The Hunt for the Best Private Student Loans
When considering a successful future, most people consider one element to be paramount: a college degree. Despite its importance, or perhaps because of it, the price of a good college education is out of the financial reach of many potential students. Luckily, there are ways to make the price of a college degree more reasonable.
In addition to a wealth of scholarships, grants, and federal aid, student borrowers can choose from some of the best private student loans to make their college dreams come true. As with anything, not all loans are created equal. A variety of factors set the best private student loans apart from others:
- Interest Rates
- Repayment Terms
- Borrower Options
- Financial Education Resources
- Customer Service
Award Emblem: Best Private Student Loan Providers
The best place for student loans will differ student to student. Considering factors like those listed above, we’ve compiled a list of six of the best student loan companies to assist you in your collegiate finance search.
AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top 6 Best Student Loan Companies
List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the names above to go directly to the detailed review section for that firm/product)
Image Source: Pixabay.com
When to Use Private Loans
Even the best private student loan will cost you money in interest. That’s the nature of loans. If these companies weren’t going to earn any money, they would not have any incentive to loan you the money. That’s why it’s best to exhaust your other options before turning to a private loan:
- Enter scholarship competitions
- Submit your FAFSA
- Research and apply for grants
- Get to know your school’s financial aid office
All of these options can help mitigate your college costs and lower the total amount you’ll need in private loans. Using the above options in addition to exploring the best places for student loans will put you in a great fiscal position.
Understanding Private Loans
There are a number of terms that will turn up over and over again, both in this article and in your research of the best private student loans. We will cover a few of them here.
- Principal is the dollar amount of a loan that you must repay when the loan reaches maturity; it is also the value to which interest is applied.
- Interest is the amount of money charged to the borrower based on the principal amount of the loan.
- Variable Interest is a rate that fluctuates based on market conditions and the economy.
- Fixed Interest is a rate that remains the same for the entire life of the loan.
- Co-Signers are required for all borrowers without a strongly established credit history; in most cases, the stronger the credit history of the cosigner (or borrower), the better the interest rate on the loan.
- Deferment is a temporary postponement of loan payments granted by the lender; whether or not interest accrues during the deferment period varies by loan and by lender.
This is by no means a complete and exhaustive list of terms that will come up during your search for the best student loan companies, but it is a good place to start. Most of these loan providers also provide glossaries of their own, right on their websites. In the event that you come across terminology you do not know, a quick search of their site (or the internet in general) should provide the definition.
AdvisoryHQ’s Selection Methodology
What methodology does AdvisoryHQ use in selecting and finalizing the firms, services, and products that are ranked on its various top rated lists?
Please click “AdvisoryHQ’s Ranking Methodologies” for a detailed review of AdvisoryHQ’s selection methodologies for ranking top rated firms, products, and services.
Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Private Student Loans
Below, please find the detailed review of each firm on our list of top six best places for student loans. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these best student loan companies to score so highly in our selection ranking.
Citizens Bank Review
Image Source: Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank is a banking institution that also specializes in an education lending program and student loan offerings. It is headquartered in Rhode Island, and its brick-and-mortar banking presence is strongest in Pennsylvania and New England. Despite its northeast banking concentration, its student loan program is available throughout the United States, helping it make our list as one of the best student loan options.
In addition to providing loans, Citizens Bank also invests time in making sure you understand your financial aid options. When it comes to the best place to get student loans, a firm that provides education as well as the loans themselves really stands out.
Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Top Best Place for Student Loans
Below are some of the most significant reasons we rated Citizens Bank as one of 2016’s best student loan options.
With a topic as convoluted as student loans, having a firm understanding of what you’re getting yourself into is essential. Citizens Bank has an extensive financial aid resource for students and parents, easily locatable on the Citizens Bank website. This resource compiles articles on everything from understanding financial aid to saving for college on your own to establishing good credit.
Citizens Bank has information on all aspects of paying for college and acquiring loans. Instead of catching unassuming customers with caveats and hidden fees, Citizens Bank breaks down the information so you have a better sense of what you’re doing.
When it comes to student loans, an important factor is the interest rate attached to the loan.
- Variable interest rate: 3.94%-9.44% (comparable APR)
- Fixed interest rate: 5.57%-11.24% (comparable APR)
Citizens Bank offers up to 0.50 percentage point reduction in interest rates through two different incentives:
- 0.25% reduction if you or cosigner has qualifying account or Citizens Bank student loan
- 0.25% reduction with the selection of automatic payment for loan repayment
Ease of Process
Citizens Bank has a feature that streamlines the loan process if you need more money in subsequent years of school. If you qualify, your loan terms can be locked in for the duration of your degree program. This also ties into the 0.25% point reduction for having a qualifying Citizens Bank student loan, making it one of the best places to get a student loan.
Image Source: Discover
Discover has been trusted as a financial institution for 100 years. Though they are likely most well-known for their competitive credit card offerings, Discover also offers savings accounts, personal loans, and of course, one of the best student loan options.
To rank as a best place for student loans, Discover has strived to do what other members on our list work to do: educate. When it comes to paying for college, Discover provides loans, as well as tips and advice about financial options for college.
Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as One of the Best Student Loan Companies
Below are some of the elements about Discover that we found compelling enough to name it one of this year’s best places to get student loans.
A standout of Discover is their 24 hour, seven days per week customer support. The Discover website also features chat support, so if calling a number and talking on the phone isn’t your preferred method of communication, you can chat in a text window on the website.
Ease of Application
When you log in to their site and have your information handy, you can finish applying for a loan within just 15 minutes of starting your application. Any snags can quickly be resolved using their chat feature, expediting a process that could otherwise become lengthy.
Discover offers a 0.25% reduction on your loan if you decide to opt into the automatic payment option. This discount is quickly becoming a staple on this list of best student loan companies.
The rates for student loans from Discover are as follows:
Popular Article: CashNetUSA Review – What You Should Know Before Using CashNetUSA
Image Source: PNC
PNC has been operating for over 160 years. They boast of their commitment to customers, communities, and employees. The dedication of PNC to offer a lower-stress, affordable loan program is apparent even from a cursory glance at their website.
PNC is another institution where loan and financial aid education go hand-in-hand with applying for a private student loan. This considerate attitude helps make it a provider of one of the best student loans for college.
Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Best Place to Get a Student Loan
Below are some of the critical reasons we were able to name PNC as one of this year’s top best private student loan providers.
PNC actually started offering scholarships of $2,000 in 2015 for students looking for help in paying for college. PNC gives out $24,000 dollars annually for this scholarship. Students are able to put it toward any college expenses: books, housing, tuition, etc.
PNC offers a great percentage point reduction bonus for automatic payment participants. Students who choose the automatic payment plan when it comes time to pay their loan will see a .50% reduction. This is double what several other providers of the best private student loans offer.
- Variable Interest Rates: 3.73% to 10.68%
- Fixed Interest Rates: 6.49% to 12.99%
PNC starts their loan application process with a list of “student to-do’s,” which they recommend students complete before seeking a private student loan. The list on the PNC student-lending homepage contains elements like:
- Submit a FAFSA application
- Research and apply for grants
- Research and apply for work-study opportunities
- Research and apply for scholarships
PNC’s advocacy for pursuing other, less expensive avenues of financial aid demonstrates that they have the student’s best interest in mind.
Reduced Stress Lending
Loan applications can be submitted up to a full 60 days after the end of a school term. Preliminary eligibility decisions occur shortly after application submission, so borrowers will know right away whether or not PNC will provide them with a loan.
When it’s time for repayment, borrowers have the option of releasing the loan cosigners after 48 consecutive on-time payments. All outstanding PNC loan debt is forgiven if for some reason the borrower should pass away. Borrowers who have any concerns about these elements will likely consider PNC as one of their best student loan options.
Sallie Mae Review
Image Source: Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae refers to themselves as “the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company.” In their 40 years of service, they’ve helped over 30 million Americans plan, save, and pay for higher education. Dedication to their customers, as well as their communities through their Sallie Mae Fund charitable organization, helps earn Sallie Mae a spot as a best place to get a student loan.
Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Top Best Private Student Loan Provider
Below are some of the most significant reasons we selected Sallie Mae as one of this year’s top best private student loans providers.
Attending a higher education school isn’t always about getting a degree. There are other programs that culminate in non-degree certifications. Sallie Mae offers loan options for these non-degree-granting schools.
Another way Sallie Mae offers flexibility to borrowers is through repayment plans. Borrowers who go through Sallie Mae will have the following repayment options:
- Fixed price in-school plan ($25 a month during college)
- Deferment (picks up 6 months after graduation)
- Interest payments (pay interest-only while in school)
- 12-month interest-only payment plan (if in good standing after separation period)
Sallie Mae offers one of the lowest-reaching variable interest rates on this list.
Discounts and Perks
Sallie Mae offers the standard 0.25% reduction for automatic payments. Another perk they offer is an online quarterly check of the FICO scores for both the borrower and the cosigner.
Image Source: SunTrust
SunTrust is a company that’s built around, and motivated by, the idea of reducing fiscal stress in the lives of their clients. SunTrust is a financial institution that knows how stressful money can be. Their aim is to educate their clients and equip them with the fiscal know-how and financial tools they need to manage money confidently. The informed-clients approach has helped net SunTrust a position among the best private student loans providers.
Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Top Best Student Loans for College Provider
Below are primary reasons we selected SunTrust to be rated as one of 2016’s top best private student loans.
In the interest of educating clients, SunTrust provides all kinds of tools for calculating how much you’ll owe and how much a college education costs on average. Knowing that everyone’s financial situation is different, they offer several different repayment options for their loan program:
- Immediate repayment (while in school)
- Interest-only repayment (while in school)
- Partial interest repayment (while in school)
- Full deferment (until 6 months after graduation)
SunTrust also offers loan repayment durations lasting 7, 10, and 15 years.
SunTrust offers up to a 0.50% reduction when borrowers choose the automatic payment plan. SunTrust also offers increased incentives for completing your schooling in the form of a 1% principal reduction with proof of graduation. They also offer a late spring, early-applicant discount of 0.25% for borrowers applying for a loan early on.
- Variable interest rates: 3.491% to 8.936% (including early applicant discount)
- Fixed interest rates: 4.351% to 10.115% (including early applicant discount)
SunTrust offers a college scholarship sweepstakes. Students enter the sweepstakes in September. SunTrust holds 30 drawings between the end of October and May. Thirty students are chosen, two students every two weeks, with the prize being a $500 scholarship.
Wells Fargo Review
Image Source: Wells Fargo
- What’s right for customers
- People as a competitive advantage
- Diversity and inclusion
These tenets surface in their banking and in their student loan offerings as well. Their focus on strong ethics, openness, honesty, and customer-centric decisions has earned them a place as one of the best places to get student loans.
Key Factors That Enabled This Firm to Rank as a Top Best Place for Student Loans
Below are some key features we used to rate Wells Fargo as one of this year’s top best student loans for college.
Wells Fargo rewards preparation and early action, offering borrowers who register between April and June a 0.25% rate reduction as part of their “Get College Ready” program. Enrollment in the automatic payment plan option also earns borrowers a 0.25% rate reduction. In addition to those options, Wells Fargo awards an additional 0.25% reduction to borrowers and cosigners with prior Wells Fargo student loans or other qualifying accounts.
Wells Fargo also offers very competitive rates:
- Variable interest rates: 3.16% (with discounts) to 9.03% (without discounts)
- Fixed interest rates: 5.71% (with discounts) to 10.93% (without discounts)
Wells Fargo verifies the amount you’ll need with your school. This practice ensures you’re only borrowing what you need as you need it, instead of borrowing too much too soon and accruing unnecessary interest. Then Wells Fargo sends the money directly to your school. Since funds can be used for housing, books, and other expenses outside of tuition, Wells Fargo also makes sure the remaining loan funds (less tuition and fees) are distributed to you.
Conclusion – Top 6 Best Private Student Loans
It’s easy to get lost in a sea of student loan options. Finding the best place for student loans can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve done it for you. Instead of wasting time chasing bad loan leads, we’ve set you up with six institutions offering the best student loans for college.
Financing your college experience can be stressful. The institutions listed above aren’t the best private student loans simply because they offer the most competitive interest rates; no, they’re the best student loan companies because they will work to educate you on finance, and they’ll support you through the student loan process.
Even though it’s a tricky process, you are on the right track. You’ve started your research, and you picked a great jumping-off point to do it. The time you put in now to select the best private student loan for you will benefit you significantly down the line.
Use the resources that these best student loan companies provide. Some of the companies offer tools like payment calculators and loan calculators. Others offer extensive information on financial aid, loan types, and other tips and advice for affording college.
Taking advantage of these tools and planning early will go a long way in solidifying your financial future. A college degree will only get you so far if you end up with egregious amounts of student debt. Thoroughly explore these best private student loan options, and make the right, educated choice for you.
AdvisoryHQ (AHQ) Disclaimer:
Reasonable efforts have been made by AdvisoryHQ to present accurate information, however all info is presented without warranty. Review AdvisoryHQ’s Terms for details. Also review each firm’s site for the most updated data, rates and info.
Note: Firms and products, including the one(s) reviewed above, may be AdvisoryHQ's affiliates. Click to view AdvisoryHQ's advertiser disclosures.