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Santander Bank Review: Checking, Savings and CDs

Banking, Banks & Credit Unions, CDs, Checking Accounts, Savings Accounts
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Santander Bank Review

Santander BankNerdWallet’s rating: 3.5 / 5.0
3.5 stars out of 5

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Santander Bank has attractive options for people with high savings balances as well as basic options for those seeking checking accounts with easy-to-avoid fees and no monthly minimums.

Santander is a full-service financial institution with branches from the Northeast to Pennsylvania. It also offers certificates of deposit, home and auto loans, insurance, credit cards and investment accounts.

Santander Bank may be right for you if:

  • You live in the northeastern U.S. and prefer access to physical branches.
  • You want checking and savings account options with low or no monthly fees, even if they don’t offer many perks.
  • You’re able to deposit a minimum of $75,000 in combined accounts — or make at least $6,000 in direct deposits each month — to open an interest-bearing checking account and access personal banking services.

» MORE: Best banks and credit unions in the Northeast

OUR RATINGS
Checking 4.0 stars out of 5
Savings & money market accounts 4.0 stars out of 5
Certificates of deposit 4.0 stars out of 5
Customer experience 3.0 stars out of 5
Other fees 3.0 stars out of 5
Overall 3.5 stars out of 5

Read on for more details about Santander’s checking and savings accounts, CDs, customer experience and fees.

Checking accounts

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

You can open a Simply Right Checking account at Santander with just $25. These accounts have a $10 monthly fee, which is waived as long as you use it to make at least one transaction — deposit, transfer, withdrawal or payment — per month. They’re no-frills and don’t earn interest. And if you travel abroad, note that Simply Right Checking accounts have relatively high international ATM fees.

Santander also has a Basic Checking account with a $3 monthly fee that the bank won’t waive, but no transaction requirements. And there’s Premium Plus Checking, which earns interest but has a $35 monthly fee. You’ll need at least $75,000 in combined account deposits or $6,000 in monthly direct deposits to avoid the fee and get the account’s best benefits: access to a personal banker and no extra charge for using out-of-network ATMs. The ATM owner might charge a separate fee.

ProsCons
  • It's easy to waive Simply Right Checking's $10 monthly fee — just use the account to make one transaction per calendar month.

  • New customers may qualify for a $225 sign-up bonus. To qualify: Open a Simply Right Checking, Basic Checking or Premium Plus Checking account from the bank's promotional page, have $500 or more in direct deposits in the first 90 days, and keep the account open for at least 90 days. The offer is due to run through March 31, 2017.
  • Customers have access to more than 2,000 Santander ATMs in the U.S., mainly in the Northeast.

  • Basic Checking and Simply Right Checking accounts don't earn interest; Premium Plus Checking pays interest but requires $75,000 in combined deposits or $6,000 in regular direct deposits to avoid a $35 monthly fee.

  • Basic Checking and Simply Right Checking accountholders are charged $3 for out-of-network domestic ATM transactions.

  • Santander charges $6 for both network and non-network international ATM transactions.

» MORE: NerdWallet’s best checking accounts

Savings and money market accounts

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

For people with at least $10,000 to deposit, Santander’s money market savings accounts shine. They offer an annual percentage yield, or APY, that ranges from 0.8% to 1.0% APY, depending on your location. The above-average yields earn the bank a spot on NerdWallet’s list of best money market accounts.

Santander also offers a basic savings account with no monthly fee on balances of at least $100, but the APY is only 0.03%, half the national average.

ProsCons
  • Santander's Money Market Savings account starts with a APY, but if you have a $10,000 minimum balance, the account earns an above-average APY that ranges from 0.8% to 1.0%, depending on your location.

  • The bank's basic savings account doesn’t charge a monthly fee if you have a Santander checking account or a $100 average account balance; otherwise, it costs $1 per month.
  • Customers with Money Market Savings balances below $10,000 pay a $10 monthly fee unless they have Santander checking accounts.

  • Santander's basic savings APY is only 0.03%, half the national average.

Certificates of deposit

4.0 stars out of 5
4.0 / 5.0

Santander provides a selection of CDs with terms ranging from three months to five years. Rates range from 0.9% APY for a 15-month term to 1.7% APY for a five-year term.

ProsCons
  • Relatively low initial minimum deposit of $500.

  • Term lengths as short as three months.

  • APYs as high as 1.7% for five-year CDs.
  • Website makes it hard to figure out some CD rates.

Customer experience

3.0 stars out of 5
3.0 / 5.0

Santander’s website has a clean, usable design, but it’s missing some crucial pieces of information. In many cases, it’s hard to pin down the interest rates, monthly fees and other essential features of specific accounts.

If you have questions, however, you can reach customer service by phone or email. Representatives are available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern time, seven days a week.

Santander Bank also has mobile banking apps for iOS and Android devices, but they tend to receive average to poor reviews in the app stores. Many complaints come from users who have a hard time using the check deposit feature.

Other fees

3.0 stars out of 5
3.0 / 5.0

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Santander charges $35 for overdrafts, which is at or slightly above the national median, depending on the data source. It charges another $35 for accounts that are negative for five consecutive business days. To avoid an overdraft, link your checking account to another Santander account or line of credit — but know that overdraft transfers still carry a $12 fee.

Santander also charges $3 per month for paper statements, but you can opt out by choosing electronic delivery.

Next steps

If you think overdraft fees would be a problem for you, it’s worth considering more affordable options, such as Capital One’s 360 Checking. This account has no overdraft fees and offers free transfers from a linked savings account.

But if Santander’s fees aren’t a stumbling block and you like their offerings, it’s a decent choice for basic accounts.

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @margarette

This article was updated May 16, 2016. It was originally published in July 2015.


RATINGS METHODOLOGY

For banks and credit unions, NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each subcategory: checking accounts, savings and money market accounts, CDs, customer experience and other fees. Factors we consider, depending on the subcategory, include rates and fees, ATM and branch access, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to each financial institution’s ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid