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The Sallie Mae MasterCard offers great cash back rewards for people who spend a lot on Amazon, books, gas, and groceries. While this card was designed with students in mind, we believe it can benefit a much broader audience of consumers. You also don't have to be a student or have a loan to be eligible for the Sallie Mae credit card, either. As we'll explain, this can serve as a great standalone card for people with lower credit card spending, or an excellent supplement to other credit cards to maximize rewards.
Review: Is the Sallie Mae Credit Card a Good Value?
The Sallie Mae Credit Card offers one of the best savings on Amazon.com purchases. Its 5% cash back on purchases made on the website is matched only by two other cards: the Upromise MasterCard and the Amazon Prime Store card. The Upromise card comes with a series of massive hurdles and the Amazon Prime store card can only be used on the website. We think the Sallie Mae MasterCard is great for those people looking for simplicity of use, coupled with fantastic savings on, not just Amazon, but gas and grocery purchases as well (5% on up to $250 in spending each month with each category).
We only wish the card came with a better welcome bonus, instead of the low $25. With so many other credit cards on the market giving out high value bonuses – some as high as $100 – the Sallie Mae credit card really falls short in this aspect. In the long-run, good everyday savings should out-pace the initial boost you’d get from signup offers of other cards, but for anyone who is interested in getting the best deal fast, this may be a deal breaker.
The rewards earned with the Sallie Mae MasterCard may be used as statement credit on your bills, or funneled to pay down a Sallie Mae loan (if you have one). It is a common misconception that you need an existing Sallie Mae loan in order to apply for this card. That is not true! Anyone can apply and reap its benefits. You do not get any extra value out of using your rewards to pay down a Sallie Mae loan.
What are the Benefits & Features of the Sallie Mae MasterCard?
Sallie Mae credit card users receive 5% cash back on the first $250 of gas and grocery purchases spent per month. Gas and groceries have separate ceilings, so if you max out on spending at the pump of $250 plus buying $250 groceries at stand alone supermarkets, then you'd earn 0.05 x ($250 gas + $250 groceries) = $25 in rewards on your Sallie Mae card. Sallie Mae may distinguish between groceries purchased at supermarkets versus grocers. From what we've seen, the 5% rewards typically gets applied on groceries purchased from smaller grocery stores.
Cardholders also earn 5% back on “eligible book purchases” – for up to $750 in spending per month. The reason book purchases is in quotations is because we found a small loophole that could allow cardholders to earn rewards on more than just books with this discount. We found that all physical items - even hardware or kitchen appliances - purchased through Amazon.com are coded as being made at a bookstore. As a result, you could hypothetically get 5% back with most tangible and physical products sold on the site. With a maximum potential savings of $38 per month ($750 x 5%), this is one of the best credit cards for frequent Amazon shoppers.
All other purchases, as well as purchases over the above mentioned limits, will earn you 1% back, with no limits on earnings.
Rewards on the Sallie Mae credit card are earned in the form of points. In order to redeem rewards, you must accumulate a minimum of 2,500 – you can get that by spending anywhere from $500 to $2,500 with the card. You earn rewards points in the same way you earn 5%/1% cash back described above. 5 points per $1 spent on physical Amazon.com products, gas, and groceries, and 1 point per $1 on everything else. Once you’ve accumulated the 2,500 points, they can be redeemed for $25 worth of statement credit. $25 / 2,500 = $0.01 per point.
As a welcome bonus, you can receive 2,500 bonus points, worth $25 in statement credit. To qualify for the bonus offer, all you have to do is use your card once within 90 days your account is open.
How Does the Sallie Mae Master Card Compared to Other Credit Cards?
The only true measure of a card’s worth is with how it compares to other credit cards on the market. What good would the Sallie Mae credit card be if others offered 20% off Amazon!? Before you get excited, unfortunately no credit card offers 20% back on Amazon purchases. As a matter of fact, the Sallie Mae card performs fairly well when matched up against other credit cards. 5% is one of the highest cash back rates around. Below we compare the Sallie Mae credit card to some of its competitors.
Sallie Mae Mastercard vs Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is yet another cash back card. This credit card rewards users 6% back on U.S. supermarket purchases (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases), 3% back on U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on other eligible purchases. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express also comes with a $95 annual fee. If your spending skews heavily towards supermarkets over U.S. gas stations, we recommend going with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. The marker to go by is $3,900 – as long as you spend at least $325 per month at supermarkets, we estimate the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is the better value despite its annual fee.
If you take into account other categories, the Sallie Mae credit card preforms better for low spenders. You get 5% back on gas as opposed to just 3% with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. Remember, the Sallie Mae card is capped at $250 per month on gas purchases. If you spend more than $500 per month on gas (and we imagine very few general consumers do), then the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will save you more money.
Of course when it comes to saving on Amazon purchases, there is no competition. The Sallie Mae card blows the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express out of the water.
Big spenders will also enjoy a much better welcome bonus on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. If you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of receiving the card, you will earn $200 back as statement credit. That’s enough to cover 2 years of annual fees!
Sallie Mae Mastercard vs Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
The Sallie Mae MasterCard provides better value on all things (except gas if your monthly gasoline expenditures are above $1,000) when compared to the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. Amex distinguishes between groceries purchased at U.S. supermarkets versus grocers. If you prefer shopping at U.S. supermarkets over grocery stores for your daily shopping needs, then the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express gives you a better deal (3% vs 1%). Though if you had to pick between grocery store at a 5% discount with Sallie Mae vs a 3% discount at U.S. supermarkets, the comparison becomes trickier. As long as the supermarket prices are not more than 2% cheaper than at your local grocery store, the Sallie Mae credit card will remain the superior value. Keep in mind the 3% at U.S. supermarkets is limited on up to $6,000 per year in purchases on the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
Due to its welcome bonus, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers the better short-term savings. The Sallie Mae MasterCard’s bonus fails to impress when compared to other credit cards. The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a $150 cash back bonus if you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months of account opening – a value $125 greater than that of the Sallie Mae bonus.
Sallie Mae Mastercard vs Upromise Mastercard®
The Upromise MasterCard is yet another credit card from Sallie Mae - one that offers higher returns in exchange for extra hassle and restrictions. Right off the bat, it is possible to receive 10% or more cash back on select items when shopping online (including Amazon.com) with the Upromise credit card. Furthermore you can get unlimited 4% back at participating Upromise restaurant, 2% back at eligible movie theaters and 1% back on everything else. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Well, there are several catches! First of all, in order to be eligible to receive this card you must have an Upromise savings account open. If you don’t specifically request for your rewards to be sent to you via check the money will be put into a 529 college savings plan, or similar savings account where it will be more difficult to withdraw (unless you plan to use it to pay off college).
The reason behind this restriction, is that the main purpose of the Upromise card and accounts is to help individuals to save up money to pay for college- whether it’s their own or their children’s. It’s possible to bypass this system, and simply request your rewards to be mailed to you as checks, though it is an extra hurdle to go through – one that not everyone may be happy to deal with.
The aforementioned 10% and 4% cash back savings only applies to purchases through Upromise’s online portal, and participating Upromise restaurants. The good news is that many popular chains are partnered with Upromise on this end. For a complete list of online retailers you can enjoy 10% cash back with click here, and to find participating restaurants where you can earn 4% cash back click here. All the other savings (on movie theaters and everything else) works as expected with no special limitations.
The Upromise MasterCard gives its users $100 as statement credit, the first time they use the card within the first 3 months of the account opening. The conditions are identical to the Sallie Mae credit card, though the reward is $75 higher.
Sallie Mae Credit Card vs Amazon.com Prime Store Credit Card
Anyone interested in purely Amazon.com purchases may also be considering signing up for the Amazon.com Prime Store Credit Card. We prefer the Sallie Mae credit card as an option, as it offers spending on more categories and the same cash back bonus on Amazon. The only time you may prefer the Amazon Prime credit card is when your spending on the website exceeds an average of $750 per month. Pass this threshold, the Sallie Mae credit card only gives 1% back, while the Amazon Prime card offers unlimited 5% back. This matchup is one of the few where the Sallie Mae card comes out ahead in terms of bonuses. The Amazon Prime store card doesn't give any sort of bonuses, which is yet another reason to prefer to Sallie Mae Mastercard.
Compare The Sallie Mae Mastercard Based On Your Personal Expenditures
In order to help consumers see how the Sallie Mae Mastercard can perform for them, we built an interactive rewards calculator. Input your estimated monthly expenses, and you will see our estimates for each card’s 2-year value.
Bottom Line: Is the Sallie Mae MasterCard Worth It?
We think the Sallie Mae credit card is an overall good value for the everyday consumer, if you don’t care about short-term gains. The poor bonus offering does sour the deal you get with this card. In the long-run however, serious Amazon.com shoppers will find that they will have a tough time finding a better rewards card to fit their spending.
Sallie Mae MasterCard Resources & FAQs
Do I need a Sallie Mae Loan in order to apply for the Sallie Mae Credit Card? Absolutely not! Anyone can apply. You get no added benefits for having a loan. Though, if you do have a Sallie Mae loan, you may contact card member services at 1 (877) 234 - 4567 in order to have your cash back rewards to directly pay down your loan.
How do I apply for this credit card? To apply for the Sallie Mae MasterCard you can follow this link or call 1 (800) 307 – 0341.