The Quick Verdict
At first blush, it's easy to say that the Barnes & Noble Mastercard is a match made in credit card heaven for book lovers.
After all, what bookworm wouldn't want to earn gift cards toward more books with every purchase?
But before you hit the shelves or start loading up that Nook with the latest bestsellers, here are a few things to think about:
You won't earn points on Barnes & Noble purchases.
What you will get with the Barnes & Noble Mastercard is a 5% monthly statement credit.
The points you will earn come from restaurant purchases (double points) and everyday purchases that will count toward those $25 reward gift cards—of which there is no cap on earning.
You might save more with a Barnes & Noble membership.
You will get a 5% statement credit on all Barnes & Noble purchases when using the Barnes & Noble Mastercard—but you'll get 10% off each time you shop if you sign up for the regular annual store membership instead.
Granted, it costs $25 each year, but you get $50 in coupons plus the 10% discount, so it more than evens out over the course of the year.
You can earn double points at restaurants — with one major restriction.
The Barnes & Noble Mastercard can get you two points for every dollar spent at restaurants, but those don't include the on-site cafes at Barnes & Noble stores.
To use this card effectively, you'll need to use it more outside of Barnes & Noble than you will inside or online—which is a rather odd requirement for a company's store-branded credit card.
Still, if you are a loyal customer of Barnes & Noble—which has expanded over the years to include music, games, gifts, and other intriguing items in its stores and online—you might still consider adding the Barnes & Noble Mastercard to your wallet.
Read on to learn more.
Competition: Amazon Rewards Visa Signature
The Barnes & Noble Mastercard competes with the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card.
Or so it might like to think.
But as you already know, Amazon sells pretty much everything, including all the books, e-books, music, and movies you could want.
So if you're a book lover who also enjoys shopping online for anything, then you might be lured by the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card.
The Barnes & Noble Mastercard does offer higher rewards than the Amazon Visa for in-store purchases — 5% versus 3% to be exact.
But there's a catch, says the blogger.
"When you take into account the fact that Barnes & Noble usually price their books significantly higher, the extra 2% in rewards is hardly worth it."
For us, the Amazon Visa still comes up on top with rewards—after all, you can buy just about anything under the sun on the site, so you'll use your card more.
How Barnes & Noble Mastercard stacks up to its top competitor
|Barnes & Noble Mastercard||Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card|
|How high of credit score do you need?||704 is recommended||650+|
|Average APR?||14.99% or 25.99%||15.24%–23.24% variable APR|
|How big of a sign-up bonus do you get?||$25 gift card on first purchase||$50 gift card upon card approval|
|How much do you need to spend to get the bonus?||1st purchase, no limit||Instant upon approval|
|How many points do you get for every dollar?||2 points for restaurant purchases and 1 point for everyday items. BN purchases do not count for points, but you do get a 5% statement credit each month.||3% on Amazon.com (5% for Prime members); 2% at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores; and 1% for all others|
|Any restrictions?||Restaurant double points do not count in on-site cafes at BN stores.||None|
|How much is a point worth in real dollars?||Spend $100 on everyday purchases, and you'll earn $1 toward a $25 reward gift card. Spend $100 on qualifying restaurant purchases, and you'll earn $2 toward your reward.||For every $1 spent on Amazon, you'll get 3 cents back, making a $100 spend worth $3. For gas station purchases, you'll earn 2 cents ($6.00 on $100); for all else, it's 1 cent back ($11 per every $100).|
If you like to read and dine at restaurants (though not necessarily at the same time), you might consider the Barnes & Noble Mastercard.
And if you're on Team Nook rather than Team Kindle, then you'll like having the Barnes & Noble Mastercard.
But make no mistake: You need to commit to Barnes & Noble at least some of the time, or else you'll find yourself with a handful of unused BN gift cards.
Credit Card Insider's Brendan Harkness agrees:
"If you're a huge fan of Barnes and Noble, shopping there very frequently, you'll probably get a lot out of the 5% discount. Otherwise, it's unlikely that this card will be worth having."
This card is a good choice if you can rack up reward gift cards quickly.
Simply put, this is a card for readers.
Credit card blogger Logan Abbott says, "The card offers great cash-back rewards for frequent Barnes & Noble shoppers."
If you find yourself spending more money at Barnes & Noble than Amazon, this could definitely be the card for you.
It splits its rewards between cash-back and points.
You might expect a store-branded card to reward you for actually shopping in the store.
But shopping at Barnes & Noble won't get you to your next gift card any quicker.
In fact, you'll get no points toward a gift card for buying books in the first place.
You might be thinking, "But isn't it good for a credit card to offer both options?"
It would be, but not in the case of the Barnes & Noble Mastercard.
Remember, you could bypass the card and the ping on your credit report completely by just getting the Barnes & Noble membership instead.
When shopping at Barnes & Noble, you can use a cash-back or travel rewards card with your membership to rack up points and get a better discount.
Here are a couple of other drawbacks to consider about the Barnes & Noble Mastercard:
You won't get rewards for Barnes & Noble cafe purchases. It's a real bummer that you can't get the double restaurant points on that latte and scone you buy at the in-store cafe as you browse books.
There are better everyday credit card options. Greg, the brains behind the Frequent Miler blog, offers this advice about the card:
"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."
If you eat out regularly – but not at the BN Cafe – then, yes, it's worth it.
You'll get reward points toward that $25 gift card faster if you use the card outside of Barnes & Noble.
Restaurant spending gets you double the points.
But, remember, don't grab that bite at the in-store cafe — there are no restaurant bonuses to be had there.
You'll need good to excellent credit in order to get this card—and you'll want to have it, too, in order to get the 14.99% APR rather than the 24.99% rate.
Be wary of applying for this card if you have high credit utilization; consumers have reported being denied the card for that reason.
Who is Barnes & Noble anyway?
The book superstore that we know today had rather humble beginnings.
In 1873, Charles M. Barnes launched a home-based book business in Wheaton, IL.
It was his son, William who joined forces in New York with G. Clifford Noble to establish the first store (now the flagship store) on 5th Avenue and 18th Street.
Its reputation quickly grew for its outstanding inventory of trade books and textbooks.
In 1965, Leonard Riggio opened the Student Book Exchange in Greenwich Village.
As a bookseller during his student days at New York University, Riggio thought he could do an even better job of serving college students and their literary needs.
Riggio's business grew to include six other bookstores by the next decade.
He acquired the flagship store and trade name of Barnes & Noble, setting out to turn the iconic store into "The World's Largest Bookstore."
And with over 150,000 textbook and trade titles to its name today, it's difficult to argue with that title.
The credit issuer of the Barclay Barnes & Noble Mastercard is Barclays, a bank that actually dates back to two London goldsmith bankers, John Freame and Thomas Gould, in 1690.
The Barclays name came nearly half a century later when the son-in-law of Freame, James Barclay, became a partner in the goldsmith business.
The Barnes & Noble Mastercard will work best in the U.S.
Leave this card at home if you're planning to leave the country. Why? There's a 3% fee for transactions made abroad.
It also helps to have easy access to a Barnes & Noble to go browse, and with over 600 stores throughout all 50 states, that shouldn't be a problem for cardholders.
But if you don't feel like leaving the house, your card—and gift cards—will work just fine at BN.com, too.
How the card works
When you make your first purchase with your Barnes & Noble Mastercard, you'll receive a $25 BN gift card.
You'll get another gift card every time you spend $2,500 in qualifying purchases.
That means every $100 in qualifying purchases earns you $1 toward your next gift card, with no earning cap.
Oddly enough, you don't get points on your Barnes & Noble purchases.
But you do get a monthly statement credit of 5%, so you can buy books, gifts, and more and apply it toward your bill.
But wait, there's more!
Spend $7,500 in a year, and you'll get the $25 fee waived on a year-long Barnes & Noble membership.
Add to that the $50 in coupons and you've got yourself at least $75 in savings each year.
Here's what else you should know about the Barnes & Noble Mastercard:
Access your FICO credit score for free.
You won't be in the dark about your credit score.
Skip the annual fee.
There is no fee to use this card. Save your money for more books.
Snag a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card with your first purchase.
With your inaugural swipe of your card, you'll get a $25 gift card for next time.
Get double points for every $1 spent in restaurants.
Unlike other store credit cards that limit bonus spending to their stores alone, the Barnes & Noble Mastercard offers double points on restaurant spending. (This, strangely enough, doesn't apply to the in-store cafes, though.)
Interest rates and APR
How's your FICO score?
It definitely helps to have good credit when you apply for this card, as the variable APR varies widely—from a sizable 14.99% to a whopping 24.99%.
While this is normal for store-branded credit cards, better APR deals do exist, especially for consumers with high FICO scores.
There is no annual fee with the Barnes and Noble Mastercard and you can avoid other fees with careful usage:
Leaving the country? Leave your card behind.
You will get charged 3% for every transaction made outside of the U.S.—so while you may want to pack a book from Barnes & Noble for your flight, you may not want to pack this card.
There are plenty of other cards—with better rewards—that waive the fees on transactions abroad.
Skip the cash advance.
It's best not to use this card like a debit card either.
Cash advances carry a surcharge of $10 or 5%, whichever is greater, plus a 26.24% APR.
Pay on time, every time.
A missed payment can tack on up to $37 to your bill.
Needless to say, don't miss a payment, or go for the Citi Simplicity card, which touts no late fees.
Hold on to those gift cards.
Reward gift cards do not expire, but be sure to keep them in a safe place—they can't be replaced if you lose them.
Why People Love It
People love this card because they love what Barnes & Noble sells.
We've talked about books a lot, but it's important to remember that you can shop for a lot more than books at Barnes & Noble.
From records and CDs to puzzles and games to gifts for all ages, Barnes & Noble offers more than "just" books.
Satisfied cardholder Elena had this to say on the Frequent Miler blog:
"If you're on the kiddie birthday party circuit and live near a Barnes & Noble, 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."
On the same blog, Ed heralds his favorite thing about this card:
"…the following line from the terms and conditions might be the dealmaker for me: ‘There is no limit to the amount of points and/or rebates you can earn.'"
People complain about how little they really use it.
Store-branded cards are limiting by their very nature, as you're meant to use the rewards in that store alone.
That's great news if Barnes & Noble is a regular in your shopping rotation.
For some, however, books just aren't enough of a bonus.
The Mobile App
You like your paper to be in books, not in monthly statements.
The app allows you to keep an eye on your account while on the go, as well as:
- Check your balance
- Pay your bill
- Review transactions
- See your latest FICO score
- Set up account alerts
There are several recent rave reviews that gave shout-outs to the recent updates of the app.
"They listened!" gushed a reviewer named JV123654, who went on to write:
"The login is vastly improved. App is great to quickly check balances, make payments, etc. I use it daily and have had no issues since the last couple updates."
Visit the website, where you'll fill out an application and get a near-instant decision.
Just remember that this application will be a "hard pull" for your credit report and ding your score.
If you have trouble with your application, call 800-307-0341.
Closing your account
Call 888-232-0780 and speak to a customer service representative.
Remember though that your credit score will dip with the lowered credit limit.
If you've got other outstanding debt, consider keeping this card open for a while until you pay the rest of your bills.
As there's no annual fee with the Barclay Barnes & Noble Mastercard, it's OK to keep it open until you pay down your debt.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I cancel my card?
Call the number on the back of your card. If you no longer have your card, call 888-232-0780.
- What can I use my card for?
Though you'll probably use it most often in Barnes & Noble itself, you can use it for everyday purchases, too.
- Where and what stores can I use my card in?
You can use it anywhere Mastercard is accepted.
- How long does it take Barclay to refund my credit card?
It depends on the merchant's refund policy. If you don't receive one in due time, you can call the number on the back of your card to dispute a payment.
- How can I check my card balance?
Log on to the Barclay website or the app.
- How do I withdraw money from card?
You can create a PIN for this card by calling customer service. Your PIN will allow you to use the card at ATMs.
- Can I get a cash advance and are there any related fees?
The APR for cash advances is 26.24%, plus a charge of 5% or $10, whichever is higher.
- Can I pay for my card with a gift card, a different credit card, or PayPal?
No. You can pay for your card with a check or direct debit from your checking account.
- Can I use my card without the physical card?
You may be able to have the BN sales associate look up your card with your Social Security number instead.
Be sure to have your photo ID with you.
- How do I add an authorized user to card?
Call 877-523-0478 to add a user.
- Are there any upgrades on the card?
There is currently only one level of the card.
However, if you charge more than $7,500 in qualifying purchases, you'll get a free 12-month Barnes & Noble membership that carries its own set of benefits.
- How soon can I use my card once I receive it?
As soon as you call the number on the card or go online to confirm receipt of your card, you can start shopping.
- How do I contact card services?
- How do I report a stolen card?
- Can someone co-sign for a card?
- Can I use my card online? Will I be charged for shipping if I use my card online?
You can shop easily with your card online but you won't get free shipping just for using the card. (You'll need the Barnes & Noble membership to get that perk.)
BN does offer free shipping perks to all customers with a minimum purchase of $25.
- What credit score do I need to get approval for the card?
- What credit score do I have to maintain so my account is not closed?
While no score is required to maintain the card, some users have complained about Barclay shutting down and reducing their credit limit.
Still, if you keep your credit utilization low on all of your other cards, you should be fine with Barclaycard.
- Will my credit score drop when my account gets closed?
Yes, so be sure you've got minimal debt on other cards because losing this credit line will lower your debt ceiling.
- Which credit bureaus does Barclay credit card report to?
For credit card applications, Barclaycard pulls mainly from Transunion.
- Can I build my credit with the card?
Yes. This is a Mastercard that can be used any time you want to charge a purchase, so you'll build credit with this card.
- Is there an expiry date on the card?
Yes, just as there is on any other Mastercard.
- Is there a credit insurance program and how will it cover me if I lose my job?
There is no credit insurance plan offered.
Should you have trouble making minimum payments though, contact customer service before your payment is due to inquire about the possibility of a modified payment plan.
- Can I have two credit cards from Barclay at the same time?
Yes. There are various other Barclaycards with great bonuses and perks to choose from.
- Can I transfer money from my Barnes & Noble Mastercard to another?
No. You cannot initiate a balance transfer from one Barclaycard to another.
- Is it hard to get a Barclay's credit card?
Some Barclaycards require good to excellent credit, while other cards are ideal if you are establishing or reestablishing credit.
You can call the customer service number and discuss with an agent which Barclaycard is right for your credit history.
- How long does it take to receive the card once I have been approved for it?
You'll receive your card in about 7-10 business days.
The final word on the Barnes & Noble Mastercard
We like books. A lot. But our affinity for the written word simply isn't enough to get us on board with this credit card.
If the card allowed users to rack up points with Barnes & Noble purchases, then we'd snag this card in a heartbeat, using it only for bookstore runs.
But this is a card that encourages everyday purchases — and there are far better cash-back and travel rewards cards out there.
Sorry, book lovers…
Keep buying and reading, but pick a different credit card that will give you more bang for your buck!
There are even other Barcay cards out there that you might like!
Do you use the Barnes & Noble Mastercard?
How has the card worked out for you?
Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?
Let us know in the comments below.