Survey reveals costs of paying college tuition with credit cards

WASHINGTON — Paying college tuition by credit card may not be a good idea, according to a new survey.

College students who pay tuition with a credit card receive an average “convenience fee” of 2.62 percent, according to a survey of 100 of the largest public, private and community colleges.

The fee can pack a powerful punch over time, points out.

A 2.62 percent fee over four years means an extra $3,154 to attend the average private school, an extra $2,327 for the average out-of-state public university and an extra $932 at the average in-state public college.

“It rarely makes sense to pay your college tuition bill with a credit card,” Matt Schulz,’s senior industry analyst said in a news release.

“Even if you avoid interest by paying the bill promptly, the convenience fees outweigh the potential benefits of almost all credit card rewards programs.”

Of the 300 colleges surveyed, 87 percent said they accepted credit cards for tuition payments under at least some circumstances.

Some of the more common credit restrictions include only accepting credit card tuition payments online or limiting payments to certain classes of students such as graduate students.

Community colleges are the least likely to inflict major credit card fees. The 100 largest community colleges all accept credit cards for tuition payments, the survey found, but only 12 percent charge convenience fees.

On the other hand, 90 percent of public universities and 69 percent of private colleges that accept credit cards charge convenience fees.

Colleges and universities that ban or discourage credit cards for tuition payments say the processing costs are the main reason. The cost of processing credit card payments is determined by an agreement between the school and its bank.

The highest convenience fees — 2.99 percent each — can be found at Western Kentucky University, St. Joseph’s University and Roger Williams University.

See which schools in the D.C. area take credit cards and their convenience fee charge:


  • American University – 2.55 percent
  • Georgetown University – Accept credit card payments, no convenience fee
  • George Washington University – Doesn’t accept credit tuition payments, but some exceptions apply
  • Howard University – 2.75 percent


  • George Mason University – 2.75 percent


  • University of Maryland-College Park – 2 percent

Read more about the survey’s methodology on the website.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

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