Sallie Mae Credit Card Review

Last Reviewed: 2/4/2012

Note: I am no longer able to find the Sallie Mae credit card offers on their website, so until I learn otherwise, I will assume this credit card is no longer being offered.  If anyone knows otherwise, please drop me a note!

sallie-mae-visa-cardWell, I must confess that if it weren’t for a diligent PIQ reader, I never would have even known about the existence of the Fannie Mae Visa Signature Card. Yup—overnight my impression of Sallie Mae has transformed from fuddy-duddy student loan processing company, to issuer of bad-ass credit cards. And lest Sallie fool you, this card is available to anybody, not just students or those with student loans.

“So what’s the big deal?”, you ask. Simple. The Sallie Mae Visa Visa card is a 2% cash back card with no annual fee. Doesn’t sound like much (certainly not as cool as “this card turns into Thor’s hammer on command”), but really that’s an amazing thing, and nearly impossible to find these days.

There is one “catch” when you go to redeem your points, but in my opinion it’s not a big deal, and you can read about it in full in the redemption section below.

Note: their website appears to have a glitch.  After completing the application, you are taken to some sort of personal identification page, which then crashes (I tried it on multiple browsers).  The good news:  apparently this step is not necessary in order for them to process your application, since I then got a phone call from Sallie Mae a few days later.  The bad news:  it does bring into question the overall efficiency of their operations.

Snapshot of the Sallie Mae Credit Card
Base Rewards 2 points per dollar of spend on all purchases.
Spend Target Bonus 10,000 bonus points if you spend $500 within first 3 months of card ownership.
Rewards Expiration Rewards don’t expire
Rewards Earning Caps No limit to the cash back you can earn
Redemption Options Check, statement credit, merchandise.
Redemption Restrictions Point value varies depending on the number of points redeemed. See redemption section below for more details.
Annual Fee $0
Foreign Transaction Fee 3%

Earning Points with the Sallie Mae Visa Card

You earn 2 points per dollar spent on all purchases, with no earning limits. Additionally, points never expire. You’ll also earn 10,000 points if you spend $500 within 3 months of card approval. A pretty average spend target bonus, and not the main attractive feature of the card.

Redeeming Sallie Mae Visa Points

So while you can redeem your points for statement credits (same as cash), in order to capture the maximum value of your points (the full 2% cash back effect), you’ll need to make sure to redeem in increments of 25,000 points ($12,500 of spend) or more. Otherwise, your points won’t be worth quite as much, as the table below shows. While somewhat annoying, in my opinion this is a small price to pay for having such a piece of plastic firepower in your wallet.

Tiered Redemption Schedule For Sallie Mae Visa Points
Points Earned Rebate ($) Cash Back %
2,500 $16.25 1.3% (0.65% per point * 2 points earned)
5,000 $32.50 1.3%
7,500 $48.75 1.3%
10,000 $85.00 1.7%
15,000 $127.50 1.7%
20,000 $170.00 1.7%
25,000 $250.00 2.0% (1.0% per point * 2 points earned)
50,000 $500.00 2.0%

Quick Comparison To Some Other 2% Cash Back Credit Cards

The Fidelity® Investment Rewards American Express® Card is also a 2% card, but it’s main drawback is that it’s an Amex (accepted in fewer places than Visa). A minor disadvantage is that you need to open and link a Fidelity account to your card, but we think this is a non-issue, since you don’t pay any fees for the account and don’t need to maintain a minimum balance (and can withdraw cash freely from it).

The Capital One Spark Business Card (which you can still get even as an individual), has a better 2% cash back program as there are no redemption tiers. However, you do pay a $59 annual fee after the first year. It also has the awesome no-foreign-transaction-fees feature, so that needs to be added into the mix. You can use the PIQ Ranking Engine (which even allows you to specify the percent of your spend overseas) to run a true head-to-head comparison based on your own unique spending profile.

So What Do We Really Think About The Sallie Mae Visa Card?

sallie mae visa is almost perfectWell, if you haven’t guessed it by now, let me spell it out to you: we really, really dig it. Man. This card is the 36-24-36 of plastic. With 2% effective cash back (assuming you are patient in your redemption strategy) and no annual fee, it’s a sure thing;)

  • Guest

    This card looks cool… but i could find it through their website. u00a0How did you find it?

  • Marc Davis
  • Gene

    Must apply thru website–phone apps no longer accepted . But website doesn’t work–tried 2 browsers–hangs up at the point where it says you will now be asked some questions to verify your identity. Tried calling Sallie Mae but after long waits the agents both told me there is no phone number for help. One of my reasons for thinking about this card was the poor phone service with Capiol One venture. But by comparison with sallie mae they are outstanding!nWould strongly suggest giving the SM card a quick pass

  • Marc Davis

    It’s my job to find these deals;) (I surf the web a lot, read other blogs, hit other financial sites, etc).

  • Marc Davis

    Darn Gene, you are right! I just went thru the app flow myself (I actually had it on my to-do list to apply for this card so I figured now was as good a time as any), and yes it also hung up on that screen. I also used 2 browsers (chrome and FF). Really lame. Actually, in general I’ve found institutions like credit unions (including penfed) to have really bad operational systems. I’m actually going to write a separate post about my ridiculous experience trying to apply for the penfed platinum card. Thanks for pointing out–I will update the blog post with a warning about this, and continue to monitor for when it gets fixed. But it does bring into question their overall competence and customer service.

  • admin

    Update: I got a call today (1 day after filling out the app) from Sallie Mae, and I completed the application process over the phone. It seems the final step in the on-line application process (of entering some personal identification info), where the site crashes, is not necessary to apply for card. Just complete the app and click submit and you’re in the queue.

  • DJM

    Sallie Mae is the worst credit card provider I have ever had. u00a0I hold many credit cards and have never had such problems. u00a0There customer service is awful. u00a0They put my card on hold within the first 10 days for a purchase I made without 10 miles of my listed address so I was unable to use the card until I called back to verify 3 small purchases. u00a0When I called back they couldn’t tell me what purchase caused the trigger. Again, I made online bill payments through my primary bank and they were not received and my bank had to contact me a month later and tell me that Sallie Mae told them my account was closed and returned my payment, so I got hit with a late fee. u00a0They have been no help and I am paying off my 0% APR for the first year, NO WORTH IT or the rewards an cutting this thing up! u00a0DON’T GET A SALLIE MAE CREDIT CARD!u00a0nnn~A very unsatisfied customer

  • Marc Davis

    Thanks for the feedback. u00a0Given that I just applied myself, I’ll be curious to see if I relive your bad experience with them. I’ll report back to folks with my findings!

  • Steve

    One of their “S and M” tricks (sorry; couldn’t resist!) is that you can’t get a customer service rep. via the phone prompts. u00a0You have to cut in by saying “customer service.” u00a0The rebate program is very attractive, but I keep having problems similar to those of others posting here: frequent fraud alerts, unauthorized charges, long wait times on the phone. u00a0And SM was remarkably stingy with my credit limit. u00a0Perhaps a company used to student loan defaults is having trouble moving toward credit-savvy users?

  • Malikah Akbar

    I got this dam card due to the reward credit that can be applied to student loans! This is the worst credit card to have & I’m going to use my other credit cards. Every freaking purchase they want you to call & confirmed. Finally I got tired of calling their fraud dept & the next day they denied a $3 yogurt purchase. I told the rude old guy on the phone I’m in store verifying my personal information out loud every day to the credit card reps that I’m sure someone by now has gotten my info to now commit fraud. Folks this card is not worth the hassle.the 2 percent cash back is not worth your time. I wish I would have research this card more prior to applying because I’m stresses just remembering the hassle I’ve been thru in the last few months with this joke of a card. Sallie Mae should stay out of the credit card business & try to sell used cars.

  • Marc Davis

    Geez, sorry to hear about the hassles, although I see a pattern of poor customer service and account management emerging with these guys. u00a0Anyhow, today I noticed that none of the Sallie Mae credit cards appear to be available on their site anymore, so I’m thinking they may have shut down (or sold off?) their card operations. u00a0I’m looking into it.

  • Sam Schaperow

    Here’s my ongoing saga with this SallieMae card (letters to them as follows):nn”8/7/12nnStill no call/email from you.u00a0 This is not okay to do all that youu2019ve donenand break promise(s) on call-backs (Iu2019ve had quite a number of instances innwhich I was told Iu2019d be called back, but wasnu2019tu2026).u00a0 nnnu00a0nnn8/5/12nv.2.0nnnAttention CEO of SallieMaen& External Security Company:nnnu00a0nnnMy heart is pounding; I am sonupset!u00a0 After three times w/in a week ofndealing w/security contacting me (one I contacted them since my card didnu2019tnwork AGAIN!), and no contact back from the executive dept. at SallieMae, Inalmost made it a week w/o dealing w/security.u00a0nBut today I got a call from security, had to hold to talk to someone,nand I just spent my time saying whatever youu2019re verifying I say yes to and yourncompany is disgusting and virtually harassing me!u00a0 How can you people do this to us?u00a0 Youu2019re really disgusting me.u00a0 I donu2019t like being virtually harassing atnall!u00a0 Please fix the issue once and fornall and also take care of all Iu2019ve discussed in my prior faxes (also seennbelow).u00a0 I am now requesting annadditional 2,200 points on my card to make up for this & help to set thingsnright, in addition to the below requests.u00a0nnnnu00a0nnnAnd also I was given thensecurity fax # of 4022220226, but it didnu2019t work, but today I finally got thencorrect # ending in a 4.u00a0 I shouldnu2019t bengiven incorrect fax #su2026.nnnu00a0nnnAlso, should I get anotherncall from security or find my card blocked again, I will send another updatednfax ten times.u00a0 Then after that anothernsecurity call will result in my sending 50 faxes, and after that 100, then 500,nthen 1,000, then 5,000[1].u00a0 And even then Iu2019ll still have had so manynhours put into this that Iu2019ll not consider us nearly even.u00a0 Alternatively, we can fix this issue.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnI also want to know why Indidnu2019t hear back from the executive dept. at SallieMae on 7/30 as wasnpromised.u00a0 And no excuses, for my lastnfax alerted them to the fact that I didnu2019t get a call-back.nnnu00a0nnnDisgustingly,nnnu00a0nnnSam nnnu00a0nnn8/12nnnAttention CEO of SallieMae:nnnu00a0nnnI was called last week and innthe car, so I said I couldnu2019t write down the name & number of who callednme.u00a0 Nevertheless, I was told Iu2019d bencalled on Mon. (this is my recollection).u00a0nI didnu2019t receive a call or VM, anywayu2026.u00a0nIf correct, I add this to my list of concerns.nnnu00a0nnnI also said on the phone thatnlast week my card AGAIN was declined!!!u00a0nWhy?u00a0 Because it wasnu2019tnactivated.u00a0 But, I thought I had used itnw/o activating the new card that was the same account # and merely replaced thencard I previously received that had a knick on itu2026.u00a0 If I indeed didnu2019t activate it, but used it,nthen it was made unusable w/o a message or any informing, that was notnright.u00a0 Thatu2019s a very poor practice thatnleaves people stranded w/o the ability to pay for things if they donu2019t bringnalternate forms of payment.u00a0 Imaginenbeing at a restaurant, for example, then after dinner having one credit cardnand not enough cash!!!u00a0 Sure theyu2019ll letntheir phone lines be used (if cell doesnu2019t work or not w/the customer), but notnhappily, so that a person can call SallieMae [again] to get the card to work.u00a0nnnnu00a0nnnSo, a new record of THREEntimes in a 7-day period of having to call SallieMae to activate it.u00a0 Now in addition to my requests below, I amnrequesting at least (so if you offer more, that would be appreciated) additionaln2,500 bonus points be added to my account.u00a0nnnnu00a0nnn7/12 nnnAttention CEO of SallieMae:nnnu00a0nnnMy wife and I originallynsigned up for a SallieMae credit card after many years of using SallieMae fornour student loans.u00a0 Mine is now paid off,nbut my wife & I decided to keep hers for years to come (it takes many yearsnto pay of a the amount of loans she took out from college and schooling towardnher doctorate) due to ease of automate payments and a good interest rate.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnWe really like the rewardsnsystem of our credit card, however the service is not matching up to ournexpectations of SallieMae.u00a0 All too oftenn(monthly) our account has been rendered unusable because security has flaggednour account due to how we use our card.u00a0nOur usage has not been a problem with others like Citi or Chase, butnwith SallieMae it is.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnEach time we had this happen,nwe hoped it would be the last time for a long time as our card usage patternnshould establish this is our regular way of using it.u00a0 However, things did not get betteru2026.u00a0 Why did the card get made unusable?u00a0 Often security couldnu2019t reach us.u00a0 We have a toddler and baby, so we canu2019t getnto the phone as readily as weu2019d like.u00a0 Wendonu2019t use an answering machine, generally, either.u00a0 But this shouldnu2019t be a requirement to haventhis card.u00a0 Yet, it is essentially thenrequirement that we have a working phone, message system, and can call back inna timely manner to the automated call we get from the company you use fornsecurity.u00a0 Again, this has not been annissue for us any other credit card companies.u00a0nEventually we were able to mark our cell phone as our home phone (Iu2019m anbit uneasy about this, thoughu2026).nnnu00a0nnnAnother issue is when wencould get to speak to someone about our card, one of us was present and thenother with the children or at work.u00a0 Mynwife doesnu2019t know my transactions and I donu2019t know hers, so if I were to saynu201cyes, that was a legit chargeu201d, it would be less than honest w/o her there, yetnit is hard to have her thereu2026.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnTo make matters worse, evennif I could go over her transactions with her, and be ready to call back w/thatndata, they didnu2019t allow me to talk to them because they said Iu2019m only a 2ndarynuser (or something to that effect).u00a0 Inexplained how difficult a position this was for us, but it didnu2019t work.u00a0 I finally yelled[2]n(not something I tend to do) at the security guy who decided to just make ournaccount inactive until my wife called (in this case I was able to reach themnbefore the deactivated our card).u00a0 Therenis no good solution to the above, except to cumbersomely ask my wife for all ofnher transactions before I call, but sheu2019ll not remember them off the top of hernhead.u00a0 So, I take that back and say therenis no good solution.u00a0 If this happenednonce inau00a0 long time, that would be morenmanageable, but a monthly occurrence is just too much.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnA partial solution to thensituation was to make me a joint user.u00a0nHowever, I didnu2019t realize this until far into the process, but that putna credit inquiry into the credit card reporting bureaus.u00a0 That really should not have been necessary tonallow me to verify transactions, especially my own transactions!u00a0 Normally, I only open new accounts with bonusnoffers, which mitigate the issue of having more inquiries appear on my creditnreport a toward my score.u00a0 The last onenwe did was a 40,000 bonus point offer through Citi, though we more often haven20-30k bonus points.u00a0 I know I didnu2019tnhave to complete this process to become joint, but w/o doing so, my overwhelmednwife would have had her account made unusable and taken way too much time toncall back.u00a0 In fact, sheu2019d have justndecided to not use the card if that happenedu2026.u00a0nnnnu00a0nnnThen I found out a new cardnwould be issued to me when I became joint.u00a0nMy existing card was supposed to continue to work, but it didnu2019t.u00a0 I then found out they closed that account#,nor something like that, which is why.u00a0nBut they said it was an error.u00a0 Annerror that made use unable to use the card for a couple days or so.u00a0 It wasnu2019t fun being at the store and findingnthis out.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnBUT THIS ISNu2019T THE HALF OFnIT!u00a0 The number of times we get contactednincreased to twice per month!u00a0 Thatu2019snreally incredible, being nearly every other week.u00a0 When this happened, I talked to manager afternmanager both at security and SallieMae, but it kept happening.u00a0 People repeatedly blamed each other (u201ccallnsecurityu201d, u201ccall SallieMaeu201d, etc.).u00a0 Nonone fixed the issue.u00a0 I spent hoursntalking to so many different people that even if I had 5% points on my card,nthat wouldnu2019t pay for even u00bd of my time.u00a0nBut I keep thinking this can get straightened out.u00a0 Am I wrong, or was I using the wrongntact?u00a0 As if this werenu2019t bad enough,nweu2019ve had so many times the card didnu2019t work because we were trying to benreached and didnu2019t realize it or didnu2019t call back on time.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnEXAMPLE: Imagine being at angas station with one card and $3 in cash, expecting the card to work and notnhaving cell reception.u00a0 What do youndo?u00a0 You use $3 to get it a bit above thenalmost empty line and hope you can get somewhere.u00a0 HOW CAN YOU PEOPLE DO THIS TO US?!?u00a0 I AM SO AGGRIVATED AND DISGUSTED BY ALLnTHIS!!!nnnu00a0nnnAnd if that werenu2019t enough,nweu2019re not getting calls TWICE PER WEEK!u00a0nThatu2019s insane!u00a0 You people arencrazy.u00a0 I want to speak directly to thenCEO!u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnAnd to make things evennworse, my replacement card had a nick on the magnetic strip, so it didnu2019t worknin some readers, so I finally called to get it replaced and guess what?!?u00a0 My existing one stopped working!!!u00a0 Crazy!!!u00a0nWhy?u00a0 They said it was generalnmaintenance while the new (same card #…) card was sent.u00a0 Crazy crazy crazy!!!nnnu00a0nnnAt this point I just tellnsecurity u201cIu2019m called too much.u00a0 I donu2019tnknow whatu2019s going on w/my wifeu2019s usage.u00a0nOur card is secure to the best of our knowledge and weu2019ve gone over thenedge here.u00a0 Ask me anything, but mynanswer will just be the same no matter what you say: yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yesnyes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes[3]u201d.nnnu00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0 nnnThis is all I remember at thentop of my head (besides calls not getting returned, a fax # we were given thatndoesnu2019t even work, etc.)!u00a0 If your goalnis to aggravate us, youu2019re doing a great job.u00a0nOtherwise, please do the following:nnn1.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0nFix the issuenonce and for all, making our card not get flagged again (at least not more thanntwice per year, not twice per week).u00a0nActually, given all this, how about just having it no longer flagged,nperiod?nnn2.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0nAward us 50knbonus points for all the terrible trouble, plus 10k bonus points to mitigate mynhaving to get a credit inquiry that was pretty much necessary to have a chancenat keeping our card active.u00a0 nnn3.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0nI request annapology directly from the CEO.nnn4.u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0nA much betterncredit limit that fits our over 100k income level with minimal expenses, rathernthan what the computer would assign (so a special override).u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnThank you.u00a0 nnnu00a0nnnSam nnnnnnnnnn[1] Thesenfigures are ideal, and will not likely be reached given how much time it wouldntake me to send so many reiterations of my plight.u00a0 Also, should you wish to take any negativendrastic action, rather than make this right, I will accept court or othernmeasures and will meanwhile contact the media to explain my story.u00a0 nnnnnnn[2] Thenlevel of aggravation Iu2019ve reached w/SallieMae has been so extensive and hard tondescribe.u00a0 Also, I almost never yell atnanyone, let alone something like this.u00a0nSo, it isnu2019t me.u00a0 nnnnnnn[3] This isnnot an exaggeration w/how many times I said yes to one security person.u00a0 OH, AND THAT REMINDS ME I TALKED TO AnSUPERVISOR THERE AND SAID Iu2019LL CONTINUE TO BE VERY AGGRIVATED AND TENSION WILLnEXIST BETWEEN ME AND FUTURE SECURITY PEOPLE AS I JUST SAY YES TO EVERYTHING,nAND SHE SAID u201cThatu2019s okayu201d.u00a0 How can shenaccept this?u00a0 I guess sheu2019s really okaynwith aggravated customers.u00a0 Disgusting Intell you; disgusting!nnnnnnnn