Can You Use Student Loans to Pay Off Credit Cards?

MB-one, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve tried everything to pay off your credit card debt, but nothing’s working. Those high interest rates, for one, are keeping you from eating into your principal. But you do have a student loan coming, and the thought occurs: can you use student loans to pay off credit cards? Good question.

Let’s see.

The Issue

You’re supposed to use student loans to defray or pay the cost of your higher education. Still, it’s understandable to consider whether you can use the cash for other stuff, like erasing credit card obligations. 

The bad news is that it just isn’t wise to tap your student loan to pay off your plastic. Why? Well, for one thing, what happens if you don’t have enough funds to cover your education? Will you have to take out another loan? And get in even more debt? You can see where this is going. What’s more, there may be restrictions on what you’re able to do with the student loan.

There are things you should know and do before seriously considering funneling your funds to your debt instead of that Ancient Civilization 101 textbook. 

See What Your Loan Agreement Says

As per the Department of Education, your loan is supposed to go toward “educational expenses.” In addition to tuition and room and board, those expenses include books, equipment such as computers, school transportation and childcare costs.

Darn, right? But wait. If you charge any of those expenses on a credit card, you could ostensibly use your loan to pay them off. The rub, though, is that if you have other, personal expenses mingled with your school expenses, you’re paying for those ineligible expenses as well.

If you have a private student loan, though, how you can use that cash is up to the lender. That’s where your loan agreement comes in, so be sure to read the fine print. Don’t expect any major departures from federal loan guidelines, however.

Don’t Depend on Bankruptcy

It’s nearly impossible to have your student loan debt taken care of through bankruptcy, giving you an additional reason to not use your loan to clear your credit card obligations. What makes it so challenging is that the burden is on you to prove that the loans have strained your finances – a difficult task even if your payments are difficult to manage. Credit debt relief can be messy, but it’s doable.

Note that you CAN discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy. But even if you expect no issues handling future debts, you don’t want to set yourself up for something you’ll be sorry for later.

Using Your Student Loan to Pay Off Cards Could Squeeze Your Finances Later

If you have the option to put off student loan payments until school is done, that makes using your loan for credit card debt enticing. We get it, particularly since such loans have relatively low interest rates. 

However, mixing your credit card debt in with your school debt could put you in a financial mess once school is done. And that’s no way to start your life’s next chapter.

What Are My Options Then?

If you’re in college and have trouble paying your credit cards, the first thing you should do is cease using plastic until you can get a handle on things. You also might want to figure out a way to bring in more cash. Then, you should consider getting rid of your highest-interest debts first, while monitoring your credit scores. 

So, can you use student loans to pay off credit cards? You may be able to get away with it – in the short term. But is it a good idea? Nope. There are other ways to handle credit card debt that won’t hamstring you in the long run.

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