Sallie Mae Credit Cards: Which one is right for you?

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In a Nutshell

There are three different Sallie Mae credit cards, all of which offer cash back rewards. Each card caters to a slightly different stage of life — students trying to establish credit, college graduates who are paying down student loans and adults who want cash back rewards. The perks offered by these Sallie Mae cards are less than what many other credit cards offer, so the main feature that sets them apart is that they reward good financial habits.

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Compare Sallie Mae credit cards

Sallie Mae Ignite℠ Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ Sallie Mae Evolve℠
Highest cash back rate 1% cash back on every purchase and 25% bonus on your cash back rewards after making six consecutive on-time payments 1.25% unlimited cash back on all purchases and 25% bonus on any cash back rewards used to pay student loans 1.25% unlimited cash back on all purchases and 25% bonus on cash back rewards earned from your top two purchase categories each month
Annual fee $0 $0 $0
Category Student Student loans Cash back

There are three different Sallie Mae credit cards that each cater to a specific type of consumer. Sallie Mae Ignite℠ is for students, while Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ is for college graduates who are paying student loans. And the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ card is for consumers who are looking to optimize cash back rewards. So while each card is designed for a specific customer, each one has unique pros and cons.


  1. Sallie Mae Ignite℠
  2. Sallie Mae Accelerate℠
  3. Sallie Mae Evolve℠

What you need to know about each card

Before you decide to apply for one of these Sallie Mae cash back credit cards, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each card.

The Sallie Mae Ignite℠ credit card

If you’re a student who is trying to build credit, then the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ credit card might be a good fit for you. The card offers 1% cash back for all purchases, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn.

The main feature of the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ credit card is that it rewards good personal-finance habits. Cardholders can earn a 25% bonus on their cash back rewards after making six consecutive on-time payments. Here are some other helpful features of this card.

  • No annual fee
  • An introductory 0% APR on purchases for six months from account opening (then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR after that)
  • Free FICO® credit score
  • Cellphone protection (up to $600 per claim) for card members who pay their cellphone bills with the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ card

Overall, the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ credit card has useful perks. And with the 25% cash back bonus, students might be incentivized to form good financial habits.

The Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ credit card

If you’re a graduate who is trying to pay off student loans, you may be intrigued by the Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ credit card — but you might end up earning more cash back rewards with a regular cash back credit card.

Like the Sallie Mae Ignite℠, the Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ card focuses on rewarding good financial behavior by offering a bonus on cash back earnings for college graduates who are making payments on their student loans. This card offers 1.25% cash back on all purchases, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn.

In addition, the card offers a 25% bonus on all cash back rewards used to pay down student loans. It’s important to note that the 25% bonus is only for rewards used to pay student loans (if you just use your credit card to pay your loans, you don’t get a bonus for it). This cash back bonus reward is minimal — the 25% bonus comes out to $25 for every extra $100 of cash back that you put toward your student loans. Because of that, you’re probably better off setting up auto pay on your student loans to get an interest-rate deduction (if offered by the lender or loan servicer) or using a different credit card with higher cash back rewards.

The other features of this card are similar to the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ credit card and include …

  • No annual fee
  • An introductory 0% APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening (then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR after that)
  • Free FICO® credit score
  • Cellphone protection (up to $600 per claim) for card members who pay their cellphone bills with the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ card

The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ credit card

Unlike the other Sallie Mae credit cards, the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ credit card isn’t designed for a specific consumer — it’s a general cash back credit card that offers 1.25% unlimited cash back on every purchase and 25% extra cash back from your top two purchase categories each month.

That’s not a bad rewards rate, but you can probably find a card with a better cash back rate. Here are some other features this card offers.

  • No annual fee
  • An introductory 0% APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening (then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR after that)
  • Free FICO® credit score
  • Cellphone protection (up to $600 per claim) for card members who pay their cellphone bills with the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ card

How to pick the right card for you

If you’re in the market for a student credit card, then the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ credit card might be worth considering. This is especially true if you’re trying to form good personal-finance habits and want to earn cash back rewards for your efforts.

Even though the Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ credit card attempts to reward good financial habits as well, the rewards are very specific to student loan payments. If you have student loans and want to pay them off quickly, you’re probably better off focusing on how to earn cash back with the highest rewards rate. But if you’re intrigued by the rewards offer and want to give it a shot, this credit card is solid. It’s just not the best.

The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ credit card is probably the weakest of the three credit cards. With no clear target audience, a lack of behavior-based rewards and a mediocre cash back rate, there’s nothing that sets this card apart from other cash back credit cards.

Not sure any of these cards are for you? Consider these alternatives.

If the Sallie Mae credit cards aren’t offering what you’re looking for, consider these credit cards instead.