SunTrust private student loans review
This popular bank closed its student loan program in 2020.
- Best for students who want special discounts and cosigner release.
- Pick something else if you're looking to pay for community college or trade school.
4.75% to 9.41%
Max. Loan Amount
|Product Name||SunTrust Student Loans for College|
|Minimum Loan Amount||$1,001|
|Max. Loan Amount||$150,000|
|APR||4.75% to 9.41%|
|Interest Rate Type||Variable|
|Minimum Loan Term||7 years|
|Maximum Loan Term||15 years|
|Requirements||Enrolled at least half time at eligible school, 17+ years old, US citizen or permanent resident, strong credit, regular income, not a resident of Iowa or Wisconsin|
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 950 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.
SunTrust can be a great choice to pick up where federal loans leave off. Its rates are competitive, and it offers more discounts than other private student loan providers. It’s also one of your few options if you’re an international student, though you’ll have to apply with a cosigner.
However, you won’t be able to use its loans to pay for trade school or community college. And its highly negative student loan reviews might make you want to think twice. Past complaints revolve around repayments charged to the wrong bank account and its lengthy application.
If that doesn’t dissuade you, then consider using SunTrust to help fund your education. Otherwise, check out our list of other lenders that might be a better fit for you.
Alternatives to SunTrust student loans
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 to 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 to 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||4.75% to 9.41%||5.76% to 10.35%|
|Union Federal Private Student Loan||4.75% to 9.41%||4.80% to 13.50%|
|MBA & Graduate Business Student Loan||3.62%–8.64%||4.30%–8.89%|
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.
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.
- Go to SunTrust Bank’s website and scroll down until you see an icon that says Credit Cards & Consumer Loans. Click on it.
- Scroll down again until you see the icon that says Cover the Cost of Private School or College Expenses. Click on that, too.
- Click the orange Apply Now button next to the type of loan you want to apply for.
- 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.
- 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.
- Customize your loan by selecting the loan term you’d like and submit any documents, if required.
- 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 and has recently merged with BB&T to create a new bank, Truist. This merger will greatly expand SunTrust’s reach, and it makes Truist the sixth largest bank in the US. But the transition isn’t complete. For now, your student loan will still be serviced by SunTrust — just keep an eye out for information from Truist for updates regarding your account.
To find other lenders and learn more about how student loans work, check out our student loans guide.