The benefits explained
- Solid interest rates: All of Sallie Mae’s deposit accounts, including their savings accounts, CDs, and money market account, offer pretty high APYs. Although it is possible to find higher rates elsewhere, these rates are quite remarkable.
- No minimum balance or monthly fees: Neither the savings accounts nor the money market account require a minimum balance, and you won’t see your interest gobbled up by monthly service fees for either type of account.
- Encourages savings goals: The Sallie Mae SmartyPig Savings Account allows savers to organize their money by allocating it to different purposes. By encouraging this type of targeted saving, Sallie Mae helps her clients make progress toward a number of savings goals at the same time.
- No current account available: Sallie Mae deposit accounts do not include current accounts. It is not possible for customers to use Sallie Mae as their primary bank.
- Customers must have another bank to fund Sallie Mae accounts: Due to the lack of checking accounts, customers must have access to another bank in order to fund a Sallie Mae account. It is not possible to open a Sallie Mae deposit account without an external bank account.
- No ATM access: There is only one Sallie Mae branch in the United States and there is no ATM associated with the institution. To access the money in your Sallie Mae account, you will first need to transfer it to your external account.
Who is Sallie Mae for?
Sallie Mae will work best for clients who want an online-only institution to store their savings. It will be particularly suitable for customers who:
- You want an above-average APY across multiple savings vehicles
- Need savings accounts with no fees or minimum balance
- Seek hard-to-reach savings vehicles
- You want to be encouraged to reach several savings goals
- Don’t need to keep their checking accounts and savings accounts at the same bank
- Do not need access to an ATM for their savings accounts
What does Sallie Mae offer?
Although inextricably associated with student loans, Sallie Mae offers a decent number of traditional banking products and services. These include:
- Savings accounts
- Money market account
- Certificates of deposit
- Credit card
High Yield Savings Account has no minimum balance or monthly fee, and you can open it with $0. The APY of 1.85%, while it’s nothing to sneeze at in today’s economy, it’s not the highest rate you’ll find on a high-yield savings account, especially among online-only banks.
However, the lack of monthly fees or minimum balances can make this account tempting for those who might otherwise be looking for higher returns. Also, Sallie Mae does not offer tiered APY based on your balance. Whether you have a balance of $1 or $250,000, you will earn the APY of 1.85%.
SmartyPig Savings Account was created specifically to help savers achieve their goals, like a virtual piggy bank. SmartyPig savers have one main account, where all deposits go, and you can set multiple savings goals in the main account. Each of your savings goals gets its own sub-account, allowing you to track your progress as you add money towards each goal. This type of targeted savings strategy helps clients visualize their progress. You can set up monthly or bi-weekly automated deposits, and you can make withdrawals at any time free of charge.
Like the High Yield Savings Account, SmartyPig has no minimum balance, no monthly fees, and no minimum opening balance. The APY is however on several levels. Balances of $10,000 or less enjoy an impressive 1.80% APY. This reverse APY level is designed to help encourage new savers to get into the habit of saving money.
SmartyPig offers a $10 referral bonus for every friend you refer who opens an account, sets a goal, and contributes to it.
|Sallie Mae Savings Accounts|
|Account name||Minimum opening deposit||Monthly fee||APY|
|High Yield Savings Account||$0||None||1.85%|
|SmartyPig||$0||None||1.80% for $10.00 and $10,000+|
Money market account
Sallie Mae Money Market Account offers a solid 1.85% APY on all balances. Interest is compounded daily and paid monthly, and there are no monthly service charges.
What may make the Money Market Account even more tempting for Sallie Mae customers is the fact that these accounts come with check writing privileges, meaning you can enjoy some of the benefits of a current account. However, it is important to remember that a money market account is not the same as a checking account, even if it comes with paper checks. For starters, there’s no associated debit card or ATM, so writing a check is the only additional method of accessing your money.
Certificates of deposit
Sallie Mae offers CDs in terms ranging from 6 months to 60 months. All CDs have a minimum opening deposit of $2,500. If you decide to terminate your CD before its maturity date, expect to pay a penalty. CDs with a term of 12 months or less have a penalty equal to 90 days of simple interest. Those whose term is greater than 12 months have a penalty equal to 180 days of simple interest.
The rates you can expect depend on the term length:
|Sallie Mae CD Prices|
All three credit cards offered by Sallie Mae are cash back cards, offering a no annual fee option that does not limit cash back earnings and offers a variety of bonus cash back rewards:
- Sallie Mae Ignite: It’s Sallie Mae’s student card. Cardholders can earn unlimited 2% cash back in the first year, plus a 25% bonus on base cash back after six consecutive on-time payments. After the 12-month introductory period, the percentage drops to 1% unlimited cash back.
- Sallie Mae Acceleration: Cardholders earn 2.5% unlimited cash back on all purchases for the first year, which drops to 1.25% unlimited cash back thereafter. You can also get a 25% bonus on any cash back used to pay off a student loan.
- Sallie Mae evolves: With this card, you earn 2.5% unlimited cash back in the first year, then 1.25% thereafter. The card also offers a 25% bonus on base cash back earned in your top two spending categories each month.
Sallie Mae Customer Service
Customers in need of assistance can contact customer service representatives by phone from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. If you need help outside of these times, you’re unfortunately out of luck. There is no online live chat or other help options.
Sallie Mae offers a mobile app for iOS and Android devices. It doesn’t seem to be well regarded by third-party reviewers.
It is also important to note that Sallie Mae, in her role as student loan provider and manager, has been accused of a number of unfair lending practices. While none of these issues relate to Sallie Mae’s banking offerings, consumers may want to keep these controversies in mind when deciding whether Sallie Mae is the right institution for them.
How to Bank with Sallie Mae
To open an account with Sallie Mae, you will need to connect to an external bank. This is the only way to fund your new Sallie Mae account. Once you have set up your new account, you will manage all your banking tasks and transactions either on the Sallie Mae website, using the mobile app or with the mobile text banking feature.
You can deposit checks using the app’s mobile deposit feature. Otherwise, you will have to deposit checks by mail.
None of the Sallie Mae accounts come with a debit card or ATM card, although the money market account includes check writing. If you need access to your money, you will need to transfer it from your Sallie Mae account to your external bank account.
For customers looking for a place to store savings that will be hard to access, Sallie Mae is a great choice. Rates are above average and accounts and products are set up to try to encourage savings and wealth building. The fact that there are no branches, ATMs, debit cards, or easy access to your money can be a major boon to any would-be saver struggling with financial discipline.
However, lack of access could also be a major detriment. Customers must have and maintain at least one other bank account to access any of Sallie Mae’s products and services, and anyone who needs to withdraw their money quickly would be poorly served by this online-only institution. Poor customer service and a history of student loan scandals can also put potential customers off.
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