BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard® review: A cord-cutter’s dream?

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Snapshot

3.8

Bankrate rating
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Bottom line

This card’s reward rates make it a solid cash back card and one of the best for streaming and TV subscriptions. But unless you shell out for cable or satellite TV, the BMO Harris Cash Back card may be best used as a second rewards card since other cards offer wider-reaching categories.

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See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on BMO Harris's secure site

BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard®

Rewards rate

N/A

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.24% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent  (740 - 850)

BMO Harris paid for the creation of the content on this page. However, the information is based on our unbiased opinion, and the provider did not have any input into the review.

BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard Overview

At first glance, the BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard looks like a solid yet run-of-the-mill cash back credit card. It charges no annual fee, earns rewards at a good rate on some everyday purchases and comes with a short intro APR offer. The card stands out with its rewards on streaming, however.

Unlike most other cards that offer rewards on streaming, the BMO Harris Cash Back card also earns bonus rewards on traditional cable and satellite TV services. Plus, your rewards aren’t limited to a specific list of streaming, cable and satellite TV subscriptions. This flexibility, combined with the card’s higher-than-average rewards rate, makes the BMO Harris Cash Back easily one of the best credit cards for streaming services.

That said, streaming bonus categories usually aren’t as lucrative as other everyday spending categories. And though the card carries a solid rewards rate on gas and groceries, it doesn’t offer as much bonus category variety as some other no-annual-fee cash back cards.

While the BMO Harris Cash Back card could offer a lot of everyday value, especially if you spend heavily on streaming and TV services, other cards with more versatile cash back categories may be more lucrative overall.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Offers perhaps the highest, unlimited rewards rate on streaming services, cable and satellite TV year-round for no annual fee
  • It can be easier to switch to since you can avoid interest for 12 months with its 0 percent intro APR on balance transfers made in the first 90 days (then a 16.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable APR)
  • You’ll earn solid 3 percent cash back on two popular everyday expenses after your monthly subscriptions: gas and groceries (on up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1 percent back)
  • Paying your monthly cellphone bill with this card  insures your phone for up to $400 if it’s damaged or stolen (up to $600 per year across two claims, minus a $50 deductible)

Cons

  • 5 percent back on streaming, cable, and satellite subscriptions isn’t very valuable for the average spender unless you have a hefty cable or satellite TV bill
  • Several other no-annual-fee cash back cards offer a more rewarding roster of bonus categories
  • Its cellphone protection and perk list is weaker than similar cards’ offerings
  • The $200 welcome offer’s $2,000 spending requirement is well above the typical three-month spend

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 5 percent cash back on eligible streaming, cable TV and satellite services; 3 percent back on up to $2,500 of eligible gas and grocery purchases each quarter (then 1 percent back); 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: $200 cash bonus after spending $2,000 within your first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for 12 months
  • Regular APR: 16.49 percent to 24.49 percent (variable)

Current welcome offer

You can earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $2,000 within your first three months.

Although $200 back is typical for a no-annual-fee cash back card welcome offer, most competing cards only require a $500 to $1,000 spend within three months to qualify for a sign-up bonus of this caliber. A $2,000 spend across three months should still be within reach for many cardholders, but it isn’t the most accessible spending requirement.

It may be easier to qualify if you use the BMO Harris Cash Back as your primary rewards card in your first three months or if you pay for streaming, cable and satellite TV subscriptions upfront for the full year.

Rewards rate

The BMO Harris Cash Back Mastercard carries one of the most generous cash back rates on streaming, cable and satellite TV services available on a no-annual-fee card. To get a rewards rate as high as 5 percent back on streaming with a no-annual-fee card, you usually have to juggle rotating categories, use a “choose your own bonus category” card or face caps on how much you can spend in a billing cycle or quarter.

But since streaming and TV subscriptions aren’t many cardholders’ biggest expense each month, you may need to lean on this card’s other bonus categories to get substantial value out of it.

How you earn

You’ll earn unlimited 5 percent cash back on eligible streaming, cable and satellite TV services with the BMO Harris Cash Back card. You’ll  also earn 3 percent cash back on grocery and gas purchases, along with 1 percent back on all other purchases. However, your 3 percent rewards are limited to your first $2,500 of combined spending on gas and groceries each quarter, after which your rate drops to 1 percent back.

A 3 percent cash back rate on groceries and gas is impressive, as only a few no-annual-fee cards offer a rate this high in both of these popular categories. Plus, you probably won’t have to worry about the $2,500 spending cap that applies to this rate. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average person only spends about $1,800 per quarter on groceries and gas combined, so you may not exceed this cap unless you have an especially large gas or grocery budget.

While streaming, cable and satellite TV services earn the highest rewards rate, the card’s grocery and gas categories will likely be more lucrative. Here’s a breakdown of how much cash back we estimate the average spender* can expect to earn each year in this card’s bonus categories:

  • Streaming services (5 percent cash back): about $30
  • Cable and satellite TV services (5 percent cash back): about $130
  • Groceries (3 percent cash back): about $160
  • Gas (3 percent cash back): about $60

As you can see, unless you spend heavily on streaming services, you may only earn enough cash back via this category to cover a few months of one subscription. And while you’d likely earn more rewards from a typical cable or satellite package, Zippia found that only about half of Americans  now watch cable or satellite TV — and this number is plummeting as more people cut the cord each year.

While you can can earn a good amount of cash back with the BMO Harris Cash Back Mastercard thanks to its grocery and gas rewards, the card’s high rewards rate on streaming and TV services may be less impressive when you crunch the numbers.

*Based on a $55 average monthly spend on streaming ($660 per year) according to J.D. Power, a $217 average monthly household cable package cost (about $2,600 per year) according to Allconnect, and a $5,259 average yearly spend on groceries and a $2,148 average yearly spend on gas according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How to redeem

The cash back you earn with this card can only be redeemed as a statement credit. Fortunately, the card’s terms mention that this credit can apply to eligible BMO Harris Bank accounts other than your credit card, including BMO Harris checking, savings and money market accounts.

Many cash back cards only let you redeem cash back as a credit on credit card statement, so being able to direct deposit rewards to other accounts is a welcome option. And while the BMO Harris Bank Cash Back card doesn’t let you redeem cash back for gift cards or online shopping, these redemption options typically offer lackluster value anyway.

Your rewards won’t expire for the life of your account, and you’ll even be able to redeem them for up to 90 days after your account has been closed for any reason.

How much are the rewards worth?

Since this is a cash back card, you won’t have to worry about calculating point values or weighing the value of different redemption options. Every dollar you spend on streaming, cable and satellite TV services earns you 5 cents back. Similarly, your gas and grocery purchases will net you 3 cents per dollar while all other purchases earn 1 cent per dollar.

Other cardholder perks

The BMO Harris Cash Back Mastercard doesn’t offer many perks beyond its rewards program, but that’s often the case for no-annual-fee cash back cards. Still, the card’s cellphone protection plan — while not the best available — is a useful benefit and its basic Mastercard perks may come in handy while you’re on the road.

Mastercard features

While the majority of the Mastercard features that come with this card are typical account protection features, a few may occasionally be helpful during your travels.

MasterRental can save you money by standing in for vehicle rental services’ collision and damage protection and cover your rental vehicle if it’s damage or stolen. If you’re ever in a pinch on the road, Mastercard travel assistance services also offer pay-per-use roadside dispatch.

You might not get much use out of perks like Mastercard’s 15 percent discount on Airport Concierge meet and greet services if you’re interested in the BMO Harris Cash Back card for its everyday cash back categories. In that case, the card’s extended warranty coverage can pitch in by adding an extra year to your purchased products’ one-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Cellphone protection

By paying your monthly cellphone bill with your card, you can get reimbursed up to $400 if your phone is damaged or stolen (subject to a $50 deductible). You can file up to two claims per year for up to $600 in total coverage.

While this is a welcome benefit and cellphone protection perks are somewhat hard to come by on credit cards, the few no-annual-fee rewards cards that offer it typically provide much stronger coverage. For example, the policy on the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card and other Wells Fargo credit cards covers up to two $600 theft and damage cellphone protection claims each year for up to $1,200 in total coverage when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with the card. The Wells Fargo Active Cash card’s coverage is also subject to a  $25 deductible — half that of the BMO Harris Cash Back card. What’s more, the flat-rate Active Cash card also earns 2 percent cash rewards on the monthly cellphone bill payments required for coverage, whereas the BMO Harris Cash Back card would only earn 1 percent back.

Rates and fees

The BMO Harris Cash Back card doesn’t carry high rates or fees. There is no annual fee to worry about and the card’s ongoing APR range is reasonable. However, its intro APR offer may be lackluster if you need a break from interest.

You can receive a 0 percent intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers made within the first 90 days, after which a 16.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable APR applies. While a year of 0 percent interest could be a big help if you need to pay off debt, it’s not the longest intro APR offer out there (some cash back cards come with intro APR periods of 15 or even 18 months). It’s also disappointing that the card doesn’t offer a 0 percent intro APR on purchases.

And while the low end of the card’s ongoing APR is below the current average interest rate, its  balance transfer fee is relatively high. You’ll pay a 4 percent fee ($10 minimum) on all transferred balances. While that’s better than the 5 percent fee some cards charge, several competing balance transfer cards only charge a 3 percent balance transfer fee.

This card also charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, so you might not want to use it abroad. Although this rate is standard on cards that charge foreign transaction fees, there are plenty of cards with no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee that could be a better fit if you plan to travel.

How the BMO Harris Cash Back card compares to other cash back cards

The BMO Harris Cash Back Mastercard is a solid source of cash back, especially if its combination of grocery, gas, and TV subscription rewards match your spending habits. Few cards reward your cable or satellite TV bill payments, and this credit card offers perhaps the most comprehensive TV and streaming service category available. Many cards limit their streaming rewards to a list of select services, and there are very few options that earn at least 5 percent cash back on these subscriptions year-round.

However, many people spend far more on groceries, gas and other necessities than on TV services. Although the BMO Harris Cash Back Mastercard may be the best option for home entertainment fans, several other cards may earn more cash back overall.

BMO Harris Image

BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard®

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3.8
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Apply now

on BMO Harris's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended credit

Excellent(740 - 850)
American Express Image

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Annual fee

$0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.

Intro offer

$250

Rewards rate

1%–6%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Capital One Image

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

$200

Rewards rate

1%–10%

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

BMO Harris Cash Back vs. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers superior cash back on all of the BMO Harris Cash Back card’s bonus categories: unlimited 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming services, 6 percent back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year, then 1 percent) and unlimited 3 percent back at U.S. gas stations. What’s more, you’ll receive unlimited 3 percent cash back on transit as well. The Blue Cash Preferred card even provides a 12-month 0 percent intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers (then a 16.99 percent to 27.99 percent variable APR).

Your biggest concern may be the Blue Cash Preferred card’s $95 annual fee, but thanks to its best-in-class cash back rate at U.S. supermarkets, you may earn far more cash back overall despite this fee. Unless you have a hefty cable or satellite TV bill, it will be hard to earn as much with the BMO Harris Cash Back card as you would with the Blue Cash Preferred.

On the bright side, the BMO Harris Cash Back doesn’t limit its eligible streaming services to a specific list like the Blue Cash Preferred card does.

BMO Harris Cash Back vs. Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you prefer sticking to cash back cards with no annual fee, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card may better reward your food and entertainment purchases.

Although it earns just 3 percent cash back on popular streaming services and 1 percent on gas, the SavorOne can outperform the BMO Harris card with unlimited rewards on a wider variety of expenses — including grocery store purchases, dining, entertainment and select travel purchases. The SavorOne card also gives you more ways to redeem cash back, including automatic redemptions and direct deposits to eligible checking or savings accounts.

Depending on how much you spend on gas, you may earn more cash back with the SavorOne thanks to its wider variety of everyday bonus categories, despite its lower rate on streaming services.

Best cards to pair with this card

Several no-annual-fee rewards cards feature bonus categories that overlap with those of the BMO Harris Cash Back card, so your best pairing option may be a flat-rate cash back card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash or the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. The Active Cash card earns 2 percent cash rewards on purchases outside the BMO Harris Cash Back card’s bonus categories, while the the Freedom Unlimited card offers 1.5 percent cash back on general purchases and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases — two everyday categories missing from the BMO Harris Cash Back card.

Bankrate’s Take: Is the BMO Harris Cash Back Mastercard worth it?

The BMO Harris Cash Back offers one of the best year-round rewards rates on streaming, cable and satellite TV subscriptions and a solid rate on both groceries and gas, so it could be a good fit if you’re looking for a simple no-annual fee rewards card.

Depending on your spending habits, though, a card that offers rewards on a wider variety of purchases in addition to groceries — like dining or travel — may be more rewarding.

Frequently Asked Questions