Reviews The Ultimate Cash Back card from Santander Bank review
The Ultimate Cash Back card from Santander Bank review

The Ultimate Cash Back card from Santander Bank review

Published: August 29, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Cash Back Rating:
3.2 rating
3.2 rating
3.2 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.3
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.7
Rewards Flexibility: 4.4
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

Contrary to its name, the Ultimate Cash Back card is far from “ultimate,” though – if your goal is to have a single go-to card that you don’t have to put much thought into using – you can earn a decent amount of cash back on your everyday spending.

Rewards Rate
1.5% cash back on every purchase

Sign-up Bonus
$100 if you spend $500 in the first 90 days

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$271

APR
16.49-23.49% (variable)

Pros

  • Rewards don’t expire
  • Earn unlimited cash back
  • No minimum required to redeem
  • Can redeem rewards for merchandise and gift cards
  • Can transfer rewards to other Santander cards

Cons

  • Can’t redeem rewards for savings — e.g., by check or into a bank account
  • No travel rewards option

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, no cash advance fee, no balance transfer fee, no fee for returned checks, car rental insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, price protection, roadside assistance, travel assistance, $0 liability

No Annual Fee Rating:
3.4 rating
3.4 rating
3.4 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.8
Rewards Flexibility: 4.3
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

In addition to no annual fee, the Ultimate Cash Back Mastercard from Santander bank withholds the fees on many of its transactions, including foreign transactions and cash advances; unfortunately, it also features a pretty run-of-the-mill cash back program.

Rewards Rate
1.5% cash back on every purchase

Sign-up Bonus
$100 if you spend $500 in the first 90 days

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$271

APR
16.49-23.49% (variable)

Pros

  • Rewards don’t expire
  • Earn unlimited cash back
  • No minimum required to redeem
  • Can redeem rewards for merchandise and gift cards
  • Can transfer rewards to other Santander cards

Cons

  • Can’t redeem rewards for savings — e.g., by check or into a bank account
  • No travel rewards option

Other features: No foreign transaction fee, no cash advance fee, no balance transfer fee, no fee for returned checks, car rental insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, price protection, roadside assistance, travel assistance, $0 liability

Rewards Rating:
3 rating
3 rating
3 / 5
Rewards Value: 2.4
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.2
Rewards Flexibility: 3.7
Features: 3.0

In a nutshell:

With a run-of-the-mill earning scheme and sign-up bonus, plus limited redemption options, the rewards program on the Santander Ultimate Cash Back Mastercard is far from impressive.

Rewards Rate
1.5% cash back on every purchase

Sign-up Bonus
$100 if you spend $500 in the first 90 days

Annual Fee
$0

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$271

APR
16.49-23.49% (variable)

Pros

  • Rewards don’t expire
  • Earn unlimited cash back
  • No minimum required to redeem
  • Can redeem rewards for merchandise and gift cards
  • Can transfer rewards to other Santander cards

Cons

  • Can’t redeem rewards for savings — e.g., by check or into a bank account
  • No travel rewards option

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, no cash advance fee, no balance transfer fee, no fee for returned checks, car rental insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection, price protection, roadside assistance, travel assistance, $0 liability

The no annual fee Ultimate Cash Back card from Santander bank is a recent entry to the cash back card category and – for anyone who has been paying attention lately to cash back cards – it comes with familiar-looking terms: It offers 1.5 percent unlimited cash back on all purchases.

The market is already teeming with 1.5 percent flat-rate cards, and the Santander card does little to distinguish itself from the rabble. It does include the unique proposition of not charging fees for many transactions, such as cash advances and balance transfers, though cash advances and balance transfers are probably of little interest to cardholders who primarily want a card to earn cash back rewards.

It’s also notable that Santander Bank is a new face in the cash back card category. The bank, which is based out of Madrid and includes a corporate branch in Boston, primarily targets customers in the northeastern part of the U.S., including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Average rewards rate
Santander touts the Ultimate Cash Back card as “the most straightforward card on the market,” and for customers interested in ease-of-use, it certainly offers that: The card gives you 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, with no bonus categories to enroll in or keep track of.

If you prefer to invest minimal effort into your credit card use, a 1.5 percent cash back is a pretty decent return, though you can do better. For instance, the Citi Double Cash card offers up to 2 percent cash back on all your purchases, as long as you pay your bill on time.

Average sign-up bonus
The Ultimate Cash Back card also offers a $100 sign-up bonus to new cardholders who spend at least $500 on the card within 90 days of activating the card. Again, this is par for the course. Many 1.5 percent cash back cards come with a $100 sign-up bonus, and some cards offer even better rewards.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card – one of our favorite cash back cards – offers 1.5 percent cash back, a $150 sign-up bonus and a $25 bonus for adding an authorized user who makes a purchase on the card – for a total of $175. It also offers more flexible redemption options than the Ultimate Cash Back card (more on that below).

Flexible redemption options
The Ultimate Cash Back card is very flexible when it comes to redeeming your rewards. Your rewards don’t expire, and you can redeem any amount at any time. Plus, the card comes with a fair array of redemption options: Not only can you redeem your rewards for cash back, but you also have the option to redeem them for gift cards and merchandise. Unfortunately, there is no way to get cash back except as a credit to your card statement, so you can’t put the rewards toward savings. Also, there are no travel rewards options on the Ultimate Cash Back card.

One plus is that you can transfer your rewards to other Santander bank cards, including the Sphere and Bravo cards, at a 1:1 rate. If you already have a Sphere card (which only offers 1 point per dollar of spending) or a Bravo card (which only offers a bonus on supermarket, gas and restaurant purchases) and are trying to build up more points on these cards, you can use the Ultimate Cash Back card to accumulate rewards at a higher rate on your general spending, and then transfer them.

No fees for many transactions
As mentioned above, the Ultimate Cash Back card offers no fees on many types of transactions, including foreign transactions, balance transfers, cash advances and returned payments.

The lack of a foreign transaction fee is a very valuable feature. If you use the card while traveling abroad, you don’t have to worry about incurring a 2 to 3 percent fee on each of your transactions.

The lack of a fee on cash advances and returned payments is more questionable in value. For consumers who manage credit responsibly, these types of transactions are probably rare. In general, we only recommend cash advances in emergencies, because, unlike regular charges, cash advances don’t have a grace period. This means that, even without the cash advance fee, you will end up owing money on the transaction, since you start incurring interest on the amount the moment it is posted to your account.

The lack of a balance transfer fee is also questionable in value. If you are planning to collect cash back rewards, we generally don’t recommend carrying a balance on a card. And, if your intention is to transfer and pay off a balance, you can find many cards, such as the Chase Slate card, that offer a 0 percent introductory APR on balance transfers, with no fee for transferring the balance and a longer period to pay it off. The Santander card, in contrast, offers a 3 percent introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for balance transfers made within 90 days of opening your account.

The usual Mastercard benefits
The Ultimate Cash Back card comes with the usual array of Mastercard purchase and travel protections, including car rental insurance, extended warranty, purchase protection and price protection.

Why get it?

  • You want to put all your spending on one card that is easy to manage.
  • You already have a relationship with Santander bank.
  • You want to collect a large sign-up bonus from a card that you haven’t previously signed up for.

How to use it:

  • Use this card to earn a high cash back rate on all your everyday spending.
  • Spend at least $500 in the first 90 days to earn the card’s sign-up bonus.
  • Be sure to log in to your account on a regular basis to redeem your rewards for statement credits.

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