Paying off student loans adds a layer of difficulty to achieving your other financial goals. When you see a credit card offer for a 0% APR balance transfer, you might wonder whether you can use that to pay off your student loan debt.
The short answer is yes—but only in rare cases.
While this won’t work for most borrowers, we’ll cover the situations in which it makes sense and how the process works.
In this guide:
- Can you transfer student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card?
- Should you transfer student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card?
- How to transfer student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card
- Alternative options
Can you transfer student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card?
Student loan interest is lower than many other forms of debt, but it can add up over a repayment term of 10 to 25 years. On average, student loan interest rates for federal loans in 2022 were 4.12%. Private loans were higher, with average interest rates ranging from 6% to 7%.
Either way, paying 0% interest on your student loans is enticing in comparison.
So can you balance transfer student loans to a credit card? It depends on several factors, including:
- Which credit card company you use
- The total outstanding balance on your student loan
- Your creditworthiness, and what offers you qualify for
- Whether you’re a federal or private student loan borrower
We’ll dive more into each of these factors later. To determine whether this is an option, you’ll first need to know whether you have a private or federal student loan—or both.
To do this, check StudentAid.gov. If you can log in with your FSA ID and see your loan information, you have a federal student loan.
Will your student loan servicer let you transfer your debt to a balance transfer credit card?
Federal student loan borrowers might have trouble transferring student debt to a balance transfer card for two main reasons:
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury prohibits accepting direct credit card payments to repay loan debt.
- You lose federal loan protections by transferring your balance to a private lender, which includes credit cards.
Federal loan debt can’t be satisfied with a direct payment from another debt. So instead of going through with a standard balance transfer, you may have to involve a third-party service or use a balance transfer check instead.
While you might get the temporary benefit of 0% APR, you’ll lose all your federal protections, including:
If you think you might take advantage of these protections while repaying a federal student loan, transferring student loans to a balance transfer credit card might be unwise.
Private student loans often have higher interest rates than federal loans and fewer protections, but you might more easily transfer your loan balance to a credit card. Private lenders are more likely to allow credit card repayment for student loans, but check with your lender to be sure.
Many private lenders don’t offer the same protections as federal loans, but they may allow borrowers to skip one payment each year or provide forbearance for hardship.
By transferring your loan balance to a credit card, you’d also lose these private student loan protections.
Will credit card companies allow you to transfer your student loan debt to a balance transfer card?
Most credit card issuers will gladly accept your student loan balances, but Chase and American Express are exceptions.
They do not accept balance transfers for any type of loan. American Express states: “We will not accept transfers for card accounts … That are not credit cards, such as debit, overdraft, savings, and personal loan accounts.”
Several other credit card companies will let you transfer student loans to a balance transfer credit card, including:
- Bank of America
- Capital One
- Wells Fargo
You’ll find balance transfer offers from these companies that allow you to speed up the progress on your student loans.
Can you get approved for a 0% balance transfer credit card?
Every credit card company has different credit requirements that may vary among the cards it offers.
For the best chances of approval for most credit cards, you’ll need a credit score of 670 or higher.
Even with a credit score in the “good” to “excellent” range, lenders consider other factors, including:
- Payment history
- Debt-to-income ratio
- Credit utilization
- Annual income
Lenders analyze these factors to determine whether you qualify for a balance transfer credit card and your credit limit. If you haven’t kept up with your student loan payments, it could hurt your chances of getting the card or credit limit you want.
Outside of credit and finances, other limitations to consider when transferring a student loan balance include the following.
How long the introductory APR lasts
Is it enough time to pay it off?
Maximum balance transfer limits
Some credit card issuers have a maximum balance transfer limit that could be lower than your credit limit. This is specific to each credit card company.
Balance transfer fees
These range from 3% to 5% of every balance you transfer. Depending on the transfer amount, it could cut into your potential interest savings.
The credit limit you get approved for
The credit limit you’ll need to transfer the entire balance of your loan isn’t always what you’ll get approved for. That could throw a wrench in your plans.
The monthly payment you can afford
If you can’t comfortably make payments that would allow you to pay off the balance before the introductory period ends, you may pay more interest than before.
Test this out by adding balance transfer and annual fees to your loan amount and dividing it by your introductory period. For example, imagine you want to transfer $10,000, and your balance transfer fee is 3%, or $300.
$10,000 balance + $300 balance transfer fee = $10,300
If your 0% introductory period is 18 months, you’d need to pay $573 each month to pay off your balance at 0% interest:
$10,300 ÷ 18 months = $573 monthly payment
If that sounds feasible, here are some of the best balance transfer credit cards that allow you to transfer student loan balances.
|Credit card||Annual fee||Introductory period||Balance transfer fee||Credit score range||Interest rate (APR)|
|Wells Fargo Reflect Visa Credit Card||$0||18 months + 3-month extension with on-time payments||3%||700+||17.24% to 29.24%|
|Citi Double Cash Card||$0||18 months||3%||700+||17.74% to 27.74%|
|Citi Diamond Preferred||$0||21 months||5%||700+||16.74% to 27.49%|
|Bank Americard Credit Card||$0||21 months||3%||700+||15.74% to 25.74%|
Card information is accurate as of December 21, 2022.
Can you transfer part of your student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card?
As we mentioned, not getting approved for the credit limit you need throws a wrench in your plans to transfer student loan balances.
Even if you get approved for a high credit limit, you might run into a maximum balance transfer limit from your card issuer.
Either way, you can transfer a portion of your student loan debt to speed up paying it off while saving money on interest.
How does transferring part of your student loan debt work?
Imagine you’ve decided the balance transfer would work best for paying off your student loans. You apply for an 18-month balance transfer credit card hoping for a credit limit that’s at least $15,000 to accommodate your $10,000 loan.
The decision comes back, and you’ve only been approved for $8,000. You could still pay off a portion of your loan through the balance transfer to take advantage of the 0% APR. You’d do this the same way you’d pay off the full amount. You may need to use a third-party service or get convenience checks from your credit card to complete the transfer.
Let’s say you pay off $5,000 of your loan with the balance transfer. Once it’s done, $5,000 will show under your account as a payment to your loan servicer.
You’d pay 0% interest on half your loan while paying your regular interest rate on the other half. That enables you to pay down your loan faster and with less money going toward interest.
Should you transfer student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card?
This isn’t often the right decision for many borrowers because of the risks associated with transferring your student loan debt to a credit card, including:
- Losing federal or private student loan protections
- Not paying off your balance by the end of the introductory period
- Lowering your credit score (increasing your credit utilization and credit check to get approved for the balance transfer)
- Higher interest rates than your student loan after the introductory period
- Extra fees (balance transfer fees, late fees, and annual fees)
While this might seem like a wise decision, it works best for people who fit these criteria:
- Near the end of your student loan repayment period
- Higher than average interest rate on your student loan
- Qualify for a 0% balance transfer fee, $0 annual fee, and 0% APR credit card
- Can afford larger monthly payments for the next 12–21 months
To get a clear picture, we’ll take a closer look.
Let’s say you have $15,000 in student loans with an APR of 11.99%. You have five years left on your loan term, but you want to pay off the balance fast. Your credit score is in the excellent range, so you have no problem qualifying for credit.
You find a credit card with 0% APR for 21 months, no balance transfer fees, and no annual fees. Plugging it into our refinance calculator, we get this result:
|Current loan||Balance transfer|
|Loan term||60 months||21 months|
|Total interest paid||$5,015||$0|
So the student loan balance transfer would save the borrower over $5,000 in interest and help them pay off their loan three years ahead of schedule.
The downside here is the significant increase in the monthly payment to resolve the balance before the introductory period ends. This arrangement wouldn’t work unless you had an extra $380 in your monthly budget.
How to transfer student loan debt to a balance transfer credit card
If you’ve done the calculations and think this makes sense for you, follow these six steps:
- Find the right balance transfer credit card: One that fits your credit profile, has a longer introductory period, 0% APR, and preferably no balance transfer fee. Compare multiple cards to find the best one for you.
- Verify with the credit card company: Confirm it accepts balance transfers from loans before applying. You can find this in the terms and conditions for the card or by calling customer service.
- Contact your loan servicer: Confirm it will accept a check from your credit card company as payment. If the answer is yes, have it provide the total payoff amount for your loan.
- Apply for a credit card, and get approved: Determine your monthly payment after you find out your credit limit and how much you’ll transfer.
- Confirm the details: To whom should the check be made out, and where should it be sent?
- Stick to your plan: Pay off your balance transfer before the end of the promotional period to avoid interest on any remaining balance.
Alternatives to transferring student loan debt to a balance transfer
This solution doesn’t fit every scenario, but you still have options to lower your student debt. Alternatives to balance transfers that may work for you include the following.
If you don’t think transferring to a credit card is wise, you could lower your interest rate through refinancing with a private lender. You won’t find deals as good as 0% APR, but you might find lower fixed rates. That could lower your monthly payment or help you repay your debt faster.
Consolidating your student loans helps simplify the hassle of sending multiple payments to different loan servicers. You could consolidate your student loans in two main ways.
You may qualify for the Direct Consolidation Loan for federal loans, which lets you combine multiple federal student loans into one monthly payment.
If you have multiple private loans, you can find another private lender who offers consolidation or refinance loans to simplify your payments—and, ideally, lower your interest rate.
Income-driven repayment plan
If you’re struggling to meet the payment obligations of a federal student loan or don’t meet the credit standards for a balance transfer, you could apply for an income-driven repayment plan.
These federal programs allow you to restructure your debt under a longer loan term to make it more affordable. These plans are based on a percentage of your disposable income.