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Last updated on May 31st, 2022
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At a Glance
The SBI Visa® Real Rewards Card is a reliable cash back rewards credit card from State Bank of India (California), also known as SBI. In a crowded 1.5% cash back marketplace, the Visa® Real Rewards sets itself apart thanks to several decent introductory bonuses, no annual fee, and niche benefits for certain Californians.
Ideal for Those Who:
- Plan to use their card for everyday purchases
- Expect to make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days
- Don’t want to pay an annual fee
SBI Visa® Real Rewards Card Review
The SBI Visa® Real Rewards Card is a flat-rate rewards credit card that offers its most value as a cash back card on par with the Chase Freedom Unlimited or American Express Cash Magnet. The no annual fee card also provides an enticing signup bonus and a decent 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers.
Earn 1.5X On Every Purchase
The SBI Visa® Real Rewards earns a flat-rate 1.5X points on every net purchase, with no cap on the total number of points a cardholder can earn. The 1.5X points per dollar spent rate equate to 1.5% cash back on every purchase, which places the card in competition with some pretty heavy hitters in the cash back rewards card space.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited and the American Express Cash Magnet Card, for example, both earn the same 1.5% back on every purchase and charge no annual fee. Other cards that offer the same rate of rewards are the M&T Visa® Signature, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, the Commerce Bank Special Connections Visa® Signature, and the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Card – just to name a few.
Though the space is crowded, that’s not to say that the 1.5% back – or 1.5X points – the card earns aren’t impressive. There are very few cards that earn a flat-rate higher than that, with the obvious exception being the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. The lack of a cap on points earned is another excellent feature, which while not uncommon, does make this card a great everyday spender.
$25 Back or 2,500 Point Bonus
The SBI Real Rewards Card also comes with an easily attainable signup bonus: $25 cash back or 2,500 points just for making the first purchase with the card. This reward may seem easy enough, but it comes with the hidden caveat that the $25 back depends on the new account holder making at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days. Suddenly, the bonus might not seem so sweet after all.
Reaching the $1,000 minimum spend to qualify for the additional $25 back would earn a cardholder $15 cash back, so the real value of the signup bonus is $40 back after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days. This valuation gives the earning rate for the card as 4% back for the first 90 days, which isn’t bad at all.
When Do Rewards Expire?
Rewards that expire are never a good thing. Points or cash back rewards earned through the SBI Visa® Real Rewards Card expire five years after the end of the quarter when they were first earned. This means that if you received points in October of 2010, they would have expired at the end of December 2015. When points are redeemed for rewards, the oldest points are automatically used first, which is a nice touch, meaning old points are phased out while newer ones remain.
How to Redeem Rewards
Reward options with State Bank of India (California) credit cards are the same found with almost any other rewards program. Points are redeemable as travel (airfare, hotels, rental car bookings, and more), merchandise, or gift cards. If cash back is the preferred redemption method, cash back reward options include statement credit or deposits into existing SBI checking or savings accounts.
Introductory Interest-Free Period on Balance Transfers and Purchases
Zero-percent introductory APR is a standard feature on State Bank of India (California) cards, and the SBI Visa® Real Rewards is no different. The card benefits from 0% intro APR for the first six months on both purchases and balance transfers.
The introductory APR periods with the SBI Rewards Card aren’t bad, but they pale in comparison to what is offered by Commerce Bank (12 months on both purchases and balance transfers) or Chase (15 months for the same transactions), though it handily beats out the Quicksilver Card and the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards – neither of which offer an introductory interest-free period.
While the six months of 0% intro APR with the SBI Visa® Real Rewards might not be an industry leader, it is still a decent length that provides enough breathing room for new accounts to pay down part of an existing balance or finance a large purchase without incurring interest payments.
A Competitive Typical APR
The regular APR for balance transfers and purchases with the SBI Visa® Real Rewards isn’t exceptional, but it is highly competitive. The rate is comparable with what is offered by AMEX for their Cash Magnet Card, and with Chase’s Freedom Unlimited Card, though the SBI Card is almost a full percentage point lower than the Unlimited. Regardless of their credit score, applicants can anticipate an APR that is in line with the national average for a cash rewards credit card – between approximately 15% on the low-end and 25% at the top end of the scale.
Other Things to Consider
State Bank of India (California) helps expedite the process of sending money back to India for customers, meaning bank customers can significantly reduce the hurdles they face when trying to post money to the Indian subcontinent. This convenience for Indian nationals who live or work in California can’t be overstated, as it reduces the hoops sending funds home can cause.
Should You Apply for the SBI Visa® Real Rewards Card?
Overall, the SBI Visa® Real Rewards Card more than holds its own against some pretty stiff competition. The card’s 1.5% cash back (or 1.5X points per dollar spent, if you prefer) places head-to-head with the Chase Freedom Unlimited, AMEX Cash Magnet, Quicksilver from Capital One, and countless others. Despite this daunting lineup, the SBI Card performs admirably, even offering the impressive bonus of 4% cash back on the first $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days – something none of its rivals offer.
The six months introductory interest-free period of the SBI Real Rewards falls behind others, such as the Freedom Unlimited or the Special Connections from Commerce Bank, but unless you have a substantial balance to pay down, this shortcoming is overcome through careful financial planning.
Once the introductory rate and signup bonus are finished, all of these cards are left to rely on their merits, and it is here where the SBI Visa® Rewards creates a nice niche for itself. As a subsidiary of State Bank of India, SBI California customers benefit from easier access to money transfers to India, which gives the SBI Card a big boost for Indian nationals living or working in California that frequently send at least some of their money home. While this bonus might be minimal for most, for the small subsection of Californians to whom this applies, it is a welcome benefit that shouldn’t be overlooked.
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