Good financial habits can be rewarding for students with the Smart Option Student Loan from Sallie Mae, the nation’s No. 1 financial services company specializing in education. By making on-time in-school payments on their Smart Option Student Loans, Sallie Mae customers have received more than $2 million cash back awards into their Upromise by Sallie Mae accounts to help them pay for college. The Smart Reward benefit, introduced in 2010, pays customers 2 percent cash back on their regularly scheduled payment amount when they make an on-time payment on their Smart Option Student Loan while in college. “Paying for college is a significant commitment for any family, and in many cases it is a student’s first opportunity to participate in a major financial decision,” said Charlie Rocha, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “We’ve designed our loan program to promote financial responsibility by encouraging families not to wait until graduation to start loan payments, even nominal ones, and rewarding them for it.” In fact, 56 percent of Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan customers this academic year chose to make in-school payments. As a result, they received a lower interest rate, are eligible for the Smart Reward and are on track to pay less interest overall than customers who elected to defer payments while in school. Rewards for on-time payments go into the student’s Upromise by Sallie Mae account, and can be used to help pay down his or her eligible Sallie Mae loan, transferred into an FDIC-insured Sallie Mae High-Yield Savings Account or turned into a check for expenses like books. Students and their family members can earn additional rewards making everyday purchases with Upromise. In fact, Upromise members have transferred more than $17 million to help pay down their loans since the program began in 2001. Private education loans are designed to bridge the gap between family resources, scholarships and grants, federal student loans and the full cost of a college education. Sallie Mae’s Smart Option Student Loan offers interest rates among the lowest in the country and choices to help customers save money and pay off faster than a conventional private loan. Customers are encouraged to make payments while in school to help minimize finance charges and the overall cost of the loan, build a credit record and repay their loans faster.