Sallie Mae Aims to Help Students And Graduates Build Credit With Three New Cards

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Last updated on November 30th, 2020

Sallie Mae rolls out three brand new credit cards that help build credit and with students in mind: Ignite, Accelerate, and Evolve. Which is right for you?

Most American college students are familiar with the name “Sallie Mae,” often spoken in a hushed whisper by students and graduates who face large loans to pay down once they graduate from university and other graduate programs. If you attended college in the last two or three decades, odds are you’ve borrowed from Sallie Mae. Best known for servicing federal education loans, they are the largest and most reputable student loans company, offering both undergraduate and graduate students options to finance their education without breaking the bank. Paying down student debt can be intimidating, which is why Sallie Mae gets a “bad rap” among many students; but, the company does offer some of the best options for students who want flexibility with repayment. As of this summer, Sallie Mae expanded those options by adding three credit card programs that offer powerful tools to help students, recent graduates, and everyone else build their credit while simultaneously earning cash back rewards. Meant to replace the Sallie Mae Mastercard, these offers are unique in that they are designed to have unique incentive structures that often target college students directly; some of these bonus programs are not available from any other card issuer. If you’d like to learn more about Sallie Mae’s newest credit cards, you’ve come to the right place!

Ignite℠, Accelerate℠, and Evolve℠

Students often struggle to find cash back rewards cards that are a good fit for them, since building credit history takes time, and many high-tiered rewards programs require excellent credit. Sallie Mae has introduced three different rewards credit card options, all of which fall under the umbrella of “cash back rewards.” Students and recent grads can pick from the Ignite℠, the Accelerate℠, and the Evolve℠ cards; while each offer is different, all three cards share some great perks that are perfect for students and recent grads who are looking to build their credit history. Each card rewards the user with a different bonus tier, based on their financial history and behavior while using the card. Users who regularly make payments on time will see the rewards they earn begin to increase!

Breaking down the offers:

Sallie Mae Ignite℠ Card

Perfect for students, the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ Card is a cash-back rewards credit card that offers competitive interest rates as well as special bonuses that can be earned when the cardholder demonstrates responsible financial behavior. Highlights include:

  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all everyday purchases – whether you’re going to Starbucks to fuel an all-nighter before an exam, paying your phone bill, or buying groceries, you’ll earn cash back with this card.
  • 0% purchase APR for the first six months after account opening
  • Competitive, low APR of 15.24% up to 25.24% (based on your creditworthiness and the Prime Rate)
  • No annual fee

What sets the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ Card apart from the other offers from this lender is the bonus offer for responsible financial behavior: Make six consecutive on-time payments and you’ll qualify for an extra 25% cash back bonus; additional rewards can be unlocked when you continue to make on-time payments, at the discretion of the card issuer.

Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ Card

The Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ Card stands out from other cash back cards because, as of this writing, it’s the only credit card currently on the market that will reward the user with a bonus when they use it to pay down a student loan. Designed specifically for recent graduates, anyone can take advantage of the cash-back rewards that come with this card, but those with student debt will be best served with their Accelerate℠ card. Highlights include:

  • Unlimited 1.25% cash back on all everyday purchases – you’ll earn rewards whether you’re buying your morning coffee, grabbing a snack or fuel at the gas station, or seeing a movie with your friends.
  • A generous introductory APR offer of 0% for the first twelve months that the account is open
  • A competitive, low APR of 15.24% up to 25.24% (based on your creditworthiness and the Prime Rate)
  • No annual fee

What sets the Sallie Mae Accelerate℠ Card apart from the other offers from this lender (and most other credit card offers out there) is a special cash back bonus of 25% on any cash back rewards that are used to pay down student debt. Additionally, Sallie Mae rewards you for making monthly payments on time every month: the more you consistently demonstrate financial responsibility, the more rewards you’ll earn.

Sallie Mae Evolve℠ Card

Finally, the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ Card is another great offer that anyone – student, recent grad, or otherwise – can take advantage of. Earn unlimited rewards with special bonuses for spending in two categories, unlock additional rewards, and build your credit, all at the same time – this is a convenient, easy-to-use rewards program fit for everyone. Highlights include:

  • Unlimited 1.25% cash back on all purchases – you’ll love the idea of earning unlimited cash back on every single purchase they make, every day.
  • A generous introductory APR offer of 0% for the first twelve months that the account is open
  • A competitive, low APR of 15.24% up to 25.24% (based on your creditworthiness and the Prime Rate)
  • No annual fee

What sets the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ Card apart from Sallie Mae’s other offers is the bonus offer that accompanies your unlimited cash back rewards. When you spend, you’ll see a special bonus of 25% cash back, earned from the top two purchase categories each month, applied to your statement. Additionally, when you demonstrate financial responsibility, you have the opportunity to unlock more rewards to redeem with your card.

Sallie Mae’s Card Perks

Sallie Mae’s credit cards all come with a suite of convenient (and free) tools for cardholders. When you download their app to access your account from a smartphone or tablet device, you can quickly pay bills, set up alerts, and view transactions. In the instance that your card has been lost or stolen, you can easily pause your account using the app, which also makes disputing fraudulent charges hassle-free. In fact, with each of these card offerings from Sallie Mae, you won’t ever be held responsible for purchases you didn’t make, as long as you report them in a timely fashion. Using the online portal and the app, you can track your rewards by setting a daily, weekly, or even monthly spending alert that can be used to gain insight into your own spending habits. Working towards a great credit score is convenient and easy; Sallie Mae will even give you free access to your FICO score so you can keep tabs on your progress. Another great feature for students and recent grads: When you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the Sallie Mae Ignite, Accelerate, and Evolve cards, you’ll not only earn cash back rewards, but you’ll receive up to $600, per claim, in cell phone protection. Thanks to Sallie Mae, if you drop your phone on the way to class, or it gets stolen, you’ll be covered.

Final Thoughts

Sallie Mae has rolled out some great options for students and recent grads who are interested in earning rewards while they begin the process of building their credit history. Finding the right card can take time, and it’s important to research other student cards so that you can make the right choice and find what is best for you. Check out the reviews on to get an idea of where to start!

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About: Allan Guzman Chinchilla
Allan Guzman Chinchilla

Allan is the Director of He has written about, and been involved in, the credit industry for several years. He also leads a robust team of expert writers in the pursuit of providing the most thorough, helpful and expertise-driven credit cards content for all.

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