For many graduating seniors, leaving college isn’t “real” for quite some time. The reality of moving on from college doesn’t always set in when a mortarboard is thrown, it comes a few months later when the first billing statement for a student loan arrives.

Seeing a balance of $30,000 can make the gravity of adult life hit home. It’s easy to make the minimum payment and treat your student loan bill like a cellphone bill or rent. It gets sorted into the pile of bills to pay and never gets a second thought.

However, you might be leaving money on the table by using the loan company’s bill pay service. You can pay back your loan in more ways than you might realize, and save you money in the process. Here are four convenient ways you can pay for your education with greater flexibility.

1. A savings account for college students

You can’t start paying off your student loans while you’re in college. But, that doesn’t mean you have to sit and wait for debt. You can take proactive steps while you’re in school. Your student work or part-time job can help you get out of debt faster. Setting up automatic savings account transfers forces you to put away a little bit each month and you can use that to eventually make a big first payment.

Make sure to put this money into an account you won’t be tempted to use for other things. The $100 or $200 you put away every month could rapidly disappear through dining out and other expenses. Automating savings is a way to keep yourself disciplined and on target.

2. Automatic bill pay

Your student loan provider is a business, and they’re out to make money. Lenders want you to pay the minimum amount for as long as possible. That’s why their bills make it as easy as possible to pay the minimum and require extra work to pay more than that. They want you to pay the “amount due” every month. It’s more profitable for them.

You can get the advantage back by setting up automatic bill pay. When you do, you can designate an amount of your choosing to be paid to the lender every month. You can pay your bill back at your own pace and save some money on overall interest.

3. Pay with a credit card

One of the benefits of a student loan is the bump you get on your credit score by paying it regularly. Lenders see your management of student loan debt as evidence of responsible borrowing, making them more likely to trust you in the future.

If you want to maximize the benefit to your credit score, you can use a credit card to make your student loan payments. This advice deserves some qualification. Many lenders don’t accept credit card payments, and many others charge handling fees, but if you’re careful about it, you can build your credit score twice for the same loan. Both your student loan and your credit card will show as paid each month, which will make you look twice as responsible for essentially paying one bill.

4. Consolidate and refinance

College is about the journey, not the destination. If your journey was longer than usual, you may have debt from several places. You may have used your credit card to finance your living expenses or taken out unsubsidized loans. These variable interest rate loans can really hurt you financially. It might be time to consider refinancing. You can take a personal loan for all your outstanding debt and consolidate it into one monthly payment. You can lower your interest rate and simplify your financial life at the same time.

Contact FSU Credit Union to ask about our True Student Savings Account or any other ways to make student loan repayment easier. Students with a True Student Savings Account can earn up to 10 percent APY on the first $1,000.

*The content provided in this article consists of the opinions and ideas of FSU Credit Union, does not constitute legal or financial advice, and should be used for informational purposes only. Any decisions you make based on the information contained in this article is made in your sole discretion and liability. FSU Credit Union disclaims any damages or liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.

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