Why Paying Your College Tuition With A Credit Card Is A Bad Idea

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A few weeks ago, we listed for you a wide variety of creative and mundane ways to pay for college. What we didn’t get into were ways to get money from your bank account to the school’s hands. While you might put every other expense on a credit card and pay it off every month, there are reasons why it can be a terrible idea to put your tuition on a credit card.

Sometimes you’re stuck and have to pay the bill but don’t have the cash for it right now: that happens, and sometimes it’s just what you have to do. However, many schools charge an additional fee for the privilege of using a credit card to send them money, and if you pay tuition with a credit card every time, that will add up.

CNN Money calculates that a school’s “convenience fees” could add up to $4,000 over the course of four years at a private college.

“Wait a minute,” you might be saying. “I thought that merchants couldn’t charge any fees to use a credit card.” That’s not quite true. Credit card issuers do allow merchants to add surcharges for paying with plastic, except in states where that’s explicitly banned by law.

Convenience fees are even different from that, though. They’re fees that “merchants” that wouldn’t normally accept credit cards are allowed to charge if they’re providing the service for the convenience of payers. Utilities sometimes do this since credit card payments come from an outside service. The convenience fee covers, at minimum, the fees that credit card processors charge your school.

Even if your school doesn’t charge a convenience fee, there’s that “compounded interest” thing that might make putting thousands of dollars on cards a bad idea.

Paying for college with plastic costs more than you think [CNN Money]