If you’ve maxed out your federal student loan options and still need funds for school, private student loans could help.
SunTrust Banks, which recently announced a merger with BB&T, has three private student loan products:
- Custom Choice Student Loan: Mainline student loan product for U.S. undergraduate and graduate students
- Union Federal Private Student Loan: Available to all undergraduate and graduate students, including international students
- Graduate Business School Loan: For students that are pursuing an MBA or a Ph.D. in business
Are SunTrust student loans worth considering? Let’s take a closer look at the features and benefits they offer.
SunTrust student loans review
The table below summarizes the key information you need to know about all three of SunTrust’s student loan products — including interest rates and repayment terms.
|7, 10 |
|7, 10 |
|7 or |
* Rates current as of June 13, 2019
When you’re enrolled in school full time, it can be hard to also work a full-time job. That’s why most federal student loans don’t require repayment until after you’ve graduated from college.
In order to compete, many private lenders offer similar in-school deferment benefits on their student loans. SunTrust does as well. When you take out loans with SunTrust, you can choose between four different repayment options:
- Immediate repayment
- In-school deferment
- Partial-interest payments ($25/month)
- Interest-only payments
If you choose any of the deferment options, keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue during deferment periods. For this reason, you’ll save the most money overall by choosing immediate repayment, as in-school deferment will ultimately cost you the most money.
But SunTrust even offers repayment options that fall in the middle of these two extremes, with interest-only and partial-interest payments as two of your choices. The variety of options gives you ultimate flexibility in picking a repayment plan tailored specifically to your needs and budget.
These are the current interest rates for all three of SunTrust’s private student loan products, as of June 13, 2019.
1. Custom Choice Student Loan
- Variable rate: 3.751% to 10.800%
- Fixed rate: 4.551% to 11.300%
2. Union Federal Private Student Loan
- Variable rate: 4.251% to 13.250%
- Fixed rate: 5.051% to 13.750%
3. Graduate Business School Loan
- Variable rate: 3.751% to 8.760%
- Fixed rate: 4.551% to 9.129%
These are competitive interest rates for in-school student loans. Still, you’ll want to compare private student loan interest rates, features and benefits from other companies, such as LendKey, to see if another lender is a better fit for you.
If you decide to go with SunTrust for your student loans, you’ll probably want to look into refinancing into a lower rate after graduating.
Discounts and perks
Like many private lenders, SunTrust gives borrowers a 0.25% interest rate deduction if they set up autopay.
But unlike some lenders, SunTrust also happens to be a bank — and it sweetens the deal for its customers. If your autopay is taken from a SunTrust bank account, you’ll earn another 0.25% interest rate deduction, for a total of 0.50%.
SunTrust also offers one additional perk depending on the product you have:
- Custom Choice Student Loan: A graduation reward of a 2% deduction in principal
- Union Federal Private Student Loan: 0.25% interest rate reduction for making 36 consecutive on-time payments
- Graduate Business School Loan: A graduation reward of a 1% deduction in principal
To receive the graduation rewards, you’ll need to provide proof of your graduation to SunTrust by sending in a copy of your diploma, final transcript or a letter on school letterhead.
As for the 0.25% interest rate deduction offered on the Union Federal Private Student Loan after 36 on-time payments, it’s added to the 0.50% autopay deductions. So, in total, Union Federal Private Student Loan product borrowers can receive up to 0.75% off of the initial interest rate.
Student loans for international students
Many international students travel to the U.S. from all over the world each year to get their college education.
Unfortunately, unless they happen to have an eligible non-citizen status, these students are left out in the cold when it comes to federal student loans. That means international students often need to look to the private sector to find funding for their education.
SunTrust’s Union Federal Private Student Loan product lends money to international students. However, international students need a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien.
Still, the starting interest rate on these loans is reasonable and could be a good option for international students who need help paying for school.
SunTrust customer service
When it comes to banks and lenders, the bigger they get, the worse the customer service tends to be. If you want blazing-fast customer service, a smaller lender that focuses only on student loans will be your best bet.
That’s not SunTrust. It was already a large bank and getting bought out by BB&T is only going to make it more of a behemoth. SunTrust currently has a three-star rating on Consumer Affairs and a one-star customer rating from the Better Business Bureau.
The bottom line? Big banks aren’t built to give exceptional customer service, and SunTrust is no exception. If any of its products look appealing to you, below-par customer service shouldn’t necessarily keep you away. But you’ll want to have realistic expectations of the level of service you’re going to receive.
Should you consider SunTrust student loans?
If the BB&T merger goes through, we’ll see if it affects SunTrust’s student loan offerings.
But for now, there’s a lot to like about SunTrust. Its rates are competitive and its in-school deferment options are useful for borrowers looking to hold payments off until they’re done with school.
SunTrust student loans could be a good choice if you can’t borrow any more federal student loans and you still have more school to finish. And if you’re an international student, you may also want to give SunTrust student loans a second look.
Keep in mind that on both the Custom Choice and Union Federal Private student loan products, you’ll need proof of income to qualify for student-only loans.
This might be a problem for many full-time students, which means that SunTrust borrowers might need a cosigner with sufficient income. SunTrust does, however, allow cosigner release, which it will consider after 36 on-time monthly payments.
Before taking out SunTrust student loans, make sure you’ve reached your federal student loan limit. Federal loans offer perks like income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness that private loans simply can’t compete with.
And even if you’ve tapped out your federal student loans, you’ll still want to do your due diligence and research all your options before choosing a lender. Don’t worry — we’ve done all the hard work for you. Check out our private student loans guide.