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Student Loans

Banks Offering Student Loans

With an average cost of $36,436 per year, college tuition is expensive. Student loans might be the answer if you need help paying for it. Most students start with federal loans, which typically offer the most competitive interest rates and repayment terms. But you might consider private student loans if federal loans don’t cover the total cost of tuition and living expenses.

Here are the best banks for private student loans. 

4 banks offering student loans

Banks are popular sources for student loans because of their extensive customer service teams, physical locations, and trustworthiness due to stringent regulatory compliance requirements.

We’ve reviewed four of the most popular banks offering student loans and listed them below. Read each review for our insights into what makes the bank a preferred choice for borrowers, from cosigner benefits to career support services.

Click the lender’s name in the table to jump right to our review:

BankRates (APR)Terms (years)
Sallie Mae4.50% – 16.70%10 – 15
SoFi4.24%14.70%5 – 15
Citizens Bank4.99% – 15.04%5 – 15
PNC4.41% – 15.64%5 – 15

Based on undergraduate student loans


Sallie Mae

4.8 out of 5 stars

  • Shortest cosigner release period
  • Covers up to 100% of school-certified costs
  • No origination or prepayment fees

Sallie Mae is notable for its cosigner-friendly terms, including offering the shortest period for cosigner release—just 12 on-time principal and interest payments. Its student loans can be used for undergraduate, graduate, and career-training programs.

Funds from its student loans cover a wide range of educational needs beyond tuition, including books and living expenses. Borrowers can choose to make payments while in school or wait until leaving school. Get a rate discount of 0.25% for enrolling in autopay. 

You can get lower interest rates when you choose an in-school repayment plan, and Sallie Mae doesn’t have minimum enrollment requirements. However, it doesn’t offer a soft credit pull to check your eligibility—so checking rates will affect your credit. The shortest repayment term available with Sallie Mae is 10 years.


SoFi

4.7 out of 5 stars

  • Member benefits include financial planning and referral bonuses
  • No required fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

SoFi stands out for its consumer-friendly website and application. Checking your rate doesn’t affect your credit score, and you can do it online in a few minutes. Students who take out a student loan with SoFi gain access to unique member benefits, such as premium offers on flights, hotels, and rental cars through SoFi Travel.

With no fees and flexible repayment options, including deferred, interest-only, partial, and immediate repayment, SoFi caters to various financial situations and offers loans for undergraduates, graduates, and parents. You can use its loans to cover the costs of your fall, spring, and summer terms.

SoFi doesn’t require borrowers to pay origination, application, or prepayment fees, and returning borrowers with the lenders are eligible for a 0.125% rate discount. However, SoFi’s minimum loan amount is higher than many other lenders, at $5,000.


Citizens Bank

3.6 out of 5 stars

  • Multiyear approval benefit
  • Loyalty and autopay discounts
  • No origination or prepayment fees

Citizens Bank has over 40 years of experience funding student loans for undergraduates, graduates, and parents. It offers a multiyear approval benefit, so applying once could simplify future student loan needs.

The bank also offers discounts for current customers and those who opt for automatic payments. However, Citizens doesn’t let borrowers prequalify with a soft credit check, and you must be enrolled at least half-time.


PNC

3.6 out of 5 stars

  • Half-time enrollment eligibility
  • Cosigner release option
  • Grace period extension

PNC student loans are available to students with half- or full-time enrollment. This can benefit students balancing an education with other commitments or part-time jobs.

PNC also provides a 48-month cosigner release option and an extended grace period, which can be useful for graduates transitioning into full-time employment. Its repayment terms range from five to 15 years


Pros and cons of a student loan from a bank vs. online lenders 

Traditional banks, such as PNC and Citizens Bank, have a physical presence—often multiple branch locations. Online lenders including SoFi and Discover don’t have in-person locations and only conduct business online. 

Regardless of the type of lender, it’s important to compare multiple offers to find the best deal. Both types offer unique perks and potential drawbacks, but one might be a better fit for you. 

Here are the pros and cons of using an online lender for student loans

Pros

  • Quick application process

    Many online lenders offer a short application that only takes a few minutes to complete. Once you’re approved, funds can arrive within a few business days. 

  • Compare rates online

    Due to quick applications and transparency, online lenders often make it easy to compare rates and get the best deal. 

Cons

  • Higher credit score requirements

    Some online lenders require higher credit scores, which might make it difficult for borrowers to qualify for loans. 

  • Might have additional fees

    Some lenders charge origination, late, and maintenance fees, which can add up. 

Student loans from national banks vs. regional banks

If you decide to take student loans from a traditional bank, you have another decision: whether to borrow from a national or regional bank. Depending on your circumstances, one type of bank might work better. 

  • Regional bank: Locations are limited to one or more regions within the country. If you’re not within the region, you might be able to borrow student loans online, but it depends on the bank.
  • National bank: These banks have locations across the country. National banks also have more total assets and can lend to customers nationwide. 

When to borrow from a regional bank

Borrowing student loans from a regional bank might be a better fit in these circumstances. 

  • There’s a local bank near you. If you live in a town or city with a reputable local bank, ask about student loans and current interest rates. Not every city has a local bank, but if you do, it’s worth checking. 
  • You’re worried you won’t qualify. Some regional banks have additional flexibility for approving applications. 

When to borrow from a national bank

Borrowing student loans from a national bank can make sense in the following situations.

  • You already have an account with the bank. Some national banks offer more competitive interest rates for current members.
  • You have a solid credit history. You can likely qualify for a competitive loan from a national bank if you have good or excellent credit. But that might not be the case if you have poor credit.

Not every bank offers student loans, so double-check before visiting in person. If you can’t find information about student loans online, call the bank to confirm whether the loans are available. 

How to apply for a student loan with a bank

Here’s what you can expect when applying for a bank student loan

  1. Gather documents: You usually need proof of identification, such as a government-issued identification card. If you are applying with a cosigner, they also need proof of income. 
  2. Complete the application: Fill out the application online or in person, which often takes 15 minutes or less. Approval can be instant, but it can take up to three business days, depending on the lender.
  3. Review the offer: The lender will provide an offer for the loan, including term length, interest rate, and fees. Read the offer, and ask followup questions. 
  4. Sign and accept the loan: Once you’re ready to move forward, sign the loan documents. When the documents are complete, the lender will disburse the funds. 

If you’re applying with an online lender, you can always complete the application online. The same is often true for national banks. You might need to visit a branch to complete an application for regional or local banks. 

Recap: Best student loans from banks

BankRates (APR)
Sallie Mae4.50% – 16.70%
SoFi4.24%14.70%
Citizens Bank4.99% – 15.04%
PNC4.41% – 15.64%