A dark horse card that has entered the market recently is the Santander Bravo℠ MasterCard. However, there are a handful of reasons this card hasn’t received a lot of attention: 1) it’s one of the latest credit cards to reach the market (out in Feb), 2) it doesn’t pay bloggers, and 3) it doesn’t have a sign-up bonus.

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With that said, it could be useful to some and it’s always good to see more competition in the rewards credit card arena. Wishful thinking has it that Santander will release more cards over the next year and we’ll see more rewards cards to add into the mix when applying for high sign-up bonuses.

Earn 3x Points on Gas, Groceries and Restaurants with the Santander Bravo MasterCard

The Santander Bravo MasterCard earns 3X points on gas, groceries and restaurants, which makes it a potentially valuable card if you only use it on these bonus categories. This means that you’re getting 3% back on those purchases since each point is worth a cent. However, on all other purchases you’ll only earn 1X point for every dollar spent.

The points earning cap on the 3X earning is 15,000 points (up to $5,000 in purchases) per quarter, so if you max that out every quarter you’re looking at getting $600 a year back. Something to note about the Bravo’s ‘cash back’ is that you cannot get straight cash back through redeeming for a statement credit or check, instead you have to redeem for a MasterCard gift card. In this sense it’s not really even ‘cash back’ in my opinion.

The AARP credit card is another card that gives you 3% cash back, but only on gas and restaurants. The difference between these two cards are: the AARP offers unlimited cashback, but only on gas and restaurants, whereas the Bravo caps the 3X earning at 15,000 points per quarter, but earns 3X for gas, groceries, and restaurants.

Drawbacks of the Card

No sign-up bonus. This is by far the biggest drawback of this card, and it will take almost a full year of maxing out the bonus categories to surpass the value you will get from the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® 40,000 mile sign-up bonus.

$49 annual fee. With no sign-up bonus the annual fee immediately cuts into the value proposition. Even though it is a modest annual fee at $49, you’re looking at getting $551 in value from the card per year if you max out the bonus categories.

The good news is that the annual fee is waived the first year as well as for subsequent years if you maintain a Santander Select checking account. As the terms and conditions say, the annual fee will be “waived for the first year of the account, and waived in each of the subsequent years on the anniversary date of the account if you maintain a Santander Select checking account or if you are qualified for a Santander Bank employee checking account”.

Interesting enough, Santander didn’t even offer the Santander Select checking account product until recently! The products is now on Santander’s website but it looks as though you cannot open accounts online, so you’ll have to go into a branch to open the account.

How Does the Bravo Compare to the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard?

Even though the Santander Bravo MasterCard earns 3X points on gas, groceries, and restaurants, it lacks the flexibility and earning potential (15,000 points per quarter cap) of other cards. Across the board I would consider the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® far more valuable and would choose it over the Santander Bravo.

Just the sign-up bonus alone makes the Barclaycard Arrival Plus a much higher value proposition, and with its 2.20% (some would argue 2.28%) earning you are getting mighty close to the earning rate of the Bravo. Plus you earn 2X points on every purchase, not just three bonus categories.

Even if you max out the Bravo’s bonus category spending at $20,000 the first year you’re getting $600 back. If you spend the same $20,000 on the Arrival Plus card during the first year of having the card you will get $880 back in free travel (40,000 points from the sign-up bonus + 40,000 points from spending + 8,000 points from the 10% mile rebate).

One benefit that the Bravo has over the Arrival Plus card is that you can redeem points for gift cards at a value of 1 cent per point, where you will get a lower value per mile with the Arrival Plus card. If you are a big spender on the Bravo’s bonus categories this could be the card for you. If you are looking for a more flexible card that will out earn the Bravo for all purchases I would go with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®.

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4 Comments

  • Good luck on getting approved. They apparently go heavily by Experian hard pulls which are impossible (apparently) to remove. Despite getting all TransUnion pulls off prior to applying, both my wife and I were denied despite scores in the mid 700’s. We both got every other card we wanted including two additional from notoriously difficult Barclays.

    FYI- my wife applied online and her pulls didnt happen until the next day, I applied via phone and my pulls were same day.

    • Bob, thanks for the info and sorry about the denials. Being that Santander is new to the credit card scene in the US there’s little data on their approvals, etc, but I’m surprised they are tough.