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Sallie Mae Visa Signature Card Review: 2% Cash Back Credit Card?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Sallie Mae Visa Signature CardIn spite of its name, the Sallie Mae Visa Signature Card is available to everyone, not just those who may have a Sallie Mae loan. The card offers 2 points for every dollar spent with no limit to the number of points you can earn. You’ll also receive an intro 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 months (with a 5% uncapped fee) and 10,000 bonus points after spending $500 within your first 90 days of opening an account.

What are the points worth?
There are many point redemption options, including merchandise, travel, gift cards, paying down your Sallie Mae loan or cash back. Cash back redemption levels are tiered, per the following table:

Points Rebate Effective Cash Back %
2,500 $16.25 1.3%
5,000 $32.50 1.3%
7,500 $48.75 1.3%
10,000 $85.00 1.7%
15,000 $127.50 1.7%
20,000 $170.00 1.7%
25,000 $250.00 2.0%
35,000 $350.00 2.0%
50,000 $500.00 2.0%

As you can see, provided that you wait until you have at least 25,000 points to redeem, the Sallie Mae Visa is in fact a 2% rebate card.

How does it compare to other cash back cards?
With its tiered redemption schedule, the Sallie Mae Visa isn’t as convenient as the old Schwab card. It also has a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not the first card you should consider taking with you on your travels. It is, however, a Visa, which means you’ll be able to use it in a lot more places than the 2% Fidelity Amex. Unlike the Fidelity Amex, it also doesn’t require that you have a Fidelity account.

One other concern that I would have, however, is that it is very easy for a points-based card to pull a bait and switch and devalue your points. If the card becomes popular and Sallie Mae finds that it’s losing money, it would be very easy for them to change the cash rebate redemption schedule so that your points are suddenly worth a lot less.

For the moment, though, it is a rare opportunity to earn a 2% rebate on all of your purchases.

2% Sallie Mae Visa Link

The “Other” Sallie Mae credit card
Note: There is also another Sallie Mae credit card offer available at www.salliemae.com/5percent. That card offers 5% cash back on gas and groceries (on up to $500 in spending per month), 5% on books (on up to $1000 in spending per month) and 1% on everything else.

This “5% Sallie Mae” card appears less attractive overall than the 2% Sallie Mae option for a couple of reasons: 1) The amount of spending on which you can earn 5% is capped each month (which, depending upon your spending habits, may or may not be a big deal), and 2) its bonus categories overlap with other, often better, credit card choices.

For instance, the PenFed Gas Card offers a 5% cash rebate on gas with no spending cap. Similarly, the Citi Forward Card offers 5 points per dollar on books, movies and music with no cap. For groceries, the Amex Blue Cash Preferred Card has a 6% rebate, though at the cost of a $75 annual fee.

The best choice for you will, as always, depend on your spending habits. It’s worth noting that Sallie Mae does allow you to have both its credit cards, should you so choose.

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4 Responses to “Sallie Mae Visa Signature Card Review: 2% Cash Back Credit Card?”

  1. Rebecca Says:
  2. ccwatcher Says:

    Rebecca, excellent question. It does appear that most Amazon.com purchases indeed qualify for the 5% rebate under the books category. The only exception that has been reported so far is that a book downloaded to Kindle from Amazon only earned 1%.

  3. Devin Says:
  4. Bob Says:

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