*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.
This article was last updated Oct 25, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Sallie Mae —the country’s largest student loan lender — recently launched three new credit card products: the Sallie Mae Ignite℠, the Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ and the Sallie Mae Evolve℠.
In addition to offering cash back on every purchase, these cards offer $0 fraud liability, the ability to instantly pause your card, customized alerts, free FICO® credit scores and up to $600 in cellphone protection when you use your Sallie Mae card to pay your cellphone bill. Additionally, cardholders have access to a mobile app that lets you pay bills, view transactions and digitally dispute fraudulent charges.
In this post, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each card to help you determine if one is the right fit for you.
In this article:
- Best for students — Sallie Mae Ignite℠
- Best to pay down student loans — Sallie Mae Accelerate℠
- Best for bonus cash back — Sallie Mae Evolve℠
- The bottom line
Best for students — Sallie Mae Ignite℠
The Sallie Mae Ignite℠ is designed to help students establish or build credit. Cardholders earn Unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase. Earn a 25% bonus on your cash back for making six consecutive on-time payments.
What else we like. The $0 annual-fee Sallie Mae Ignite℠ card comes with a 0% Introductory APR for purchases for 6 months, after that a 14.74% to 24.74% Variable APR applies. That said, we recommend that you pay your balance in full each month. When that’s not possible, be sure to pay more than the minimum amount due.
What to look out for. The Sallie Mae Ignite℠ card does not offer a sign-up bonus. So if you’re a college student who’s hoping to earn an influx of cash upfront to use towards books, rent, tuition or other college expenses, the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ card doesn’t offer that.
There are, however, student credit cards that offer cash back on every purchase as well as a sign-up bonus. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students, for example, lets cardholders earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%. Additionally, cardholders earn $150 cash rewards bonus after making at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
Best to pay down student loans — Sallie Mae Accelerate℠
The Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ card gives you bonus cash back when you use your rewards to pay down your student loan. The card offers Unlimited 1.25% cash back on every purchase, and a 25% bonus on your cash back rewards used to pay down your student loans
What else we like. The Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ card offers a 0% Introductory APR for purchases for 12 months, after that a 14.74% to 24.74% Variable APR applies. This extended intro 0% APR period can help if you want to break down payments over time for a large purchase, such as a new laptop or car repair.
What to look out for. While the ability to earn additional cash back when using your rewards to pay down student loan debt is an added bonus, there are cards available that offer 1.5% cash back on every purchase, as well as a sign-up bonus.
For example, the $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Unlimited® card lets you earn Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card also offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. Additionally, the card comes with a $0 annual fee and offers a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
Best for bonus cash back — Sallie Mae Evolve℠
The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ card lets cardholders earn Unlimited 1.25% cash back on every purchase. Automatic 25% bonus on the cash back earned on your top two purchase categories each month.
For example, let’s say you spent $600 on groceries and $400 on dining out in one month. If those are the two spending categories in which you spend the most that month, instead of earning $12.50 cash back on those purchases, you will earn a total of $15 cash back.
What else we like. The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ comes with a $0 annual fee. Additionally, you will receive a 0% Introductory APR for purchases for 12 months, after that a 14.74% to 24.74% Variable APR applies.
What to look out for. While the opportunity to earn bonus cash back in the top two categories you spend the most in each month is a solid offer, there are cards that offer higher cash back rates. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, for example, lets you earn bonus cash back in the category of your choice each month.
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card cardholders earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases, 1% cash back on every purchase. Choice categories include gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings, and can be changed one time each calendar month.
Additionally, cardholders earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
The bottom line
Whether you’re a student who’s trying to establish credit, a graduate paying down student loans or simply interested in earning bonus cash back, there’s a Sallie Mae card for you. But if you want the opportunity to earn a higher cash back rewards rate and a sign-up bonus, there are a variety of other cashback rewards cards to choose from.
Read: Best Cashback Credit Cards.