Sallie Mae Credit Card Review

Last Reviewed: 2/4/2012

Note: I am no longer able to find the Sallie Mae credit card offers on their website, so until I learn otherwise, I will assume this credit card is no longer being offered.  If anyone knows otherwise, please drop me a note!

sallie-mae-visa-card Well, I must confess that if it weren’t for a diligent GetDebit reader, I never would have even known about the existence of the Fannie Mae Visa Signature Card. Yup—overnight my impression of Sallie Mae has transformed from fuddy-duddy student loan processing company, to issuer of bad-ass credit cards. And lest Sallie fool you, this card is available to anybody, not just students or those with student loans.

“So what’s the big deal?”, you ask. Simple. The Sallie Mae Visa Visa card is a 2% cash back card with no annual fee. Doesn’t sound like much (certainly not as cool as “this card turns into Thor’s hammer on command”), but really that’s an amazing thing, and nearly impossible to find these days.

There is one “catch” when you go to redeem your points, but in my opinion it’s not a big deal, and you can read about it in full in the redemption section below.

Note: their website appears to have a glitch.  After completing the application, you are taken to some sort of personal identification page, which then crashes (I tried it on multiple browsers).  The good news:  apparently this step is not necessary in order for them to process your application, since I then got a phone call from Sallie Mae a few days later.  The bad news:  it does bring into question the overall efficiency of their operations.

Snapshot of the Sallie Mae Credit Card
Base Rewards 2 points per dollar of spend on all purchases.
Spend Target Bonus 10,000 bonus points if you spend $500 within first 3 months of card ownership.
Rewards Expiration Rewards don’t expire
Rewards Earning Caps No limit to the cash back you can earn
Redemption Options Check, statement credit, merchandise.
Redemption Restrictions Point value varies depending on the number of points redeemed. See redemption section below for more details.
Annual Fee $0
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%

Earning Points with the Sallie Mae Visa Card

You earn 2 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no earning limits. Additionally, points never expire. You’ll also earn 10,000 points if you spend $500 within 3 months of card approval. A pretty average spend target bonus, and not the main attractive feature of the card.

Redeeming Sallie Mae Visa Points

So while you can redeem your points for statement credits (same as cash), in order to capture the maximum value of your points (the full 2% cash back effect), you’ll need to make sure to redeem in increments of 25,000 points ($12,500 of spend) or more. Otherwise, your points won’t be worth quite as much, as the table below shows. While somewhat annoying, in my opinion this is a small price to pay for having such a piece of plastic firepower in your wallet.

Tiered Redemption Schedule For Sallie Mae Visa Points
Points Earned Rebate ($) Cash Back %
2,500 $16.25 1.3% (0.65% per point * 2 points earned)
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% (1.0% per point * 2 points earned)
50,000 $500.00 2.0%

Quick Comparison To Some Other 2% Cash Back Credit Cards

The Fidelity® Investment Rewards American Express® Card is also a 2% card, but it’s main drawback is that it’s an Amex (accepted in fewer places than Visa). A minor disadvantage is that you need to open and link a Fidelity account to your card, but we think this is a non-issue, since you don’t pay any fees for the account and don’t need to maintain a minimum balance (and can withdraw cash freely from it).

The Capital One Spark Business Card (which you can still get even as an individual), has a better 2% cash back program as there are no redemption tiers. However, you do pay a $59 annual fee after the first year. It also has the awesome no-foreign-transaction-fees feature, so that needs to be added into the mix. You can use the GetDebit Ranking Engine (which even allows you to specify the percent of your spend overseas) to run a true head-to-head comparison based on your own unique spending profile.

So What Do We Really Think About The Sallie Mae Visa Card?

Well, if you haven’t guessed it by now, let me spell it out to you: we really, really dig it. Man. This card is the 36-24-36 of plastic. With 2% effective cash back (assuming you are patient in your redemption strategy) and no annual fee, it’s a sure thing;)

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