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Sallie Mae Evolve℠ review

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A straightforward, all-around cashback card with a $0 annual fee.

  • Get this card if you want a straightforward cashback card with an intro APR period.
  • Pick something else if you’re looking for bigger cash back returns.
  • Apply if you have a good to an excellent credit score of 670 or higher.

Up to 1.5%

Cash back


Annual fee


Intro purchase APR

for the first 15 months (then 12.99% to 22.99% variable)


Intro balance transfer

for the first 15 months (then 12.99% to 22.99% variable)


Product NameSallie Mae Evolve℠
Card typeMastercard
Annual fee$0
Purchase APR0% intro for the first 15 months (then 12.99% to 22.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR0% intro for the first 15 months (then 12.99% to 22.99% variable)
Cash advance rate24.99% variable
Cash advance fee$10 or 5% of the cash advance amount, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction fee3% of the transaction value
Interest free periodUp to 23 days
Late payment feeUp to $39
Returned payment feeUp to $39

Expert review

Steven Dashiell

Review by

Steven Dashiell is a credit cards writer at Finder. He's worked on 250 Finder articles and counting, helping readers embrace and maximize credit cards. Backed by nearly a decade of research and reporting experience, Steve's work can be seen on, and Lifehacker.

Expert review

The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ is one of three new cards Sallie Mae has unveiled, along with the Sallie Mae Ignite℠ and Sallie Mae Accelerate℠. While the Ignite and Accelerate are designed to directly help cash-strapped students, the Evolve serves as a straightforward cashback rewards card.

The card offers a flat cashback rate on all purchases and a bonus cashback rate on your top two earning categories for the month. This makes the card fairly easy to use — you’ll have no need to activate bonus categories or check in on your spending cap. Just spend and earn.

Though the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ has a $0 annual fee, it lacks the raw earning potential and perks that some of its competitors feature. So, if you’re chasing the best flat cashback potential in a credit card, you might want to compare your options.

How to apply for the Sallie Mae Evolve℠

Applying for the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ is quite simple:

  1. At the Sallie Mae Evolve℠ site, click on the Apply now button.
  2. At the new screen, you’ll be instructed to fill in your personal information. You’ll need to include:
    • Personal details, including your name, date of birth, Social Security Number and address.
    • Your citizenship status.
    • Financial information, including housing expenses, housing status, monthly income and available assets.
    • Employment status and student status.
  3. Once complete, you can click on the Continue button to submit your application.

Card benefits

  • Flat cash back.
    You’ll earn an unlimited 1.25% cash back on all purchases with no limit. In the two categories you spend the most in each month, you’ll get a 25% bonus for up to 1.5% cash back.
  • $0 annual fee.
    You won’t need to pay an annual fee to use this card.
  • Introductory APR.
    You’ll enjoy a 0% introductory purchase APR for the first 15 months after opening your account. After the intro period is up, your purchase APR will revert to 12.99% to 22.99% variable.
  • Rewards for good financial habits.
    Sallie Mae promises additional reward opportunities when you demonstrate responsible financial behavior.

What to watch out for

  • Average APR.
    Once your introductory purchase APR is finished, your APR will revert to an average 12.99% to 22.99%.
  • Transaction fees.
    You’ll pay $5 or 3% in balance transfer fees, $10 or 5% in cash advance fees and 3% in foreign transaction fees.
  • Penalty fees.
    Late payments and returned payments will run you $39 each.
  • Average cashback rate.
    The best cashback rate you’ll get on this card is 1.5%. This is the industry average, though you’ll only get this rate on your top two earning categories, unlike some other cashback cards available.

Compare cash back credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$250 after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
Perfect for families: Get up to 6% on everyday purchases and a welcome offer worth $250. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Rates & fees
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
20% at up to $200 back in the first 6 months, plus $100 after spending $1,000 in the same timeframe
20% at up to $200 back in the first 6 months, 2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
This everyday cashback card is ideal for Black Friday and holiday shopping with 20% back at up to $200 back in the first 6 months. Rates & fees
Chase Freedom Flex℠
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
Earn up to 2% on every purchase with no annual fee. This is the highest flat-rate cashback card on the market.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
$200 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% on Lyft, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases
This solid 1.5% cashback card gets even better with the addition of up to 5% back in categories like travel, drug stores and dining.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

The Sallie Mae Evolve℠ is an all-around solid flat cashback card, though it lacks a standout feature to set it apart from the competition. Nonetheless, college students could stand to benefit from such a straightforward cashback card.

If you’re looking for something different, compare other cashback credit cards to find one that suits your needs.

Frequently asked questions

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