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Updated on Friday, December 13, 2019
If you’re looking for a cashback credit card, the Sallie Mae AccelerateSM offers an OK flat APR along with an interesting incentive — bonus cash back when you use your rewards to make a payment on a student loan. At a time when American college students and graduates are facing daunting levels of debt, this could be another weapon in your arsenal to apply toward paying down student loans. Let’s take a look at the details of what this card offers, where it falls short and how it stands up against other cashback cards.
Where the Sallie Mae AccelerateSM stands out
Chance to earn bonus cash back. Unlimited 1.25% cash back on every purchase. Earn a 25% bonus on your cash back rewards used to pay down your student loans. You can earn the bonus toward both federal and private student loans.
No annual fee. This card’s annual fee is $0, and since it’s targeted at recent college grads who are often on a tight budget, that’s important.
Intro APR. Get a 0% Introductory APR for purchases for 12 months. After that, a 14.74% to 24.74% variable applies. The intro purchase APR is a decent amount of time to purchase a big-ticket item and pay it off without accruing interest charges, but there are cards with longer intro periods listed on our site.
Cellphone protection. When you pay your cellphone bill with this card, you can get up to $600 per claim in cellphone protection. Note that this is secondary coverage only (meaning it kicks in after any other insurance) and each claim is subject to a $50 copay. Terms apply.
Free FICO Score. The FICO® Score is one of the most common credit score models around. If you apply for a credit card, car loan or other credit product, it’s likely the bank will check your FICO Score before approving or declining you. Your FICO Score will influence the interest rate that you can get approved for – it’s smart to keep an eye on it.
Where the Sallie Mae AccelerateSM falls short
Low cashback rate. It’s pretty easy to find a credit card that offers 1.5% cash back, and some offer up to 2% — and that’s just for flat-rate cards. You can earn up to 5% cash back with cards such as the Discover it® Cash Back, which offers a 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories (up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate, then the rate drops to 1% cash back).
Earning 1.25% on the Sallie Mae AccelerateSM doesn’t cut it. And while it’s true that you can earn a 25% bonus on your cash back when applied toward a student loan, that’s likely not a big enough bonus to make up for getting a subpar cashback rate on all your purchases.
The minimum amount of cash back to redeem is $25.
Foreign transaction fee. If you use the Sallie Mae AccelerateSM outside the United States, there’s a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. It’s better to leave this card at home and travel with a card that charges no foreign transaction fee.
Compare it with the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
One of the best cards around for earning flat-rate cash back is the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. Let’s take a look at how the two cards compare:
Sallie Mae AccelerateSM
Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
Unlimited 1.25% cash back on every purchase. Earn a 25% bonus on your cash back rewards used to pay down your student loans.
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
0% Introductory APR for purchases for 12 months. After that, a 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR applies.
13.99% – 23.99% (variable)
Balance transfer APR
14.74% to 24.74% variable
Intro 0% for 18 months on balance transfers. After that, a 13.99% – 23.99% (variable) APR applies.
Foreign transaction fee
3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
The clear winner is the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, with a cashback rate that’s 0.75% higher than the Sallie Mae AccelerateSM. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. (We recommend paying your card in full each month if possible.)
Another strong choice for flat-rate cash back is the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day.
The information related to the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has been independently collected by MagnifyMoney and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.