Sallie Mae Credit Card Review

Our rating

3 stars 3/5

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See breakdown of this card’s rating

Looking for the 5 percent category Sallie Mae card? It’s gone and has been replaced by the Commence MasterCard. This review covers the newer Commence version.

The old version of the Sallie Mae card was considered a hidden gem of the rewards world, rewarding 5 percent back on the first $250 spend monthly on gas, groceries and bookstores. But the card was discontinued in 2017. So does the current Commence version measure up? Read our review to find out.


The Sallie Mae Commence card, which is issued by Barclaycard US, earns the following rewards:

  • 2 percent cash back on grocery store purchases and utility purchases (cable, phone, internet, electric, gas)
  • 1 percent cash back on other purchases

The card also rewards a $50 cash-back bonus if you make a purchase on your new card in the first 90 days.

Rewards can be redeemed for a cash-back statement credit, a deposit into a U.S. checking or savings account or a payment against your student loans. If you use it toward your student loans, you get a 25 percent boost in value ($100 in rewards is worth a $125 student loan payment). If you redeem for cash back, you get face value.

Fees to know about

The card has no annual fee and a 3 percent foreign transaction fee.

This card is offered at the basic MasterCard level (not World or World Elite), meaning it offers the standard MasterCard perks, including extended warranty and rental-car coverage. It also offers price protection, which can reimburse you for the difference if an item you bought with the card drops in price within 120 days after you bought it. As with all Barclaycard US credit cards, this card gives you free online access to your TransUnion FICO score.


This card is offered at the basic MasterCard tier (not World or World Elite) and therefore comes with the basic suite of MasterCard benefits, including extended warranty and rental-car coverage. In addition, it offers price protection, which will reimburse you the difference if an item you buy drops in price within 120 days.

The verdict?

Hard-core reward-chasers will probably see the newer Commence version of the card as a downgrade from the old 5 percent version. After all, in the hands of the strategic reward-chaser, the old version could be used for the first $250 a month spent in the 5 percent categories and then cast aside for other cards the rest of the month. The Commence puts a stop to that maximization strategy by offering a more modest return.

2 percent back at grocery stores isn’t too thrilling, since other cards offer more than that. And some cards even offer 2 percent on all purchases.

The 2 percent back on utilities may give this card an edge, especially because utilities are a practically non-existent bonus category on other rewards cards. If you have a large phone or electric bill, this card could be a way to actually get some bonus cash-back on those expenses. Just make sure your utility company accepts credit card payments without charging a fee.

Another potentially attractive feature on this card is the 25 percent bonus you get when you use your cash back to pay off your student loan. You could technically put even more toward your student loans by getting a 1.5 percent cash back card (of which there are plenty on the market), redeeming for a deposit and using that to pay off your student loan. But some may prefer the more direct method of using the Sallie Mae card. And if that’s what it takes to pay off your student debt, more power to you.

The bottom line: This card may not be the best rewards-earning vehicle on the market, but it might hold some appeal for those with large utility bills who are chipping away at student loans.

Why we gave it 3 out of 5 stars

This card was rated based on our standards for cash-back credit cards.

Rewards-earning rate: This card doesn’t meet our standards for no-annual-fee cards, by offering above 1 percent on all spending or at least 3 percent in a bonus category.
Redemption value: This card meets our standards by offering at least 1 cent per “point” when cardholder redeems for cash back.
Rewards simplicity and transparency: This card’s earning structure is straight-forward and so are the redemption options.
Bonus-earning opportunities: This card offers a low sign-up bonus, and its redemption bonus (25%) is only good toward student loan payments, so we rewarded half a star.
Unique perks:This card offers free FICO score access, but no other notable perks.

Updated June 2017

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

I like the card. 5% off of 250 in groceries and another 5 for 250 in gas gives you 25 buckeroos to do with whatever you might want….it’s a good deal and if you are an amazon freak, as I am, the card has a higher cap that the 250….something like 750.

The 0% interest for 12 months is like a cherry on top……

Yeah I saw the new credit card and was wondering if it’s as good as it sounds. Please update the page soon. Anybody else who has the new card, any thoughts?

Barclay losers are now canceling this program completely!!!!!

Hey, I was jus on sallie Mae website yesterday and seen a sallie Mae credit card. Is this not the same credit card that your talkin about? Because I was interested in it once I seen it said something about you get 5% back after you spend $250 on groceries and gas for that month. I wouldn’t mind gettin it to help me put more money towards my loan so I can get thus thing paid off. Also, does anyone know what type of credit score you have to have to have a good chance of being qualified for the card?

The Sallie Mae 2% card was much worse than described
Having accumulated 35,000 points by October 25 I applied for the $350 reward. Received an email that it was coming. Never received a thing. Couldn’t contact Sallie Mae at first because website down, tel no disconnected. Finally emailed and reply was that “Barclay’s mailed the check on December 6”. Of course they didn’t and now after 2 months say “they are investigating”.

I have the same card and have never had anything but exemplary service. Unlike the above comment, I had my points put towards my balance bringing it down in smaller increments. I never had any issue in processing this way. No research necessary. Was I one of the lucky ones? Maybe or maybe not? Just don’t like to complicate what already has been made simple. Why pay interest when they are willing to put your points towards your bill??