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M&T Bank private student loans review

Get referred to Sallie Mae or borrow against your home through this regional bank.’s rating: 4.4 / 5.0


  • Best for graduate students seeking lower rates or interest-only repayments after leaving school.
  • Pick something else if you don't want to borrow from Sallie Mae.

5.74% to 11.85%


100% of the school-certified cost of attendance

Max. Loan Amount


Product NameM&T Bank private student loans (Smart Option Student Loan by Sallie Mae)
Minimum Loan Amount$1,000
Max. Loan Amount100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
APR5.74% to 11.85%
Interest Rate TypeFixed
Minimum Loan Term5 years
Maximum Loan Term15 years
RequirementsUS citizen or permanent resident, attend an eligible school, have legal age to borrow in your state.

Review by

Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.

Expert review

The only reason to apply for a student loan through M&T Bank is customer loyalty — it makes money for each customer it refers to Sallie Mae. Otherwise, you might want to apply directly through Sallie Mae, which offers more loans than M&T Bank has a referral deal for.

Of the two Sallie Mae loan options available through M&T, the front-runner is its program for graduate students — which come with lower rates and the option of making interest-only repayments for up to a year after you graduate. Additional perks include cosigner release and free tutoring and study guides.

Not sold on M&T Bank? Check out our list of other private student loan providers that might be a better fit.

First, am I eligible?

To qualify for a loan, you or your cosigner must meet Sallie Mae’s general requirements:

  • You must be a US citizen or permanent resident.
  • You must attend an eligible school.
  • You must be the legal age to borrow in your state.

While the bank requires no hard credit score or income requirement, your credit history — how much debt you’ve taken on, your repayment history and the length of your credit history — can affect your credit score. International students can get around the residency requirement by applying with a creditworthy cosigner.

How do M&T Bank student loans work?

Despite advertising options on its website, M&T Bank doesn’t actually offer student loans. Instead, it refers borrowers to two of Sallie Mae’s student loan options.

After you click the link to Sallie Mae’s page, M&T bank is no longer involved — aside from collecting a referral fee from Sallie Mae.

The main student loan advertised by the bank is Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan. Undergraduate and graduate students can use this loan to cover the cost of attending an eligible degree-granting program. Sallie Mae favors graduate students, however, offering them lower rates and the option of interest-only repayments for up to a year after leaving school.

Sallie Mae either funds your loan directly or through its partner lenders. Applicants can complete the entire application online or over the phone in minutes.

Parent loans

M&T bank also refers borrowers to Sallie Mae Parent Loans. These loans come with slightly higher rates and are entirely the parent’s responsibility to repay. Otherwise, they’re similar to Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Loan.

Sallie Mae’s parent loan might work best for parents who don’t have a strong enough credit history to cosign their child’s loan, because it allows them to apply with a cosigner.


This option isn’t a student loan. Rather, it’s a second mortgage. But parents can use the CHOICEquity HELOC to pay for a child’s education. It’s the only type of financing that M&T bank offers directly for school expenses.

This HELOC offers variable rates of 2.99% to 15.90%, with lines starting at $15,000 and going up to $250,000 for vacation homes and up to $1 million for primary residences. Your family gets access to the credit line for 10 years, with 20 years to repay what’s borrowed.

M&T Bank scholarship search powered by Sallie Mae

In addition to student and parent loans, M&T Bank also refers borrowers to Sallie Mae’s scholarship search tool. Students can set up a profile to be matched with one of the 3.5 million scholarships in Sallie Mae’s database. Once you get a match, you’re notified by email with next steps.

How much do M&T Bank student loans cost?

It costs you nothing to use M&T bank’s referral links to apply for a Sallie Mae loan, and Sallie Mae doesn’t charge application-related fees or prepayment penalties. The main cost to worry about is your interest rate.

Like most private student loan providers, Sallie Mae offers fixed and variable rates. Fixed rates stay the same over the life of your loan, ranging from 5.74% to 11.85% for undergraduates and 6.24% to 9.02% for graduates.

Variable rates are more complicated, given they’re subject to change over time. As of June 2018, Sallie Mae variable rates range from 4.00% to 10.86% for undergraduates and 4.00% to 8.91% for graduate students. But you might not be extended a rate in that range.

That’s because variable rates are made up of two smaller rates: The margin rate and the benchmark rate. The margin rate is a small fixed percentage that your lender gives you based on your creditworthiness. While the margin rate never changes, the benchmark does — usually every month or quarter. A third party sets the benchmark rate based on trends in the lending market.

Everything you need to know about fixed and variable rates

Does M&T Bank offer discounts?

No, but Sallie Mae does. Borrowers can get a 0.25% discount on interest by signing up for automatic repayments. And graduate students may be able to qualify for lower rates than undergrads — though the minimum variable interest rate is the same for both.

Borrowers who choose the interest repayment option can also qualify for rates that are lower than those through other repayment programs.

What are my repayment options?

Sallie Mae offers three repayment options for its undergraduate student loans and a fourth just for graduate students.

Fixed repayment

This option requires full repayments on your loan balance and interest after your school receives the funds. It’s the least expensive option in the long run, because it chips away at your principal before interest has a chance to accumulate. But it’s the most expensive in the short term, as you’ll need the cash flow to afford full repayments.

Deferred repayment

This option allows you to ignore your student debt until six months after you leave school. It’s the least expensive option in the short term, because you won’t make any payments until you’ve had time to look for a job. It can add up in the long run, however, because of interest capitalization.

With interest capitalization, your lender totals all of the interest that’s added up while you were in school and during your grace period, adding that amount to your loan balance. It increases the amount you owe, but also the amount your interest payments are based on. Deferment doesn’t lengthen your loan term and can translate into higher monthly repayments.

Interest repayment

Can’t afford full repayments but want to lower what you owe monthly? Get a head start on paying down your loan’s interest only while you’re in school and during the grace period.

Sallie Mae estimates that you can save about 25% on your total student loan cost this way. This plan also comes with lower rates than the other two options, helping you to save even more.

Graduate repayment period

Graduate students have the option of making interest-only repayments for 12 months after leaving school, as long as they aren’t behind on loan repayments. While this option offers flexibility for recent grads figuring out their careers, it doesn’t extend the loan term, so you’ll end up paying higher monthly repayments after the 12 months are up.

Top reasons to consider M&T Bank

  • Cosigner release. Students can apply to release their cosigners from the loan with proof of graduation, 12 consecutive and on-time repayments and the ability to meet Sallie Mae’s credit requirements on their own.
  • Favors graduate students. Graduate students get lower rates and more flexibility than other applicants.
  • International schools OK. Use your student loan to pay for a semester abroad — or even a degree — as long as it meets Sallie Mae’s eligibility requirements.
  • International students welcome. Apply with a creditworthy US citizen or permanent resident cosigner to qualify.
  • Free tutoring. Borrowers qualify for two hours of tutoring from Chegg and free access to its study guides. This option isn’t available to residents of Maine.

Why you might want to look elsewhere

  • Degree-granting programs only. You can’t use this loan to pay for certificates or continuing education programs.
  • Mostly through Sallie Mae. M&T bank doesn’t originate student loans — it merely refers customers to Sallie Mae’s website. And only some of Sallie Mae’s student loans.
  • Students must be the age of majority. While the legal age to borrow is 18 in most states, it’s 19 in Alabama, Delaware, Nebraska and Wisconsin and 21 in Mississippi. This means freshmen in some states and most undergraduates from Mississippi might not qualify without a cosigner.

Compare more private student loan options

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Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
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5 to 20 years
Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.

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What to expect when applying

Sallie Mae recommends that you get together the following information before you start your application:

  • Your address. If you’ve lived in more than one address in the past year, you need to include both.
  • Your Social Security number. You’ll need an SSN for both you and your cosigner.
  • Your school information. This includes the name, your enrollment status, your degree and your major.
  • Your employment information. If you’re unemployed, have your cosigner’s name and gross annual income on hand.
  • Financial details. You’ll need bank account information, monthly rent or mortgage payments and other debts for you and your cosigner.
  • References. Sallie Mae asks for contact information for two people who can verify your identity. This isn’t required for cosigners.

Once you’re ready, you have two options for applying: Over the phone or online. Sallie Mae recommends that borrowers apply over the phone at 866-322-3145 to avoid mistakes in the application.

To apply online through M&T Bank, start with M&T’s website:

  1. Go to the M&T Bank website and hover over Mortgages & Loans on the bottom navigation bar.
  2. Click Education Financing Options.
  3. Click Get Started under one of the Sallie Mae options or Apply Now if you’re interested in an M&T Bank HELOC.
  4. Before continuing, read M&T’s warning about visiting a third-party website, which releases the bank from liability.
  5. Once on the Sallie Mae page, click Get Started.
  6. Fill in the required fields, clicking Save and Continue after each page until it’s complete.
  7. If you’re applying with a cosigner, they can either complete the form with you or get an access code to complete the application on their own.
  8. Wait for Sallie Mae to let you know if you’re preapproved. At this point, you might be asked to submit pay stubs or a state-issued ID, among other documents.
  9. Review and sign your loan documents with your cosigner.

After you sign your loan documents, Sallie Mae reaches out to your school to certify your cost of attendance and arrange to disburse your funds. Soon after confirming your educational costs, Sallie Mae sends a final disclosure containing the exact amount of your loan. You don’t need to sign this final disclosure.

More about M&T Bank

M&T Bank is a regional bank with branches in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, DC. Named for manufacturers and traders, it was founded in 1856 in Buffalo, New York, to serve the growing banking needs of manufacturers in the area.

It’s since grown to offer a wide range of business and personal loans, including mortgages, car loans and marine and recreational vehicle loans. It also offers checking, savings and CD accounts, as well as credit and debit cards.

Compare other loan types offered by M&T Bank.

Before you apply, read our guide to private student loans to compare lenders and learn more about your options.

Frequently asked questions

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We rate student loan providers on a scale of 1 to 5 stars based on factors like transparency, costs and customer experience. We don’t take into account elements like eligibility criteria, state availability or payment frequency — we save that for our reviews.

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