Step by Step Guide to Lowering Sallie Mae Interest Rate and Payments

Michael Lux Blog, Lower Payments, Student Loans 54 Comments

The following eight simple steps will get your Sallie Mae interest rate lowered to 3% and as a result lower, your monthly payments. Here is the story of how I stumbled upon this method.

Note: The following steps apply to Sallie Mae Private loans.  Click here for ways to lower your federal loan payments.

Step #1: Get organized. Collect ALL of your monthly expenses. Know exactly how much you spend on rent, utilities, food, credit card bills/interest, and on your other student loans.

Step #2: Call Sallie Mae. Sometimes this can be the hardest part. Its easy to procrastinate on this until tomorrow, but each day you wait, each day your debt problems get worse.

Step #3: Talk to the right person. In my experience, the customer service people are useless. They will offer to lower your payment by .25% if you sign up for auto-withdrawal but that is it. Ask to be transferred to the collections department.

Step #4: As for the Rate Reduction Plan. Under the rate reduction plan your interest rate can be lowered to as little as 3%.

Step #5: Discuss your finances. The rate reduction plan is only offered based upon financial need. Get the paperwork you put together before your call and be prepared to explain your expenses. They will do the math with you over the phone. Be prepared to discuss what you can pay and how you plan on doing it.

Step #6: Make your monthly payments. Sallie Mae is not under any obligation to put you on this program and if you are not making your payments your balance will grow and you may even get booted from the rate reduction plan.

Step #7: If you can, pay a little extra. The lower rate does not last forever (as we will see in the next step), while you do have the 3% interest rate, take the opportunity to pay down a little extra on your principal. This will help you in the long run, especially when your rate jumps up again. Just be sure that the extra money you are paying is going towards a reduction in principal… this may be worth an extra phone call.

Step #8: Renew your application each year. The rate reduction program lasts only one year. At the conclusion of the year you can apply again provided your finances are the same.  I’m told this can be done for a maximum of 3 years.

Advantages of the rate reduction plan:

– It lowers your monthly payments to Sallie Mae!

– It lowers your interest rate with Sallie Mae!

– If your loan is delinquent and you make the payments for 6 months, your overdue balance will be set to zero and Sallie Mae will report that you are current to the credit bureaus.  This means your credit score will go up.

Sherpa Tip #1: This is a temporary fix. It lowers your payment and interest rate for a short period of time. Take advantage of this, but know that it does not last forever.

Sherpa Tip #2: This is not a term to your original loan agreement. Therefore, Sallie Mae is under no obligation to put you on the rate reduction plan. Be nice when dealing with your lender. If you are a jerk or rude on the phone, they will be much less inclined to help.  Its tempting to yell and sometimes nearly impossible to be civil, but it is in your best interests.

Please share your experiences, both successes and failures, in the comments section as it can help future readers.


  • Excellent advice and thorough article. We worked very hard to save so our daughters will not have much (if any) student loan debt after undergrad. I worry about graduate school, though. She wants to study in Scotland. She’ll be a freshman this year, so we really can’t waste any time figuring that out. There are only 6 graduate programs in the US in her chosen field.

    • Scotland? That sounds like a very exciting time! Putting together plans years in advance is a great idea, but if your daughter is anything like me, her interests may change a couple times before she graduates. If I can ask without getting to personal, what is the field that has only 6 programs in the US? That seems so small.

  • I was not aware of this program. It is good to know, it would definitely help with an aggressive debt payoff plan to have more of your payment going towards principal.

    • Agreed. Any chance you have to lower your interest rate, it is definitely worth a try.

  • Even if it doesn’t last forever, it’s still a great idea to do it. If you can lower your interest rate but then put the money that you would have spent on interest, onto your loan, you’re golden! Interest is expensive and there’s no point in spending more than you have to on it.

  • I always check that I have the best deal around, a little reduction of the interest rate can make a huge difference, especially if you keep the repayment amount the same. Great tip if you are with SM!

  • Do you know if this technique would also work for other student loans? We had ours through Direct Loan until they were sold off to other companies.

    • This technique could work with other lenders, as people in the collection department will almost certainly have more authority to help than customer service people.

      However, in your case, I suspect that your Direct Loan is a federal government loan rather than a private loan. There is not an equivalent procedure for lowering the interest rate on federal government loans (though that debate is in the news right now). If you are looking for ways to lower your monthly obligation, I’d encourage you to look into the different federal repayment plans.

  • ultine

    I got to the collections department with SM and they weren’t able to pull up my information either using my SSN or my account number. Probably because I’m not in collections status? I explained that I was interested in exploring the rate reduction program and that I wanted to go over my financial situation with someone and he said it depended on the type of loan I had and since he couldn’t pull it up he couldn’t help me. Should I try another time, hopefully get a different human? Anyone else with this problem?

    • Do you have a federal loan or a private loan with sallie mae?

  • Carina


    I have tried 2-3 times prior to reading this article and finding the Customer Advocacy number to lower my interest rate with Sallie Mae to no avail. I have yet to succeed. I just got off the phone with a customer service representative from the Customer Advocate Unit (888-545-4199). I came across this number while doing research online. I was informed that I did not “qualify” for the rate reduction (they offered to go as low as 1%) as I have other options available, forbearance. I don’t have money right now to pay for forbearance ($150), but I was pleased with the knowledge and great customer service the gentleman had to offer. It seemed as though he sincerely tried to help me. This is the first time since 2007 that I felt as though I was speaking to a Sallie Mae representative with a heart. I will update as soon as I gather money to go into forbearance and the interest rate on my private loans reduce to 1%. I hope Sallie Mae follows through with the information they gave me. Lastly, THANK YOU, “The Sherpa” for article.

    • Thanks Carina!

      I actually have to call Sallie Mae this week and I will try calling the Customer Advocate Unit if I have any trouble.

      I appreciate the tip.

    • Carina

      No problem. Once I had the money to pay for forbearance, I was told I only had 1 month available on a loan and 2 on the other, so it wasn’t convenient to go through with it. This month, I am planning on withholding my payment until I speak to Sallie Mae again. Maybe this method will allow them to see that I am struggling and they can give me a “break” on the interest rate, since I was told that they’d be able to lower it to 1%.

      Also, not sure if you are aware of loan forgiveness programs for federal loans. My Perkins Loan was put on deferment and in 5 years the amount will be forgive. I work full-time for a nonprofit organization and in 10 yrs, the remaining balance will be forgiven. One of the type of repayment options is income based, which is the plan I am in right now. Anyway, the program is called “Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program”, hope this helps someone!

  • Evan

    I’ve been making regular payments to Sallie Mae and my account has not shown any hardship. I’m lucky that I have a good job and am (ABSOLUTELY JUST BARELY!!) able to keep up with my $1400/mo loan payments to multiple lenders. But my Sallie Mae loans (I have 2 unfortunately) have interest rates of 8.75% and 12% so I’m looking for any way to get ahead and get more than a measly $60 of my $243/mo payment to go towards the principal. Sallie Mae collections dept. told me that because of my good-standing account, they couldn’t help me (talk about customer appreciation). I tried to tell them that my cash flow was negative and I had more loans coming out of deferment but no dice. Any ideas/go to buzz words/special phone numbers to get them to change their mind?

    • Great question Evan. I’d suggest you try a couple different things:

      First try doing exactly what you already did. I’m amazed at how the responses that you get vary day by day from Sallie Mae. I’d also suggest explaining to them that you realize that this plan is for people who have delinquent loans, but due to your cash flow situation, you are trying to be proactive. It doesn’t seem fair for them to penalize you for addressing a problem before it gets really bad. Do they really expect you to wait until you are behind on payments before you can sign up for this plan?

      Second, if the above plan does not work, call 888-545-4199. That is their customer advocate number. Explain to the customer advocate that you NEED to be on this plan to avoid falling behind on your loans. Tell this person how it seems absurd that it would only be available for people who are already delinquent. If you are headed in that direction, why can’t you address the situation now in a way that benefits both you and Sallie Mae?

      Please be sure to check back in and let us know how it goes!

  • Jessica Winn

    I have 2 Smart Option Student Loans with Sallie Mae. Altogether, they expect me to pay roughly $600/month – This is something I have been unable to afford so I’ve been in forbearance for the past 6 months. I’ve been trying to work with them to reduce my monthly payments, but they won’t budge. I have a great job, but between rent, gas, utilities, and other loans, I just cannot afford the $600 bill each month. I’d like to reduce my monthly payments and extend the time it takes for me to pay back my student loans (which in turn, SM will make more money off of me), but they won’t help me. The customer service people are always very nice, but the only thing they can do is a forbearance. I’ve tried going through other lenders to consolidate so I don’t have to deal with Sallie Mae anymore, but I’ve been hitting dead ends with them too. Who can blame them though? I’d imagine that it’s very hard for any person in their early 20’s to get a $35,000 loan. Would it be worth it to try contacting them again for this Rate Reduction Plan? Or am I at a dead loss because of the type of loan I got from them? (fyi – They pushed the Smart Option Student Loan on me, basically saying how wonderful and great it was, boy was I wrong).

    • The first thing I would say is that forbearance is not your friend. Each month you spend on it, your balance grows. This is not a viable long term solution.

      I’d also say that the customer service people are the least helpful at Sallie Mae. Many are very nice, but they have the least authority to help. I’ve had the best luck talking with people in collections, but you can also try their consumer advocate unit: 888-545-4199.

      Good luck!

  • SouthernHoosier

    Thanks for this tip!!! I’m having yet another “come to Jesus” period about my finances. It seems ridiculous to struggle like I do, and Sallie Mae historically is the worst to work with (especially when I was unemployed and they just didn’t care; I was expected to make my $300/mo payment even without a job). Tonight as I’m pulling expenses, etc together, Sallie Mae looks more ridiculous as what I’ve paid toward principal & interest over the past 3+ years and my current balance do not, at first glance, add up. So I’ll be calling them anyway – and now with your tip, once I have all my budget info in front of me, I can try to get a lower interest rate as well.

    I’ve got this page bookmarked – I’ll try to remember to let you know how it goes!

    Thanks again. 🙂

  • oscar

    I just wanted to point out from experience that Sallie Mae can either give loans, or just service them. If they service them, then they can’t lower your rates beyond that 0.25%, only the loan distributor can.

  • Adam Chester

    How about this. Would you be able to state you have much higher expenses, get the rate reduced to 3% and then make significantly higher payments (of course requesting the extra goes towards principle) to pay the loan down fast, or would they simply take you off the program if you are making higher/extra payments?

    • La

      This is an excellent question- does anyone have the answer for this?

  • Anonymous

    I spoke with Sallie Mae this evening, and while they were quite friendly and informative, they did not put me on the rate reduction plan. They were quite clear about only using this option for accounts that were already delinquent. After explaining to them that I was pro-active and due to unforeseen circumstances would not be able to make future payments at my current rate- they asked me to call back after my account went delinquent. According to Sallie Mae this is 15 days after the payment due date. I am prepared to not pay my debt, and to wait until it is 15 days delinquent and then call back and request the rate reduction plan. My questions, however – is: Will this will affect my credit report? I plan to only go delinquent for those 15 days. Thoughts?

  • Kayla Squires

    Is this for federal loans or just private loans? I have federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans (one at 5.35% and three at 6.8% fixed). After talking to customer service and the manager, I was told they do not do a rate reduction plan for federal loans, only for private loans through Sallie Mae. Also, they said they manage the federal loans but do not control the interest rates and therefore cannot authorize a decrease in interest for said federal loans. If they are managing the loans, shouldn’t they be able reduce the interest rate even if it is a federal loan? Are they just yanking my chain to avoid a rate reduction option?

    • You are correct, this only applies to Private loans with Sallie Mae. The rate reduction program seems to be designed specifically for people who have fallen behind on their private student loans.

      As far as student loan forgiveness goes, I would suggest reaching out to your lender to see if your work qualifies for Public Service loan forgiveness. If you are employed by a school, government, or non-profit, you could potentially qualify. Also keep in mind that there are loan forgiveness programs that apply regardless of occupation (though they do take much longer to get to). For further reading on the subject, check this out:

  • John

    Sherpa, will this work on an already consolidated loan that was sold to Sallie Mae?

  • MES

    Just an FYI — if you want to try to apply for this program, you have to actually be past due on your payment. My account is up-to-date, but I just called to see if I could enroll, and the customer service associate in collections told me that my account needed to be past due. AKA If you’re trying to be proactive and responsible about your loans, don’t bother, and instead just call them when your payment is late/past due. (this is why SallieMae is the worst.)

    • Betty

      Agreed. That is exactly what collections just told me. But i don’t want to start getting bad credit by purposely missing a payment -____- So this just feels moot….

    • Thex

      Sallie Mae accepts payment arrangement with the collections department 2 days before your due date. You don’t have to wait until after the due date. Also, you have to be 60 days past due for it to report on your credit.

  • giuls1

    I have a question, it might sound stupid but… is that 3% interest monthly? or is it the whole year? I havent lived in the US for the past 10 years so excuse my ignorance on the topic. I just want to know because im going back to the US this year and im looking for a student loan to study aviation. any help would be much apreciated, thanks!

    • Not a stupid question at all. The answer is somewhat complicated. The 3% is your yearly interest rate, HOWEVER, interest accrues on a daily basis. That means means the portion of your monthly check that goes towards interest will fluctuate from month to month depending on the exact timing of your payment, and holidays, etc.

  • beckythetechy

    To PP if you report Sallie Mae to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stating that they won’t work with you until you are late on your payment Sallie Mae’s consumer advocate department will call you VERY QUICKLY (24 hrs for me). I’ve been working with them for about a week and just got a call that they are going to put me on the rate reduction program for 15 payments @ 6% I have to call them back but I’m going to see if they will do the 3% listed in the article for 12 months.

    • Ralph

      beckythetechy, how much is the balance for your loan, if you don’t mind? just to give me an idea and compare to my case.

  • CKW

    I was up to date and they were going to allow me to join the program, except that I didn’t qualify financially despite being on unemployment. Not sure just how broke you have to be. Skip customer service and call the rate reduction people directly at 877-905-4527.

  • chet


    Guarantor: USA FUNDS

    Program: Parent Plus Loan

    My question is this a Federal or Private Loan?

    • Chet – Parent Plus loans are Federal government loans. You can be certain about what federal loans you have by going to to see a full list of all of your federal loans.

  • Jessica

    Anyone know how the rate reduction program works if I just got married? I’m currently enrolled in the first year of the program, but got married a month ago. When I go to reapply, will they take into consideration my husband’s income, or does that not play out because we haven’t filed taxes yet?
    And FYI- I’ll be filing as Married but Filing Single, not Joint. My federal loans can’t take that increase because I’m on their IBR program, as well as the PSFLP.
    Thank you for any help!

    • Great question. Because this is a program that was entirely created by Sallie Mae and not a part of any contract or federal term, how they handle it will be up to them.

      When you do find out, could you please let us know so that I can update the article? Thanks!

  • Christopher

    I wanted to share that I was able to enroll in the rate reduction program today without having to go into default first. My wife and I are expecting our next child in November. I was able to explain this to the collections department at Sallie Mae and they enrolled me in the program. I’m not sure if the new child was a deciding factor to be enrolled in the program, but I am current on my payments and the representative I spoke to seemed very willing to look for a program after providing financial information as described in the article.

  • Kristen

    I just got my rate reduced from 9.25% to 3%. When I called Sallie Mae customer service I was given the number to the Collection Rate Reduction Workout Plan(1-877-905-4527) but told they couldn’t help me until I was delinquent. I called anyway and explained I didn’t want to become delinquent. The representative Melissa was very nice and helpful. The phone call lasted 15 min and I was enrolled for a 3 month probation period and 12months lowered interest rate. She said at the end they would re-evaluate my situation. Thanks so much, this will save me thousands of dollars. And literally took no time at all. I can’t thank you enough. I would never have know to ask about this. They certainly don’t let you know this option is available.

    • Kristen I am so happy to hear about your success with Sallie Mae! Comments like this really make my day.

      Be sure to give yourself a pat on the back too. They definitely don’t make it easy, but when you are persistent, like you clearly were, good things happen. Congrats!

  • Jodioski

    What would your advice be to a student who cannot afford the payments? My son owes SallieMae 700.00 per month and is under employed due to a poor working economy. He lives at home, pays his car payment and insurance, has very little social life due to lack of funds and cannot make his student loan payments. He brings home about 300.00 per week and has offered to pay what he can afford but Sallie Mae insists on full payments. Sadly, his 84 year old grandmother cosigned for him in good faith and they are making her life miserable with daily calls and threaten to take her to court if he or she does not pay in full. She in turn calls her grandson and the cycle continues. My son insists it is most important for him to pay his other bills and save to get out on his owm. He is 26 and truly distressed over student loan issues that will haunt him for a lifetime. What can you offer in the way of wisdom? Please and thank you!

    • Josh Chaniago McCoy

      Hi Jodioski – That sounds like a horrible situation. I can definitely relate. When I graduated my minimum payments on all my student loans were around $900/month. Insane! Luckily I did land a good job after about a year but that was only a small part of what I think will be my resolution. I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class offered at a church nearby and it helped me learn some basics about personal finance and budgeting. I would recommend he do this if he can. It might be a good way to meet some other people focused on the same goal of getting rid of debt (maybe even give him connections for a job?). One whole lesson goes over debt collection and how to respond. It sounds like that one might be really good for him. There is a cost (around $90 for 9 weeks) but I really feel like it’s worth it.

      As personal advice – do not ever ever give up. Debt doesn’t define him and it wont unless he lets it. He’ll need your help to keep the right frame of mind. Stay persistent with that job search! There ARE good jobs out there despite what it feels like and what the news may say. They are hard to find but someone will find them and he’s no less qualified than the next person. A resource that helped me with my job search was a book called What Color is your Parachute. It’s a job search manual. Like the bible of job searching. He should absolutely pick it up and it’ll be in any bookstore or on Amazon. Keep your spirits up and pushing forward! He has his whole life ahead of him and freedom from debt IS possible. There are more of us out here finding our way too. Best wishes and prayers for you all on the journey!

    • Katgirl

      Oh Jodioski…it sounds like you wrote my son’s story! Mine (age 25) moved to an apartment with a friend but is hanging on by a thread. He has private loans with Wells Fargo and Genesis Lending totaling nearly 700 per month and SallieMae at 178 per month. We cosigned for the other 2 private loans so that pressures him to keep them current. The funny thing is, this SM loan just “popped” up this past year and he has been out of school (a for-profit nightmare…whole other story) for over 2 years. He tried to do an Income Based refinance with SM, due to his rent, car pymt, gas, insurance, utilities, private loans, groceries…etc., but they turned him down! Like your son, they are relentless in calling and do not care what his story is. He fully takes responsibility for these loans….but why of why will these people not work with these kids?! Like my son says, wouldn’t they rather receive reduced payments (more interest for them) than deal with collections? Like your son, he has very little social life and feels he will never be able to marry and have a family with all of his debt. My heart breaks for him…..and the fact that this hangs over his head every day. I feel for you and your son!

  • kayteeflick .

    My Sallie Mae Loan was moved to Navient Loans….any idea how this works for them?

    • In theory it shouldn’t be any different, but there is only one way to find out… keep us posted on how it goes

  • SFOTBRod

    I stumbled upon this page a week ago and followed the procedure and was luckily met with success. I called the 877-905-4527 number and requested to do the rate reduction program. I was super polite and congenial and I’m sure that helped.

    I went over my finances including rent, car payments, other student loans, credit cards, etc. The woman said she could lower my interest to 3% for 15 months which would help some, but she also mentioned she could lengthen the terms of the loan. She was upfront about being cautious in doing this since it makes the numbers look good but I’d end up paying more in the long run. But given my current situation and the fact that I’ll most likely be able to pay down more in the future, I accepted it.

    Overall the call took 34 minutes and my payment went from $680 to 420 a month, at least for the next year. Certainly worth the effort and I’d recommend this to anyone. She never mentioned forbearance or other options. Maybe my situation is more dire than others?

    Background: I’ve been paying about $1200/month in student loans (about 80% of that to Navient) for the past 4 years and it’s very demotivating and stressful living paycheck to paycheck, constantly overdrafting my bank accounts, and having nothing to show for my otherwise good salary. And to know that some of my loans won’t be gone until 2035 is even more soul-crushing. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to save up for a house or will be able to afford a kid?

    Hopefully at some point the government recognizes the spending (or lack thereof) pattern of the latest generation of college grads and comes up with some kind of relief/forgiveness plan. The rising cost of education and loans has for me, removed the prestige of a college education. Sure you may get a higher-paying job, but what does it matter if you’re indebted for most of your career?

    • SFOTBRod

      Forgot to mention, I was *not* delinquent on my loan when I called to apply. The lady didn’t even mention it, even though I was prepared to give the “I want to be proactive and not go delinquent” spiel. Maybe the whole delinquency aspect depends more on the person taking your call than being an outright policy?

  • jb

    Just wanted to include my experience. When I graduated school, sallie Mae had expected me to pay near $1000 per month. Absurd! How could anybody ever afford this..? I ultimately ended up forbearing my loans for 3 months at a time and at some point, I ran out of forbearance uses and had no choice but to pay. I sent them what I could afford to send, which was about $400. Obviously as this wasn’t enough, I started to receive phone calls multiple times a day. I ignored them for a week, but as seeing the number made my stomach churn each time it popped up, I finally answered and tried to talk it out with them. I explained there was absolutely no way that I could afford to make such high payments every month. Since my parents had consigned a couple loans for me, they told me that I needed to ask them for the money since they were also liable. I told them that my parents chose to no longer support me and had cut all communications with me for a personal issue (true or not, it took that option off the table) they put me through to collections and I was offered the rate reduction plan. I was fortunate enough for my private loans to be set at 1% for 15 months on the condition that I set up automatic withdrawal. I ended up paying $550 a month. After the period ended I called back and asked to be put in the program again. I was informed that this was a ladder or step-up program so I was ineligible for the 1% again, but I was able to be put in for 2%. Apparently around the same time, a few of my smaller private loans were bought out by the dept of education, so my private loan payments increased to only a few dollars more, even at the 2%. Unfortunately I also had dept of education loans to pay now too which didn’t qualify and came out to about $120, so overall I have been paying about $670. It was still very high but atleast it wasn’t $1000 and I was lucky enough to get a pretty good job with the year with a small raise and I could afford to pay that amount and just barely get by with my other monthly payments. November 2014 marked the last month of my loans sitting at 2%. I have been dreading and putting off logging on to navient to see what this months loans will have gone up to now they are back to their original interest rate ranging from 6% all the way up to 10%. I logged in today, and to my surprise, my entire loan payment for both my private AND dept of education loans are only $500… I checked my loans individually and they are all in fact at their original interests rates, but what I found was that pretty much every single loan had almost no interest amount. This is what led me to google how the IRR plan works, because as it appears to me, they plan is also designed to help significantly pay off almost all of the interest I had accrued on the loans.. (it also made payments towards my principle amounts so I wasn’t paying off only interest) Again I’m not sure how this worked but it seems to have really been in my benefit as now my payments at original interest rates are lower than they have ever been, and with all of the interest that I have been paying off over the past year, I will be able to claim the maximum deduction for student loan interest on my 2014 taxes, further increasing my refund next year!

    For comparison, when I graduated college I had amounted a soul crushing $160k worth of student loans. As of writing this today, I have brought it down to just over $140k. I can only hope that I become more successful in my future and can continue to increase the amount I send Navient. Hopefully I will be able to continue this trend and pay off about $8-10k per year, resulting in full repayment in the next 15 years. I can live with that!

  • K

    I have 2 private loans with Navient, one of which has a 9.75% interest rate. I make less than $2400/yr so you can imagine how that works out, especially since I also have state and federal education loans. So I read this article, got my information together, waited on hold for 20 minutes … for nothing. The rep really wanted me to just extend my loan terms (tack on another 20 years??? NO.) which coincidentally would also ensure that I could never touch the interest rate. I convinced her to take my statement but she was very discouraging about the whole thing and I still have to get my cosigners to give financial statements to even be considered for the reduction plan. I want to know who you people spoke to that got everything worked out in a single phone call!

  • Di

    Just called. EIGHT YEARS AGO I was 17 days late on a payment and that disqualies me for rate reduction. And yet others are being told that they have to be late or delinquent?


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  • Chantel Boyd

    @The Loan Sherpa, will you run the risk of getting kicked out of this plan if you apply for new credit? My credit cards are exiting the 0% APR period and I applied for a credit card at our Credit Union, but then afterward, I wondered if this would affect our situation with the rate reduction program we’re currently enrolling into? We’ve made our first payment.