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      July 7, 2020

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Sallie Mae vs Wells Fargo

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

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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

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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2 stars
Wells Fargo

WELLS FARGO

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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
  • Variable interest rates from 3.39% to 10.49% APR
  • Fixed interest rates from 5.94% to 12.99% APR
  • Minimum monthly payment of $50 during repayment period
  • Customer service: 888-511-8086

Wells Fargo is a well-established name in the financial industry, from checking accounts to mortgages and investments. They offer a variety of student loans, including Wells Fargo Collegiate and Wells Fargo Graduate programs.

Student loan criteria

In order to be eligible for a Wells Fargo student loan, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program, seeking a degree, certificate, or license (you can be enrolled less than half-time)
  • U.S. citizen or national, permanent resident alien, or international student who is a temporary resident alien with a current US address and evidence of eligibility
  • Meet certain credit/employment/debt-to-income requirements OR have a cosigner (US citizen cosigner required for permanent and temporary resident aliens)

Check current rates

Before starting an application, we recommend that you click on the green "Check Rates" arrow in the middle of the main student loans page. You'll enter your school's information (state and name), along with your field of study. You'll then be taken to a page that will show you all of the current interest rate ranges for your loan, whether that's a fixed-rate loan for graduate school or a variable-rate loan for your four-year degree.

During the actual application process, you'll need to provide your school's information, your Social Security number, your permanent (home) address, employment and income information for you (and your cosigner, if you have one), the costs of attendance, and, finally, the amount of financial assistance you expect to receive from any source.

Interest rate reductions

Wells Fargo offers several ways to reduce your interest rates. First, if you set up your monthly payments to be automatically withdrawn (known as ACH), you may qualify for a discount of 0.25% off your interest rate. Also, they offer three "relationship interest rate discounts" if you or your cosigner have an established history with Wells Fargo before you complete the loan process: 0.25% discount if you have a prior federal or private student loan through Wells Fargo, 0.25% discount if you have a qualifying consumer checking account with Wells Fargo, or a 0.50% discount for a Wells Fargo PMA Package (a combination of a specific number and type of accounts, including Premier Checking, investments, and so on). Finally, if you have newly-established (or poor) credit, having a cosigner with good credit can both help you qualify for a student loan and get a lower interest rate.

Wells Fargo also saves you money with no application or origination fees, and no prepayment penalties if you pay off your loan early.

No repayments for 6 months

With Wells Fargo student loans, you will not be required to make any repayments until 6 months after you graduate or leave school. Be aware that there's a maximum in-school period: you have four years from your first loan disbursement if you attended a 2-year school, five years if your loan covers graduate school, and seven years from your first disbursement if you attended a 4-year school. In other words, Wells Fargo doesn't penalize you for being on "the 5-year-plan" (taking longer than the traditional 2- or 4-year period expected with an Associate or Bachelor degree), but you can't claim to still be in school for an unlimited period of time without beginning the process of repayment.

Negative reviews

Unfortunately, we found hundreds of reviews from students with loans through Wells Fargo that expressed deep dissatisfaction with the service they received once the loan was disbursed. Some of the problems we frequently found were errors on Wells Fargo's side that cost borrowers money and hurt their credit score, unhelpful representatives, and lack of flexibility when the unexpected occurs (such as death or disability interfering with borrowers' ability to repay). Across multiple websites, it was difficult to find reviews from students who were happy with the service they received from Wells Fargo over the course of their student loans, even when those individuals had been paying their loans faithfully over several years.

While Wells Fargo has the advantage of being a major player in the financial industry, it seems that they don't apply that experience and skill to their servicing of student loans. You may be more satisfied with the service you receive from another lender in our review.

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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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