Santander Bank’s Credit Card Division Looks for a Place in the US
While its parent company is based in Europe, Santander Bank provides a suite of US-based Mastercards that come with a range of enticing benefits. These perks can come at a cost, however, as some of the cards have steep fees for several activities.
The first card under investigation is the Santander Ultimate Cash Back card. Although it doesn’t have an annual fee, it manages to provide some pretty good benefits. For instance, the card charges no fees on balance transfers, returned payments, cash advances, or foreign currency transactions. It is the only card from Santander to offer such generous policies.
The card’s cash back program provides 1.5% on all purchases without category restrictions. Even better, there is no annual limit on the number of points that can be accumulated. Points can be redeemed for statement credits, merchandise, or gift cards.
Next up is the Bravo card. It has a $49 annual fee, although Santander waives it the first year. The card earns three points for every dollar spent at gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets. However, this card only earns one point at other establishments and imposes a 60,000-point limit per year.
Unlike the Cash Back card, the Bravo product charges 3% for balance transfers with a $10 minimum. Cash advances with a Bravo card cost 5% with a $10 minimum, and any transaction in a foreign currency comes with a 3% surcharge.
The third and final credit card from Santander Bank is the Sphere card. It has no annual fee, but charges 4% on balance transfers with a $10 minimum. It has the least beneficial rewards program of the three cards, earning just one point per dollar at all businesses. There are no caps on earnings, however. Forex transactions are charged a 3% fee, and cash advances are 5% with a $10 minimum.
All three of the bank’s credit cards work with Apple Pay. None of them charge an over-the-limit fee, a nice feature if you tend to use plastic a lot. Each card does charge $35 for late payments. While the Ultimate Cash Back card doesn’t charge anything for a returned payment, the other two cards charge $35 for a bounced check. This policy includes cash advance checks. However, balance transfer and convenience checks are charged a lower $25.
Santander is known for providing some enticing bonuses for signing up for a credit card, so keep an eye out for these if you’re thinking about applying for one. In the past, the bank has offered statement credits after spending less than $1,000 within a few months of account opening. Lucrative balance transfer offers have been advertised as well. Some of these have been as low as 0% for more than a year, which would be a great deal if you have a high credit limit.
Credit card customers at Santander receive the bank’s digital assets, including a mobile app where autopay can be set up and a missing card can be placed on hold. The digital platform functions with the bank’s checking accounts, which provide a debit card in case your credit report is less than stellar.
Compared to other credit cards on the market, Santander Bank is fairly competitive. Chase, for example, offers a Visa that, like Santander’s Ultimate Cash Back card, earns 1.5% on all purchases. Chase’s card also has no annual fee. The Chase card has more lucrative sign-up bonuses, although the bank fails to offer the on-going no-fee policies that Santander’s Ultimate card provides. The Chase card imposes a 3% forex surcharge, for example.
The Bravo card’s 3x rewards program for gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants seems enticing, although other banks are able to provide similar perks with no annual fee. Citi, for instance, offers the Costco Anywhere Visa. It comes with 4% cash back on gas purchases (up to $7,000 per year), 3% back on dining transactions, and a 2% rebate on Costco purchases. A Costco membership is required for the card.