Why the Barnes & Noble MasterCard might be worth a look

I don’t usually like department store credit cards.  They tend to have weak signup bonuses and weak rewards.  There are exceptions, though.  For example, if you spend a lot at Kohls, you need to have the Kohls charge card to qualify for their frequent 30% off coupons.  In November, PF Digest listed several retailer credit cards that may be worth having.  Barclaycard’s Barnes & Noble MasterCard is similar.  Under certain circumstances, this card could be a winner.

Here’s the marketing copy for the card:

Barnes & Noble MasterCard®

  • Earn a $25 Gift Card after your first purchase
  • Get an Extra 5% Back at Barnes & Noble
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on everything else
  • Every time you reach 2,500 points, you’ll automatically receive a $25 B&N Gift Card
  • No Annual Fee
  • See terms and conditions for complete details

This card is a strange beast because it offers two different types of rewards: cash back and points.  When you make a purchase at Barnes & Noble in person or online, the card awards you with 5% cash back, which is automatically posted to your MasterCard account.  This is the footnoted text at the bottom of the landing page:

When you use your Barnes & Noble MasterCard to make any purchase (other than the purchase of any discounted Barnes & Noble Gift Cards) online at www.bn.com and in any Barnes & Noble Store nationwide, a credit in the value of five percent (5%) of such eligible net purchases will be posted to your Barnes & Noble MasterCard account. The five percent (5%) credit will appear on the same billing statement as the charge for the related eligible purchase.

Purchases made outside of Barnes & Noble result in points at a rate of 1 point per dollar.  These points will be automatically converted into a Barnes & Noble gift card once you reach 2,500 points.  This is like getting a 1% cash back return, but it is not even that good since you just get a gift card, not cash.

My advice: Do not use this card outside of Barnes & Noble.  For Barnes & Noble purchases, this card is very good.  For all other purchases, it’s a dog.

Who its good for

Obviously, if you spend a lot of money at Barnes & Noble, getting 5% cash back is pretty good.  For everyone else, there are gift cards.  The terms explicitly say that you won’t get cash back for B&N discounted gift cards purchased online, so that implies that you will get cash back for all gift cards bought in-store.  In my experience, few B&N stores sell gift cards from other merchants, but Barnes & Noble Campus Book stores usually do.  So, you can use the B&N MasterCard to save 5% on the purchase of any gift card offered in-store.

An even better opportunity may be to use the B&N Mastercard to reload an American Express Campus Edition reloadable card.  Reloads cost $3.95 per $500 load.  If you pay for the reload with the B&N MasterCard, you should receive $25.20 back as a statement credit (5% of $503.95).  Your net cost to load $500 would be $478.75.  You could then use the Campus Edition Amex for day to day spend as a way to get an effective rate of 4.25% cash back on all purchases.  Please see my old post “American Express Campus Edition” for details about this reloadable card.  Note that you cannot exceed a balance of $1000 on the campus edition card.

Bottom line

I think that this card is best suited for those who live or work near a Barnes & Noble Campus Edition bookstore and would like to get an effective rate of 4.25% cash back on all purchases (where Amex is accepted) via the Amex Campus Edition card.  Personally, I’m happy with my Citi Forward card which is grandfathered in to the old 5X at bookstores benefit, so I don’t plan to get the Barnes & Noble card.  Also, even though the Campus Edition trick is pretty lucrative, its more work than I’m willing to invest right now especially given the $1K balance limit.

Anyway, in case anyone is interested, I’ve added the Barnes & Noble card to my Preparing for Miles page (scroll down to the section titled “Best Credit Cards for Saving Money”).

Last updated on November 13th, 2015

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

19
Leave a Reply

avatar
13 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
MSThe many flavors of Amex Prepaid cards - The Frequent Miler - The Frequent MilerEdT-Mobile has a debit card for some reason! Plus more Republic Wireless, and how to make money in an IRS audit – Personal Finance DigestBrandon Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Jamie
Guest
Jamie

I used to have this card and cancelled it (back in the days before I was into this game and knew that I should just keep no fee cards forever). Now I wish I still had it. But not badly enough to bump it up on the list, since I don’t live near a B&N campus bookstore.

Kate
Guest
Kate

I already get 5x on all Barnes and Noble purchases with gift cards from office supply stores.

J.C.
Guest
J.C.

From pure spending at B&N, this card sucks. Who in their right mind even shops at B&N? I think B&N is in a competition with Needless Markup to see which can gouge customers more.

Yeah 5% sounds nice, but the math doesn’t work out when item for item Amazon is usually at least 25% cheaper. Then add the Chase Amazon card and it’s a no-brainier to dump B&N.

MS
Guest
MS

Publishers set book prices. Amazon purposely uses books as a loss leader to get you to buy other items there.

Elena
Guest
Elena

If you’re on the kiddie birthday party circuit and live near a B&N, this card is a good way to reduce the cost of birthday gifts. B&N stores have a lot of toys, puzzles, games, and books and cds, of course, that make good gifts.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I prefer buying B&N gift cards at office supply. And often shop at amazon with gift cards from office supply. Seems like a much better deal.

al613
Guest
al613

its amazing how all comments are missing the point.

Dima
Guest

Let the haters hate while we take them to the cleaners 😉

MrWho
Guest
MrWho

Really? The post does not consider “liquidating cost” of the AMEX Campus Ed. It’s the same for AMEX for Target. Not really that lucrative.

Ed
Guest
Ed

Didn’t see this in the explanation of benefits above, but the following line from the Ts&Cs might be the dealmaker for me: “There is no limit to the amount of Points and/or Rebates that you can earn.” The US Bank Cash+ can already get 5% back on “bookstores” but it’s capped at $2500 of spend per quarter.

While we’re back on AMEX Campus Edition cards again, is anyone else experiencing a high degree of “flakyness” when it comes to loading one? I know and obey the load limits, but it seems like a crap shoot every time I try to load one. If you’re like me, you’re probably already “that card guy” at the B&N Campus Bookstore, so having the loads fail regularly can’t help but make the transaction look more suspicious than it already does.
_
Just looking to hear what others’ experiences are.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I probably missed the point, but 4.2% back on my fairly small non-bonused spending isn’t compelling enough for me to jump through the hoops. But maybe I’m missing a stacking opportunity here.

josefismael
Guest
josefismael

2 questions – appreciate any answer someone might have…

-I’ve had my citi forward card since 2011. Is there a way to know for sure if I’m also grandfathered into the 5X @ bookstores perk? Or do I just have to test and see?

-Is there any way to transfer between the Campus prepaid and Bluebird card? I know it’s got the $1k limit/mo, but if I’m still getting 5000 points for paying part of my mortgage, that’s pretty sweet 🙂

great post as always….

jm

Ed
Guest
Ed

Bookstores often sell greeting cards. Chances are someone you know is having a birthday soon. Easy test. 🙂
_
Transfer AMEX CE -> Bluebird = No, but you CAN withdraw up to $400 once per month from an ATM with no fee (beyond whatever the ATM itself charges). I have a local no-fee ATM so that’s how I’m liquidating the AMEX CE card.

David
Guest
David

I don’t read the gift card exclusion to apply to online purchases only. Clumsy wording at best if you ask me. Which you didn’t. But still.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

What are the load limits on the Amex Campus Edition prepaid card? Also, is there any way to get multiple Amex Campus Edition prepaid cards?

Ed
Guest
Ed

Max Daily Load = $1000
Max Monthly Load = $1000 (rolling 30-day window)
Max Annual Load = $6000
Max Balance = $1000

The annual load limit will trip you up if you go overboard. It means you can effectively only load $500/month. The annoying thing is that their first-line customer service doesn’t think to look for the annual load limit as the cause of a load failure and their math is pretty terrible even with the rolling 30-day window.

Furthermore, if their first-line support reps are to be believed, an over-limit load attempt leaves no sign of ever having happened on their end. I’m skeptical of that since their tech support team based in Utah CAN see it just fine. With first-line reps, be prepared for them to blame everything else under the sun first — the POS machine, the cashier’s training, whether you were in the right store, your credit card, the list goes on …

Bottom line, just track your load limits meticulously and prepare to have your patience tested.

Ed
Guest
Ed

I don’t know about multiple cards per person, but you can LOAD a card in anyone’s name (got relatives?) and ATM’s don’t care who you are if you have the right PIN. 🙂

trackback

[…] a sort of related note, Frequent Miler thinks the Barnes & Noble card might be worth a look since it’s 5% off lots of stuff you can get at Barnes & […]

trackback

[…] Why the Barnes & Noble MasterCard might be worth a look […]