Sallie Mae Signature VISA Review

UPDATE:  THIS CARD IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR NEW CARD MEMBERS

As I've noted in multiple posts, I have been mourning the death of the Schwab Invest First VISA program which officially ended on Oct. 31.  It was a great card that I ended up replacing with the Fidelity Retirement Rewards AMEX.  It offers 2% that gets moved over into a brokerage account in much the same way the Schwab program worked.  I like the card, but I don't love it.  The primary limitation is that it's an AMEX which is not accepted at certain stores.  The one thing that bugs me the most is my food co-op where I easily spend $1,000/yr.  Thus, I'm losing 50% of the rewards I used to get when shopping there since I have to use a 1% cashback card.  Blech!

Enter the Sallie Mae Signature VISA card.  

  • It also pays 2% cashback on all purchases, and it's a VISA!  
  • On top of that, right now they're offering 10,000 points if you spend $500 in the first 3 months.  
  • There is no cap on points.
  • Points don't expire.
  • You can redeem points for merchandise, travel, paying down a Sallie Mae loan OR as a statement credit.  No redemption process is easier than having your bill reduced.

Awesome right?  Well, pretty awesome.  These are the drawbacks:

  1. You have to wait in order to get the full 2% reward.  You can't redeem for the 2% until you've accumulated 25,000 points.  Since points don't expire, that's no big deal, but still that's $12,500 in spending.
  2. 3% foreign transaction fees.  I would not use this card for any foreign travel.  Actually the Fidelity Retirement Rewards AMEX is just as bad so I wouldn't use it either.  Consider instead the PenFed VISA Platinum Gas / Cash Rewards Card (a sponsor) which has no foreign transaction fees.  Reviewed here.

Even with the drawbacks, this is a good card that helps me overcome the AMEX problem.  Like the AMEX, it's not a perfect replacement to my Schwab card, but it fills a gap.  My new card is in the mail!


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