Can You Pay Student Loans with a Credit Card?

Grace Lemire
Grace Lemire

Grace Lemire is a freelance writer and editor with over five years of experience in the personal finance industry. She has been featured on a variety of publications, including NPR, CNN, FinanceBuzz, Dollar Geek, Pangea, and True Finance. Her work focuses on the intersection of personal finance and technology. In 2023, Grace was nominated for the Best Personal Finance Advice award in’s FinTok Awards.

See author page
Edited by
Daniel Kahn
Daniel Kahn
Daniel is the co-founder and COO at Sparrow. Daniel is responsible for the day-to-day operations of a company, working closely with other members of the executive team to develop and implement strategies to support the growth and success of the company.
Daniel was a 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 lister in the Education category.  Daniel was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina and graduated from Duke University in 2020.
See author page
Reviewed by
Camden Ford
Camden Ford

Camden leads Sparrow’s business operations – everything from product management to business analytics. After graduating Cum Laude from Duke University where he studied Civil Engineering, Camden worked as a Consultant for A.T. Kearney where he worked in their Strategic Operations practice. With a strong background in analytics, Camden strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

See author page
November 10, 2023

Making student loan payments with a credit card may be tempting, especially if you don’t have the cash to do so — or if you want to earn extra rewards on your card. That said, it isn’t always possible, nor is it recommended in most cases.

Before attempting to pay your student loans with a credit card, carefully consider the pros and cons. In many instances, other options will likely be a safer route.

Can You Pay Your Student Loans with a Credit Card?

Simply put, lenders incur a fee when a borrower pays via credit card, so it isn’t ideal to offer it as an option. While federal loan servicers do not accept credit card payments, some private lenders do. However, it’s typically only allowed in special circumstances, such as when a borrower has been unable to make payments.

Can You Transfer Student Loans to a Credit Card?

Some credit card companies offer 0% APR balance transfers. With this offer, borrowers can transfer their remaining student loan loan balance to a credit card and receive 0% APR for a period of time.

While it may seem appealing, you’ll likely incur a fee on the transferred balance. Interest will also begin to accrue once the offer period expires, which could lead to intense interest charges.

Pros and Cons to Paying Your Student Loans with a Credit Card

Before opting to make a payment with, or transfer a balance to, your credit card, consider the pros and cons of each.

Making Payments with a Credit Card

If your lender allows it, making payments on a credit card could save you from missing a payment. However, you should consider the downsides of doing so as well.

It could prevent you from missing a payment.Credit card interest rates are often far higher than student loan interest rates. So, while you may avoid a missed payment, interest that accrues on your new credit card balance will likely cost you more than if you incurred a late fee on your student loan.
If you are using a third-party service, such as Plastiq, to facilitate the loan payment, you will likely incur a transaction fee.

Transferring Your Loan Balance to a Credit Card

A 0% APR offer may sound enticing, but there are downsides to this method as well.

You may be able to save on interest costs during the 0% APR period.The interest-free period will be short-lived. After the offer ends, your balance will begin to accrue interest at the normal interest rate of the card. Knowing that the average student loan interest rate is 5.8%, and the average credit card interest rate is 17.98%, it makes significantly more sense to not transfer your loans to a credit card, unless you believe you can pay them off entirely during the 0% APR offer period.
Student loans have more protections, such as deferment and forbearance, than credit cards. If you transfer your loan balance to a credit card, you will lose access to those benefits.

Other Ways to Get Assistance With Loan Payments

If you are unable to keep up with your student loan payments, but using a credit card isn’t an option, consider these alternatives:

Opt In to an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

If you have federal loans, consider opting in to an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan. IDR plans base your monthly payments on your discretionary income, or what you earn after taxes and necessary expenses. Depending on your income, this may reduce your monthly payment amount significantly.

There are a variety of IDR plans available for federal student loan borrowers, each basing your monthly payment on a different percentage of your discretionary income.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR)10-15% of your discretionary income
Pay As You Earn (PAYE)10% of your discretionary income
Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE)10% of your discretionary income
Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)20% of your discretionary income OR what you would pay monthly on a 12-year fixed repayment plan, whichever is lesser

Each IDR plan has its own eligibility criteria. To see which plans you qualify for, reach out to your federal loan servicer directly.

Apply for Deferment or Forbearance

Both federal and private student loans offer generous protections for borrowers experiencing financial hardship, such as deferment and forbearance. Both options will allow you to temporarily pause payments, which can give you a break to get your finances in order.

To see which options your lender provides, reach out to them directly.


Student loan refinancing, in a simple sense, is the process of swapping your current loan for one with a better interest rate or terms. In this instance, refinancing to secure a longer repayment term will be most optimal as it will likely reduce your monthly payments.

That said, a longer repayment term will typically cost you more over the life of the loan. Plus, if you opt to refinance federal student loans, you will lose access to certain benefits such as income-driven repayment plans and student loan forgiveness opportunities.

If you do choose to refinance, consider some of these top lenders:

  1. Arkansas Student Loan Authority
  2. Brazos
  3. College Ave
  4. Earnest
  5. EdvestinU
  6. INvestED
  7. ISL Education Lending
  8. LendKey
  9. Nelnet Bank
  10. SoFi

Consolidate Your Loans

If you’d like to combine your federal student loans, but don’t want to lose their protections and benefits by going through a private lender, consider consolidation. While similar to refinancing in that you can combine multiple loans into one, consolidation won’t score you a lower interest rate. However, it will lead to an extended repayment term, which will reduce your monthly payment.

Consolidating will allow you to maintain access to federal loan benefits, however, a longer repayment period will likely cost you more over the life of the loan. 

Final Thoughts from the Nest

While making student loan payments on a credit card may be tempting, it often isn’t an advantageous decision. A stronger course of action includes contacting your loan servicer for support, considering income-driven repayment options, or refinancing your debt.

Sparrow’s goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. While we make an effort to include the best deals available to the general public, we make no warranty that such information represents all available products.

Dive deeper in student loans