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Looking for student loan relief

Gerri Willis answers your questions about credit card balance transfers and saving in your kid's name.

By Gerri Willis, CNN

NEW YORK ( -- Question 1: We have over $23,000 in student loans. My husband has already consolidated when the rates were high. We are at an 8.5 percent interest rate. Is there nothing else we can do make the interest better? -Tracey, Colorado

There's little, if anything you can do. If you have at least one loan that has NOT been consolidated, you can use that one loan to consolidate everything and switch to a different lender where you can take advantage of some discounts. But in all likelihood, you may only save a quarter of a percentage point. You'd be saving something like $400 bucks over the life of the loan.

If all of your loans are consolidated, there's no way to lock in a lower rate. But all is not lost. Take advantage of student loan interest tax deduction (which allow you to take a deduction up to $2,500). Or you may want to investigate taking out a home equity line of credit that has a lower rate. And use that money to pay off the student loans. Federal loans, by the way, have no prepayment penalties.

Question 2: I owe close to $10,000 on my credit cards. I heard that applying for balance transfer is a preferred method (to pay down debt). Is this true? -Solanghe, Massachusetts

It can be a great idea. But you have to be careful. Fees on balance transfers have gone up and they can be pretty steep, warns Curtis Arnold of

Most fees hover around 3 percent and are capped at $75, but a lot of credit card issuers are eliminating caps, meaning you could be paying hundreds of dollars to transfer your balance to another card.

Find out if there is a transfer fee cap, before you apply to a new card. We did our homework and found three cards that have little or no balance transfer fees and low introductory rates : AT&T Universal Platinum, Blue Cash from American Express and Discover's Motiva Card. You can check out more low introductory rate cards at

Question 3: I have a 7 year-old son and we have about $5,000 that we are saving for his education. Someone told me that having the money in his name is not a good idea. I'm not sure what to do with it. -Fred, Pennsylvania

Putting the money in your child's name could hurt his chances of getting financial aid when he's ready to apply for college because colleges will see that as available money to pay for tuition.

The better investment is to open up a 529 college savings plan. As we've recently reported, 529 fees are going down as competition heats up. To check out what's available in your state, go to

Another alternative is to put money in a Coverdell Education Savings Account. The money can be used for grammar and high school expenses as well as college costs. Top of page

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