Full Review of SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card
Exceptionally long introductory APR offer on balance transfers
Easily-earned one-time offer
Cell phone protection
Low rewards rate
Inconvenient application process in some states
- Exceptionally Long Introductory APR Offer on Balance Transfers: The SunTrust Prime Rewards card has an unusual if not unique low-interest offer on balance transfers. It provides not the 0% APR of most such deals, but instead sets interest at the Prime Rate—a reference point well below the typical APR that banks use to determine interest rates on loans and credit cards. And where 0% APR offers typically run for 9 to 12 months, the deal with this card runs for a full three years. Finally, the offer skips the customary transfer fee—of 3%—if you complete a balance transfer within 60 days of opening the card’s account. That makes this deal a potential cost-saver for those who plan to carry a balance for a while. By our calculation, paying a reduced interest rate for three years on a balance transfer leaves you ahead financially, over receiving 12 months free from interest but then having to pay a regular APR for the next two years. For a transfer of $10,000, and compared with paying a regular APR of 16%, we estimate the SunTrust offer would save you about $190 in interest. And those savings don’t include skipping the transfer fee of about $300, as you could with the SunTrust offer but likely not with the 0% APR one. Once the introductory offer expires, your APR will be 11.24% to 21.24% variable, depending on your credit profile. That’s a relatively low range.
- Easily Earned One-Time Offer: It’s one of the smaller bonuses out there, but few cards allow you to earn $100 as readily as the SunTrust Prime Rewards does. You get a $100 statement credit if you spend just $500 within the first three months of opening an account. To be eligible for the bonus, then, you’d have to spend just $167.67 per month—a threshold almost any cardholder should be able to meet.
- Cell Phone Protection: If you pay your cell phone bill with the SunTrust Prime Rewards, you receive up to $1,000 in cell phone protection against theft or damage per year. The coverage is limited to two claims per year, each of up to $800.
- Low Rewards Rate: As a SunTrust Prime Rewards cardholder, you’ll earn 1% cash back on qualifying purchases. Even for a balance-transfer card, that’s a fairly low rewards rate, and one that limits the card’s appeal.
- Inconvenient Application Process in Some States: If you want to apply for the SunTrust Prime Rewards card, it’s important to know that it’s not available conveniently and flexibly to everyone. Unless you're already a SunTrust customer, only residents in the following states can apply for the card online: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., and West Virginia. If you live elsewhere, you’ll have to apply for the card over the phone. Also, according to a customer-service representative, Vermont residents are ineligible for the card, no matter how they apply.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Tends to pay less than balance in full and so accumulates debt on card
This card is best-suited to—indeed, exclusively aimed at—people who have high-interest credit card debt on another card and who need a long time to pay it off. The SunTrust Prime Rewards allows a full three years at a very low APR, which allows you plenty of time to pay down your balance without incurring onerous interest charges.
Here’s how this card's APR offer can help reduce costs compared with having no low-interest deal at all.
For example, let's say you had $6,000 in credit card debt on a card at 16% APR. If you paid $180 per month, it would take you 45 months to pay off your balance. By the time you retired the debt, you’d have incurred $1,988 in interest charges.
But let’s say you transferred the $6,000 balance to the SunTrust Prime Rewards card. At the time of publication in early 2021, your APR would be 3.25% (the current Prime Rate) for 36 months. If you continued to pay $180 per month, you’d pay off your full balance before the introductory APR expired. And you’d pay just $297 in interest charges, a savings of $1,691 compared with repaying the balance without the deal.
This card’s rewards are fairly meager, but they are increased for those who hold other accounts with SunTrust. Those bonuses (of up to 50%) make the card more appealing if you’re already a customer of SunTrust, or are prepared to take more of your business to the company.
SunTrust Prime Rewards One-Time Offer
If you spend at least $500 on purchases with your SunTrust Prime Rewards card within the first three months of becoming a cardmember, you’ll get a $100 statement credit.
That spending threshold is easily achievable for most people. If you only use your card to pay for essentials like groceries and gas, you should readily meet the $500 requirement and earn the $100 statement credit—which essentially represents a 20% return on your spending.
Rewards Earning Details
The rewards program on the SunTrust Prime Rewards card is simple; there are no spending categories to remember. Instead, you’ll earn a flat 1% cash back on every purchase you make.
However, customers who have other SunTrust accounts can qualify for loyalty bonuses that can increase your rewards.
- Checking, savings and money market account customers: 10% rewards bonus
- Advantage Checking, Signature Advantage Checking, or Exclusive Checking customers:
- Balance between $25,000 and $100,000: 25% rewards bonus
- Balance greater than $100,000: 50% rewards bonus
- SunTrust Premier Program or Private Wealth Management customers: 50% rewards bonus
That means if you’d otherwise earn $100 in cash back rewards and had a basic SunTrust checking account, you’d get a 10% bonus. You’d then have a total of $110 in cash back rewards.
Rewards Redemption Details
Cash-back rewards can be redeemed for gift cards, bank deposits, statement credits, merchandise, and travel arrangements. Your rewards have the same value regardless of redemption method.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
Using this card whenever you make a purchase will earn a flat 1% cash back on every qualifying transaction. That's not a lot, relatively speaking, but it’s better than nothing if you don’t own a more lucrative rewards card.
To show you how rewards can add up, consider a typical person’s spending. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average consumer spends:
- $8,169 per year on food
- $1,883 per year on apparel and services
- $2,094 per year on fuel
- $786 per year on personal-care products
If you spent those amounts in each category and used your SunTrust Prime Rewards card to pay for each purchase, you’d earn 1% cash back on the $12,932 you spent, giving you $129.32 in rewards.
To get the most value from your card, consider taking advantage of SunTrust’s loyalty bonuses. If you sign up for a SunTrust checking, savings, or money market account, you'll get a 10% loyalty bonus, giving you a higher rewards rate. Premium accounts and high account balances increase the bonus to 25% or 50%.
Assuming that you had a checking or savings account with SunTrust, you’d get a 10% loyalty bonus. In the example we detail above, your cash-back rewards for annual spending would increase from $129.32 to $142.25.
SunTrust Prime Rewards Outstanding Benefits
The SunTrust Prime Rewards card does offer some standout benefits for a credit card with no annual fee:
- Cell phone protection: If you use your card to pay your cell phone bill, you’ll get protection for your cell phone against damage or theft.
- Complimentary Shoprunner membership: You'll get free two-day shipping and free return shipping at major retailers.
- 10% off OneFineStay bookings: Book reservations at rental homes across the globe with OneFineStay and get 10% off your stay.
- Purchase protection
- Secondary car-rental insurance
- Roadside assistance
- Professional travel services
- Emergency travel referral assistance
- Travel insurance
In the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, SunTrust was ranked fourth out of 11 regional card issuers. However, SunTrust recently merged with BB&T, the second-ranked regional card issuer, so you might expect even better service going forward than the current ranking for SunTrust suggests.
The customer-service team is based in the United States and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can get help online through secured online chat, or you can call 1-800-477-9702.
The SunTrust Prime Rewards card has standard security features, including zero liability protection, identity theft protection, emergency card replacement, and emergency cash advances. Cardmembers can also view their FICO score for free on their monthly billing statements.
The SunTrust Prime Rewards provides consumers carrying debt on a high-interest card that they’ll need a few years to pay off an appealing solution, and with no annual fee or balance-transfer charges. The card does charge interest, at the Prime Rate, for up to 36 months, but that’s actually cheaper than taking a shorter 0% APR offer and then continuing to pay interest at a market APR for two years after that deal expires.If you don’t need the extended period of interest relief this card provides, though, you’re better off looking to alternative options. Those include other cards that specialize in balance transfers through shorter offers in which no interest at all is imposed. For example, the Citi Simplicity has 0% for 18 months on balance transfers and purchases.
And almost any other card you choose, no matter the type, will likely beat the the rewards you’ll earn with the SunTrust Prime Rewards. For example, the Discover it Cash Back card allows you to earn 5% cash back on quarterly spending categories on up to $1,500 spent per quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. If you spent the maximum each quarter, for an annual total of $6,000, that means you’d earn $300 in cash back rewards (which Discover will even double during your first year as a cardmember). Contrast that with the mere $125 or so you would earn in cash back with the SunTrust Prime Rewards, for spending about twice as much over the year.