Sallie Mae Has No Idea Where Your $1500 Is

Heidi writes:

I recently completed a 3 year enlistment with the US Army, and one of my benefits was the student loan repayment program. The Army paid off my student loans, 1/3 of the loan per year for three years, making payments directly to my lender, the infamous Sallie Mae. The first two payments were a month or two later than the Army said they would be, but still, free money, and I made the small in-between payments to keep the account current.

Then I finished my enlistment, was honorably discharged, and waited for the last payment to come in. It was 4 months late and when it got there (mid-December), it looked like it was $1500 MORE than what was left owed on my account. I called the Army and they confirmed that they had payed the correct amount they owed me, taking interest into account. The overpayment belongs to me. Yay, more free money!

Alas, no such thing…

I called Sallie Mae to see how they would handle the overpayment. They said a check would be sent to me about the third week in January and to call them back if it didn’t arrive. Mid-February, the check has not appeared and I called Sallie Mae again. They said the problem may have been my recent address change and said they would stop payment on the first check and send a second one. It would take 3-4 weeks.

Late March, the check has still not arrived, and I call Sallie Mae again. Reading Consumerist pays off – I recognize that the customer service representative does not speak English as well as it appears and is using the “keyword” strategy…meaning she spouts phrases irrelevant to the situation I describe based on words she picks out of my description seemingly at random. I ask to speak to a supervisor, who surely must speak English better than the service rep did.

Sadly, he speaks better English than all three of the representative I had previously spoken to – since all of them had given me the wrong information. The check had never been sent to me at all. Since the overpayment was made by the Army, the money had been sent back to the Army. Simple company policy. Which not one of the service reps apparently knew about. The payment on the first check had never been stopped because the Army had already cashed it. No one at Sallie Mae though this might be important to tell me.

My $1500 has been with the Army since January, and I should have spent all this time trying to get the money from them. The supervisor declined to pay the interest on the money I could have been collecting all this time (sure a lender understands about interest and timely payments) but was very sorry. Suffice to say, Sallie Mae will never get my business again.

Heidi, Colorado Springs

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Anybody else remember the old days when all these pictures were funny like this one? Its half the reason I liked coming here. :)

  2. lilmiscantberong says:

    I so agree!

    Flickr Pool anyone?

  3. TechnoDestructo says:

    Fortunately, Sallie Mae doesn’t have to care about customer satisfaction, because they do not, once you’re done with school (in other words, once they start fucking around with you), depend upon repeat business.

    Also, they don’t care if you go elsewhere because they can just buy your loan. HAHAHA, SERVES YOU RIGHT FOR TRYING TO ESCAPE.

  4. trecool95 says:

    The Army agreed to pay her student loans and they did. Since they are the ones who overpaid, shouldn’t they get the money back? Free money is nice but don’t expect it when you don’t deserve it.

  5. SadSam says:

    totally not free money, you earned that money by serving in the Army.
    Send some of your Army buddies to collect that $. Better yet, call up your local teevee station and explain your problem, you served this glorious country for 3 years to pay off the beast that is Sallie Mae and now SM is holding your money hostage.

  6. ThinkerTDM says:

    Can you explain how it is your money again? Seems to me the Army sent the last payment to Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae realized that it was too much, and sent it back to the people who were paying on the loan. That’s the Army. The Army probably then realized they overpayed, and cashed it.
    So, its not your money.

  7. ThinkerTDM says:

    @SadSam: So if you work at Best Buy, it’s ok to take a “teevee”? If you work at a pizza place, it’s ok to help yourself to pizza whenever you want?
    The deal seems to be fair- 3 years working for the Army, student loans get paid off. NOT student loans get paid off, and a big bonus at the end. Especially after 3 years.
    I am paying my student loan for 30.
    Heidi should consider herself lucky that she doesn’t have a student loan, and move on.

  8. drallison83 says:

    It sounds to me like the $1500 is for the payments she made in between the payments from the army?

  9. selianth says:

    @ThinkerTDM: @ThinkerTDM: Except she called the Army and they confirmed that the overpayment was supposed to belong to her. Says so right in the article.

  10. Mr_D says:

    @ThinkerTDM: It quite clearly states that she called the Army, and that the overpayment was hers to keep. Also noted in the article that “The first two payments were a month or two later than the Army said they would be” and “I made the small in-between payments to keep the account current.” The overpayment is probably due to those in-between payments. Either way, it was an agreement between Heidi and the Army.

    Hey, let’s blame the victim and not even read the article!

  11. ThinkerTDM says:

    @selianth: You’re right. The Army never makes mistakes. Especially accounting ones.

    Actually, since the Army now has the money (Sallie Mae doesn’t) she should call them up and ask for it back.
    Calling Sallie Mae won’t get her money back- because they DON’T HAVE IT!

  12. chemmy says:

    Call them back and insert additional keywords to confuse and fluster them.

  13. Youthier says:

    @ThinkerTDM: The problem was that she thought Sallie Mae had the money and it took them a really long time to tell her that.

    If Sallie Mae had told Heidi the policy in the first place, she would have called Army.

    The letter doesn’t sound like she’s upset that they didn’t send her the money – sounds like she’s mad that their reps suck so much.

  14. timmus says:

    Several months ago my wife tried to get an itemized statement of her Sallie Mae account. The guy on the other end ignored her and kept deflecting the conversation towards selling her a home loan. Unbelievable.

  15. Falconfire says:

    Right now Im fighting with them to stop lowering my loan payments. I started the year at 100 dollars a month, Im now down to almost 60, each time making my loan LONGER to repay. Every time I tell them to stop doing that (since they are not lowering the interest rate, just the payment.) they promise to stop, then do it again the next month.

    It really wouldnt bother me if I didnt have direct withdrawal, because I would just pay more than they are asking. But I only did that BECAUSE it lowered my interest rate, which almost seems not worth it if they are going to lower my rate but then lower my payment to make me pay more anyway.

  16. Hamm Beerger says:

    @ThinkerTDM: It says right in the article that she knows she should have been calling the army this whole time.

    You just can’t be bothered to read, huh?

  17. Hamm Beerger says:

    @ThinkerTDM: From the article: “My $1500 has been with the Army since January, and I should have spent all this time trying to get the money from them.”

    You just can’t be bothered to read before you comment, huh?

  18. Is it legal to record calls with CSRs? Do you need to inform them or something? CSRs flat out lie so often these days that it almost makes good sense to record what they say so that the next time you call the supervisor you have to beg to speak with doesn’t say “Hmm, well, I don’t know who told you that because it’s simply not true, we don’t do that here…”.

  19. razremytuxbuddy says:

    Just guessing here: Sallie Mae’s relationship may be with its borrower; not the Army. If Sallie mistakenly decided on its own to send money to the Army, that doesn’t excuse Sallie from refunding the overpayment to the borrower. In that case, Sallie needs to pay the borrower now, and it’s up to Sallie to recoup the money it erroneously paid to the Army. Personally, I’m real glad to be done with the Sallie Mae circus.

  20. aka Cat says:

    The money is hers, the Army says so. (And she needs to start pestering them to get the money back.)

    The Sallie Mae CSRs suck. Or, their comprehension skills do. The result is the same.

    But how does that equal SM owing her interest? The Army’s had the money all this time.

  21. ThinkerTDM says:

    @Jim Thome’s Self-Cleaning Oven: First of all, I did read the article. She does not offer any proof that the money is hers; in fact, she states that it is, in fact, “free money”. Which tells me that she knows it is not hers. Otherwise, she would have said “reimbursement”.
    If she paid $1500 to Sallie Mae, then she should get it back.
    Granted, she realized much further in the game that she should have been calling the Army for her “free money”, not Sallie Mae. Is poor customer service a surprise for her?
    If the money is truly owed to her because she paid $1500 extra, then I apologize.
    However, if she is trying to get $1500 that an accounting oversight provided, then thats wrong.

  22. chrisjames says:

    @razremytuxbuddy: I think it’s a little less cut-and-dry. It seems to me that the borrower should be the one eating the payments, not any third party that decides to put money towards a loan. There may have been an agreement between the Army and Heidi, but that should be moot to Sallie Mae.

  23. Anonymous says:

    While not exactly a horror story, I’ve had my own dealings with Sallie Mae just yesterday. I did a 4 year stint at SUNY Oneonta, and my loans wound up with them. I’ve been paying it off the 14th of every month for the past 3 years. Recently I started online classes at UMass Lowell, which is being covered under my company’s tuition reimbursement program. I went to pay my student loan yesterday, only to find out that I’ve been placed on In School Deferment until June of 2009. I was given no notice and no opportunity to address this. I called Sallie Mae and my conversation with “Sharon” (do people from India generally use American names?)went something like this.
    Me: “My student loan was placed on In School Deferment until next summer without my knowledge or approval. I would like to know when my loan was deferred and who requested said deferment.”
    Sharon: “Just a moment…(3 minutes of hold music later)..Your loan is on In School Deferment until June of 2009, is there anything else I can help you with?”
    Me: “Yes, you can answer the questions I just asked…”

    /pulling hair from scalp

    While I don’t mind it terribly that I now have some extra money to save each month, I now have to finish paying my loans off a year later, all while the interest keeps racking up. I’ll pay off the interest each month and set the other half aside I guess. It would have been nice if somebody had told me though.

  24. Xkeeper says:

    @Jim Thome’s Self-Cleaning Oven: First of all, I did read the article. She does not offer any proof that the money is hers; in fact, she states that it is, in fact, “free money”. Which tells me that she knows it is not hers. Otherwise, she would have said “reimbursement”.

    I refer to some of the money I make from my job “free money”, because it’s easy to make. Does that immediately mean it isn’t mine?

    However, this article’s comments disgust me. What happened to people who actually READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE?!?!

    Here, here’s a 5-step summary of the damn thing for you lazy idiots:

    1. Army says they’ll pay student loans*

    2. Army overpays, says it’s hers

    3. Sallie Mae says they sent her a check for the overpayment

    4. Sallie May was lying, actually sent it to Army

    5. She’s going after the Army now

    (* This probably means that they’d pay her for how much they were; i.e., if she had a $5000 loan, they’d pay $5000, regardless of how much of it was left due to her making payments on it.)

    Reading the article isn’t hard, guys. Try it. Really.

  25. Xkeeper says:

    Refresh, refresh, refresh… is it that hard to make a site that doesn’t eat comments, Gawker?

  26. ThinkerTDM says:

    @Xkeeper: If the Army truly did overpay, why does that mean a bonus for Heidi?
    If I was paid $100 more in my pay check, and my supervisor says to keep it, it’s still not mine to keep. It belongs to the company I work for.

  27. GearheadGeek says:

    @Falconfire: Simple solution (since Sallie Mae can’t seem to get THEIR act together) is for you to send additional payments on top of their automatic withdrawals. It’s less convenient, but if you have free bill-pay with your financial institution you should be able to set up something automatic and just monitor it (so you can adjust it if/when Sallie Mae randomly changes your payment again.)

  28. GearheadGeek says:

    @ThinkerTDM: If the Army overpays and tells Heidi that any refund from Sallie Mae belongs to her (and that would be a good thing to get in writing, all things considered) then it does in fact belong to her. The entity providing the money said the money is hers.

    Your earlier argument that she knew it wasn’t hers because she called it “free money” just doesn’t hold water. She called it free money after duly informing the Army that they’d overpaid and being told it was hers. Hell, lots people think of their income tax refund as “free money” and they paid it themselves through the course of the year!

  29. Whtthfgg says:

    Sallie Mae never adds overpayments to your principle no matter how many times you tell them. They just keep pushing out your next payment due date. I have written it on the check, wrapped the check in a note, called customer service….it never helped

  30. Buran says:

    @Jim Thome’s Self-Cleaning Oven: You really don’t have to be that insulting once, let alone twice…


    This is the best graphic ever.

    Thanks, Ben!

  32. cde says:

    Sallie Mae is not in the wrong (for once). The army is not in the wrong either. The “victim” is in the wrong. She’s been hounding the wrong company for the money. Call up your old CO or enlistment officer and have him help you out. The Army will give you the least amount of grief over the money they owe you.

  33. Youthier says:

    @cde: She’s been hounding the wrong company for the money.

    Which was exactly the OP’s point! She feels like an idiot for hounding Sallie Mae when really, she should have contacted the Army. But Sallie Mae never said “We sent the money to the Army”. They kept saying “We sent the money to you.”

  34. kabuk1 says:

    OMG Sallie Mae is fucking EVIL. I don’t care who’s right or wrong in this story, I wish nothing but downfall and misery on Sallie Mae. Here’s my tale of ennui with them.

    In 2005 I enrolled at Vatterott College here in OKC(which should be a contender for worst school in america), for IT/programming. The course was going to cost a total of almost $21,000. Yes, that says twenty-one THOUSAND dollars. Almost as much as a real college. I would recieve my bachelor’s degree, they told me. Wow, a real degree! Pretty cool. So I apply for my Pell Grants & loans, and recieve about 10k in Pell grants & the rest from Satan Mae. Once I get in the class however, I realize that it is complete & utter BULLSHIT. Guess what the curriculum was? We had a professor who, every day, would tell us to read the chapter & do the assignments. On our own. That’s right- this joke of a school was charging each student TWENTY-ONE GRAND to teach THEMSELVES the material. I could have spent $100 at Barnes & Noble & gotten the same education. So needless to say I dropped out. The financial people told me that if I stuck it out another week till the end of the phase, I’d owe $0. They were going to use one of the Pell grants to pay for the 2 months I’d been there & send all the loans back. Lo & behold, about a year later & get an angry collection letter from sallie mae demanding the almost 2 grand that I never knew I owed them! Turns out the school flat out LIED to me and instead of using the pell grant, they used the loan. And surprise, when I went back to bust some heads, NONE of the original financial people were still there! So I’m fucked. I don’t even have my original paperwork cause my idiot ex threw it all out, and the school has ‘no record’ of me owing nothing.

    Sallie Mae could give a shit less that I was DEFRAUDED. I explained the situation to them & the uber-bitch of a manager actually said “Well there’s nothing we can do. We’re getting our money either way so we don’t care about the situation.”

    I HATE Sallie Mae.

  35. Anonymous says:

    @trecool95: No the army agreed to pay it all, the OP “made the small in-between payments to keep the account current.” In other words the army agreed to pay a flat amount, not a general “we’ll clear the books” but X dollars. The OP paid some money too, apparently about $1500 over the years. This is her money used to keep the loan current, not the armies. The only issue here is that Sally Mae couldn’t get their hands to work together for 3 months.

  36. chrisgeleven says:

    I am currently fighting Sallie Mae because I sent in a co-signer release form (to release my father from his co-signer requirements) in February and just found out yesterday that they supposedly “never received” it.

    Since I qualify for the co-signer release (never missed a payment for now 48+ months), I imagine losing my co-signer release form is easier then sending an approved/deny letter to me. After all, given how slow Sallie Mae operates, I assumed for 3 months that Sallie Mae was still processing the co-signer release form. I imagine they

  37. pigeonpenelope says:

    @TechnoDestructo: exactly, they do not care about customer service. when i got my student loan in community college, i got my loan with wamu. shortly thereafter, my loan was sold to sallie mae. they’ve been the nastiest company to work with. i hate sallie mae. hate them. would rather work for wally world cleaning toilets with my toothbrush than deal with sallie mae.

  38. pigeonpenelope says:

    @kabuk1: sallie mae is horribly evil. i made a payment online and it never officially went through. i was past due. i called them and said i made may payment and wasn’t past due. the guy in the collections department demanded a payment and when i said i would not make a payment until i verified with my bank they did not take out the funds, he got very nasty and said i refused to make my payment. he tried to strong arm me into making a payment i wouldn’t be able to make if it the original money had gone out of my account. he was so rude, i asked for his manager. of course, he adamantly refused saying they were busy and didn’t have time for my piddly business. i hung up and called back in immediately requesting a manager. after several transfers, I finally got to one (maybe) who didn’t give two craps what my experience was. they weren’t helpful and said i lied about making my payment online since their website didn’t show i did.

    may sallie mae rot in hell but only after a class action lawsuit that puts them under.

  39. zolielo says:

    Similar situations happen in my line of work. When we pay for an item or a service for the individual any excess is contractually returned to the government. Generally not much more than estimates or the bids.

    I believe that only one documents explains that the extra will return to us. So when people sign without diligent reading… There is no argument about making a gift of public money.

  40. eat-purple says:

    I spoke to a SM CSR yesterday, and the first person I spoke to only was able to answer one of my questions. I asked her where her call centre was located and she said it was located in India. I asked to be transfer to a call center located in the US and that I had nothing against her, but we weren’t communicating properly about the situation at hand.

    When I finally got to someone on our side of the world, the person I talked to had an attitude with me. I told her that I wanted the late fee removed for the month of February because they didn’t send me a bill. She said that it was my responsibility to keep up with that and that I had signed up for online bill pay. I told her that I signed up for online bill pay after the fact and she said it didn’t matter, that it was my responsibility and that it is a “courtesy” from Sallie Mae to send me a bill.

    I told her that they never sent me a bill, and not sending me a bill or not giving me a call to remind me that my payments would start soon would mean that I probably wouldn’t have to pay for it yet. She then went on saying that they didn’t have to send me a bill by mail, and that if they did, they could stop at any time.

    No bill, no pay.

    Any company of that magnitude would say the same thing: If I don’t receive an invoice (same thing as a bill) then that means I owe you nothing.