Like millions of other graduates, when Dan Stelmach started his career, he was overwhelmed by his student loan debt. With high interest rates, he felt like he was never going to make any progress.
His brother, Nick Sky, recalls watching Stelmach struggle with his debt. “He said, ‘Something needs to change so I can pay my student loans,’” Sky said. “And that’s when it occurred to him: spare change. If he rounded up his spare change, he could save money and put more toward his debt.”
And the idea for the ChangEd App, a student loan app, was born. Find out how this app may help you manage your student loans and accelerate repayment of your debt.
The concept of the ChangEd App is similar to other apps that rely on the idea of roundups to fund financial goals. Roundups are when a charge is rounded up to the nearest dollar amount, and the difference is put toward a financial goal.
When Stelmach came to Sky with his idea, he estimated he had about $50 a month in spare change. The brothers did the math: If he used that $50 to make extra payments toward his loans on top of his regular payments, he would save thousands of dollars, get out of debt sooner and wouldn’t have to manage quite as strict of a budget from month to month.
The brothers worked on building a simple app that could help others pay off their debt. They launched a beta version of the app in January 2017 and officially launched the app two months later.
As of 2019, ChangeEd has sent $5 million in spare change toward student loans. “Seeing a large student loan balance can be frustrating and demoralizing,” Sky said. “But by using your spare change, you can start making progress paying off your loans without sacrificing or making drastic lifestyle changes.”
How the ChangEd App works
The ChangEd app works by first analyzing your spending habits. Once the app understands your shopping patterns, it starts setting aside your spare change. For example, if you spend $2.45 on a cup of coffee, the app will round that up to $3, putting 55 cents toward your student loan payments.
ChangEd will then transfer your extra change to an FDIC-insured ChangEd account. Once your spare change account hits $100, the app will automatically submit a payment toward your student loans. You can check your progress and see how much time you’ve knocked off your repayment term in the ChangeEd dashboard.
Sky is proud of the app, particularly its security features. “It’s a very secure environment,” he said. “We do not store your account or banking information; we just facilitate payments, so your accounts are always protected.”
Using the ChangeEd app
You can sign up to download the app on the ChangEd website. The app is available for both iOS and Android users.
Once you download the app and sign up, the app will prompt you to enter your student loan information, including your lender, interest rate, monthly payment due date and daily payment amount.
You will then have to enter your full name, birthdate, phone number and mailing address. Then, the app can open an FDIC-insured ChangEd account for you. You will also share the name of your loan servicer and your account number. There is a disclaimer that you will have to read and sign to show that you agree to link to your bank account, as well as to your student loan servicer.
After a few days, you will start seeing transactions show up in the app. You’ll see your regular transactions on the dashboard and the change that was set aside from each purchase. The dashboard also will show you how much change is saved each month and how much is applied to your loans. The app calculates how much each payment saves you in interest over time and how early you will pay off your loans. Average users report saving $30 to $50 each month through roundups.
ChangEd charges $1 each month from your ChangEd balance to cover the costs of storing your funds and transferring money.
ChangEd is unique in that it directly sends a payment to your student loans. But you could apply a similar strategy across banking apps, which may give you more flexibility in how you want money to be allocated. Here are some other apps to consider that could help you pay off your student loans as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Digit is an app that analyzes your spending and helps you save every day by “finding” an amount in your account to set aside for savings. You could then feasibly put this money toward your student loans.
Debt Payoff Planner and Tracker
If you have multiple debts, like credit card debt as well as student loan debt, seeing all of your debts in one place can give you a visual aid to figure out your strategy for repayment. The app can also help you assess the optimum repayment plan for you.
Like ChangEd, Qoins employs a roundup strategy to put money toward paying off debt. Users also have the option of having the app “choose” how much to save each day through a unique algorithm, or they can set aside a certain amount of money to save each month. At the end of the month, Quoins will automatically make a payment to the lender of your choice. Unlike ChangEd, this app is not exclusive to student loans.
An app may be fun, but it’s not a shortcut, and it is usually designed to make you more aware of your finances as a whole. In other words, you don’t need an app to make smart decisions about how to pay off your student loans.
And of course, as with any financial app, the best app for student loans is the one that works for your needs. But you don’t need an app to remember that even applying a little more than your monthly minimum student loan payments can make a significant difference in the amount you pay toward your loan over time.
Anna Davies contributed to this report.