taking a statement credit, you could ask for a check to put that money toward your student loans to pay down the principal more quickly.

Consider a credit card with a 0% introductory APR

While you may not be able to charge monthly student loan payments to a credit card, it may be possible to get a credit card with a 0% introductory APR and request a balance transfer to move the balance of your student loans to a credit card.

Of course, once you do this, the debt is no longer a student loan, and you need to remember the key word in all this: Introductory.

Some people could benefit from this approach, including those with excellent credit who have access to competitive 0% APR introductory offers. But these 0% rates are temporary, and student loan interest rates are usually lower than typical credit card interest rates.

In other words, if you have an 18-month 0% APR offer, you better plan to pay off the balance in full before the 18 months is up. For example, maybe you got a higher-paying job, are only a year out from paying your loans in full or are receiving financial support to finish paying your student loans from relatives.

If you don’t have a plan in place, it would be better to focus on other strategies that can help you maximize rewards by paying off your credit cards.

6 credit card do’s and don’ts

If you were wondering how to pay student loans with a credit card, you’ve learned it’s not typically possible. But to effectively use credit card rewards to pay off student loans, it’s important to be strategic. Here are some do’s — and don’ts — to follow.

Do pay your credit card bill in full each month. The interest rates on reward cards can be high, and rewards are mitigated if you carry a balance. Make sure you have a plan in place to pay the bill in full, and don’t use the credit card for just-because purchases.

Don’t ignore fees for credit card payments. Some vendors, such as an apartment management company, may charge a fee for credit card payments. If yours does, you should consider whether it’s worth using your card. For example, let’s say you have a credit card that offers 2% cash back but your vendor charges a 3% fee for credit card payments. You will still pay more if you pay by credit card than you would if you stuck to other payment methods. That said, if a vendor doesn’t charge a fee, it may make sense to automate monthly payments so they are automatically covered by the credit card that offers the highest reward options.

Do pay attention to your credit score. Reward credit cards tend to be approved for people who have good to excellent credit. If your credit score is lower than that, it may make sense to work on improving your score before applying for the card.

Don’t overlook interest rates or APRs. Yes, you are going to pay your balance in full, each and every month (right?). But, sometimes, life happens. A balance that rolls from month to month may make your student loan bill even higher than you intended. Stick to a card with a low APR and pay attention to your interest rate, since this could change over time.

Do assess annual fees. Annual fees for reward credit cards may cost several hundred dollars. Are they worth it? That depends. If you’re only planning to use the card occasionally, the rewards may not be worth the fee. But if you’re going to use the card each and every month to pay your student loans, it’s worth doing the math to see how much the rewards will equal in dollars to ensure the card pays off in the long run.

Do stick to a plan. Reward credit cards may help you achieve your goal of paying off your student loans more quickly than expected, but only if they are used smartly. Again, consider automating your credit card payments so that the balance is always paid in full.

Credit cards and student loans: Final word

Using credit card rewards to pay student loans can be a strategic way to make a dent in your payments and earn money from things you would spend money on anyway.

For this strategy to work, the key is to make sure you don’t end up overspending in pursuit of credit card rewards, which obviously defeats the purpose.

Be sure to read any fine print about spending requirements and ensure that you pay off your balances in full each month. If used responsibly, credit card rewards can help you pay off student loans that much faster.

The information related to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Citi Rewards+® Card has independently been collected by Student Loan Hero and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Melanie Lockert contributed to this article.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2021!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.89% – 5.99%1Undergrad
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Visit Splash

1.99% – 5.64%2Undergrad
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1.91% – 5.25%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.25% – 6.88%4Undergrad
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Visit SoFi

1.89% – 5.90%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.39% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of Feburary 1, 2021.

2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 02/17/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.91% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

4 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 2.99% APR to 7.33% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.88% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.25% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 0.13% plus 2.37% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the interest savings are applied to the principal loan balance, which may help pay the loan down faster. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.  

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.


This information is current as of January 4, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.