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Upromise Credit Card from Sallie Mae: Can You Do Better

by on August 9, 2012

Like cash rewards? The Upromise credit card from Sallie Mae ain’t half bad – especially if you’re looking to pay down loans but need to make a few purchases at the same time. While most cash-back cards offer accelerated rewards in very limited categories, the Upromise yields high returns on a variety of common purchase types. If you’re looking for a cash-back credit card, you can certainly do worse. But can you do better? It depends what you value and where you spend. We’ll present the merits of the Upromise and discuss a couple alternatives that might suit you better.

Remarkable rewards

We must say, the Upromise card has a pretty stellar rewards program. Is it the best we’ve seen? Not quite, but it’s darn good. Its primary value is earning a full 10% back when you a) shop at the merchants featured at Upromise.com and b) use your Upromise card. They offer a fairly comprehensive set of merchants, from Bath and Body Works for your dorm room needs to Zales for graduation proposals. It works like this – you earn 5% back just for shopping at Upromise.com, and an extra 5% for holding the card. Not bad, eh?

Additionally, you’ll get 2% back at movie theaters, 3% at Exxon or Mobil gas stations, and 4% at participating restaurants. Everything else earns 1% back.

Upromise World MasterCard®
Barclays Upromise Credit Card
Apply Now

on Barclays's
secure website

starstarstarhalfstar
  • You can earn 10% or more cash back on eligible online purchases through Upromise.com
  • Start with a $50 cash back bonus after first use
  • Earn 4% cash back at thousands of participating Upromise dining restaurants
  • Earn up to 3% cash back on eligible gas purchases at Exxon or Mobil locations
  • Earn 2% cash back at eligible movie theaters
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
thumbsupPros
  • Bonus cash back categories
  • No annual fee
  • 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
thumbsdownCons
  • Needs excellent credit
Annual Fee Signup Bonus APR , Variable* APR Promotions
$0 Start with a $50 cash back bonus after first use. 12.99% - 20.99% (Variable) 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months

You have a good set of redemption options, which are obviously best if you have an account or loan with Sallie Mae. Each option gives you the full 1 cent per point value, so you don’t need to worry about gimmicks.

  • Contribute to a Upromise 529 college savings plan
  • Deposit into a Sallie Mae high-yield savings account
  • Pay down an eligible Sallie Mae loan
  • Redeem for checks once a quarter

A tad more restrictive than your standard cash back card, but for students, it’s a great way to save or pay off loans.

Other features

The Upromise card is notable not only because of its worthwhile rewards, but also because it offers such rewards with no annual fee. Generally, so many earning categories would come at a cost, but not in this case. The Upromise also offers 15 months of 0% balance transfer APR. If you have debts to pay down, slide them over to the Upromise for over a year of payments without additional interest.

All in all, the Upromise is a pretty solid cash-back option. But before you commit, we recommend taking a look at a couple other cash-back options. Here are two of our favorite choices and how they stack up against the Upromise.

The competition

Chase Freedom - $100 Cash Back Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

The Chase Freedom is always an excellent cash-back choice. It earns a 1% minimum on all purchases, 5% back on rotating category purchases and 10% at Chase’s online shopping mall. While you miss out on the Upromise’s 2-4% earnings, the Freedom’s 5% categories may make up for the loss. These categories change quarterly and include establishments like gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com and airlines. Additionally, the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall’s deals mirror those of the Upromise website. You can shop for merchandise, travel and entertainment experiences. The Freedom charges no annual fee and comes with 15 months of transfer and purchase APR. The Freedom’s signing bonus is currently at Earn a $100 Bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. – much better than that of the Upromise. Which card you choose ultimately comes down to the rewards categories. Would you rather earn 5% on the Freedom’s rotating categories or 2-4% on the Upromise’s static categories? It’ll depend on where you shop.

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  • unhappy

    Have the Upromise card. No problems until Barclays took it over. I charged $226 & they froze my account for “fraud detection”. FYI my limit is over $9000. Tried to get help & got someone in India & they said it could happen again. Also, they never notified me of the change & no information on who or to pay where to pay. My Chase card recently changed to GE & had no problems in the transition.

  • Another unhappy customer

    The reason I’m even on this site is because I am looking for a card to transfer my Upromise balance. Everything was fine until Barclay took over. I was charged a late fee in the first month because the due date was right after I made a payment to Upromise BOA (which basically meant that I had two payments due in the same month, without being billed for such). Then, when I set up automatic payment for the minimum payment amount, they took out double that! Not just in the first month, but in the second month as well! The website is much more cumbersome than most banking/ credit card sites, and I am just tired of trying to wait and see for things to get better.

  • disqus_6jJX7eO4Uz

    I agree with the issues with Barclays. I’ve been a loyal upromise credit card holder for years. Since Barclays took over my account has been flagged with fraud over and over and over again. And every transaction they flag has been legimate and not fraudulant. I even got tagged today at my local grocery store which I have used my card at many many times. I talked to a manager today at Barclays who was not helpful at all. If this continues — I will be cancelling my credit card with Upromise.. it was much better when they were with Bank of America!!!

  • B. Young

    yea, I just had to get all new UP cards as my daughter charged $2.50 on a bottled water as she had no cash and they called me about it and I said I didn’t charge that amount(not knowing she did..duh… they didn’t tell me who charged it! and I didn’t ask I assumed it was me). It’s like they are trying to get me to OK bad charges at my expesnse, of course if I ok’d the charge it’s then my problem….to pay!!
    I also decided to get my rewards money out 1. apply to get your money-full 14 day wait to acknowledge your request 2. from then 45 day wait to get check= 2 full months to get your reward money and don’t forget at any time, by the reward agreement(FYI-you approved of course) they can cancel the whole deal at ANY TIME and give you nothing!!!! I mean notta,zero,zip $50, $500, $5000 rewards you get nothing sucker, maybe with a 529 you can but I don’t know for sure……read your card agreement again if you didn’t way back-not a Barclays fan here.

  • smith

    Hands down the worst credit card I have used in my life. Repeated errors on billing with additional fees and interest.

    Started innocent enough when their web automatic payment options didn’t work. Could sign up to only pay the minimum each month but not the full amount. After calling and being assured they converted the account to be payed in full every month from my designated bank account it happened again the next month. Called again, interest/fees removed, they asked me to try again online the following week. I did, didn’t work, again called and again promised the automatic payment for full would work if done online. Following month it again didn’t work. Fees/interest cancelled again. Tried to cancel the card but told I would have to “call back later in the month” to cancel. Had to ask to be transferred to someone who could cancel the card today.

    Do not trust them! They are crooks in my opinion!

  • Suzanne Barr-Tiemann

    You have to fight for every 4% bonus rebate. Barclays upromise website displayed a 5% contribution for a Meijer Home Depot gift card and will NOT honor it. I spent $500 in gift cards expecting this 5% + 4% bonus rebates and got neither. I told them to pull up their archived webpage for proof – they won’t do it. So they expect you to take a screen shot of every displayed % contribution before purchase for proof !!!! Barclays needs to stick with just dicking around with stealing billions manipulating the LIBOR rate.