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Alliant Visa Signature - Universal 2.5% Cash Back, Anyone?

Do the big banks have you down? Are you looking for a way to stick it to the man and support a credit union instead of the Washington elite too-big-to-fail mentality? Luckily for you, Alliant Credit Union has a cash back card that competes with the elitist of the elite, without leaving you with that slimy feeling.

The Alliant Visa Signature card offers an industry leading 2.5% cash back on all purchases and puts the big names like Capital One to shame when it comes to flat rate rewards earning. The credit union is admittedly looking for big spenders with this card, targeting consumers that spend $4,000 or more a month. The minimum credit line available is going to be $10,000, so make sure you have excellent credit if you are considering applying.

One nice feature about the application process is that Alliant will allow you to apply for the card and join the credit union after the fact if you are approved. This will save you a bit of time if you are worried about joining the credit union only to have your credit application denied.

Don't let the credit union part of the equation keep you from looking at this product. If you don't qualify for membership through one of your existing groups, you can donate $10 to the Foster Care to Success (FCS) to gain membership. Not only will you be getting a strong card, you'll also help improve the lives of foster teens that are aging out of the foster care system. FCS helps provide college grants, scholarships, and internships to foster teens so that they are in a better position to succeed in adulthood. 

The cash back rewards structure is pretty simple. You'll earn 3% on all purchases your first year of card membership. After year one you'll earn 2.5% cash back on all purchases. You'll need to accrue $25 in cash back before you're able to cash out, which is somewhat common in the cash back redemption world. Cash back will expire on a 5 year rolling first in first out basis. That means cash back you earn in December of 2017 will expire in December of 2022 if you haven't been able to redeem your rewards. 

The card comes with a $99 annual fee, which is waived for the first year. Since year one has a waived annual fee, that means you'll be earning a straight forward 3% cash back without much guess work involved. What does this mean for your cash back in year two and beyond though? Yay. Math time. The next best card is going to offer 2% cash back each year with no annual fee. This means you need to spend enough each month to make that 0.5% cash back cover the annual fee ($4.91/monthly). Hint: It works out to $982 a month. 

Citi Double Cash vs Alliant Visa Signature Annual Cash Back
Monthly Spend Citi Double CashAlliant Visa Signature
$500 $120 $91
$100 $240 $241
$2,000 $480 $541
$3,000 $720 $841

If you love the simplicity of earning flat rate cash back and you spend over $982 a month on your card, this math checks out. You may want to add another cash back card to your wallet that offers bonus categories for certain spend. For example, the Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back in categories that rotate each quarter. Using the Freedom for 5% cash back for qualifying purchases and Alliant for everything else will help you optimize your earnings, if you can handle the juggling of cards and still hit that $982 threshold with Alliant.

If you are spending less than $982 a month, take a look at another no annual fee card. It's important to make sure that your spending patterns justify paying for an annual fee when you choose a credit card.

If you're a frequent traveler, there may be a better travel oriented card out there for you. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve will earn 4.5% cash back on travel and restaurants when your points are redeemed for travel expenses. The card does have a $450 annual fee, but it also comes with a $300 annual travel credit.

Overall, this is a good product. We'd recommend it as a staple card for anyone that appreciates the ease of redemption that cash back provides. We do think this card would be best used paired with another card depending on your spending habits though.