Spending a lot on streaming TV? Maybe a little cash back will help.
The yearly cost of streaming can easily top hundreds of dollars, and the number of streaming services is only going up. Instead of canceling Netflix or HBO Max to save money, or trying to replace them with the many free streaming platforms available, here’s another idea: Switch to a credit card that rewards you on streaming subscription fees. The savings come in the form of cash back, which is basically found money every time you’re charged for a subscription you’re already paying for.
Netflix, which is basically table stakes these days, costs $14 every month for the most popular tier. If you want the shows and new movies on HBO Max, you’ll shell out $15 every month. If you have kids (or like Marvel or Star Wars) then Disney Plus is basically a must-have at $8 per month. Hulu is a bargain but it still isn’t free at $6 a month. And if you happen to want live TV, for sports and news, you’ll shell out another $35 to $65 or more every month for the Sling TVs and YouTube TVs of the world.
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The Apple Card, Amazon Prime Visa, American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred, US Bank Cash Plus and Capital One Savor One and Savor all offer cash back on select streaming video and music services. Here’s how they stack up.
Read more: Best streaming service deals
Six cord-cutter cards compared
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature
US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature
Capital One Savor One Rewards
Capital One Savor Rewards
6% cash back on select streaming services
5% cash back on Amazon Prime purchases, including Prime Video Channels
3% cash back on Apple purchases, including Apple TV Channels and subscriptions made through iTunes or the App Store
5% cash back on various categories including some streaming services
3% cash back on select streaming services
4% cash back on select streaming services
Which one is best for me?
The more eligible subscriptions you have, the more you save, but how much depends on where you pay for them. Some cards don’t offer any cash back on certain services — there’s no 5% Netflix discount through the Amazon Prime card, for example. In those cases, the services pick up the card’s regular 1% cash back.
- The Amex Blue Cash card is the most versatile since it works with nearly every major streaming service (including Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max), and its 6% cash back is among the highest we’ve seen. To realize the savings, however, you have to overcome its $95 annual fee. Doing so is easier if you’re paying for a lot of subscriptions, especially expensive ones like live TV streaming. At time of publication, Amex was running a promotion that was waiving this fee for the first year, which should make signing up a bit easier.
- To maximize savings using the Amazon Prime card’s 5% cash back, you’ll want to subscribe to services like HBO, Starz and MLB TV via Amazon Prime Video Channels. While you need to be a Prime member to get the card, you do get 5% back on that $119 yearly charge if you pay for it with this card.
- To maximize savings using the Apple Card’s 3% cash back, you need to subscribe to Apple’s services (like Apple TV Plus, Apple Music and iCloud) as well as HBO, Showtime and others via the Apple TV app’s channels feature.
- Among cards with no annual fee, the US Bank Cash Plus Visa card offers the ability to choose two categories each quarter where you can earn up to 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases and streaming is one of those options.
- Capital One’s SavorOne Rewards card offers 3% cash back on “popular” streaming services including Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus. There’s no annual fee for the SavorOne card, but if you want 4% cash back on streaming you can opt for the company’s Savor Rewards card. The latter card has higher cash back for dining and entertainment as well, but there’s a $95 annual fee.
- Some cards, like the Chase Freedom or Discover It, offer different categories each quarter where you can opt-in and earn extra cash back. For Chase, for example, the first quarter of the year offered 5% cash back on streaming services but the remainder of the year switched to other categories such as gas stations and grocery stores.
Your choice in card also depends on what else you buy beyond streaming services.
The American Express card offers 6% cash back on groceries and 3% on gas, for example, which can go a long way toward offsetting that annual fee. Amazon Prime members who are frequent shoppers on Amazon.com or Whole Foods will likely benefit by using the Prime card and switching services like HBO or Showtime to Prime Video channels. The same goes for those who are happy in Apple’s system and use Apple Music and iCloud, and don’t mind paying for HBO, Showtime or Starz through Apple TV.
Here are more details on all the cards we compared.
American Express Blue Cash Preferred
American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back on “select” streaming services.
In addition to its hefty 6% cash back at US supermarkets (up to $6,000) and 3% back on transit (including gas stations, ride shares, public transportation and parking), Amex’s $95 annual fee card has the highest cash-back perk for streaming subscribers: 6% on “select US streaming subscriptions.”
Many of the most popular streaming video services are eligible, including HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus, Peacock, Apple TV Plus, Showtime and Amazon Prime Video. You can also get 6% back on live TV from Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, Fubo TV and YouTube TV.
Music streamers are also eligible, including Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube Music Premium are eligible too, as well as sports streamers ESPN Plus, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass and NHL.TV and even Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
Subscriptions not on American Express’ list, such as Amazon Prime, iCloud and Xbox Live, are not eligible for the boosted cash back.
Though 6% doesn’t sound like much, if you’re paying $14 per month for Netflix, $10 for Spotify Premium and $15 for HBO Max, a simple switch of the card could bring back over $28 per year.
The savings are even more pronounced if you use a streaming TV service like YouTube TV, which starts at roughly $65 per month. Assuming you pay for that plus Spotify or Apple Music, you’d save around $54 per year.
Although this doesn’t cover the card’s $95 annual fee, it also is not factoring in the other Amex perks for saving on groceries and transit. New users will also be able to get the first year’s fee waived as well as $150 back through statement credits after spending $3,000 on the new card in the first six months.
It is worth mentioning that those looking for a more premium credit card can spring for American Express’ Platinum card which offers up to $240 per year in “digital entertainment credit.” While $20 in statement credits for streaming services sounds great, at the moment the list of eligible companies includes just Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM (but not Pandora) and the New York Times.
While this card has plenty of other perks, including offering $200 in Uber Cash and a $200 “airline fee credit” each year, it also has a $695 annual fee. That high fee and the limited streaming options limit the value it has compared to the other cards on this list.
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature
Amazon’s Prime Rewards Visa Signature card.
Amazon’s Prime Visa has no annual fee for the card and offers 5% cash back on all purchases made on Amazon for Prime members. This works on not just the annual Prime membership fee ($119 per year) but also will give 5% back on Prime Video Channels — Amazon’s service that lets you subscribe directly to services like HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access, MLB.TV and about 100 others.
Though this group excludes heavy hitters like Netflix and Spotify, assuming you already pay for Amazon Prime, the lack of an annual fee makes its savings potential that much greater.
The Prime Video Channel prices for HBO ($15 per month), Starz ($9) and Showtime ($11) are the same as for standalone apps like HBO Now and in line with what’s offered from cable companies. If you pay for Prime and HBO, for example, doing it through Amazon saves you roughly $15 per year — nearly enough for one month of HBO.
And remember, all other purchases from Amazon or Whole Foods can earn you 5% cash back, while you can also get 2% back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores.
Amazon is running a promotion where it will include a $150 gift card upon approval.
Apple Card is due to come out this summer.
Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive
Apple will give 3% cash back for purchases made directly from Apple. This includes purchases made at a physical Apple Store, Apple’s website, Apple Music, iCloud subscriptions, app purchases, in-app purchases, iTunes, App Store and more.
The Apple Card also pays cash back on Apple TV channels. Similar to Amazon Prime Video Channels, Apple TV channels include HBO, Showtime, Starz and more, with the services available inside the Apple TV app for iOS, Apple TV and most modern smart TVs — as well as other platforms including Roku, Google TV, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV.
The pricing for those services is often the same as it would be elsewhere, so subscribing to the HBO, Showtime and Starz Apple TV channels saves you $12.60 per year.
Apple Card FAQ: What you need to know
YouTube TV is one notable exception, with the cost running $55 per month for a subscription made from an iOS device and $50 per month if you sign up elsewhere (Apple takes a cut on subscriptions made through iOS apps).
The Apple Card doesn’t have an annual fee and the cash back is daily, as opposed to monthly like traditional credit cards. Purchases made with Apple Pay also get you 2% cash back.
One of the caveats for the Apple Card: You’ll need an iPhone to get it.
US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature
The U.S. Bank Cash Plus card.
The US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature card is similar to the Chase Freedom or Discover It card, in that it has no annual fee and offers higher cash back in different shopping categories each month. Unlike those other cards, with the US Bank card you can pick (from a list) which two categories earn 5% cash back and which earns 2%, with all other purchases earning 1% cash back.
The 5% is for the “first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases in your chosen 5% categories” in each quarter, meaning you can save a maximum of $400 per year through this method, with the 2% and 1% options being “unlimited.” That said, if you want to save on streaming, cell phone service, utilities or groceries without needing to pay an annual fee, it’s a tempting offer.
Examples of merchants and services can be found on US Bank’s site.
And as a Visa Signature card, it also includes access to perks such as Visa’s Concierge service plus an extra one year of warranty protection on items that have “eligible warranties of three years or less.”
No matter what card you choose, the good news is there are plenty of new options to help you save money on streaming.
Capital One SavorOne Rewards and Savor
Capital One’s Savor One credit card.
Capital One’s SavorOne and Savor cards will give you some cash back on streaming, with the SavorOne offering 3% back on “popular” streaming services, grocery stores, dining and entertainment for no annual fee.
The Savor card, meanwhile, bumps that up to 4% for all of the above categories but requires a $95 annual fee. Both cards earn 1% cash back on all other purchases and 8% back on tickets from Vivid Seats. The cards are Mastercards (according to NerdWallet and WalletHub) and their perks include extended warranty protections, no foreign transaction fees and travel accident insurance.
What qualifies as a “popular” streaming service, however, isn’t clear. Capital One says in the FAQ on its website that Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus are eligible, but that Prime Video, AT&T TV and Verizon Fios On Demand are not. It also won’t work with “audiobook subscription services and fitness programming.”
The company does not appear to have a comprehensive list on its website, but it tells CNET that Netflix, Hulu and Disney Plus subscriptions are eligible. Among the excluded options are subscriptions to services like Amazon Prime Video, AT&T TV and Verizon Fios On Demand as well as subscriptions to audiobook services or fitness programs.
More rewards and services
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