Santander’s new cash-back credit card has a surprising twist

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Turns out, even credit cards can have a side hustle.

Santander Bank’s new Ultimate Cash Back Credit Card offers a respectable 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, and doesn’t charge any fees for ownership, foreign transactions, cash advances or returned payments. Where it flips the script on other cash-back cards is that it can also double as a balance transfer card.

The Ultimate Cash Back card offers an introductory 3 percent APR for 12 months for balance transfers made within 90 days of opening an account — and there are no balance transfer fees. Other balance transfer cards typically offer 0 percent APR for a set period of time, but they also charge a fee of 3 percent to 5 percent of your transferred balance.

Note: Some of the offers below may have expired or are no longer available:

How Santander’s card compares
Card Intro balance transfer offer Rewards
Santander Ultimate Cash Back 3% APR for 12 months; no transfer fee 1.5% cash back
Chase Slate 0% APR for 15 months; no fee None
Citi Diamond Preferred 0% APR for 21 months; 3% fee None
Chase Freedom Unlimited 0% APR for 15 months;$5 or 5% fee 1.5% cash back

Should I get this card?

If you don’t already have a cash-back card, and you want a simple-to-understand, no-fee card, then Santander’s fee-free 1.5 percent rewards structure is a compelling offer. If you’re looking for a balance transfer card, make sure you do the math first to make sure the deal works for you.

Transfer $5,000 in debt to the Santander Ultimate Cash Back card, and you’d pay $79 in interest at the introductory 3 percent interest rate, assuming you paid off the debt within 12 months.

That’s considerably cheaper than some other options.

If you use a balance transfer card that gives a longer 15-month introductory period at 0 percent APR, but charges 5 percent of the amount you’re transferring, that would cost you $250.

Long-term considerations

Once you’ve ditched the debt on a card you acquired solely for the balance transfer offer, there may not be a compelling reason to continue to use that card. But canceling a credit card can negatively impact your overall credit score.

Where the Santander card shines is in its long-term usefulness. It’s both a good balance transfer card and a decent rewards card.

Before you apply

If the terms of this card appeal to you, there are a few things to keep in mind before you apply. Although you do not need to have a bank account with Santander, you do have to live in a state where the bank has a retail footprint. Eligible states are:  Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

You also have to be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security number and be able to prove you have some type of income.

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