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      April 4, 2020

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SunTrust vs iHelp

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

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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

5 stars
SunTrust

SUNTRUST

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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
  • Cosigner release option after several years of on-time payments
  • Variable interest rates from 3.864% to 9.262% APR
  • Fixed interest rates from 4.599% to 10.329% APR
  • Minimum monthly payment of $50 during repayment period
  • Customer service: 866-232-3889

TopConsumerReviews.com Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award SunTrust's motto is "Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being", and they place a strong emphasis on helping the average American to move from financial stress to confidence. Their student loans fit well with this goal, with a wide variety of options and borrower-friendly advantages.

In order to be eligible for one of SunTrust's two main student loans, Custom Choice or Graduate Business School, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Be enrolled at least half-time in a Title IV program at an eligible school (which you can find on the first page of the loan application; after entering your school's state, you'll find a dropdown box with all of the eligible schools included)
  • Be the legal age of majority (or at least 17 if applying with an older cosigner)

One small note to keep in mind: SunTrust Custom Choice and Graduate Business School loans are not currently available to students whose permanent state of residency is Iowa or Wisconsin.

As with most of the private student loan providers we reviewed, SunTrust has no application or origination fees, no penalties for paying off loans early, and no payments required until six months after you leave school. But, compared with the competition, SunTrust has interest rates that are considerably lower (see above in the list of features), along with more beneficial interest rate reductions available, such as:

  • 1% reduction of your principal balance when you graduate
  • Up to 0.50% rate reduction for automatic payments
  • Seasonal offers of 0.25% interest rate reduction

As the name implies, the Custom Choice program has a number of options for your loan (the Graduate Business School loans do as well, but their options are slightly more limited. See the business school loan page for more details). Once your student loan application has been approved, you will be able to compare the available loan options:

  • Rate type: fixed or variable
  • Loan term: 7, 10, or 15 years (7 or 10 for Graduate Business School loans)
  • Repayment options: immediate repayment, interest-only, partial interest, or full deferment until 6 months after leaving school

Be aware that, unless you have a solid employment history and a very good credit score, you'll likely need a cosigner who does meet those criteria: the average borrower (or cosigner) who qualifies for a SunTrust student loan has a FICO score of 750, with a minimum requirement in the mid-600s.

We were genuinely impressed by SunTrust's compassionate approach, for lack of a better phrase, to the structuring of their student loans. For example, while some lenders have no mercy when it comes to the death or disability of the primary borrower and still insist on being repaid, SunTrust offers loan forgiveness in the event of the primary borrower's death or disability (with proper documentation, of course). Also, if you need a cosigner to qualify for a loan from SunTrust, that cosigner can be released after payment of the first 48 consecutive, on-time monthly payments.

Because of their lower interest rates and borrower-friendly repayment terms, we give SunTrust student loans our highest rating of 5 stars as our top pick for student loans.

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4 stars
iHelp

I HELP

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Features:

  • No application or origination fees
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No payments required until 6 months after leaving school
  • Interest rate discount available after 24 on-time payments (highest rate only)
  • Cosigner release option after two years of on-time payments
  • ONLY offers variable interest rates, from 3.18% to 8.71% APR
  • Loan repayment term: 20 years
  • Deferment and forbearance options available
  • Customer service: 800-645-7404

If you like the thought of having your student loan financed by a community bank rather than a big-name financial institution, you'll want to check out what iHelp has to offer. Since 2010, they've managed more than $600 million in private student loans as a subsidiary of the Student Loan Finance Corp. (which maintained an A+ rating as an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau at the time of our review).

It's important to note that iHelp has a single student loan product: a variable-rate Private Student Loan with a 20-year repayment term, so if you feel more comfortable with fixed-rate products and/or shorter terms, you will want to choose another lender. On the other hand, if current market interest rates leave you feeling like a variable-rate loan is a good thing (as it often is), here's what iHelp requires for eligibility:

  • You're a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or applying with a cosigner who meets one of those two requirements
  • You're enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school (see site for list of eligible institutions)
  • You and your cosigner are of legal age in your state(s) of permanent residence
  • You and your cosigner have at least 3 years of positive credit history
  • You or your cosigner has an annual income of at least $18,000 for the past 2 years

Your loan must be a minimum of $1000 ($3000 in Georgia) and can be a maximum of $100,000 for undergraduate studies and $150,000 for graduate programs.

Your interest rate will be based in the LIBOR, the interest rate London banks charge each other for loans, which is a common benchmark used for bank rates around the world. At the time we looked at iHelp, their interest rates were as follows:

  • LIBOR + 2.50% (3.18% APR)
  • LIBOR + 4.50% (5.08% APR)
  • LIBOR + 5.75% (6.23% APR)
  • LIBOR + 8.50% (8.71% APR)

Unlike the majority of the lenders we considered, iHelp does not offer a rate discount for making automatic payments to the account. On the other hand, for borrowers who qualify only for the highest interest rate, you may be eligible for a reduction of 0.30% after you have made your first 24 payments on time. We also like that cosigners can be released after those same 24 on-time payments, regardless of the interest rate on the loan.

iHelp also has a great range of possibilities for loan repayments. If you're attending school at least half-time, you can opt to make interest-only payments, which lower the overall cost of the loan; no payments at all until you graduate or attend less than half-time; or making principal and interest payments as normal. Or, after your loan enters the repayment period; you can also choose principal and interest; interest-only for 24 months, or graduated repayment, which starts with interest-only repayments and moves up gradually until you're making the full principal plus interest payment amount.

iHelp also has one of the most generous deferment and forbearance options we've found. Like most lenders, you can defer repayments as long as you're enrolled half-time or more at an eligible school. But, what happens if you have a temporary financial difficulty, military service, or a natural disaster? iHelp will work with you to forbear your payments for up to 24 months, or to make partial payments, if you can demonstrate the need.

Overall, if you're comfortable with the relative uncertainty of a variable-rate loan and like the idea of borrowing from a community bank, iHelp is an excellent option for your student loan.

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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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