Editor’s note: as we’ve reviewed various debt reduction strategies, implored you to consider using the cash envelope system to gain control over your spending, and having been writing numerous other posts to help readers pay off debt, I asked Melissa if she’d be willing to review a NEW and very intriguing program that gives you REWARDS points for buying merchandise. While that concept isn’t ground-breaking, what is is the fact that these rewards can’t be used for anything; instead, they can only be used to help pay down your student loans!
The next American debt crisis may very well be student loan debt. As the cost of attending college skyrockets, more and more college students must take out student loans to make ends meet.
In the 2007-2008 academic year, more than 65% of college students graduated with some student loan debt. The average student loan debt load for graduates was $23,186, according to FinAid.com. One can only imagine how those numbers have grown in the last five years.
Many newly graduated students are putting off major life events such as marrying, having children and buying a home until they are able to pay down their student loans. I, myself, graduated from grad school 13 years ago, and this year, I will finally pay off the last student loan!
For students who are looking to pay down their student loans more quickly, there is a new program, SmarterBucks, that may help them do just that. SmarterBucks is brought to users by SimpleTuition, a company concerned with college affordability. Signing up for the program is free!
There are a number of ways to earn SmarterBucks to generate extra payments on your student loan:
1. Shop in the Marketplace – Before you make an online purchase, go to SmarterBucks and access the online store through SmarterBucks website. For every participating store that you shop at, you can earn up to 10% back on your purchases. Any rewards that you accumulate will be kept track of and visible to you through their dashboard, and once you’ve reached the $15 threshold then SmarterBucks will pay those “rewards” towards the student loan of your choice!
2. Shop AND use SmarterBank – You can also earn rewards for purchases made with the SmarterBank Visa Debit Card. If you decide to shop in the Marketplace using your SmarterBank Visa Debit Card, then you will get rewards both for shopping through the Marketplace AND using your SmarterBank Visa Debit Card.
If you want to earn extra SmarterBucks with this method, then you can simply open an online checking account through SmarterBucks and use the SmarterBank Visa Debit Card. Banking services are provided by The Bancorp Bank, which is FDIC insured. To further put you at ease, Bancorp supports the bank that WSL voted as the best online checking account, PerkStreet Financial.
There is no minimum balance, and there are no monthly fees unless your account becomes inactive for a month or longer.
You can then use the SmarterBank Visa Debit Card to make free online payments and earn more SmarterBucks to pay down your loans faster. Any non-pin transaction that you make will earn you 0.5% of your purchase price up to $100. So, if you buy $60 worth of groceries, you will earn .30 cents. Any purchase over $100 will earn you 1% back on the amount over $100. (The first $100 will earn 0.5%.) So, if you make a $600 purchase, you will earn $5.50!
To top things off: because you are using a debit card rather than a credit card, you are not accumulating any new debt.
There are some fees if you use an ATM outside of the network or if you bounce a check for instance. See a full list of fees here.
Contributions – Once you have your chosen student loan info in the SmarterBucks system, you can list family and friends that you would like to invite to contribute for you. They can make one time payments (such as for a birthday gift) or set up recurring payments to help you pay down your student loans more quickly. The minimum contribution is $15, and the maximum is $250.
Some may argue that you will earn more “extra” money by using a card that offers the best credit card rewards, and that is probably true. If you have the discipline to pay off the card each month and funnel those rewards to your student loans, by all means, do so. However, for those who don’t have the discipline and prefer to avoid credit cards whenever possible, the SmarterBucks program may be the perfect solution.
You probably won’t be paying off the student loans in half the time using this program, but you will be able to shave off a few months or even years depending on your repayment plan as well as interest. If you are in student loan debt, this program looks worthwhile and will help you pay down your loans more quickly.
If you want to check out more about the program, or sign up for it, click the banner below and it will take you directly to the SmarterBucks website!
The articles are written by personal finance enthusiasts (not certified professionals) based on their personal experience. What works for them may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
In accordance with FTC guidelines, we disclose that we have a financial relationship with companies mentioned in this website. This may include receiving access to free products and services for product and service reviews and giveaways.
Any references to third party products, rates, or websites are subject to change without notice. We do our best to maintain current information, but due to the rapidly changing environment, some information may have changed since it was published. Please do the appropriate research before participating in any third party offers.