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.

Pros and cons

Pros

Pros

  • Earns up to 1.5% cash back on groceries, gas, and select online purchases

  • Redemption is available once $25 cash back accumulated

  • Supplementary cards have no fee

  • Purchase protection for 90 days against theft or damage

  • Extended Warranty doubles manufacturer's warranty up to one year

Cons

Cons

  • Limited 1.5% cashback applies only to first $25,000 annual spending

  • Online purchases excluded from higher cashback rate if related to travel or recurring bills

  • $30 annual fee, unlike some competing no-fee cashback cards

  • Requires higher annual spending to offset annual fee

  • Limited acceptance compared to Mastercard by some merchants

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:

  1. 1.

    No fee for supplementary cards

  2. 2.

    1.5% cash back on gas, grocery and some online purchases (limited)

  3. 3.

    1% cash back on all other eligible purchases (unlimited)

  4. 4.

    Apply your cashback as soon as you accumulate $25

  5. 5.

    Purchases protected from theft or damage for 90 days after purchase

  6. 6.

    Extended Warranty doubles the original manufacturers warranty period up to one year

Eligibility

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.

National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard 
SimplyCash® Card from American Express 
BMO CashBack® Mastercard®*
Annual fee 
$30 
$0 
$0
Regular cashback rate 
1% 
1.25% cash back on all other eligible purchases 
0.5%*
Enhanced cashback rate 
1.5% on gas, grocery and some online purchases 
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 
3% cash back on grocery purchases, 1% cash back on recurring bill payments*
Sign-up bonus 
N/A 
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. 
Get up to 5% cash back in your first 3 months, plus a $50 cash back bonus (when you spend $6,000) in your first year – that’s up to $175 cash back in your first year!*

SimplyCash® Card from American Express

Quick Facts

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.

BMO CashBack® Mastercard®*

Quick Facts

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

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.

About our author

Money.ca
Money.ca, Money.ca Editorial Team

The Money.ca Editorial Team is a group of passionate financial experts, seasoned journalists, and content creators who are deeply committed to providing unbiased, relevant, and accurate financial information. With years of combined industry experience, our team is dedicated to maintaining the highest journalistic standards and delivering informative and engaging content. From personal finance and investing to retirement planning and business finance, we cover a broad range of topics to suit the financial needs of our diverse readership. You can trust the Money.ca Editorial Team to empower you with the knowledge and tools necessary to make wise financial decisions.

These articles do not include bylines, as they are intended to provide information about the company or have been written by an internal team at Money.ca, rather than stories by individual writers or contributors. Bylines are used for all other articles.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Money.ca is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.