Can You Use Series EE Savings Bonds to Repay Student Loans?

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Do you have any savings bonds? Those old paper bonds that some grandparents got for newborn grandchildren to help pay for college could be worth big bucks today.

If you’re in college or plan to go to graduate school, you can use those savings bonds for education to avoid taking out more student loans. Let’s take a look at how to use Series EE bonds for education tax-free, or how you use savings bonds to pay student loans faster — specifically:

What is a savings bond?

A savings bond is a tool used to loan a small amount of money to the government in exchange for interest. The first savings bonds were issued March 1, 1935, after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law authorizing the U.S. Department of the Treasury to issue a new type of savings security, the savings bond.

The first savings bonds, known as “defensive bonds,” were issued to help fund U.S. involvement in World War II. After the war ended, many Americans held their bonds so they would grow in value before cashing them in.

The treasury department currently issues Series EE bonds and Series I bonds. They are similar but have some important differences in how they earn interest. For the rest of this article, we will focus on Series EE savings bonds.

How Series EE savings bonds work

Series EE savings bonds are sold at face value and earn a little bit of interest each month. As of November 2020, the annual interest rate for Series EE bonds issued through April 2021 is 0.10%. While the interest rate is low, the bonds are virtually risk-free.

The treasury department guarantees that the bond’s value will double 20 years after issue, at which point it can change the interest rate or the way interest is earned. After 30 years, the bonds stop earning interest. So, for example, if you pay $100 for a Series EE savings bond in 2021, it would be worth at least $200 by 2041.

Savings bonds are issued in any denomination above $25. People can buy up to $10,000 per series in electronic savings bonds per year.

Through 2012, savings bonds could be bought through banks and other financial institutions, but now they can only be purchased online through TreasuryDirect.gov. Existing savings bonds can be redeemed through a bank or TreasuryDirect.

Can you use savings bonds for student loans?

Because Series EE savings bonds are low risk and guaranteed to double in value in 20 years, they are among the best savings accounts for a grandchild. If Mom and Dad keep the savings bonds safely tucked away for years, the child can use savings bonds for college or pay off student loans.

Series EE bonds earn a small, steady amount of interest each year. If you’ve received an EE savings bond for education or another future cost, you can see how much it’s worth using the TreasuryDirect calculator.

Your EE bonds could be helpful toward covering your college costs. You might even consider rolling mature savings bonds into your 529 college savings plan or a similar vehicle that produces greater returns than the EE series. If you choose that route, you wouldn’t give up all tax advantages, as 529 plans come with their own set of perks.

Using bond proceeds to repay education debt, however, is a tricker question.

Interest rate on savings bonds vs. interest rate on student loans

Simply put, Series EE savings bonds are earning interest for the holder while student loans — whether federal or private — are charging the borrower interest.

While you’re earning interest at a 0.10% rate on Series EE bonds, the interest rate for federal loans ranged from 2.75% to 5.30% for the 2020-2021 school year —with private loans generally charging even higher rates. That means that even though you’re making some money on EE bonds, it likely won’t compare to what you’re being charged in interest on your student loans.

If you’re considering using your savings bonds for college loans, keep in mind that they can help pay off some debt but likely won’t cover the entire cost. This is because the interest rates on federal and private loans are much higher than the amount you’re earning on your EE bonds for education. Also, if you cash in savings bonds that are less than five years old, you’ll likely be charged a penalty.

Conventional wisdom says it’s best to pay off higher-interest loans first and then move on to lower-interest loans. When you cash out your savings bonds for college costs, it’s smart to pay off private loans first because they likely have the highest interest rate. Then, with any leftover bond money, you can start paying down your federal student loans.

Do you have to pay taxes when cashing in savings bonds?

Interest on Series EE savings bonds is taxable on your federal tax return, but not at the state or local level. Through 1989 that was the rule across the board, but Series EE savings bonds purchased on or after Jan. 1, 1990, have different rules when it comes to using your savings bonds for college costs.

In 1990, Congress created the Education Savings Bond program. Now, all savings bonds issued on or after Jan. 1, 1990, can be redeemed tax-free if the money is used to pay qualified education expenses.

Tax advantages of savings bonds

Tax disadvantages of savings bonds

  • Possibility of excluding taxes on earned interest
  • Bonds are exempt from state, local taxes
  • Federal taxes could be deferred
  • Strict rules for tax advantage eligibility

Tax advantages of savings bonds

In many cases, you’re required to pay taxes on any interest earned in a calendar year. However, one of the pros of using savings bonds to pay student loans is that you may not have to pay taxes on the interest earned.

Taxpayers who are 24 years or older and meet filing status and income requirements can exclude the interest earned on savings bonds from their gross income if the bond was used toward qualified education expenses at eligible schools.

Additionally, savings bonds are exempt from state and local taxes, which is especially helpful for people who live in a state with a high income tax. Lastly, people can defer taxes on the interest earned until the bond matures at the 30-year mark or they redeem the bond, whichever occurs first.

Tax disadvantages of savings bonds for college

There are some tax disadvantages of savings bonds. Primarily, not everyone is eligible for tax breaks on EE bonds. Depending on how much you make as a single taxpayer or a married taxpayer filing jointly, you may not be eligible for the tax advantage. If you’re single and your gross income is $94,550 or more, or if you’re married and your gross income is $149,300 or more, you won’t be eligible for the tax exemption.

How to use Series EE savings bonds for education tax-free

Let’s say you are a college student enrolled at a major university or trade school. If the school is qualified for federal student loan programs like federal Stafford loans and federal Perkins loans, you are eligible to cash in your savings bonds for education tax-free. (Note that the Perkins loan program was closed to new borrowers when it expired Sept. 30, 2017.)

The loan proceeds must be used for tuition and fees directly related to your degree program. The funds cannot be used for books, room and board or other extracurricular activities, like clubs and fraternity dues.

If you cash in savings bonds for college in a single calendar year that have accrued more interest than you need (only interest is taxed, not the original principal), any excess interest is taxable. For example, if you redeem savings bonds that have earned $10,000 in interest and your tuition and fees were $9,500 that calendar year, you would pay income tax on the remaining $500.

If you have any questions on how to handle your taxes, consult a qualified tax expert.

Why you may want to keep those bonds a while longer

Let’s consider four scenarios when it could make sense to employ your EE bonds for education or hold on to them into the future: 

Savings bonds scenario

Recommended course of action

1. If your savings bonds are less than 30 years old … You don’t have to cash them in. Instead, keep on earning that interest.
2. If you have college tuition and fees in your future … You can keep those bonds until you incur qualified education expenses and redeem the EE bonds for education in those years to keep your tax bill as low as possible. This strategy could limit your reliance on federal and private student loans.
3. If your savings bonds for college are more than 30 years old … You’re typically better off cashing them in and investing the proceeds, unless you are in a unique tax situation where that would not be beneficial. Again, talk to a qualified tax expert if you’re not sure.
4. If you’re somewhere in the middle (your bonds are still earning interest but you don’t qualify for the tax exemption or you don’t have education expenses in the foreseeable future) … You’re in a gray area, for sure, but if you are done with school and have student loans to pay off, consider cashing in your bonds and using the money to pay down student loans faster. Just remember that you’ll have to pay taxes on the interest earned on your bonds, so put some cash aside to cover it come Tax Day.

 

Andrew Pentis and Sage Singleton Evans contributed to this report.

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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 June 1, 2021.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Interest Rate Disclosure

Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.59% APR to 5.79% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.88% APR to 5.64% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance 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 2.04% and 5.8% to the one month LIBOR. Earnest rate ranges are current as of 6/8/2021, and are subject to change based on market conditions.

Auto Pay Discount Disclosure

You can take advantage of the Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. For multi-party loans, only one party may enroll in Auto Pay.

Student Loan Refinancing Loan Cost Examples

These examples provide estimates based on payments beginning immediately upon loan disbursement. Variable APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 5.89% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,042.39. For a variable loan, after your starting rate is set, your rate will then vary with the market. Fixed APR: A $10,000 loan with a 20-year term (240 monthly payments of $72) and a 6.04% APR would result in a total estimated payment amount of $17,249.77. Your actual repayment terms may vary.Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest. com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

Earnest Loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC or One American Bank, Member FDIC. Earnest Operations LLC, NMLS #1204917. 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105. California Financing Law License 6054788. Visit earnest.com/licenses for a full list of licensed states. For California residents (Student Loan Refinance Only): Loans will be arranged or made pursuant to a California Financing Law License.

One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC with support from Navient Solutions LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

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3 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

1. NaviRefi loans are made by Earnest Operations LLC, a member of the Navient family of companies, subject to individual approval and underwriting criteria. California residents only: Loans made or arranged pursuant to a California Finance Lenders Law license. Additional terms and conditions apply.

– To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen permanent resident of the United States, reside in a state we lend in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.navirefi.com/help-and-questions. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Loan terms are subject to eligibility. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application. Loan approval is subject to confirmation that your debt-to-income, free cash flow, credit history and application information meet the minimum requirements. You must have a minimum FICO score to be considered.

– You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.75% – 6.04% APR (2.50% – 5.79% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 2.13% – 5.89% APR (1.88% – 5.64% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

– You can take advantage of the 0.25% Auto Pay interest rate reduction by setting up and maintaining active and automatic ACH withdrawal of your loan payment. The interest rate reduction for Auto Pay will be available only while your loan is enrolled in Auto Pay. Interest rate incentives for utilizing Auto Pay may not be combined with certain private student loan repayment programs that also offer an interest rate reduction. NaviRefi rate ranges are current as of June 1, 2021 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

– The information provided on this page is updated as of 06/1/2021. Earnest Operations LLC reserves the right to modify or discontinue (in whole or in part) this loan program and its associated services and benefits at any time without notice. Check www.navirefi.com for the most up-to-date information. Terms and Conditions apply. Call 855-284-4893 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

– Earnest Operations LLC – NMLS #1204917, CA CFL #6054788 – 535 Mission St., Suite 1663, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Navient Solutions, LLC – NMLS #212430 – 123 Justison St., Wilmington, DE 19801. Visit https://navirefi.com/lending-licenses for a full list of licensed states.


4 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. ‍All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates from 2.74% APR to 6.74% APR (with autopay). Variable rates from 2.25% APR to 6.39% APR (with autopay). All variable rates are based on the 1-month LIBOR and may increase after consummation if LIBOR increases; see more at SoFi.com/legal/#1. If approved for a loan your rate will depend on a variety of factors such as your credit profile, your application and your selected loan terms. Your rate will be within the ranges of rates listed above. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or may become available, such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license #6054612; NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). Additional terms and conditions apply; see SoFi.com/eligibility for details. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.


6 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 04/07/2021 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% APR – 7.63% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


7 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%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


8 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed Rates range from 2.89%-4.78% APR and Variable Rates range from 2.13%-5.25% APR. Both Fixed and Variable Rates will vary based on application terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. For Variable Rate student loans, the rate will never exceed 9.00% for 5 year and 8 year loans and 10.00% for 12 and 15 years loans (the maximum allowable for this loan). Minimum variable rate will be 2.00%. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

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