04-credit-card-streaming

The right credit card could help save you money on your streaming bill. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

COVID-19 has shut down sports, theme parks and for many, life as we know it. The pandemic has not, however, slowed the launch of new streaming services. Quibi, Peacock and HBO Max have recently joined an already crowded field including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus. The problem? Every additional monthly subscription fee hurts your wallet. Thirteen bucks for Netflix here, 6 bucks for Hulu there and 15 more for HBO Max — assuming you don’t cancel because it still doesn’t work on Roku or Amazon Fire TV — can really add up. 

One great way to save is to simply change the credit card you use to pay for streaming. 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 are paying for.

The Apple Card, Amazon Prime Visa, American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred and US Bank Cash Plus all offer cash back on select streaming video and music services. Here’s how they stack up.

Four cord-cutter cards compared

American Express Blue Cash Preferred Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Apple Card US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature
Annual fee $95 None None None
Streaming offer 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 5% cash back on various categories including 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.
  • To maximize savings using the Amazon Prime card’s 5% cash back, you’ll need to subscribe to services like HBO, Starz and MLB TV via Amazon Prime Video Channels. While you need to be a Prime member, 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. Streaming is one of those options. 
  • Some cards, like the Chase Freedom, offer different categories each quarter where you can opt-in and earn extra cash back. The first half of the year offered 5% cash back on streaming services, but the July through September period switches to offering 5% on Amazon and Whole Foods. 

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’s more details on all four cards we compared.


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American Express Blue Cash Preferred 

american-express-blue-cash-preferred-at-home-headline

American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back on “select” streaming services. 


American Express

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, 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 $12.99 per month for Netflix, $9.99 for Spotify Premium and $14.99 for HBO Max, a simple switch of the card could bring back over $27 per year. 

The savings are even more pronounced if you use a streaming TV service like YouTube TV, which starts at roughly $50 per month. Assuming you pay for that plus Spotify or Apple Music, you’d save over $43 per year. 

While this doesn’t cover the substantial annual fee, it also is not factoring in the other Amex perks for saving on groceries and transit. New users will also get a $250 statement credit if they spend $1,000 on the new card in the first three months. 

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

amazon-prime-visa

Amazon’s Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. 


Amazon

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 ($14.99 per month), Starz ($8.99) and Showtime ($10.99) 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 $14.94 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 also includes a $70 gift card upon approval.

Apple Card 

apple card

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 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, which the services available inside the Apple TV app for iOS, Apple TV and certain Samsung TVs — as well as other platforms including Roku 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. 

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). 

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 Apple Card: You’ll need an iPhone to get it. 

US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature

us-bank-cash-plus

The U.S. Bank Cash Plus card. 


U.S. Bank

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. 



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