Commence Mastercard Review: Pay Down Your Student Loans and Earn More Rewards

Commence Mastercard Review

(Update: As of Jan. 2018, the Commence Mastercard is no longer available. You can find other credit card options here and here.)

Paying off your student loans with a credit card sounds like a bad idea, right?

Well, with the Commence Mastercard offered through Barclaycard, it’s highly encouraged  even incentivized. And for good reason. Instead of using the card itself to pay down your student debt, you can use the rewards you earn with everyday spending.

In this Commence Mastercard review, you’ll learn about the card’s features and whether it’s the right choice for you.

Commence Mastercard review

The Commence Mastercard is one of a kind in that it’s geared toward helping student loan borrowers pay off their loans. Here are the card’s main perks:

  • 2 percent cash back on grocery store and utility purchases
  • 1 percent cash back on everything else
  • $50 cash bonus if you make a purchase with the card in the first 90 days
  • 25 percent redemption bonus if you redeem your cash back by paying down a student loan
  • 0% APR promotion for 15 months on balance transfers
  • Free access to your FICO credit score
  • No annual fee

The Commence Mastercard isn’t the best fit for everyone, though. Here are a few drawbacks.

  • Low base rewards rate: Some cash-back credit cards, such as the Citi Double Cash, offer up to 2 percent cash back on all purchases.
  • Small sign-up bonus: Some cash-back credit cards, such as the Barclaycard CashForward, give you up to $200 if you spend a certain amount in the first few months.
  • No 0% APR promotion on purchases: A promotion like this can come in handy if you need to finance a major purchase.

Commence Mastercard makes it easy to pay off student loans

With the Commence Mastercard, you’ll get a 25 percent redemption bonus every time you transfer rewards to a student loan account. No other major credit card offers an incentive like this.

If you always redeem your rewards this way, you’ll essentially earn 2.5 percent cash back on grocery store and utility purchases and 1.25 percent cash back on everything else.

Plus, the card has no annual fee, so you don’t have to wonder whether the rewards you’re earning are enough to cover the cost of the card.

If you don’t want to use your rewards to pay off student loans, you can redeem your cash back in the form of a statement credit or direct deposit to your checking or savings account.

Pay off high-interest credit card debt more effectively

With the Commence Mastercard, you’ll get a 0% APR promotion on balance transfers for 15 months. This perk is great if you have high-interest credit card debt with another bank. Balance transfer credit cards typically don’t allow you to transfer a balance from another card with the same bank.

Keep in mind that the promotional APR applies only on transfers you make within 45 days of opening the account. Plus, there’s a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3 percent, whichever is greater.

Still, the math could work out in your favor. For example, say you’re transferring $10,000 in credit card debt from a card with a 16.00% APR. If you were to keep the debt on the card and pay it off in 15 months, your monthly payment would be $739.97. Also, you’d pay $1,099.61 in interest.

If, however, you were to transfer the debt to the Commence Mastercard and pay it off in 15 months, your monthly payment would be $686.87. Plus, you’d pay only the $300 balance transfer fee.

Gain access to a free FICO score

There are many free services for monitoring your credit score. But they don’t all offer a FICO score, which is what most lenders use when you apply for credit.

Plus, monitoring your credit is essential to staying financially healthy. If someone commits fraud in your name, keeping tabs on your credit score can help you catch it before it gets worse. The Commence Mastercard’s FICO score is based on your TransUnion credit report.

Commence Mastercard review: Rates and fees

You’ll get more value out of the Commence Mastercard if you pay off your balance in full each month. That said, it’s important to know the card’s interest rate and fees to make it easier to avoid them.

Above-average APR

As of August 2017, the card has an ongoing APR of 14.99%, 21.99%, or 23.99%, depending on your creditworthiness. In contrast, as of May 2017, the Federal Reserve pegs the average credit card APR at 12.77%.

In other words, you should avoid the card if you plan to carry a balance from month to month or are concerned about overspending.

The card doesn’t charge a penalty APR if you make a late payment, but, as of August 2017, it does charge a 26.24% APR on cash advances. What’s more, interest accrues immediately on cash advances; there’s no grace period.


The card charges no annual fee, but it does have other fees you can easily avoid if you use the card responsibly:

  • Balance transfer fee of $5 or 3 percent, whichever is greater
  • Cash advance fee of $10 or 5 percent, whichever is greater
  • Foreign transaction fee of 3 percent
  • Late fee of up to $37, depending on where you live
  • Returned payment of up to $37, depending on where you live

Applying online for the Commence Mastercard

Applying for the Commence Mastercard takes only a few minutes. Start by clicking “Apply Now” on the card’s landing page. Barclaycard will ask for the following information on just one page:

  • Name
  • Permanent address and how long you’ve been there
  • Residence status (own, rent, or other)
  • Employment and income information
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Mother’s maiden name

You’ll also decide if you want to opt-in to receive paperless statements and add any balance transfers you want to make. When you’re finished, review your information and click “Apply” at the bottom of the page.

After you submit the application, you should get a response within 30 seconds. You’ll get a message saying you’ve been approved or denied or that the application is pending.

A pending status can mean one of three things:

  1. You’ve placed a fraud alert on your credit report, and Barclaycard needs to verify your identity.
  2. A Barclaycard credit analyst needs to review the application manually.
  3. You’ve been denied but for a reason Barclaycard would like to send via snail mail.

If your application goes to pending status, call the credit card issuer’s reconsideration line at 866-408-4064. You’ll be able to speak with a credit analyst directly to find out what the issue is. If you’ve been denied, you’ll be able to plead your case.

There’s no guarantee the analyst will overturn the denial, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

Barclaycard customer service reviews

In the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, Barclaycard ranked fourth in customer satisfaction among the top 10 credit card issuers in the country. Its “Power Circle Rating” was just below the industry average.

Contact Barclaycard

If you have questions about the Commence Mastercard, you can reach Barclaycard’s customer service team by phone at 1-866-928-8598. Alternatively, you can send a secure message through your online account if you already have a Barclaycard credit card.

You can also reach out to Barclaycard through social media on Facebook or Twitter.

Commence Mastercard review: Is it the right card for you?

If you like the idea of using credit card rewards to pay off your student loans, the Commence Mastercard makes it easy. The card doesn’t offer best-in-class rewards, though, so you might be better off with a different cash-back credit card.

After all, you can use cash back on anything, so you can use another card’s cash back to pay down student loans. Before applying, compare this card with top cash-back credit cards to find out which one is best for you.

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