SmarterBucks – Helping You Pay Down Your Student Loans More Quickly

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!

A Way to Pay Down Student Loans More Quickly

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  One can only imagine how those numbers have grown in the last five years.

smarterbucks review help pay student loans

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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!

smarterbucks review

How to Earn SmarterBucks

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.

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.

SmarterBucks Details

  • You can choose which student loan you would like to designate to receive the extra money you earn through SmarterBucks.
  • While you don’t have to use SmarterBank, doing so will help you generate more money to be used for extra payments.  (Free checking accounts are also harder and harder to find, so that may be another reason to sign up.)
  • Every month that you have accumulated $15 or more in SmarterBucks, SmarterBucks will automatically apply that amount to your student loan!  There is no black out period, and your SmarterBucks don’t expire.  There is also no limit on what you can earn.

Final Thoughts

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!

pay down student loans quickly

About the Author

By , on Feb 1, 2013
Melissa is a freelance writer and blogs at Mom's Plans, where she shares her family's journey to get out of debt, live a fulfilling life on less, and enjoy healthy, allergy friendly foods. She is a mom to three kids, ages 8, 4, and 2.

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  1. Wow, it sounds like a great deal. Finally some awesome incentives to pay off my student loans! Thanks for the review, I’m going to check it out on my lunch break tomorrow.

  2. I used Upromise when it first came out. Back then it was great because I could sign up my grocery store rewards card and my drugstore card. I then signed up my Mom’s grocery and drugstore cards as well. I liked it because you earned cash back for just buying certain brands of peanut butter or cereal. I would “earn” a few hundred dollars each year. But now they the program has changed. I was excited to see this post, but I’m not sure it is much better. While it is true that something is better than nothing, this just doesn’t seem worth it to me. It seems like the best way to go is to use it for online shopping or just for larger purchases. I would rather use my Amex for large purchases because of the added protection Amex provides.

  3. Pauline says:

    Looks like a good program if you spend only what you would have otherwise, but sometimes I find myself getting better deals with no cashback.

  4. Brian says:

    I guess I don’t see how this is really any better or worse than UPromise. In fact other than offering a debit card vs a cc it seems worse to me. Upromise also seems to have a higher % back portal. But in the end, whatever it take to make people save/pay off their student loans quicker and it is nice to have alternatives

    • Andy says:

      Brian, I’m with you in that I’m not sure it is better or worse…just very similar. 🙂 It does provide another great alternate though. Overall, the rewards percentages are about the same; it ultimately will come down to which online platform you like the best and which one has connections with the retailers you shop at the most.

  5. I’m generally wary of any program that incourages you to spend in order to save. It’s too easy to justify spending as it is. Being rewarded to do it? I know where that goes. Spending an extra $15 on groceries to level up to the next ten cent discount on my gas!

  6. Sounds like a good idea and if it rewards you without needing to use a credit card then that has to be a good thing.

  7. James Collins says:

    SmarterBucks looks like a good solution. After all, student loans are really responsible for a huge amount of people’s debts and I think this thing could actually help deal with the problem.

  8. I agree with John, every little bit does help. Our student loans were the last debts to go and man was it a great feeling once we paid them all off!

  9. Sounds like a pretty decent program. Not that it’ll be a major contributor to paying off student loan debt, but everything helps especially when it is extra payments. Great write-up!

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