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Student Loans

Sallie Mae vs. Discover Student Loan Comparison

Sallie Mae and Discover are two of the largest private student loan lenders in the industry. Each offers loans to undergraduates, graduates, and parents.

Sallie Mae offers a variety of private student loan options for undergraduate and graduate students, dental and medical professional students, and MBA and career training students.

Discover provides loans for students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degree programs, health professionals, MBA students, law degrees, bar exams, and residency students.

To find out whether a Sallie Mae or Discover Student Loan would be a better fit for your needs, check out some scenarios below.

View Rates

View Rates

Rates (APR) 4.50% – 16.20% 4.49% – 16.24%
Rates (APR) Rates (APR)
4.50% – 16.20% 4.49% – 16.24%
Loan amounts $1,000 – 100% of certified costs $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Loan amounts Loan amounts
$1,000 – 100% of certified costs $1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms 10 – 15 years 15 years
Repayment terms Repayment terms
10 – 15 years 15 years

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Which is right for you: Sallie Mae or Discover?

First, where they’re tied

As two of the largest private student loan lenders in America, there are a lot of similarities between these two lenders. We’ll get those areas out of the way first.


Both Sallie Mae and Discover issue loans to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international students who apply with a cosigner who is a citizen or permanent resident.

New student loans are made available to borrowers who are enrolled or plan to enroll at least half-time in a degree-earning program at an eligible school.

An evaluation of credit history and score is completed for each new borrower applying for either a Sallie Mae loan or a Discover private student loan, but a co-signer may be added to an application should the student borrower not have sufficient credit to qualify on his or her own.

Rates & fees

If you’re looking for low rates and fees, there’s no clear winner. You’ll have to ask for a rate quote from each lender to see what you’re offered, because as you can see from the table above, their APR ranges are pretty similar.

Both Sallie Mae and Discover Student Loans offer the same 0.25% interest rate reduction to borrowers who sign up for automatic payments.

They both also give borrowers the option of variable or fixed interest rate loans, so you can find the type of loan you need.

Similarly, neither lender imposes any origination, application, or prepayment penalty fees.

Loan amounts

As with most private student loan lenders, Sallie Mae and Discover undergraduate student loans limit the maximum amount a student can borrow to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance (aggregate loan limits apply).

Both private lenders may approve a lower student loan amount than the total cost of attendance for any borrower, based on their underwriting guidelines. Sallie Mae has a minimum loan amount of $1,000. Discover Student Loans has a minimum loan amount of $1,000.

Repayment plans

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae offers a number of different repayment programs to borrowers to help them meet their financial needs.

  • Deferred repayment: Under the deferred repayment option, borrowers are not required to make any payments on borrowed funds while they are enrolled in school at least half-time or for a six-month grace period after leaving school. Once the grace period ends, borrowers must pay principal and interest payments per the agreed-upon terms at the time of application.
  • Fixed repayment: Sallie Mae also offers a fixed repayment option which requires borrowers to repay $25 per month while in school and throughout the grace period.1 After a borrower leaves school, principal and interest payments are required until the loan is repaid in full.
  • Interest-only repayment: The interest-only repayment option through Sallie Mae requires students to pay the monthly interest on all outstanding student loan balances during their time in school and the grace period. Principal and interest payments are due once the grace period ends. Sallie Mae also provides an option for borrowers to request a 12-month period of interest-only payments upon graduation.

Discover undergraduate student loans also offer different repayment plans, including in-school options and a deferred option. Both repayment plans require full principal and interest payments per the agreed-upon terms after the grace period ends.

  • Fixed payment plan: Requires a $25 loan payment while in school and during the grace period, then full principal and interest payments after school ends.
  • Deferred repayment: Payments are not required until six months after the borrower leaves at least part-time attendance status or graduates.
  • Interest-only repayment plan: Borrowers pay any interest charges as soon as the loan is funded, while they attend school.

If you’re adding a cosigner to your loan…

When a cosigner agrees to be included on a loan application, they are accepting responsibility to ensure repayment is met. If you, the primary borrower, fail to meet your repayment requirements, your cosigner may have to make payment for you. Additionally, the cosigner’s credit can be impacted, hurting them in the short and long term.

To help cosigners limit this risk, some lenders offer cosigner release. This allows borrowers who are meeting their repayment requirements to remove their cosigner from the loan.

Sallie Mae allows borrowers to apply for cosigner release after making 12 on-time monthly payments. Unfortunately, Discover does not offer this option.

If you’re under 18…

If you’re younger than 18, Discover Student Loans is the winner.

Sallie Mae requires that borrowers be at least 18 years of age, while Discover requires the borrower to be at least 16.

If you earn good grades…

Discover Student Loans provides a unique benefit to borrowers who earn good grades. Borrowers can get a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan if they get a 3.0 or better GPA (or equivalent) in any academic year term covered by the loan. The reward redemption period is limited.

If you want to track your credit score…

If you want to track your credit score, Sallie Mae offers an interesting perk. Borrowers who use Sallie Mae may gain access to a quarterly FICO credit score report through the lender’s website at no cost.

Shop around to find the best loan

Both Sallie Mae and Discover are great choices when it comes to private student loans. The option that’s better for you will depend on the rates you are eligible for and your personal financial situation.

If you aren’t sold on Sallie Mae or Discover, here are some other resources that you may want to check out: