Should You Use a Balance Transfer Credit Card to Pay Off Student Loans?
While it’s not a widely used financial strategy, a balance transfer can be a faster and cheaper way to free yourself from college debt.
There are a lot of different opinions about using a balance transfer credit card to pay off debt. There are some who say “bring it on,” while others swear that it’s a terrible way to get out of debt. I understand both sides of the argument, but I definitely fall on the “bring it on” side of the equation.
I’ve used balance transfers a couple of times to help lower my interest rates. This way, I can put more of my money toward paying off the principle of my debt instead of wasting it on high-interest charges.
In total, I’ve used balance transfers to pay off $5,284.18 of high-interest credit card debt. But now that I’m free of credit card debt, I’m considering using yet another balance transfer credit card offer to pay off my student loans. Here’s why:
I Have a Good Offer
Not all balance transfer credit card offers are created equal. Some of them will have offers of one to three percent interest for a certain period — usually 12, 18, or 24 months.
But the best balance transfer offers have a zero-percent interest rate for the same period.
You also need to pay close attention to the balance-transfer fee. Most balance transfer credit cards will have a three-percent transfer fee with a minimum of $5. Some have a maximum fee of $50 or $75 per transfer. This can be helpful if you plan to transfer a large balance that would otherwise have a much higher fee.
Balance transfer credit card offers without a transfer fee are rare, but they do exist. So if you get one of those, it’s almost a no-brainer to use it to pay off higher-interest-rate debt.
I’m currently planning to use a balance-transfer option that offers a zero-percent interest rate for 18 months and a transfer fee of three percent. I chose this one because it’s being offered by one of my current creditors.
I Can Save Hundreds and Pay Off My Loan Faster
My student loan has an interest rate of 6.8 percent, so I’ll still be saving hundreds of dollars in interest by doing a balance transfer.
The time limit on the balance transfer credit card is great motivation for me. Why? Because if I don’t fully pay off the balance transfer in 18 months, the remaining balance will be subject to regular interest rates. Depending on your credit card, those interest rates could be over 15 percent. There’s my incentive to go full-speed ahead!
If you go this route, you must be able to pay off your balance transfer in full before it expires. If you don’t, it won’t take long for your higher credit card interest rate to erase the savings. You can’t miss a payment or pay late. Most balance transfer offers are void if you don’t pay on time.
Student loan providers are more forgiving than credit card companies. You might be able to qualify for income-based repayment or waived interest, among other options, depending on your financial situation. But when you transfer your student loan to a credit card, those options are no longer available. If you lose your job, for example, you won’t have as many alternatives to help you with your payments.
All the same, doing a balance transfer to help pay off your student loan can be a good idea if your main goal is to get out of debt quickly.