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The BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard® is a cash back credit card with no annual fee and a decent rewards program geared toward people who spend lightly to moderately on gas and groceries. This rewards scheme is similar to BMO Harris Bank Platinum Rewards Mastercard’s, with the major difference that rewards accrue as cash back instead of BMO Harris Rewards loyalty currency, which can be redeemed for merchandise, travel, and other items.
BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard also has a solid, easily attainable sign-up bonus and 0% APR interest on purchases and balance transfers for at least 6 months from account opening. If you’re in the market for an entry-level cash back credit card, this product is definitely worth a closer look – and a close comparison with the many competing options on the market.
When you spend at least $1,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account, you get a $100 cash back bonus.
Earning Cash Back
BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard earns 2% cash back on gas and groceries, up to a combined $2,500 in eligible spending per calendar quarter. All other spending, including spending in the 2% categories above the $2,500 quarterly cap, earns unlimited 1% cash back.
Redeeming Cash Back
Accumulated cash back can be redeemed for statement credits in $5 increments, starting at a $15 redemption minimum.
There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3% of the transaction amount. Balance transfers and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 3%, while late and returned payments cost up to $37.
Newly opened accounts enjoy interest-free purchase transactions for 6 months from account opening, and interest-free balance transfers for 12 months from account opening.
Once the respective introductory APR periods end, BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard’s purchase and balance transfer APRs rise to 15.24%, 17.24%, 20.24%, or 23.24%, depending on prevailing interest rates and your personal creditworthiness. The cash advance APR is set at 25.49% from the day you open your account, but can vary thereafter with prevailing interest rates.
Mastercard Priceless Cities
Mastercard’s Priceless Cities program is a potentially powerful value-added benefit that offers exclusive access to “one-of-a-kind experiences, special adventures, shopping and dining benefits, the best shows and sporting events, hotel upgrades, and small perks that make your city adventures more special.”
Additional Card Benefits
This card has some nice fringe benefits backed by Mastercard, including:
- Emergency roadside assistance
- Complimentary rental car insurance (loss and damage) on rentals charged in full to the card
- Extended warranties of up to 12 months on items with original warranties of less than 12 months
- Price protection, which entitles you to reimbursement of the price difference on purchase items for which you find a lower advertised price within 60 days
This card requires good to excellent credit. If you have any significant blemishes in your credit history, your application could be denied.
- No Annual Fee. BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard has no annual fee. That’s great news for frugal cardholders who don’t want to give back any of their cash back earnings – and a potential game-changer for light spenders who don’t earn rewards quickly enough to offset even modest annual fees.
- Easily Attainable Sign-up Bonus. This card’s $100 sign-up bonus is easy to attain, requiring just $1,000 in spending within 3 months. That’s lower than many competing rewards cards.
- Introductory Purchase and Balance Transfer APR Promotions. This card waives purchase interest for 6 months after account opening. Even better, it offers interest-free balance transfers for 12 months, provided the transfers are made within 60 days of account opening. These twin incentives are clutch for new cardholders who need to finance large purchases upfront or pay down existing high-interest credit card balances.
- Solid Value-Added Benefits. For an entry-level cash back credit card, BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard has a pretty great lineup of value-added benefits, including Mastercard Priceless Cities and 60-day purchase protection on big-ticket items. While it’s hard to place a dollar value on these benefits, there’s no doubt that they increase this card’s attractiveness.
- No Penalty APR. This card doesn’t charge penalty interest. That’s great news for prospective cardholders who occasionally miss payments due to liquidity issues or unforeseen expenses. Some competing cash back cards charge penalty interest up to 30% APR, and keep those sky-high rates in effect indefinitely once a single payment has been missed.
- 2% Category Earnings Capped at $2,500 in Combined Quarterly Spending. BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard caps 2% cash back earnings on gas and groceries at $2,500 in combined quarterly spending. If you have a long commute or multiple mouths to feed at home, you’re liable to bump up against this limit well before the end of the quarter. To maximize your cash back earnings, consider applying for a card with higher category caps – or none at all.
- Mediocre Cash Back Earnings in All Other Spending Categories. This card earns just 1% cash back in most spending categories. In fact, the only spending that doesn’t earn 1% cash back is gas and grocery spending under the $2,500 quarterly cap, which earns 2%. That’s a big drawback relative to flat-rate cash back cards such as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Citi Double Cash Card, which earn 1.5% and 2%, respectively, on all spending.
- $15 Minimum Redemption Threshold. Before you can redeem your rightful cash back, you need to accumulate at least $15 in rewards. That requires you to spend at least $750 in the 2% categories, or $1,500 in the 1% categories – not an easy task if you’re a very light spender. Some competing cards, such as Chase Freedom Unlimited, allow you to redeem cash back in any amount.
- Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. This card’s 3% foreign transaction fee is a significant impediment for world travelers who don’t want to carry large quantities of cash overseas, where it’s vulnerable to theft. It more than offsets potential cash back earnings, even in the 2% categories. If you travel abroad frequently, consider an annual-fee-free travel rewards card with no foreign transaction fees.
The BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard® is pretty similar to the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card, a Bank of America product. BankAmericard Cash Rewards also offers elevated cash back earning rates on gas and grocery purchases, also has a $100 sign-up bonus, and also offers interest-free purchases and balance transfers to new cardholders.
It might be tempting to choose based on your current banking habits. After all, it’s a straightforward matter to apply for a credit card from the institution with which you already bank. Then again, there are so many cash back credit card options out there, including products that rank higher (in our estimation) than either BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard or BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card. Why settle for the first choice that presents itself when you can strive for better?