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The National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard is a decent cashback card, particularly for those who do a lot of online shopping. That said, there are some important qualifiers to its seemingly appealing cashback structure (more on that below), and overall it’s not strong enough to appear on our list of the best cashback cards in Canada.
National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard benefits
The ECHO Mastercard earns 1.5% cash back on groceries, gas and most online purchases. The third category is rare among cashback cards in Canada, and might be particularly attractive to those that make a lot of purchases online. All eligible purchases outside those three categories earn 1% cash back.
However, there are two exceptions you should be aware of: First, the 1.5% cashback rate on gas, grocery, and online purchases is only awarded on the first $25,000 of annual spending; after you cross that mark, cash back from spending in those categories is reduced to the card’s regular 1% rate.
Second, while it advertises a 1.5% cashback rate on online purchases, those online purchases apparently cannot include travel, transportation, or recurring bills. Per the fine print: “all purchases related to a trip made with or without a travel agency (air transportation, accommodation and vehicle rental), purchases related to transportation (bus, metro, train) and repetitive payments (online subscriptions and automatic bill payments).“
We find that a little disappointing, as essentially any purchases on Expedia, Travelocity, AirCanada.com, Netflix, the Globe and Mail, Bell, Rogers, Telus, or Videotron, etc. would not qualify as an “online” purchase, and would thus only receive 1% cashback.
If there’s one feature of the card that makes it stand-out from the pack aside from the online spending rate, it’s the ease of redeeming cash back. While many cards only allow you to redeem at the end of each year, ECHO allows you to apply your cash back as soon as you reach $25.
Here’s a summary of the rewards, perks and benefits that help this card stand-out from the pack:
No fee for supplementary cards
1.5% cash back on gas, grocery and some online purchases (limited)
1% cash back on all other eligible purchases (unlimited)
Apply your cashback as soon as you accumulate $25
Purchases protected from theft or damage for 90 days after purchase
Extended Warranty doubles the original manufacturers warranty period up to one year
There is no specified minimum income requirement, although we always recommend you earn at least $15,000 before applying, unless you’re a student.
How does the National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard compare to competing cards?
The National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard offers reasonable value overall, but it does come with a $30 annual fee. There are other cashback cards that have comparable (or in some cases superior) features with no annual fee.
SimplyCash® Card from American Express
Credit score required: Fair/Good
Annual fee: $0
The SimplyCash® Card from American Express has no annual fee, and its ‘everything’ earn rate is actually higher than the ECHO card: Earn 2% cash back on eligible gas purchases in Canada, 2% cash back on eligible grocery purchases in Canada (up to $300 cash back annually), and 1.25% cash back on all other eligible purchases.
In your first 10 months as a new SimplyCash® Card from American Express Cardmember, you can earn a $10 statement credit for each monthly billing period in which you spend $300 in purchases on your card. This could add up to $100 in statement credits in the first 10 months. Conditions apply.
The only comparative disadvantage for the SimplyCash® Card from American Express is it’s an Amex, so it’s accepted by less merchants than a Mastercard. That said, in recent years Amex has improved its acceptance rate among Canadian merchants, and the number of stores that accept Amex is now far higher than what it once was.
Apply for the SimplyCash® Card from American Express
BMO CashBack® Mastercard®*
Credit score required: Good
Annual fee: $0
The BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* also has no annual fee and comes with its own special cashback rate in the first three months: 5% on all eligible purchases, up to a max of $2,500 spent ($125 cash back). Then get 3% cash back on grocery purchases, 1% cash back on recurring bill payments and 0.5% unlimited cash back on all other purchases*. In addition to the accelerated rate, new cardholders also get a $50 cash bonus for spending $6,000 in the first year.
Unlike the ECHO card, the BMO CashBack® Mastercard®* does not have any special spending categories where it earns extra cash back. But cardholders do get car rental discounts*.
*Terms and conditions apply
Apply for the BMO CashBack® Mastercard®
Who’s the card for?
Despite its shortcomings, the National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard might be a good fit for those who spend more than $6K annually ($500 per month) on eligible groceries, gas and online purchases. Why? In its enhanced cashback categories the ECHO card has about a 0.5% cashback advantage on competing cards with no annual fee, which earn about 1% in cash back give or take. Spending $6K annually in those categories will yield $30 in cash back that you would not get with the no annual fee cards, which covers the so-called annual ‘cost’ of having the ECHO card.
If you’re unlikely to meet that spending target, it’s probably a better call to go with one of the no annual fee cards listed above.
American Express is not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details and current product information click the Apply now link. Conditions apply.
BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information.