Sallie Mae Review

Good returns for savings accounts and CDs ​
We recommend products and services based on unbiased research from our editorial team. We may receive compensation if you click on a link. Read More.

Sallie Mae Review

Sallie Mae was founded in 1972 and has been serving students and offering basic banking since then. While it’s best known for its student loan program and college-planning resources, it does offer savings accounts and CDs — which we’ll be focusing on for the purposes of this review.

Sallie Mae’s rates are competitive, with APYs similar to those of big-name competitors like Capital One. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer checking accounts or physical locations, so it may not be an all-in-one banking solution. However, it’s worth a look if all you’re searching for is a way to maximize your savings.

Pros
Cons
High-yield savings accounts
Good APYs
Simple online banking
No way to deposit funds unless you use another bank
$2,500 minimum required to open CD
No physical branches
Poorly rated mobile app

The Claim

Sallie Mae claims that you can “choose how you’d like to grow your money — whether you’re just starting out or working toward your next financial goal.”

Is it true?

Yes. With savings accounts, as Sallie Mae claims, customers have a few different choices as to how they can grow their money. There are options that come standard with most online banks, like CDs and a money market account, as well as a high-yield savings account that grows money at the same rate as competitors like Ally Bank. Sallie Mae also has a unique “piggy bank” account, which is billed as a tiered savings account but which currently sits at a high 1.75% APY for all balances. The account allows you to work toward your next financial goal by letting you create and track your savings goals — plus, you can set up automatic deposits from your bank account to make sure you’re consistently making progress toward your goal.

What Sallie Mae Offers

Savings accounts

Pros
Cons
No minimum balance requirement
Competitive APYs
No monthly fees
No access to cash
Poorly rated mobile app

Sallie Mae offers two savings accounts: a high-yield savings account and a SmartyPig savings account. Signing up with either will get you a better return on your money than with many traditional banks — the high-yield account currently has an APY of 1.70%, while the SmartyPig account currently sits at 1.75% for all balances. These rates rival those of big names like Capital One and Ally Bank, so if all you’re looking to do is grow your investment, Sallie Mae is a great option. Just keep in mind that Sallie Mae is an online-only bank with no checking accounts, so there’s no way to access your money at ATMs or at a branch. Additionally, managing your money on the go may not be a great experience: Sallie Mae’s banking apps are poorly rated, so you may want to do most of your banking on the desktop site.

Money market account

Pros
Cons
Relatively high APY
No minimum daily balance
Poor mobile experience

A Sallie Mae money market account is a viable option for customers who want to earn more from their money than they would with most banks. The current 1.75% APY is fairly high for a money market account, and with no monthly fees or minimum balance requirements, it could be a viable option for people looking to grow their savings but still have the ability to access money through check-writing. Accessing your account details on the go may be difficult due to Sallie Mae’s buggy app, but otherwise, its money market account has a lot going for it.

CDs

Pros
Cons
11 term lengths
Relatively high APYs for all term lengths
$2,500 minimum balance required

Sallie Mae’s CDs provide better returns than those of many other banks, and you don’t need to lock up your money for long to get a good rate. Sallie Mae’s shortest term is six months, and even that period currently gets an APY of 1.75%. In contrast, Ally’s high-yield CD only gets 1.00% for six months, so Sallie Mae is a particularly good option if you’re looking to invest for shorter periods of time. If you choose to invest for longer, though, you’ll get even better rates, with APYs climbing to 2.10% for a one-year term and 2.20% for a five-year term. Those rates are some of the highest we’ve seen — just keep in mind that Sallie Mae requires a minimum balance of $2,500 for all terms, so it’s not the best option for investing smaller funds.

Product Overview

  • In business since: 1973
  • J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Online Banking Satisfaction Study score: N/A
  • FDIC-insured: Yes
  • States served: 50
  • Number of locations: 0
  • Pros: Excellent APYs and student-focused financial resources
  • Cons: Online-only bank, no checking accounts

Features

Savings accounts
No minimum deposit required
High APYs
Online tools to track savings goals
Money market account
Relatively high APY
Check-writing privileges
CDs
Competitive rates
Minimum deposit of $2,500
Variety of term lengths

Information accurate as of December 20, 2019.

Good returns on savings accounts

Sallie Mae’s savings account APYs offer a solid returns, currently 1.70% with the high-yield account and 1.75% with the SmartyPig account. While these aren’t the highest rates on the market, they’re certainly among the most competitive, and the addition of savings tools with SmartyPig could make Sallie Mae an easy, simplified way to manage your investments.

Competitive CDs

Sallie Mae’s CD rates currently go as high as 2.20%, one of the best rates we’ve seen. And unlike with many other banks, Sallie Mae’s rates are good even for CDs with shorter term lengths. You’ll start getting the best returns when you invest for at least one year, but it’s nice to have the option of a shorter term if you’d rather not tie up your funds for that long. The only drawback is that Sallie Mae requires a minimum balance of $2,500, but that may be a small price to pay for the great returns you’ll get back.

Additional resources for students

While not tied directly to personal banking, it’s still worth mentioning that Sallie Mae specializes in helping college students with their loan products. It’s no surprise, then, that it has financial resources designed to help people just getting started — in or out of college — get on their feet. From college planning resources and personal loans to SmartyPig savings accounts, Sallie Mae keeps the education of its customers front and center.

Possible drawbacks

No traditional checking accounts

It’s impossible to have a “full” banking experience with Sallie Mae, because it doesn’t offer any checking accounts. Even though you can write a check from your money market account, the number of fee-free checks written is limited to six per statement period, and you won’t have any ATM access for emergency cash. This isn’t uncommon for savings accounts, but it also means that Sallie Mae may not be the right option for you if you’d like to keep all of your banking under one roof.

Poorly rated mobile app

For an online-only business, having a functional mobile app is critical. Unfortunately, Sallie Mae falls short. While its loan and college-planning app is praised, its banking app doesn’t enjoy the same high rating. Currently, the app earns a 2.2 out of five on both Google Play and the Apple App Store, with users citing clunky design and lots of bugs — including, for many users, the inability to even log in. A poor mobile app may not make a difference to you if rarely access your account on the go, but it’s an inconvenience nonetheless.

No branch locations

While branches are largely unnecessary for the types of products Sallie Mae offers, some customers prefer to be able to talk face to face while performing transactions or resolving issues. With Sallie Mae, you don’t have that option. If in-person banking is important to you, a hybrid bank like Capital One may better serve your needs.

The Competition

Sallie Mae Ally Bank Capital One TIAA Bank
Our review Our review Our review
J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Online Banking Satisfaction Study score
N/A
N/A
4/5
N/A
Minimum checking requirement*
No checking accounts offered
$0
$0
$25 for basic account $0 for high-yield account
Minimum savings requirement*
$0
$0
$0
$25
Maximum savings account APY
1.70% for high-yield account 1.75% for SmartyPig account
1.60%
1.70%
1.10%
One-year CD APY
2.10%
2.00%
2.00%
1.80% for basic account 2.05% for high-yield account
Monthly maintenance fees
$0
$0
$0
$5 or $0 with minimum account requirements $0 with high-yield checking account
24/7 customer service
Number of states served
50
50
50
50
Check rates Check rates Check rates Check rates

*Minimum required balance to waive monthly fees (if applicable)

Information accurate as of December 20, 2019.

Sallie Mae FAQ

How many locations does Sallie Mae have?

Sallie Mae has no physical branches, meaning you’ll have to conduct all of your banking online. If you need help with your account, representatives are available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.

What fees does Sallie Mae charge?

Sallie Mae charges very few fees compared to other banks, and none of them are monthly fees. Two to look out for are its $19 overdraft fee for transactions posted to accounts with insufficient funds and its $20 wire transfer fee for money wired to external accounts from your Sallie Mae account (but note that you won’t be charged by Sallie Mae for any incoming transfers).

The Bottom Line

All in all, Sallie Mae is a strong option for those who want competitive rates for depositing their money and letting it sit. If you don’t need to make a lot of withdrawals or transfers, you likely won’t have a problem with the lack of branch access or checking accounts. If you need to do your banking in person and need a solution that allows you to freely withdraw your money anytime you want, however, you may be better off checking out other banking institutions like TIAA Bank or Capital One, which offer similar returns but some in-person branches.