SunTrust private student loans review October 2018 | finder.com

SunTrust private student loans review

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Come for the competitive rates, stay for the discounts with this international student-friendly loan provider.

Federal student loans have their limits. There’s a cap on how much you can borrow and you can’t qualify at all if you’re an international student. Luckily, SunTrust can pick up where federal loans leave off.

While you can’t use these loans to pay for a trade school or community college, most undergraduate and graduate students can qualify for up to $65,000 in private student loans for years. It’s also one of your few options if you’re an international student, though you’ll have to apply with a cosigner. We break it down so you can decide if a SunTrust student loan is right for you.

Product NameSunTrust Student Loans for College
Min Loan Amount$1,001
Max. Loan Amount$150,000
APR3.876%–12.874%
Interest Rate TypeVariable
Minimum Loan Term7 years
Maximum Loan Term15 years
RequirementsEnrolled at least half time at an eligible school, at least 17 years old, US citizen or permanent resident, strong credit, regular income, and not a resident of IA or WI.
  • Enrolled at least half time
  • Attend an eligible school
  • US citizen or permanent resident; international students require a cosigner who's a US citizen or permanent resident
  • Age 17 or older to apply with a cosigner
  • Age of majority in your state to apply alone
  • Strong credit history
  • Steady source of income
  • Not reside in Iowa or Wisconsin

First, am I eligible?

To qualify for a SunTrust private student loan, you must:

  • Be enrolled at least half time
  • Attend an eligible school
  • Be a US citizen or permanent resident; if you’re an international student, you must have a cosigner who’s a US citizen or permanent resident
  • Be older than 17 to apply with a cosigner
  • Be the age of majority in your state to apply on your own
  • Have a strong credit history
  • Have a steady source of income
  • Not live in Iowa or Wisconsin

SunTrust doesn’t have any hard credit score requirements because it considers you and your cosigner’s entire credit history when you apply. There’s also no minimum income requirement. You can apply with a cosigner to strengthen your application or help you meet residency requirements.

How do SunTrust private student loans work?

SunTrust is a direct lender that offers private student loans to undergraduate, graduate and business students. It has three different loan options:

  • Custom Choice Loan
  • Union Federal Private Student Loan
  • MBA & Graduate Business Student Loan

While SunTrust funds its student loans, it uses Cognition Lending to process its applications and loan servicer American Education Services to handle repayments.

Custom Choice Loan

Custom Choice is a catch-all student loan for both graduate and undergraduate students. You can use it to cover any school-related expenses including tuition, school fees, textbooks and other supplies, as well as room and board. You can also use it to refinance any private student loan, even while you’re still in school.

You don’t need to have a source of income to qualify, but you’ll have to apply with a cosigner who does. In fact, SunTrust recommends that students apply with a cosigner to help them meet eligibility requirements. You can apply to take your cosigner off your loan after making 36 full, on-time repayments.

  • Annual limit: $65,000
  • Lifetime limit: $150,000
  • Loan terms: 7, 10 or 15 years

Union Federal Private Student Loan

The Union Federal Private Student Loan is very similar to the Custom Choice Loan. It offers financing for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as a refinancing option. The main difference is that Union Federal Federal Private Student Loans are available for international students if they apply with a cosigner. They also come with an extra interest rate discount of 0.25% that kicks in after making 36 on-time repayments.

If you apply for this loan, your application is processed by a company called Union Federal, which is a division of Cognition Financial. SunTrust still funds your loan, but it doesn’t handle customer service or the application.

  • Annual limit: $65,000
  • Lifetime limit: $150,000
  • Loan terms: 7, 10 or 15 years

MBA & Graduate Business Student Loan

This loan is specifically designed for business students — both MBA and Ph.D. candidates. Like Custom Choice and Union Federal Private Student Loans, SunTrust’s MBA & Graduate Business Student Loans come with an option to refinance any existing business school loans, even while you’re in school.

To qualify, you need to be enrolled at least half time in a degree-granting program that’s accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Business Schools. If you’re eligible, you can get lower rates and larger amounts than you’d find with SunTrust’s other student loans. You won’t have as long to pay it off, however.

  • Annual limit: $95,000
  • Lifetime limit: $175,000
  • Loan terms: 7 or 10 years.

Minimum loan amounts by state

While the minimum amount you can borrow in most states is $1,001, there are a few exceptions.

  • Alaska residents must borrow at least $5,001
  • Colorado residents must borrow at least $3,001
  • New Mexico residents must borrow at least $2,501
  • Oklahoma residents must borrow at least $5,001
  • Rhode Island residents must borrow at least $5,001
  • South Carolina residents must borrow at least $3,601

How much do SunTrust student loans cost?

SunTrust doesn’t charge any application or origination fees on its loans. In fact, the only fee you need to worry about is a 5% late fee for payments more than 10 days overdue.

This means that the main cost you need to worry about is the interest rates. SunTrust offers both variable rates and fixed rates. Here’s how they break down by loan type:

Loan Variable rate Fixed rate
Custom Choice Loan 3.876%–12.874% 5.351%–14.049%
Union Federal Private Student Loan 3.876%–12.874% 5.351%–14.049%
MBA & Graduate Business Student Loan 3.876%–8.876% 5.351%–9.879%

Fixed rates stay the same while you pay back your loan, meaning that your monthly repayment stay the same through the life of your loan. Variable rates, however, change from month to month — meaning that your payments won’t always be the same.

SunTrust calculates its variable rates by giving borrowers a low fixed rate — called a margin — and adding it to the 1-month LIBOR rate. The LIBOR rate is a type of benchmark rate, or an interest rate fixed by a third party that reflects interest rates that other banks are charging.

Basically, if lots of banks start charging higher interest rates, the LIBOR goes up. If lots of banks start charging lower rates, the LIBOR goes down. To protect borrowers from the chance that the LIBOR rate shoots up really high, SunTrust caps its variable rates at 36%.

Does SunTrust offer any discounts?

It does — and lots of them, too. Here’s how they work:

  • 0.25% autopay discount. Any borrower can get 0.25% off their interest rate simply for signing up for autopay.
  • 0.25% SunTrust autopay discount. Borrowers can get another 0.25% taken of their interest if they sign up for autopay from a SunTrust bank account.
  • 0.25% on-time repayment discount. Union Federal Private Student Loan holders automatically get their interest lowered by an additional 0.25% if they make 36 on-time repayments in a row.
  • 1% graduation reward. SunTrust can reduce your loan principal by 1% if you submit proof that you graduated.

What are my repayment options

While SunTrust loans only come with one standard repayment plan after you leave school, it offers several different in-school repayment options.

  • In-school deferment. Wait until you graduate to start making repayments — though your interest will add up and get added to your loan balance when you start making full repayments.
  • Immediate repayment. Start making full repayments on interest and your loan balance as soon as your funds go to your school.
  • Partial interest. Make payments of $25 while you’re in school to reduce the amount of interest that adds up. This option is only available for loans of $5,000 or more.
  • Interest-only repayments. Only pay interest that adds up while you’re in school.

Compare more private student loan options

Rates last updated October 22nd, 2018
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR Product Description
Credible Private Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3.69% (As low as ) (variable)
Get prequalified rates from private lenders offering student loans with no origination or prepayment fees.
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
675
$200,000
4.016%–10.010% (with Autopay) (fixed)
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
CommonBond Private Student Loans
700
$500,000
3.20-7.25% (fixed)
Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
LendingTree Student Loans
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
3% (As low as) (fixed)
Compare multiple student loans and student loan refinancing options in one place.

Compare up to 4 providers

Top reasons to consider SunTrust

  • Discounts. SunTrust offers more discounts than most private student loan providers — you can get your rates knocked down by as much as 0.75% with a Union Federal Private Student Loan.
  • International students OK. SunTrust is one of a handful of student loan options out there for students who aren’t US citizens or permanent residents.
  • No fees. SunTrust doesn’t charge any fees associated with applying for a loan or paying it off early.
  • Cosigner release. You can apply to have your cosigner taken off of your loan after making 36 consecutive on-time repayments.

Why you might want to look elsewhere

  • Not available in all states. You can’t qualify for a SunTrust loan if you’re a resident of Iowa or Wisconsin. You also can’t qualify for the lowest loan amounts if you live in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island or South Carolina.
  • High variable rate cap. SunTrust’s 36% variable rate ceiling is two or three times as high as what most other lenders charge, making its variable options a bit more of a risk.
  • Uses a loan servicer and processor. If you’re the kind of person who worries about your information being shared between companies, you might want to go for a lender that handles all aspects of the loan, including the application and repayments.
  • Poor customer reviews. Customers have more bad than good to say about SunTrust Bank’s student loans.

What do customers say about SunTrust Bank?

SunTrust Bank doesn’t have the best customer reviews. It gets an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which it’s been accredited with since 1967. BBB ratings are based on business practices like advertising and transparency, however, and don’t reflect what customers think. As of this writing, all but two of its 52 reviews on the BBB website were negative.

SunTrust doesn’t have a Trustpilot page, but it does have a Yelp page, where 13 customers gave it an average of 2 out of 5 stars. One customer complained that it wasn’t able to qualify for cosigner release because they’d made one repayment that was one day late. Another said their credit was hurt because SunTrust charged a student loan repayment to the wrong bank account. A third had attempted to apply for a SunTrust student loan and ended up canceling their application because it took too long.

What to expect when signing up

Before you start your application, make sure you or your cosigner meet SunTrust’s eligibility requirements. Also make sure you’re applying for the right loan — international students are only eligible for the Union Federal Private Student Loan. Once you’ve done these two things, you’re ready to start your application.

  1. Go to SunTrust Bank’s website and scroll down until you see an icon that says Credit Cards & Consumer Loans. Click on it.
  2. Scroll down again until you see the icon that says Cover the Cost of Private School or College Expenses. Click on that, too.
  3. Click the orange Apply Now button next to the type of loan you want to apply for.
  4. You’ll be taken to a screen that says you’re being taken to Cognition Lending’s website, asking you to review its privacy policy. Click Continue.
  5. Follow the directions to fill out the application. If you’re applying with a cosigner, you’ll enter their email address so that they can get a link to their part of the application.
  6. Review your application and carefully read the terms and conditions before submitting it. You should hear if you qualify almost immediately. If you get the green light, you’ll also get instructions on what documents to submit.
  7. Customize your loan by selecting the loan term you’d like and submit any documents, if required.
  8. Review and sign the promissory note.

Step-by-step application with screenshots

After you’ve signed your loan documents, SunTrust will reach out to your school to certify your loan — essentially making sure you’re eligible for the amount you want to borrow. It’ll also arrange a date for your funds to be disbursed.

More about SunTrust

SunTrust Bank is one of the largest regional banks in the US. It has around 1,400 branches across the Southeast and more than 2,160 ATMs. Aside from student loans, SunTrust also offers home improvement loans, car loans, mortgages, home equity loans and debt consolidation. On top of this, you can get a credit card, open a checking or savings account, set up a retirement fund and more through SunTrust.

Fun fact: SunTrust has had a close relationship with Coca-Cola since the early 20th century and even keeps a copy of the famous drink’s secret recipe in one of its vaults.

Bottom line

SunTrust student loans could be a great alternative to federal student loans, especially if you’re an international student. Its rates are competitive and it offers more discounts than other private student lenders. But its highly negative student loan reviews might make you think twice. To find other lenders and learn more about how student loans work, check out our student loans guide.

Frequently asked questions

Anna Serio

Anna Serio is a staff writer untangling everything you need to know about personal loans, including student, car and business loans. She spent five years living in Beirut, where she was a news editor for The Daily Star and hung out with a lot of cats. She loves to eat, travel and save money.

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