If you’re like most twenty somethings (and beyond), you’re probably still paying back your student loans. For the mile-conscious like me, you’re looking for a way to earn points and miles on those payments without paying substantial fees. I’m happy to report there are several ways to do this.
Directly Through Your Lender (cost varies). I received confirmation from Sallie Mae that they do accept credit card payments via phone, but may charge an unspecified processing fee. I’m assuming this is a fee imposed by credit card companies, who may process such payments as a cash advance.
Official Payments (4.95% fee). If you’re repaying your loans directly to your University, you can use Official Payments to do so. They only accept Mastercard and tack on a 4.95% fee for payments. I generally don’t like to pay more than 1.7 cents per mile to acquire miles (or 1.7% in fees), but this might make sense for those who don’t want the extra steps involved in the other methods outlined in this post.
Money Order ($0.70). If you have a mile-earning debit card (i.e Suntrust Delta Skymiles World Check Card) you can earn 1 point per $1 by purchasing a money order for just $0.70! Money orders can only be purchased as a PIN transaction, but the good news is that Suntrust currently awards points for these transactions! Just don’t abuse the system or this will get shut down.
Be sure to check with your lender about whether they accept them as a payment form. I have already received confirmation from Sallie Mae that they do accept money orders. Payments can be sent to the address below:
P.O. Box 9532
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773-9532
Vanilla Reload Cards ($3.99 per $500). This method involves several steps.
Step 1: Get an American Express Bluebird Card. The card is free online or you can buy one at your local Walmart store for a fee. Bluebird has no account maintenance fees.
Step 2: Buy Vanilla Reload cards using a mile earning credit card. These can be purchased at CVS, 7-11, and select retailers. They carry a fee of $3.95 per card and can be purchased in increments of up to $500. I recommend buying these in $500 increments to maximize the value for the fee you’re paying. You should also try to use a card that pays out a category bonus at the merchant you purchase these from.
Step 3 Load your Vanilla balance onto your Bluebird at MyVanilla.com. This is a quick process and your funds are available immediately. Bluebird allows you to load up to $1,000 per day, up to $5,000 per month.
Step 4: Make a payment. Login to your Bluebird account, head over to Bill Pay and send a payment to your student loan company.
Extra credit! If you want to earn even more points cheaply, use your mile-earning debit card to purchase a money order and pay off the balance accrued on your mile-earning credit card! This can be done for all of your credit card payments. Rather than paying your balance from your checking account every month and getting no miles, this extra step lets you double up on points!
Your Earnings. The best way to maximize your points is to use a Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus card to buy Vanilla Reload cards, fund your Bluebird card, and use the payment option to pay your lender. If you have $25,000 in debt that you will eventually pay through these means, that nets you at least 37,500 miles for just under $200 total!
Whichever way you decide to pay (no rhyme intended), you’re essentially rewarding yourself for paying your bills. When you have that student debt down to $0, won’t it be nice to reward yourself with a free trip?
Which option to you plan to take advantage of? Do you know of any other ways to earn miles on your student loans?