Research conducted by student loan company Sallie Mae shows that in 2010, about 5 percent of college students paid an average of more than $2,000 in tuition and other educational expenses using a credit card to avoid taking out student loans. The same study showed that 6 percent of parents used credit cards to pay an average of nearly $5,000 in educational expenses for their college children.
Is using credit cards a smart way to avoid college loan debt? Financial advisors are in near-universal agreement that the answer is no, but that isn’t stopping thousands of families from using credit cards in place of parent and student loans.
Some families might think that all debt is equal; others might think that they won’t qualify for college loans. So what advantages exactly do education loans offer over credit cards?
Particularly in the last few years, as credit card companies have tightened their credit requirements in a retraction of the lax lending that led to the foreclosure crisis, credit cards have become harder to qualify for, available mostly only to consumers with strong credit. Many consumers with weaker credit have had their credit lines reduced or eliminated altogether.
Federal college loans, on the other hand, are available with minimal to no credit requirements. Government-funded Perkins loans and Stafford loans are issued to students in their own name without a credit check and with no income, employment, or co-signer required.
Federal parent loans, known as PLUS loans, have no income requirements and require only that you be free of major adverse credit items — a recent bankruptcy or foreclosure, defaulted federal education loans, and delinquencies of 90 days or more.
In other words, don’t turn to credit cards simply because you think you won’t qualify for school loans. Chances are, these days, you’re more likely to qualify for a federal college loan than for a credit card.
2) Fixed Interest Rates
While most credit cards carry variable interest rates, federal student and parent loans are fixed-rate loans. With a fixed interest rate, you have the security of knowing that your student loan rate and monthly payments won’t go up even when general interest rates do.
Many credit cards will also penalize you for late or missed payments by raising your interest rate. Federal school loans keep the same rate regardless of your payment history. plumbing business