Sallie Mae Bank Review

Is Sallie Mae a good bank?

Young woman checking her bank account on her phone.
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Sallie Mae is most well-known for being a student loan lender, but it also has an online-only consumer bank that offers high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts, and CDs. The bank also offers three different types of credit cards. 

Sallie Mae has been around since 1973, when it originated as the Student Loan Marketing Association. This detailed review can help you determine if Sallie Mae is the right bank for you. 

What We Like
  • Competitive interest rates

  • No monthly fees

  • Several savings options

What We Don't Like
  • No checking account option

  • Limited customer service

Who Is Sallie Mae Best For?

Sallie Mae will likely appeal most to you if you want to take advantage of competitive rates on savings accounts and CDs, but don’t need a checking account (the bank doesn’t offer one). It may also be ideal if you: 

  • Don’t need a lot of support, as customer service options are limited
  • Want multiple savings options, from CDs to high-yield savings accounts
  • Don’t want a minimum deposit for the money market or high-yield savings accounts

What Does Sallie Mae Offer?

Sallie Mae’s consumer banking options are a bit limited.

Accounts

  • SmartyPig savings account
  • Money market account 
  • CDs
  • High-yield savings account
  • Credit cards

Services

  • Check writing (from money market account) 
  • Customer service, though limited

SmartyPig Savings Account

SmartyPig is a free, FDIC-insured savings account that can help you save for either short- or long-term goals. This account, which allows you to create and track goals and set up bi-weekly or monthly contributions, also offers competitive, tiered interest rates.

As of July 20, 2020, the interest rate is as high as 1.25% APY depending on your balance. While not the highest in the market, the rate is still pretty competitive compared to the best high-yield savings accounts.

Sallie Mae also gives customers a $10 bonus when they refer a friend who signs up and funds a SmartyPig account with at least $25 within 30 days of that referral. You can refer up to 100 friends to earn up to $1,000.

Remember, federal law limits withdrawals to only six from your savings and money market accounts per month. Sallie Mae will charge you $10 per withdrawal after you’ve reached the monthly limit.

Money Market Account 

This Sallie Mae account can also help your funds grow with a 0.99% APY (as of July 20, 2020). While this account’s APY is lower than SmartyPig’s rate, it gives you the ability to write checks. So, if you prefer to write paper checks to pay bills and send money, Sallie Mae’s money market account may be a good fit for you.

As with the savings account, if you withdraw money by writing checks more than six times per month from your money market account, you may be charged an excessive transaction fee of $10 per withdrawal beyond the limit. 

Because Sallie Mae does not offer a checking account, you’ll need to link an external bank account to fund your Sallie Mae accounts.

Certificates of Deposits

Sallie Mae offers certificates of deposit (CDs) with a variety of terms. These are savings tools with a locked-in interest rate for a set term. When the term is over, you can either withdraw your funds or renew for another term. 

As of July 20, 2020, Sallie Mae’s rates range from 0.75% APY to 1.05% APY on terms of six months to five years. These rates are competitive, but you may be able to earn more with one of the best CD rates from another bank or credit union.

There is a minimum deposit of $2,500, a minimum balance requirement of $2,500, and no monthly fees apart from a $5 returned deposit fee.

Sallie Mae CD Rates
Term APY
6 months 0.75%
9 months 0.75%
11 months 0.75%
12 months 1.05%
13 months 1.05%
15 months 1.05%
18 months 1.05%
24 months 1.05%
30 months 1.05%


Sallie Mae imposes an early withdrawal fee if you take money out before the CD’s maturity date. The penalty is based on the CD term: 

  • 12 months or less: 90 days of simple interest
  • More than 12 months: 180 days of simple interest

High-Yield Savings Account

Sallie Mae offers a high-yield savings account with a 0.90% APY, as of July 20, 2020, which is comparable to other online savings accounts. The account has no minimum balance requirement or monthly fees. The bank compounds the interest daily and pays it monthly.

Again, per federal regulations, you can make up to six withdrawals per month. If you repeatedly exceed the limit, Sallie Mae will close your account.

Credit Cards

Sallie Mae offers three credit cards: A card meant for students, a cash-back card, and one that rewards you for paying your student loans.

Other Financial Products From Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae also offers other financial products that are focused on helping customers finance and plan for education expenses. 

Sallie Mae Customer Service

You can reach Sallie Mae via live chat on its website, or by phone. The bank has different phone numbers and hours depending on which product you have questions about. While Sallie Mae does offer customer service via phone and live chat, its phone hours are limited.

  • Savings, CDs and money market accounts: 1-877-346-2756, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST
  • SmartyPig accounts: 1-877-751-6884, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST
  • Credit cards: 1-888-295-3447, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST


In 2019, J.D. Power awarded Sallie Mae bank with its “Certified Customer Service” distinction, which recognizes companies dedicated to “providing the highest levels of customer satisfaction.”

How to Bank With Sallie Mae

To open a bank account with Sallie Mae, create a new account online at SallieMae.com, or call one of the Sallie Mae customer service lines listed above.

The Bottom Line

Benefits

Sallie Mae’s banking products are best for anyone with long-term savings goals, as it offers high-yield savings accounts, money market accounts, and CDs with competitive rates. It also has three different credit card options, one of which rewards users for paying student loans. This bank is ideal for savers who don’t need a checking account. 

Drawbacks

Sallie Mae has two blind spots when it comes to personal banking—lack of comprehensive customer service hours (no hours on the weekends), and no checking account option. Otherwise, Sallie Mae is an option for those interested in opening a CD or money-market account for the first time. 

Article Sources

  1. Sallie Mae. "SmartyPig Account." Accessed April 3, 2020.

  2. Sallie Mae. "SmartyPig." Accessed May 4, 2020.

  3. Sallie Mae. "Money Market Account." Accessed April 3, 2020.

  4. Sallie Mae. "Certificates of Deposit." Accessed April 3, 2020.

  5. Sallie Mae. "Sallie Mae Bank's Deposit Account Terms and Conditions Agreement." Accessed April 3, 2020.

  6. Sallie Mae. "High-Yield Savings Account." Accessed April 3, 2020.

  7. Sallie Mae. "J.D. Power Recognizes Sallie Mae for Outstanding Customer Service." Accessed April 3, 2020.