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 It’s gone and has been replaced by the Commence MasterCard.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.
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.
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