National Bank ECHO Cashback Mastercard Review

Annual Fee
$30
Max Earnings Rate
1.5%
Base Rewards Earning Rate
1%
Recommended Credit Score
740 850 670 739 580 669 0 579
Fair-Good
Purchase APR
20.99%
Earn 1.5% cashback on most online purchases, in grocery stores and on gas*

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:

  1. No fee for supplementary cards
  2. 1.5% cash back on gas, grocery and some online purchases (limited)
  3. 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases (unlimited)
  4. Apply your cashback as soon as you accumulate $25
  5. Purchases protected from theft or damage for 90 days after purchase
  6. Extended Warranty doubles the original manufacturers warranty period up to 1 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 MastercardSimplyCashTM Card from American ExpressBMO CashBack® Mastercard®
Annual Fee$30$0$0
Regular Cashback Rate1%1.25%0.5%*
Enhanced Cashback Rate1.5% on gas, grocery and some online purchasesN/A3% cash back on grocery purchases, 1% cash back on recurring bill payments*
Sign-Up BonusN/A4% cash back on purchases (up to $200 cash back) in the first 6 months of CardmembershipGet 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!*

SimplyCashTM Card from American Express

Apply Now

– Credit score required: Fair-Good
– Annual fee: $0

The SimplyCashTM Card from American Express has no annual fee, and its ‘everything’ earn rate is actually higher than the ECHO card: the SimplyCash card earns 1.25% on all eligible purchases compared to the ECHO card’s 1%. Unlike the ECHO card it also offers a welcome cashback rate of 4% on purchases (up to $200 cash back) for the first 6 months of Cardmembership; after which, all further purchases will earn at the card’s regular 1.25% rate.

The SimplyCash card’s only comparative disadvantages are that it does not have any spending categories that earn extra cash back, and 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 SimplyCashTM Card from American Express.


BMO CashBack® Mastercard®

Apply Now

– Credit score required: Fair-Good
– Annual fee: $0

The BMO CashBack® Mastercard® also has no annual fee and comes with its own special cashback rate in the first 3 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 up to a 25% discount on car rentals at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations*.

*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.

Author Bio

GreedyRates is Canada’s go-to resource for all things personal finance. Our expert articles and videos cover every topic under the financial sun, including credit cards, credit scores, loans, bank accounts, budgeting, investing, RSPs, TFSAs, GICs, taxes, and more. Want our advice on a personal finance issue? Send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll gladly give you some free tips.

Article comments

2 comments
Douglas says:

no longer worth it there is an annual fee now

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Douglas,

Thanks very much for your comment. We’re sorry about the outdated information and will make changes to our article accordingly. You’re right that the National Bank Echo card now has an annual fee, though the move from $0 to $30 isn’t drastic. Still, for some cardholders it can hurt. We still believe that the card is worthwhile, however, given that its lowest rate of cash back (1.00%) would cover the annual fee with just $3,000 in annual spending. We assume you’ll be spending more than that, and probably in its 1.50% cash back category as well. However, these observations are all subjective and depend entirely on your own preferences and habits. We can’t deny that there are better options out there, when it comes to no-fee cash back cards.

One of them is the Amex SimplyCash card, which has a bonus introductory cash back rate of 2.50% for the first three months. Afterwards, it falls to 1.25% on everything, and suffers from less purchase restrictions than the National Bank card. If you’re interested in balance transfers, its 1.99% for 6 months’ deal is also stellar. In fact, you can find a lot of great no-fee cash back cards by filtering on our site. If you navigate to the page linked below and then use the menu on the left-hand side to select ‘No Annual Fee’, you’ll be presented with a healthy array of options. Best of luck!

GreedyRates