Credit card holders in the northeastern United States have a new option when it comes to rewards cards. This month, Sovereign Bank launched its Sphere Visa Signature Credit Card.

The Sphere card is the first credit card product Sovereign has launched since it was acquired by the Spanish company Santander Holdings in 2009. The card is a dual branded card, featuring the logos of both Sovereign and Santander.

"We are very excited to launch the new Sphere consumer credit card," said Nuno Matos, head of Retail Banking at Sovereign, in a press release. "The credit card business will be a key driver in our continued strategic growth in the United States and Sphere is the ideal product for us to successfully introduce the first ever Sovereign/Santander dual branded consumer credit card to the U.S. market."

The no annual fee Sphere card is a rewards card that was designed with simplicity in mind. Card holders earn 1 point for every $1 they spend in net retail purchases, which includes all qualifying purchases, but doesn't include credits, returns, adjustments, balance transfers, cash advances, money order or other cash equivalent purchases, purchases made by or for a business for business purposes, fees, interest charges and unauthorized or fraudulent charges. Customers accrue points every month, and if the dollar amount for that billing cycle includes change, points are rounded to the nearest whole point. Cardholders can earn unlimited points, but they do expire after five years.

Cardholders can redeem their points for cash, travel, merchandise and gift cards, with rewards starting at 2,500 points for cash and merchandise and 15,000 points for air travel. Additionally travel rewards are not subject to any blackout dates. "Sphere is a credit card built on the premise that rewards should be simple, said Eduardo Tobon, head of Cards at Sovereign Bank in a press release. "We designed Sphere with the intent of offering a consumer credit card that has features and benefits that allow individuals and families to focus on what is important to them."

Additionally, Sphere cardholders can choose options to simplify payments. It offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 12 months. When someone opens an account, she also has the opportunity to use a special low promotional rate on balance transfers made during the first 60 days the account is open. This special rate is good for up to 10 months, with a competitive variable rate thereafter, but is dependent on the account holder's creditworthiness.

Cardholders may also choose their own payment date and have payments automatically deducted from their checking accounts.

If a fraudulent purchase appears on an account, the cardholder will not be liable for it. The card also offers security against theft or damage of purchases and a warranty manager service that extends product manufacturers' warranties.

Sovereign's new Sphere card is its latest attempt to build its cards business. The Sovereign-branded credit card portfolio officially became part of Sovereign Bank in June 2011, when it bought the cards from FIA Card Services, N.A. This brought about 105,000 credit card relationships and almost $200 million in balances to Sovereign.

Now the bank is focused on growing its line of cards. "The purchase of the Sovereign-branded credit card portfolio last year was a major step in the development of Sphere," said Tobon. "Sphere is just the beginning and positions us well to build a full line of credit card products that provide customers with a range of value propositions."