Tax Information: Student Finance - Northwestern University

Credit Cards vs. Student Loans: Financial Wellness

Credit Cards vs. Student Loans

Some students could also be nervous about borrowing student loans for the primary time, and will look to credit playing cards as a substitute for assist with private and academic bills whereas they’re in faculty. Since each choices are a type of borrowing, you will need to perceive how every work so as to make the perfect monetary choice for your self. Below is a comparability chart between credit playing cards and student loans:


Credit Cards

Federal Student Loans

Interest Rates

Credit playing cards sometimes carry increased rates of interest than student loans, and may usually exceed 20%.

Federal student loan curiosity normally falls under 10%.

Some students could qualify for federal sponsored loans, the place the loan is interest-free whereas the student is at school.


Debt Management

Credit card balances are revolving (credit that’s robotically renewed as money owed are paid off) and may develop till you attain your credit card restrict, except you might be paying your full stability off each month. With increased rates of interest, it takes longer and prices extra to repay credit card debt as your stability continues to extend.


Student loans are non-revolving and are thought of installment loans – this implies you have got a set stability in your loans and pay it off in month-to-month funds over time till the stability is zero.

Repayment phrases and choices

Credit playing cards require quick minimal funds, which is normally paying off the curiosity you accrued the earlier month on the principal stability. This permits the curiosity to proceed to develop and don’t assist to pay your stability off quicker.


There are not any compensation plans based mostly in your earnings, means to pay, or monetary hardship, and funds can’t be skipped or deferred with out important penalties.

You don’t must make any funds on federal or most non-public student loans when you are enrolled at the very least half-time at school. 

Federal loans additionally provide compensation plans that decide your month-to-month fee quantity based mostly in your earnings.

There isn’t any penalty for early compensation of your federal student loans. 

Additionally, in case you are unable to make funds resulting from particular or uncommon circumstances, your lender may fit with you to assist alleviate funds.


Refinancing Options

There are not any refinancing choices for credit playing cards. However, some could benefit from stability transfers that supply decrease rates of interest. This is usually a useful possibility in paying off debt, however may result in habits which will improve your general debt as properly.


Student loans may be refinanced at a decrease rate of interest afterward if in case you have good credit.


Depending in your scenario, it might not at all times be the most suitable choice to refinance any federal loans. Be positive to do your analysis earlier than making this choice.


Credit card stability: $10,000

Interest: 20% APR

Total value in curiosity when paying the minimal due: $13,191 as you’ll be paying $193/mo. in curiosity.

Student loan (unsubsidized) stability: $10,000

Interest: 5% APR

Total value in curiosity when paying the minimal due: $5,430.


You might also select to pay curiosity when you are at school so as to save much more in the long term.

Return on Investment

Credit playing cards are sometimes used in direction of on a regular basis purchases like eating places, holidays, purchasing, and different stuff which may provide instantaneous gratification on the time of buy, however could not result in long-term happiness.

Student loans could also be used towards value of attendance gadgets corresponding to books, provides, private bills, and residing bills. When you graduate from faculty with student loans, you have got a school diploma readily available that may in the end result in higher paying job alternatives.


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Although some students are averse to accumulating debt, if managed appropriately and thoughtfully, borrowing a federal student loan may also help set up credit. The sooner you can begin constructing credit, the higher. Contact your monetary support counselor to debate your choices and what would work greatest for you.

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