Alliant Credit Union Visa Signature Card Review: Up to 2.5% Cash Back, But With Some Hoops

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New rules as of July 2021. Alliant Credit Union, the 5th largest US credit union by assets, is changing up the terms of their Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card (again) as of July 2021. There are now additional hurdles to achieving the full 2.5% cash back, but the good news is that the previous $99 annual fee is going away for everyone. There are now two separate “tiers” of cash back rewards:

Tier 1: Up to 2.5% cash back

  • 2.5% cash back on up to $10,000 in qualifying purchases per billing cycle. On purchases above that $10,000 cap, you get 1.5% cash back.
  • For existing cardholders or if you open this card by 7/13/21, you automatically get Tier 1 for the July, August and September 2021 billing cycles.
  • In order to qualify for Tier 1 for October-December 2021, you must meet the requirements for an Alliant High-Rate Checking account each month of the third calendar quarter (July, August and September of 2021), AND maintain an average daily balance of $1,000 or more in their Alliant High-Rate Checking account for the last two months of the calendar quarter
    (August and September of 2021).
  • Qualification for Tier 1 repeats every future quarter in the same manner. Keep everything up for Q4 2021, and you get Tier 1 for Q1 2022, and so on.
  • No annual fee.

Tier 2: Flat 1.5% cash back

  • If you do not meet the requirements listed above, you default to Tier 2.
  • 1.5% flat cash back on all qualifying purchases.
  • No annual fee.

Redeem cash back rewards via a credit card statement credit (takes up to two billing cycles) or as a deposit into your Alliant checking or savings. Must first accrue $50 in cash back rewards.

Requirements for Alliant High-Rate Checking account

  • Must opt-in to free online statements.
  • Must have at least one monthly electronic deposit posted to your checking account in each calendar month. An electronic deposit is defined as a direct deposit, payroll deposit, ATM deposit, mobile check deposit OR transfer from another financial institution.

Competition. Please read my card-specific reviews for details.

Alliant CU membership eligibility. If you start the online membership application, it does a good job of walking you through their various eligibility options. If you don’t otherwise qualify, anyone can join as a member of the Foster Care to Success (FC2S) charity group, and Alliant will now pay that $5 fee on your behalf. In other words… now anyone can join for free.

My take. Overall, I think this is a smart and practical move on their part. Historically, any credit card paying above 2% cash back with no annual fee has not been sustainable on its own. The only way to make it profitable is to offer it as part of a greater “relationship” with the financial institution. For example, Bank of America has its Preferred Rewards program to encourage additional bank and brokerage holdings. Here, Alliant is now requiring you to maintain a certain level of activity on their checking account. The one monthly direct deposit (can be a simple ACH bank-to-bank transfer) and $1,000 minimum balance is relatively easy to achieve when compared to competitors that require a payroll direct deposit or 12+ debit card transactions per month.

In exchange, earning an extra 0.5% cash back on up to $120,000 in purchases annually is worth potentially an extra $600 a year in cash back over a flat 2% card, although I’d run your own estimate as very few households will charge that much. Some people will value the simplicity of keeping a single credit card with excellent cash back on almost everything and no categories to track.

I would skip the Tier 2 option completely. At 1.5% cash back for the tier with no checking account, it’s just another ho-hum average credit card.

Bottom line. The Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card offers up to 2.5% cash back on up to $10,000 on all qualifying purchases per month (no categories) with no annual fee, but you’ll need an active Alliant High-Rate Checking account amongst other requirements. Membership is easy and free.

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  1. Alliant CU also offers a free HSA for qualifying members. Not sure what the investment options are like, but if you’re looking for a place to park and spend HSA funds, it’s a good option.

  2. Mike,
    The HSA Savings is free, but if you want to invest the money, I believe the fee is $5.95 per month.

  3. I’m an existing Alliant customer (and love them) and didn’t even know about this yet. Thanks for the heads up!

    The rep I spoke to said this was initially only going to be offered to existing members (though I’m not sure how that would work long term) but “then Nerdwallet got wind of it somehow”.

    Anyway, so glad I can finally get rid of my Fidelity Visa which was somehow getting compromised about every 6 months unlike any other card I use. This bank has outstanding customer service. They will get swamped with customers after issuing this card, so I hope that doesn’t affect their current feel.

  4. Financial wizard says


    YOU MUSTVPROVIDE YAX RETURNS FOR A CREDIT CARD. They don’t tell you this anywhere until after they run your credit. It doesn’t matter how strong your credit is.

  5. I’m lucky I have a Usaa credit card that gives me 2.5% cash back with no limits or annual fee, although I do have to have 1k in direct deposits each month to get the higher level of cash back.

    Thanks grandpa for letting me use Usaa 🙂

  6. Jonathan, I would list the Bank of America Premium Rewards card as a competitor to this. If you’re in the highest tier of the Preferred Rewards program, the Premium Rewards card has an annual fee of $4 less, and gives you an additional 0.125% on non-bonused spend compared to this Alliant card (in addition to bonus rates on travel and dining and the travel statement credits). Unlike Alliant, BofA does not waive the annual fee for the first year – but that can be more than offset by the signup bonus.

    • The BofA card also includes an annual travel incidental credit which more than offsets the annual fee if you use it. Also, if you happen to charge travel and dining on that card for simplicity, you’ll get an extra 1% back over the Alliant card (though there are other cards that can beat that…if you’re willing to play that game).

  7. Synchrony has a 2% back Mastercard I just got. They give you the 2% back immediately in the form of a statement credit rather than having to request and wait. No fee. Only PTIA is the inability to automatically download to Quicken. But my Citibank 2% suddenly stopped doing that too and everyone at Quicken is perplexed. Horrible POS that Quicken, I would love to see a piece on any alternatives Johnathan. MS Money was the best and only IMO and a resent not keeping it going at all costs after 2011.

  8. As an Alliant member I can speak first hand. Unlike American Express which has extraordinary customer service, be prepared for very little leniency when it comes to customer service with Alliant. For example, when we wanted to dispute a charge, at that point you’re no longer dealing with Alliant but you must go through VISA directly. Alliant offers zero support. Secondly, the new tier program of $1,000 with auto deposits is a pain. We’d much rather pay the $99 fee and not have to tie our money up with their bank. The program was designed to bolster their (Alliant) bottom line. Oh, don’t you dare miss an auto deposit of $5 or more or you’ll lose your 2.5% tier for the following 3 months!! AND when the end of 3 months is over, you won’t begin to earn 2.5% at the first day of the month, but you have to wait until your BILLING CYCLE FIRST DAY!! SO, in essence you are receiving less than a full three months of cash back earning. Our bank messed up the auto deposit so we lost the most important time of the year (the holidays!) Lesson, set up the auto deposits on the Alliant side that way if they screw up, you are protected somewhat since they would be at fault. But hope they honor their mistake and keep you at the 2.5% tier. But in past experiences with Alliant there just isn’t the feeling of being a valued member when it comes to customer service.

  9. by the way, when you set up auto draft from the Alliant side, set the auto draft for enough to cover the projected monthly drafts from your bank to satisfy the min. monthly deposit to maintain 2.5% because Alliant does not have opened ended drafts. YOU MUST SPECIFY HOW MANY DRAFTS YOU WANT. So, when it runs out, Alliant will NOT notify you. (Of course they won’t they would rather you drop down so they don’t have to pay you the higher tier of rewards!!) This has happened twice to us and it’s not worth the hassle.

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