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      August 12, 2020

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LendingTree vs Sallie Mae

To help you find the Best Student Loans, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of LendingTree and Sallie Mae.

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Apply for Your Student Loan at SunTrust Today As the costs of higher education rise, so does the need for student loans. While some individuals are eligible for federal loans, those loans don't always cover the full cost of getting an education - not just tuition and room/board, but books, laptops, transportation and other expenses. And, people who are ineligible for federal loans don't necessarily have overflowing savings accounts to match their college or university costs.

Private student loans are the way that many students close that gap. On average, students have nearly $40,000 in student loan debt at the time of graduation; without those funds, their aspirations of being a teacher, engineer, or social worker may have been put on hold indefinitely.

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Best Reviews

2020

Student Loan Reviews

3.5 stars
LendingTree

LENDINGTREE

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Features:

  • One-stop resource for comparison shopping on student loans
  • No cost to use their search tool
  • Many helpful articles for understanding student loans
  • Customer service: 800-813-4620

LendingTree is a great place to start if you want to get a feel for the range of possibilities for a student loan. Although they do not fund student loans directly, LendingTree can help you sort through all of your options before making a decision.

Student loan center

One of LendingTree's best resources is their Student Loan Center. There, you'll find numerous articles on the topic, from whether or not you should pay off loans early to what cosigners need to know before signing on the dotted line. Be sure to check out the Glossary Terms on the right-hand side of the page, to help you understand any concepts that might be unfamiliar to you as you begin the process. There's also a FAQ section that allows you to enter any remaining questions you have.

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Multiple lender responses

We found two primary ways to see what LendingTree has to offer. On their main student loans page, you can enter your school name and the amount you wish to borrow. That information returns a general overview of the programs you can choose from and an approximate total cost and number of payments. We entered a college in Michigan and a loan amount of $20,000 and got offers from four different lenders, with a mixture of fixed and variable rates, and APRs ranging from 2.37% to 5.74%.

On the other hand, if you're willing to provide more personally-identifiable information, such as your address and your phone number, LendingTree will use those details to give you a more customized list of lenders and offers; that path came up as both a landing page and on their Offers site.

Good place to shop

We give LendingTree high marks for helping students understand the student loan market and for providing a marketplace where they can shop around for the best terms and rates.

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2.5 stars
Sallie Mae

SALLIE MAE

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Features:

  • No application or origination fees
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No payments required until 6 months after leaving school
  • Interest rate discounts available for automatic payments
  • Cosigner release option after one year of on-time payments
  • Graduated Repayment Period feature
  • Variable interest rates from 2.50% to 9.59% APR
  • Fixed interest rates from 5.74% to 11.85% APR
  • Minimum monthly payment of $50 during repayment period
  • Customer service: 877-279-7172

You may be familiar with SallieMae already when it comes to student loans. Until several years ago, they were responsible for the administration of federal student loans as well as private ones; however, they have since split off into a lender strictly for private student funding, in addition to other consumer products such as banking and credit cards.

No-frills site

As you might expect from a website that used to be a government program, SallieMae is not flashy or interesting to look at: just a basic site for getting a student loan, known as the Smart Option program.

Borrow up to 100% of college costs

Like most private student loan programs, you'll be able to apply with no application fee and no origination fees. Also, SallieMae is one of the few lenders we reviewed that allows you to borrow up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance, with no arbitrary caps or other limits.

Qualification criteria

To qualify for a SallieMae Smart Option student loan, you'll need to meet these criteria:

  • U.S. citizen, or foreign student with a creditworthy cosigner that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Good credit (you or your cosigner), typically a minimum score of 640; the average SallieMae borrower has a credit score of 748

3 repayment options

If you choose a SallieMae Smart Option student loan, you'll have three primary repayment options:

  • Deferred Repayment: no requirements for payment until you've left school
  • Fixed Repayment: $25/month while in school, resulting in an average savings of 12% over the life of the loan
  • Interest Repayment: make monthly interest-only payments while in school, resulting in an average savings of 25% over the life of the loan

You can get additional savings of 0.25% on your interest rate if you choose to make automatically-debited payments while still enrolled in school.

Graduated repayment period

And, for new graduates, you have the option of requesting a "Graduated Repayment Period". This means that if your loan is in good standing and you've graduated, you can request to make 12 interest-only payments, helping you ease into you full payment amount for up to a year after you've graduated (and hopefully gotten a job!).

Other student loan products

SallieMae has several other student loan products that may be applicable to your situation: Career Training Smart Option, Medical/Dental Residency and Relocation Loan, and Bar Study Loan. We recommend you visit the website if your loan falls into those categories.

Cosigner release

Another advantage of SallieMae's program is the possibility of cosigner release after 12 on-time principal and interest payments. This is an improvement over some of their competitors, who require as many as four years of on-time payments before being eligible for a cosigner release. There may also be options for deferment and forbearance - we found several references to those possibilities on other sites, but SallieMae does not make it easy to find the fine print on their own website.

Loan servicing issues

Despite competitive interest rates and some advantages over other student loan providers, SallieMae appears to come up very short when it comes to servicing borrowers' needs after the loan has been approved. We found a significant number of customers who said that they regretted the day they applied for a SallieMae loan, had payments applied incorrectly or not at all, or were sent to collections despite making regular on-time payments. Other reviews said that the representatives treated them rudely, going so far as to call them names or make condescending comments regarding ways in which the borrowers could get the money needed to make their next payment. This is unprofessional at best.

So, while we can't overlook some of the advantages SallieMae has over other student loan companies, we are concerned over the way they handle customer service after the loan has been approved.

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Continued from above

Fortunately, there are many lenders who want to make it as affordable and simple as possible to complete undergraduate and graduate-level studies. Some represent well-known, established financial institutions, while others work directly with networks of community banks to get much-needed cash into the hands of eager learners.

Comparing offers from lenders can be as easy as going online; in a matter of minutes and mouse clicks, you can see a variety of interest rates, repayment terms, and other details of each program for which you are eligible. This saves you significant time compared with going hat in hand to your local bank or other lending institution, hoping that they will say yes to your loan application.

When deciding on which lender to use for your student loan, you should consider the following factors:

  • Interest rates. The higher your interest rates, the more you pay over the life of the loan. Does the lender have rates that are competitive? Does the lender offer you the choice between fixed and variable rates?
  • Loan terms. What is the repayment term? Does it give you enough time to get a good job and pay it back? Can you pay it off in advance with no penalty?
  • Discounts. Can you get your interest rates lowered by setting up automatic payments from your checking account? Will you get any perks for having a relationship with the lender in other ways, such as a checking account or credit card?
  • Reputation. Some lenders have a solid history of working with borrowers, while others have a not-so-great track record when it comes to customer service after the loan has been disbursed. How does this lender measure up?

TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best Student Loan providers available today. We hope this information helps you to get the money you need for your studies right away!

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