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Staples jumps on hot employer trend: paying student loans

Top-performing, full-time Staples employees can now get $100 a month toward their student loan payments.

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Top-performing, full-time Staples employees can now get $100 a month, up to $3,600 over 36 months, toward their student loan payments.

Sounds great, right? There’s more good news: Staples is hiring.

The company this week announced the program, which is open to existing staff and new hires who have at least one student loan. It’s the first major retailer to offer a student loan repayment program for employees. PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fidelity Investments and Aetna provide similar perks. So do many companies in the student loan refinancing industry, including CommonBond and SoFi.

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The company announced Tuesday that the Staples program will initially be for employees who “have been identified as high potential and top performers” but will later expand to help more employees, according to a press release. Employees can qualify if they’re attending an accredited school or if they’ve already received an accredited degree. Staples could not be reached for comment about the number of employees who will receive the benefit.

Staples will make monthly payments to its employees’ student loan servicers through Tuition.io, a company that powers student loan repayment programs for employers.

How to make the most of the benefit

Only about 4% of employers offer a student loan repayment benefit, according to a June report by the Society for Human Resource Management. But the list continues to grow, with Staples as the latest company to offer repayment help. If you’re lucky enough to receive this perk from Staples or another employer, maximize it. Here’s how:

KEEP PAYING EVERY MONTH

It’s probably tempting to count your student loan benefit as extra Benjamins in your pocket. But you’ll get more mileage from the perk if you continue to make your minimum monthly loan payments in addition to the $100 a month from Staples. Call your federal loan servicer or private lender and ask it to apply that extra hundred bucks to your loan principal; that will help shrink your balance faster.

THINK ABOUT REFINANCING

Your monthly student loan payment and the $100 from Staples can go even further if you refinance your debt. Refinancing can lower your interest rate, which means you’ll owe less in the long run.

Think carefully before you refinance federal loans, though, as you’ll lose valuable benefits, including access to income-driven repayment plans and federal forgiveness programs.

To qualify for refinancing, you typically need a large enough income to comfortably cover your financial obligations and a good credit score or a creditworthy co-signer. If you don’t know your score, you can look it up here.

Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: teddy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @teddynykiel.

This story originally appeared on NerdWallet.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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