How do I pay off my student loan?
March 30, 2005 12:26 PM   Subscribe

I owe around $18,000 to Sallie Mae in student loans. I live in the UK. And, now, Sallie Mae has decided to not accept credit cards...

Because, you see, for the past five years, what I've been able to do is call up Sallie Mae each month and pay the monthly bill by credit card. It was a pain, but it worked. I didn't have to have a US bank account, I didn't have to worry about money orders being mailed overseas, I certainly didn't have to worry about the surcharges that came with transferring money, and with the exchange rate as it is, it wasn't half bad.

Except that, now, they don't accept credit cards. Which means that my entire system has gone down the toilet. They say it costs too much for them to accept credit cards, but I'm not quite certain how that works out — since they've just made it near-impossible for people who live overseas to pay their loans off. Thanks, guys.

We think what we're going to do is take out a loan over here, pop it into our bank account, and then pay off Sallie Mae all at once with an electronic transfer. It sucks, and it's definitely not what I would want to do, but the exchange rate is still pretty good.

But does anyone else have any other ideas? Or suggestions for loan companies in the UK that aren't going to break our legs with interest rates and/or hired goons?
posted by Katemonkey to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What about online bill payment services that do electronic funds transfers? For example, CheckFree - I don't see any mention about not accepting overseas customers, though their site reads as if they don't send paper checks to unlisted companies, as they used to the last time I used them (10+ years ago...)

Alternately, and I am sure a number of people will pop up and sing the horror stories, there's always PayPal's billpayer service. Sallie Mae IS one of the listed recipients.
posted by phearlez at 2:30 PM on March 30, 2005

Open U.S.-based bank account ( is online, and makes scheduling EFTs in/out very easy). Setup monthly transfer of payment amount into the U.S. account. Check with Sallie Mae regarding any interest rate discounts for letting them do auto-withdrawals from the account, otherwise schedule monthly EFTs there too. But hopefully Sallie Mae will nick a .25-.50% off for taking the money out themselves. Banks like to have that guaranteed cash flow.

Just keep the U.S. account padded with an extra month or two's payment amount, in case a transfer ever gets screwed up or the exchange rate leaves you a little short.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 8:14 PM on March 30, 2005

If you have an okay credit score, you can apply for UK credit cards that have an introductory interest free period. This can last for 6 months sometimes 9. Then you can apply for another card and shift the balance across before it runs out.

Even if your credit limit doesn't cover the whole loan, any debt you can shift around on these cards will not be costing you interest.
posted by lunkfish at 12:27 AM on March 31, 2005

have a look at for more info
posted by lunkfish at 12:28 AM on March 31, 2005

Best answer: I was in nearly the exact same situation, living in the UK, paying off my Sallie Mae student loan and trying to figure out the best way to make payments. (And can I just ask, Katemonkey, is there a company with worse friggin customer service out there? I mean, I've been wowed by terrible customer service before but Sallie Mae really takes the cake.)

Anyway, I ended up doing exactly what you proposed and got a loan through my bank (HSBC Offshore) and just paid off Sallie Mae in full. With the exchange rate artificially high right now (though it is coming down again) you can save some serious bucks in the long run by paying it off now with sterling. HSBC Offshore are great imo and if you don't have an offshore account for UK tax purposes, do it! ( quote Vince Vaughn in Starsky and Hutch)
posted by lazywhinerkid at 12:47 AM on March 31, 2005

Response by poster: And can I just ask, Katemonkey, is there a company with worse friggin customer service out there? I mean, I've been wowed by terrible customer service before but Sallie Mae really takes the cake.

Aside from the apathy mixed with confusion ("You want claims aversion? But you're up to date!" "I want to make a credit card payment." "You can do that?"), the constantly-changing navigation system, and the fact that it took me five different phone calls (and, finally, getting my husband on the phone because they listen to a British accent a lot better than an American accent, apparently) to find out that I could pay by credit card... I think the "accidental" hang-ups are going to be what I miss the most.

Thanks, lazywhinerkid — it really does sound like the best option. We've been checking out rates and other information, so it'll be research day at the banks on Saturday to find the best one for this.

In my dream world, along with Fannie Mae, Sallie Mae gets busted, and billions of student debt suddenly disappears from their systems.

Of course, that'll probably happen right after I repay it in full...
posted by Katemonkey at 5:02 AM on March 31, 2005

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