Money expert Clark Howard has long endorsed the Citi Double Cash credit card for its 2% cash back plan, but the Alliant Visa Signature Card may provide an intriguing alternative in the cash back credit card market.
The Alliant Visa Signature Card offers 2.5% cash back on your first $10,000 of qualifying eligible purchases each billing cycle. And for those of you who may have shied away from this card because of the annual fee, you’ll be happy to know that the credit union has eliminated that.
That sounds pretty good, so we decided to do a little digging to see if this offer is something for Clark.com readers to consider seriously.
In this article, I’ll run through the perks offered by the Alliant Visa Signature Card. I’ll also explain the steps you’ll need to take to become eligible for the card, identify the consumers best served by this card and compare it to the popular Citi Double Cash card.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Alliant Visa Signature Card?
- How To Become Eligible for the Alliant Visa Signature Card
- Cash Back Rewards Program Explained
- Card Specs and Perks
- Rewards Comparison: Alliant Visa vs. Citi Double Cash
- Pros and Cons
Team Clark has spent time evaluating the credit card market in several categories including the best cash back credit cards. We’ve compared the Alliant Visa Signature Card to the best cards in this segment of the market. And we’ve determined that it’s one of the top choices for an everyday spending card thanks to its steady return on every purchase you make.
As you’re making your decision on whether this card is a fit for you, please use this review in conjunction with Clark Howard’s 7 Rules for Using Credit Cards.
What Is the Alliant Visa Signature Card?
The Alliant Visa Signature Card is a cash back credit card that rewards select users with 2.5% back on every purchase they make on up to $10,000 in spending per billing cycle. After that, you’ll receive cash back rewards of 1.5%.
But not everyone will qualify for these rewards.
You must be a member of Alliant Credit Union to apply for this credit card. And there are some hoops you’ll have to jump through once you’re a member to qualify for the top tier rewards. I’ll walk you through all the details below.
This card, which formerly had an annual fee that was eliminated in 2021, is on our list of the best cash back credit cards because it offers one of the best flat-rate rewards on the market to qualified applicants.
How To Become Eligible for the Alliant Visa Signature Card
Given that this credit card is offered by a credit union, you must become a member of Alliant Credit Union to be eligible to apply.
For the majority of Clark readers who are interested, the most practical option for joining the credit union will be to make a $5 donation to the nonprofit Foster Care To Success.
Alliant indicates that it will make the donation on the prospective member’s behalf, so that simplifies the process.
Per Alliant’s membership qualification guidelines, one of the following will also qualify you for membership automatically:
- Employment at or membership with one of Alliant’s partner businesses
- Having a partner or direct family member who is an Alliant member
- Living or working in the Chicago area, where Alliant is headquartered
If you meet one of the criteria above, you should be able to forgo the donation for membership. That said, I would check with Alliant to ensure eligibility before moving too far into the application process.
Alliant Visa Signature Card: Cash Back Rewards Program
Remember when I mentioned that Alliant eliminated the annual fee for this credit card? Well, that change came with a catch. Rather than offering unlimited 2.5% back to customers willing to pay an annual fee, the credit union now offers it for free only to people who are willing and able to jump through some more hoops.
Here’s how it works. To qualify for the cash back credit card, credit union members need to apply for an Alliant high-rate checking account.
Then, based on a few factors — signing up for eStatements, direct deposits and maintaining an acceptable average balance — you’ll be placed in one of two rewards-earning tiers. The top tier gives you 2.5% back on your first $10,000 in spending each billing cycle, while the second tier relegates you to just 1.5% back on all purchases.
Here are the details for each.
Tier One Cash Back Rewards
The Rewards: Earn 2.5% cash back on your first $10,000 of monthly qualifying eligible purchases. Then earn 1.5% cash back on your monthly qualifying eligible purchases above $10,000 made with your Alliant Visa Signature Card.
The Requirements: To get this reward, you must meet the requirements for opening an Alliant High-Rate Checking account. Then you have to maintain a daily average balance of $1,000 or more for the quarter prior to the billing statement on which the rewards are earned.
Your checking account is assessed quarterly to determine eligibility for entering or remaining in this rewards tier. So, for example, your checking account’s status for the fourth quarter of a year (October, November and December billing cycles) would determine your cash back rewards tier for January of the following year.
Some of the basic requirements for keeping yourself eligible for the Alliant High-Rate Checking account are signing up for eStatements and making at least one electronic deposit to the account each calendar month.
Tier Two Cash Back Rewards
The Rewards: Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on all qualifying eligible purchases made with your Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Card.
The Requirements: If you don’t qualify for Tier One Rewards during a calendar quarter, you will automatically earn Tier Two Rewards. So the requirements for this tier are simply to have an Alliant Visa Signature Card account in good standing.
Once again, it’s worth noting that your account is assessed for tier eligibility after each calendar quarter. So you could be in Tier 2 for a spending period while improving your checking account status to earn Tier 1 status the next quarter.
Alliant Visa Signature Card: Specs and Perks
The rewards sound good, but let’s take a look at the fine print to examine some of the card’s perks and drawbacks:
- Auto Rental Insurance: This is one of a few credit cards that provides rental car collision coverage. You must pay for your rental with the card to qualify.
- Personal Identity Protection: This card provides reimbursement “up to $5,000 for covered expenses you incur to restore your identity as a result of a covered stolen identity event.” You also qualify for a subscription ID Navigator from NortonLifeLock.
- Extended Warranty: This also is one of the credit cards that offers an extended warranty benefit for purchases made with the card. If your manufacturer warranty is three or more years, the card adds an additional year of coverage. If it’s less than three years, the card doubles the length of coverage.
- Roadside Assistance Access: Roadside Dispatch provides you with 24-hour access to roadside assistance via a toll-free number. This pay-per-use roadside assistance program is provided for Visa cardholders.
You can read more on the specifics of those perks on the card’s official website.
Here’s a quick look at some of the fees you may encounter with the Alliant Visa Signature Card:
- Annual Fee: None
- Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of the amount of each transfer
- Cash Advance Fee: Either $10 or 3% of the amount of the advance, whichever is greater
- Foreign Transaction Fee: None
- Late Payment Fee: Up to $27
Rewards Comparison: Alliant Visa vs. Citi Double Cash
With the cash back numbers being thrown around, it’s easy to see how the Alliant Signature Visa Card could benefit many spenders.
But does it serve you better than the popular Citi Double Cash credit card? Let’s find out.
First, let’s do a quick rundown of what Citi Double Cash offers:
- No annual fee
- 2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you purchase, $1 when you pay the balance on that purchase)
- No purchase categories
- No cap on cash back
Now, let’s make some assumptions and issue some reminders for the sake of this comparison:
- Set aside APR for this exercise. We’re going to assume you pay your bill in full each month.
- For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll show both Tier 1 and Tier 2 rewards for the Alliant card. Remember, you can move in and out of a tier level based on your average checking account balance and other factors.
Given those parameters, here’s a breakdown of how the annual cash back payouts would look using monthly spending increments:
|Monthly Spend||Alliant Tier 1 (2.5% Cash Back)||Alliant Tier 2 (1.5% Cash Back)||Citi Double Cash (2% Cash Back)|
So what can we take away from these spending samples?
If you’re able to qualify for and maintain Tier 1 status with Alliant, this would be the preferred choice over the Citi Double Cash.
However, if you see yourself dipping into Tier 2 for any length of time, the advantage may actually side with the predictability of rewards from the Double Cash.
Alliant Visa Signature Card: Pros and Cons
Are you considering adding the Alliant Visa Signature Card to your wallet? Let’s review some of the major pros and cons of the card before you make your final decision:
|2.5% cash back on everyday purchases for Tier 1 members||Cash back drops to 1.5% back if you’re in Tier 2.|
|Extended warranty and auto rental insurance perks||Must be a credit union member to apply|
|Card no longer has an annual fee.||Requirements for “top tier” may prevent you from earning 2.5% back in some months.|
Final Thoughts: If you don’t mind jumping through some hoops to get this card and maintain a “top tier” status with your checking account at this credit union, this could be an excellent choice as an everyday spender.
Getting 2.5% back on purchases up to $10,000 per month without any categorical restrictions is about as good as it gets on the fixed cash back credit card market.
You could use this card alongside a couple of cards that offer bonus rewards for spending categories like dining or groceries to really maximize the rewards you can get on your monthly spending.
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