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SunTrust Private Student Loans Review: Custom Choice and Start

SunTrust offers multiple repayment options with its Custom Choice private student loan.
Oct. 1, 2019
Loans, Student Loans
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SunTrust offers three private student loan options for undergraduates: the Custom Choice Loan, Union Federal Private Student Loan and Start Student Loan. It also offers graduate student loans. Here we review the Custom Choice Loan; you’ll find a review of its Start Student Loan below.

Review of SunTrust’s Start Student Loan

SunTrust Custom Choice Loan

4.0 NerdWallet rating

Bottom line: An option for students looking for multiple repayment options while in school.

SunTrust Private Student Loan Review
Reviewed loanCustom Choice Loan
Loan terms7, 10 or 15 years
Loan amounts$1,001 minimum. $65,000 annual maximum, for a total $150,000 maximum per borrower
Grace period6 months
Co-signer release availableAvailable after 36 on-time, principal and interest payments
Related productsGraduate student loans

Pros & Cons 

PROS

  • Principal reduction of 2% with proof of graduation.
  • Interest-only payments available for up to 36 months after graduation if you have financial hardship.
  • Interest rate discount for auto-pay is larger than most lenders’.

CONS

  • Loans aren’t available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Loans not available to borrowers with student visas.

Full Review

SunTrust’s Custom Choice Loan offers borrowers deferment, interest-only and partial-interest repayment options while in school and — if they can’t afford their payments after graduating — a generous 36-month interest-only repayment option.

SunTrust Custom Choice Loan at a glance

  • Discounts can lower your interest rate by up to 0.5%.
  • Borrowers can request up to 36 months of interest-only payments.
  • Allows for co-signer release after 36 on-time principal and interest payments or equivalent lump sum.

How SunTrust Custom Choice Loan could improve

SunTrust could improve by offering additional programs such as:

  • Personalized rate estimates without affecting credit.
  • biweekly student loan payment option.
  • Loans to borrowers in all 50 states.

SunTrust Custom Choice Loan details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.
  • Loan terms: 7, 10 or 15 years.
  • Loan amounts: $1,001 minimum. $65,000 annual maximum, $150,000 maximum in student loans per borrower.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes. If the scheduled payment is not received within 10 calendar days after the payment due date, a late fee in the amount of 5% of the overdue payment is charged.

Compare SunTrust’s range of interest rates with other private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate SunTrust will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: 600+ without a co-signer; co-signer must have a score of 625+.
  • Minimum income: $1+.
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.
  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Does not use debt-to-income to underwrite loans.
  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes. To qualify, there can be no record of a bankruptcy in the past 10 years.

Other

  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Location: Not available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
  • Types of schools served: Any school authorized to receive federal aid.
  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 50%+ of applicants apply with a co-signer.

In-school repayment options:

  • In-school deferment: You won’t make payments while enrolled at least half-time in an approved school; payments start six months after leaving school.
  • Immediate repayment: Payment of principal and interest begins 30 to 60 days after the final disbursement. The minimum monthly payment is $50. There is no grace period.
  • Interest-only: Pay interest-only while enrolled at least half-time at an approved school. Combined interest and principal payments begin six months after you leave school.
  • Partial interest: A payment of $25 per month is available on loans of $5,000 or more while borrowers are enrolled at least half-time at an approved school. Payments covering full interest and principal begin after the six-month grace period ends.

Post-school repayment options

  • Grace period: 6 months
  • Forbearance: Borrowers experiencing a financial hardship may receive forbearance for up to 12 months, in three-month increments. Interest will accrue during this time.
  • Additional deferment: Borrowers having problems making payments may be eligible for up to 36 months of interest-only payments. This must be made at the borrower’s request.
  • Academic deferment: Yes, up to 48 months of additional deferment for re-enrollment.
  • Military deferment: Yes, up to 36 months if the student borrower and/or co-signer is unable to repay the loan while deployed on active-duty status in the armed forces of the United States.
  • Co-signer release available: Yes, after 36 on-time principal and interest payments.
  • Death or disability discharge available: Yes, in the event the student borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled, the loan can be forgiven with proper documentation and the cosigner won’t be responsible for repayment.

Repayment preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.
  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

  • Loan servicer: American Education Services.
  • In-house customer service team: Yes.
  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.
  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.
  • Average time for approval: A credit decision is made in under a minute after submitting an application. Loan approval will depend on the documentation provided.

SunTrust offers its borrowers three borrower benefit reductions:

  • 2% principal reduction with proof of graduation.
  • Up to 0.50% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay.

Borrowers may apply for a loan to cover expenses in the prior academic period, but they must apply within three months of the past-due academic period.

How to apply for a SunTrust Custom Choice Loan

Before taking out a SunTrust student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

SunTrust Start Student Loan

3.5 NerdWallet rating

Bottom line: An option for borrowers who want 0% interest for the first six months of repayment.

SunTrust Private Student Loan Review
Reviewed loanStart Student Loan
Loan terms15 years
Loan amounts$5,001 minimum. $65,000 annual maximum, for a total $150,000 maximum per borrower
Grace period6 months
Co-signer release availableAvailable after 36 on-time, principal and interest payments
Related productsGraduate student loans

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 0% APR for six months following the first disbursement.
  • Interest-only payments available for up to 36 months after graduation if you have financial hardship.

Cons

  • Only one loan term available: 15 years.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Fewer repayment options and higher interest rates compared with the Custom Choice Loan option.

Full Review

SunTrust Start Student Loan offers one unique perk other lenders don’t: no interest for the first six months of repayment. However, this loan carries higher interest rates and has only one loan term option, compared with SunTrust’s own Custom Choice option and other private loans. It also has a higher loan minimum compared with other lenders.

Savings from interest-free payments vary by loan amount and interest rate but could be useful for a newly graduated borrower. For example, someone who owes $20,000 at 8% over 10 years would make payments of $193 rather than $242 for six months. Calculate potential savings with this student loan interest calculator.

SUNTRUST Start STUdent Loan AT A GLANCE:

  • Offers greater-than-minimum payments via autopay.
  • Borrowers can request up to 36 months of interest-only payments.
  • Allows for co-signer release after 36 on-time, principal and interest monthly payments.

HOW SUNTRUST Start Student Loan COULD IMPROVE:

SunTrust could improve by offering:

SunTrust Start Student Loan details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: No.
  • Loan terms: 15 years.
  • Loan amounts: $5,001 minimum. $65,000 annual maximum, for a total $150,000 maximum per borrower.
  • Application or origination fee: No.
  • Prepayment penalty: No.
  • Late fees: Yes. If the scheduled payment is not received within 10 calendar days after the payment due date, a late fee in the amount of 5% of the overdue payment is charged.

Compare SunTrust’s range of interest rates with other private student loan lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your — or your co-signer’s — credit history and financial situation. To see what rate SunTrust will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: 600+ without a co-signer; co-signer must have a score of 625+.
  • Minimum income: $1+.
  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.
  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Does not use debt-to-income to underwrite loans.
  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Yes. To qualify, there can be no record of a bankruptcy in the past 10 years.

Other

  • Citizenship: Must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  • Location: Not available to permanent residents of Iowa or Wisconsin.
  • Types of schools served: Any school authorized to receive federal aid.
  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: 50%+ of applicants apply with a co-signer.

Post-school repayment options

  • Grace period: 6 months
  • Forbearance: Borrowers experiencing a financial hardship may receive forbearance for up to 12 months, in three-month increments. Interest will accrue during this time.
  • Additional deferment: Borrowers having problems making payments may be eligible for up to 36 months of interest-only payments. This must be made at the borrower’s request.
  • Academic deferment: Yes, up to 48 months of additional deferment for re-enrollment.
  • Military deferment: Yes, up to 36 months if the student borrower and/or co-signer is unable to repay the loan while deployed on active-duty status in the armed forces of the United States.
  • Co-signer release available: Yes, after 36 on-time payments.
  • Death or disability discharge: Yes, in the event the student borrower dies or becomes permanently disabled, the loan can be forgiven with proper documentation and the cosigner won’t be responsible for repayment.

Repayment preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.
  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: No.

  • Loan servicer: American Education Services.
  • In-house customer service team: Yes.
  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.
  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.
  • Average time for approval: A credit decision is made in under a minute after submitting an application. Loan approval will depend on the documentation provided.

SunTrust offers Start borrowers two benefit reductions:

  • Up to 0.50% interest rate reduction for enrolling in autopay.
  • 2% principal reduction upon graduation.

Borrowers may apply for a loan to cover expenses in the prior academic period, but they must apply within three months of the past-due academic period.

 

How to apply for a SunTrust Start Student Loan

Before taking out a SunTrust student loan or any other private student loan, exhaust your federal loan options first. Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to apply.

Compare your private student loan options to make sure you’re getting the best rate you qualify for. In addition to interest rates, look at lenders’ repayment alternatives and the flexibility they offer to borrowers who struggle to make payments.

STUDENT LOANS RATINGS METHODOLOGY

NerdWallet believes the best student loan is one you can repay at the lowest interest rate you can get. That’s why NerdWallet’s student loan ratings reward lenders that offer a variety of loan terms, limit their fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the lowest interest rate you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.

5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best for consumer-friendly features

4.5 stars out of 5 — Excellent; offers most consumer-friendly features

4 stars out of 5 — Very good; offers many consumer-friendly features

3.5 stars out of 5 — Good; may not offer something important to you

3 stars out of 5 — Fair; missing important consumer-friendly features

2.5 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution

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