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Student Loans

Sallie Mae Competitors and Alternatives

Sallie Mae is one of the largest private student loan companies in America—comprising 55% of the private student lending market share as of the fourth quarter of 2023. However, customer reviews convey poor customer service, which might lead borrowers to choose Sallie Mae’s competitors.

It’s important to choose a student loan company that offers competitive interest rates and terms and lets you borrow the funds you need. We’ve identified the best private lenders and reviewed them below so you can compare your options.

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best Overall
5.0
Best for Large Loans
4.7
Best for Member Benefits
4.7

Alternatives to Sallie Mae student loans

Here’s how Sallie Mae compares to four of its competitors.

LenderOur ratingRates (APR)
Sallie Mae4.8/54.50% – 16.70%
College Ave5/54.07% – 16.69%
Earnest4.7/54.11%16.20%
SoFi4.7/54.44%14.70%

Check out our reviews of each lender to learn more.

College Ave – Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Select your own repayment term of 5, 8, 10, or 15 years
  • Choose from four different repayment options while you’re in school
  • Borrow $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance

College Ave is our pick for the best overall private student loan lender in the country. Former Sallie Mae executives founded College Ave in 2014 with a commitment to creating a smooth and straightforward lending experience.

Its fintech platform makes it easy for students to apply for private student loans in just three minutes.

In January 2024, College Ave launched the Ambition Mastercard, a secured credit card designed for students who want to build their credit history. This enables students to transfer cash to the secured card, which creates the credit limit. 

You can then use the card for regular purchases to create a positive credit history by making on-time payments.

Earnest – Best for large loans

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Borrow $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Borrowers get a nine-month grace period
  • You can skip a payment once a year without penalties

Earnest is an online lender that offers student loans to undergraduate and graduate students, including business, medical, and law students. It is also one of the only lenders to offer private student loans to international students studying in the United States. 

At the end of 2023, it launched Student Loan Manager, a free tool that helps borrowers understand the best way to lower their federal student loan payments.

Earnest also offers a skip-a-payment benefit, allowing you to skip one payment per year without penalty. Part-time students are eligible for Earnest loans. If a competitor offers you a lower rate, Earnest will match it and give you a $100 Amazon gift card once you finalize your loan.

SoFi – Best for member benefits

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Borrow $5,000 – 100% of certified costs
  • Repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, or 15 years
  • 6-month grace period

SoFi is a private student loan lender known for its comprehensive member benefits. It offers unique perks like financial planning services, exclusive member events, and rate discounts. Borrower can check their rates online in a few minutes without affecting their credit score.

Sallie Mae student loan pros and cons

Here are Sallie Mae’s pros and cons to consider before choosing them as your lender.

Pros

  • Large selection of student loans

    Sallie Mae offers loans for several types of schools as well as transition periods, including studying for the bar.

  • Options for part-time students

    Students who can only attend school part-time can still get loans for their education.

  • Cosigners can be released after 12 months

    Many lenders require cosigners to stay on loans for much longer.

  • No application fees or origination fees

    No hidden fees and no prepayment fees.

  • Deferred payment options while in school

    Sallie Mae offers four payment options while you’re in school, including full deferment.

Cons

  • Customer service is lacking

    Sallie Mae scores 1.08 out of 5 with the Better Business Bureau and 1.4 out of 5 with TrustPilot.

  • No prequalified rates

    Unlike other lenders, Sallie Mae does not offer soft credit pulls.

  • Limited repayment terms

    Other lenders offer more repayment options and flexibility.

Borrowers looking for lenders with excellent customer service would appreciate Earnest, which has 4.7 out of 5 stars on TrustPilot. And borrowers who want more flexibility with their loan terms might prefer College Ave or Ascent as their lender.

How to choose a private student loan company

Selecting the best private student loan company for you will depend on a few factors. Many private loan companies are available, and some will be better than others, depending on your particular situation. 

For example, if you want to be a nurse, some private student loan companies offer loans for nursing school, while others don’t. If you need to use a cosigner for your student loan, some companies have better policies for cosigners than others. 

If customer service is important to you and you can only call on the weekends, make sure the lender you choose is available when you are.

If you’re considering Sallie Mae for a new student loan

If you’re considering becoming a Sallie Mae customer, here’s what to research.

  • Interest rates and terms: Find out Sallie Mae’s interest rates and loan terms for your loan. Check what discounts you might be eligible for, such as autopay discounts. Make sure you understand its policies if you have financial hardships.
  • Lender benefits: Many lenders offer benefits, such as career coaching and educational videos. See whether Sallie Mae’s benefits are a fit for your personal needs and goals.
  • Loan limits: If you need to borrow a certain amount for school, make sure Sallie Mae offers loans for that amount. Also, find out whether you meet its eligibility requirements, including having a good credit score, before applying. 
  • Impact on credit: Remember that Sallie Mae, unlike other lenders on this list, does a hard pull of your credit, which might lower your credit score.

If you already have Sallie Mae student loans

If you already have Sallie Mae student loans and want an alternative, you can apply to refinance your loans with another lender. Before choosing a new lender, use the same methods above, including researching lenders, learning about fees, and reading customer service reviews.

Recap of Sallie Mae competitors

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best Overall
5.0
Best for Large Loans
4.7
Best for Member Benefits
4.7