If You Don’t Have to Make a Federal Student Loan Payment Until 2021, Do This Instead

This photo shows a silhouette of a graduate walking down stairs against a sunny sky.
Getty Images
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

If you have student loans, you’ve probably dreamt about the day you make your last payment and can kiss that debt goodbye.

The recently passed $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package covers a forbearance period, now extended through December 31, 2020, which could relieve some financial stress for federal loan holders. That means you don’t have to make payments on your federal loans through the end of the year, with zero penalties.

A dream come true, right?

But before you stop making your payments, determine if this is the right call for you. There are some instances where you’d want to continue to make these payments, so make sure you’re asking the right questions that’ll lead you to the smartest decision for you.

Now, if there’s no harm in holding off on these payments, soak up the relief. Unless you need that money to pay rent or cover your other monthly bills, there are some smart ways you can use it to stay on track toward your financial goals.

1. Pay Off Your Private Student Loans

The student loan waiver doesn’t apply to private student loans, meaning you still have an obligation to pay them.

But you can use this opportunity to pay them down faster, and lower your overall interest payments, too.

When you make your private student loan payment each month through the end of the year, add additional principal payments using the cash that you would have normally paid toward your federal loan.

Even if it’s not a huge amount extra each month, it can help decrease the total number of payments you’ll make (meaning less interest over the course of your loan).

2. Wipe Out Your Credit Card Debt

If you don’t have private student loans to pay down or the forbearance gave you even more cushion to work with each month, you could tackle your credit card debt.

Could you imagine waking up with no credit card debt? Whether you’re stressed about being in debt forever or you’re just sick of the high interest rates, this would be a huge relief.

A free website called AmOne can help you wipe out your credit card debt even faster.

AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan to pay off all your credit cards at once. Its interest rates start at 3.49% — way lower than the 20% or more you’re probably paying your credit card company. That could save you thousands in the long run.

Plus, you’ll be debt-free that much faster.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000.

3. Grow Your Money With Smart Investments

Even though the economy is struggling, the stock market is soaring. (Confused about how this is possible? Here’s a quick explanation.)

So with those few extra bucks in your pocket, you could start investing and grow your money — which could be really helpful in the long haul or when you start paying off your federal loans again in January.

Don’t know where to get started? Here are a couple of options:

  • If you’re employed, your employer may offer a 401k retirement account, which you can add to straight out of your paychecks each month (even better if your employer matches your contribution). This makes investing and saving for retirement fairly painless.
  • For those looking to be a bit more hands-on, you could open a brokerage account or use one of the robo-investing apps, like Robinhood or Stash. Both require just a few dollars to get started.

Whatever you decide to do, you should use this forbearance period to your advantage. Whether it’s taking on other debts or saving money for the future, you could manage to escape 2020 in even better financial shape than you started.