Sallie Mae is a publicly traded consumer bank that offers private student loans to pay for undergraduate, graduate and specialty degrees. The company started in 1973 as a government entity that serviced federal student loans. It went private in 2004 and has served nearly half a million students and families with its range of student loan products. Beyond student loans, Sallie Mae Bank offers savings products to help families plan and pay for college, and credit cards with incentives for using cash back rewards to pay back student loans.

Best Features

  • Student loans completely cover school-certified expenses — tuition, fees, books, housing, meals, travel, laptop
  • Customer service 100% U.S.-based
  • No loan origination fee
  • A 0.25 point interest rate discount if enrolled in autopay


  • Sallie Mae does not offer refinancing.
  • Adding a creditworthy co-signer is strongly encouraged to get the best interest rates.

What Student Loan Options Does Sallie Mae Offer?

Sallie Mae provides a range of loans for students and parents to help pay for undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with specialty degrees. Loans also accommodate part-time students and those pursuing continuing education coursework or earning professional certification. Sallie Mae’s primary private education loan is the Smart Option Student Loan.

  • Undergraduate student loans
  • Graduate student loans
  • Career training student loans
  • Parent loans
  • K-12 loans
  • MBA loans
  • Medical school loans
  • Medical residency loans
  • Dental school loans
  • Dental residency loans
  • Health professionals graduate loans
  • Law school loans
  • Bar study loans

What are Sallie Mae’s Loan Terms, Fees and Discounts?

Sallie Mae’s Smart Option variable rate loan starts at 1.25%, which includes the 0.25 point discount if you select monthly autopay. Rates can be up to 9.44% depending on your creditworthiness. The fixed-rate Smart Option loan starts at 4.74% with the autopay discount and goes up to 11.85%. Sallie Mae does not charge application or origination fees. Late fees are 5% of the amount past due — up to $25 — and the returned check fee is up to $20. If you’re struggling with loan payments, you might not be eligible for Sallie Mae’s loan repayment incentives.

How Do You Qualify for Sallie Mae Student Loans?

If you’re attending a school outside of the United States, you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident to qualify for a Sallie Mae student loan. If you are not a citizen and are attending a U.S. school, you’ll need a co-signer who is a citizen or resident. The minimum loan is $1,000. Sallie Mae does not disclose its minimum credit score and other eligibility requirements, but emphasizes that you must attend a degree-granting institution.

What Are Sallie Mae’s Deferment and Repayment Options?

Sallie Mae offers several repayment options. With deferred repayment, you won’t have loan payments while in school or during your separation or grace period – the six months after you finish school and before principal and interest payments begin. Fixed repayment sets a monthly loan payment amount while you’re in school and during your grace period. After that, your loan payments will increase. Interest repayment is when you only pay interest while in school and during your grace period, after which you’ll begin paying monthly principal and interest.

Sallie Mae offers in-school payment assistance if you have trouble managing monthly student loan payments and selected the fixed or interest repayment plans. After leaving school and passing your grace period, if you need help making principal and interest payments, Sallie Mae offers repayment alternatives. A graduated repayment period permits interest-only payments for a year after your grace period. Also, you can defer payment while in an internship, fellowship or residency program. Deferment or forbearance is available while serving in the military, though forbearance should be a last resort.

Additional Features

Sallie Mae offers free Chegg Study 24/7 online homework help worth $100 and four months of Easybib Plus, which scans papers for plagiarism, errors and missing citations.

Aside from its student loans, Sallie Mae has two rewards programs to help you save for college.

How is Sallie Mae’s Customer Service?

Sallie Mae was recognized in 2019 by J.D. Power for outstanding customer service experience for phone support. Its customer service staff is 100% U.S.-based. The Better Business Bureau gives Sallie Mae an A+ rating. Complaints are mainly centered on payment issues and interest rates.

Sallie Mae Student Loans are Best For:

  • Borrowers who want a choice in fixed or adjustable-rate loans with options for repayment.
  • Those seeking a loan during a medical or dental residency, or while studying for a law bar exam.
  • Students who need to cover expenses beyond tuition, such as books, housing, travel, meals and technology like a laptop.
  • Borrowers who prioritize U.S.-based customer service.


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