Bank Of Montreal (BMO) – Company Review
Every year, Canadians make more than $462 billion in credit card transactions, making credit one of the most rapidly-growing forms of payment around. If you need a new card to participate in this trend, BMO’s credit card line might be a good place to look.
You May Be Interested In BMO Credit Cards If
You just want a good credit card and don’t already have a specific provider in mind. BMO doesn’t have any particular specialty when it comes to their cards, but each of the ones they’ve come up with holds up well against its competitors.
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BMO’s Credit Card Lineup
BMO is one of the more evenly-balanced credit card providers out there, offering cards that cover travel, cash back and general reward programs at both beginner and elite levels.
Travel Credit Cards
First up is the set of four travel cards that this provider offers. BMO uses Air Miles exclusively for their travel rewards system, allowing them to offer good value and flexibility with their points. The basic travel card here is the BMO Air Miles Mastercard, which gives you 1 mile for every $20 in spending. That might sound low, but Air Miles are known to go pretty far in terms of value if you use them in optimal ways. You can use this calculator they’ve created to figure out just what you might be able to get for any given points value if you’re curious, but as a general rule, it will usually take at least 1,000 points to get in the air. You should also know that you are still responsible for paying taxes and other fees with actual currency when you pay for flights in points, so keep that in mind with this card as well.
If you happen to be a student, you may be able to get the BMO SPC Air Miles Mastercard, which is functionally the same as the base version described above aside from the SPC membership that is included with it. The SPC (or Student Price Card) program is a rather generous discount initiative that gets students lower prices on everything from food and drink to apparel, all from well-known and frequently-shopped retailers. Most students would benefit greatly from being a part of it, and not only does this card allow you to earn your Air Miles as usual, but it also allows you to save the $10 SPC membership fee you would otherwise be paying.
If you have a good income and want to move up the travel card ranks, the BMO Air Miles World Mastercard is next in line. It allows you to not only earn 1 mile per $15 spent instead, but also adds on an insurance package consisting of (among other things) flight delay insurance, baggage insurance, rental car insurance, hotel burglary insurance, as well as 24/7 concierge service. You’ll also get a complimentary membership in the Mastercard Airport Experiences program that comes with a few free airport lounge passes each year. This is an excellent set of additions to have on a travel card as they will most likely come in handy when you take your trips.
Upgrading even further is still possible, however, with the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. It features a much more expedient reward rate of 1 mile for every $10 you spend, but on top of that, it also comes with a cascade of benefits and other perks. These include a 15% discount on Air Miles flights anywhere within North America, a companion flight rebate for your first year, 2 free passes to VIP airport lounges each year, and 12 types of travel insurance (most notably a full 15 days of emergency travel medical insurance) among other things. The general consensus is that this is the best Air Miles card in Canada, but it isn’t easy to get – you’ll need to make at least $80,000 to qualify for it and have good credit as well.
Cash Back Credit Cards
BMO’s most basic cash back credit card is the BMO Cashback Mastercard, a humble offering that offers a simple 1% cash back on all purchases you make with it. This is a middling reward rate that at least has consistency going for it, even if it isn’t very exciting. You can temporarily increase your rewards rate to 5% cash back for your first 3 months, though, which is nice. If you happen to be a student, this card also comes in an SPC version with the BMO SPC CashBack Mastercard. The only difference between it and the standard version is that you’re trading the car rental discount that the basic card gives you for the SPC membership, a more than worthwhile exchange. It’s a good choice for students who need rewards that are a little more applicable to their daily lives than travel points or reward points might be.
Those who want to upgrade their cash back cards might enjoy the BMO CashBack World Mastercard. With a required income of $60,000 a year and an annual fee of $79, it’s quite a bit harder to get than the basic card. Using it will only bump your reward rate up 0.25% higher to 1.25% total, but you’ll also be eligible to receive 3% back on gas you purchase at Shell stations. Opting for this card will also get you a much more extensive insurance package and set of perks that make the higher requirements and stakes worth it. The complimentary roadside assistance membership that is bundled with it will likely be the extra that you use the most, but the 11 different types of travel/rental car insurance (almost the same package that’s included in the Air Miles World Mastercard) that it also comes with are never unwelcome.
If you want to upgrade even further to the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard, you’d better be at the top of the heap financially: you’ll need to make at least $80,000 a year to even qualify, however, and then there’s the matter of the $120 annual fee. The standard reward rate sits at a tidy 1.5% cash back, and curiously enough it omits the chance to get the 3% rate on gas that the lower-level card includes. However, the real value of this card isn’t in the rewards; this one comes with everything the World version came with in terms of insurance plus 8 days’ worth of emergency travel medical coverage. That addition alone is worth a fair amount.
Rewards Credit Cards
In terms of rewards cards, the most accessible option is the BMO Rewards Mastercard. It’s an extremely simple card that gets you 1 reward point per dollar you spend and includes no benefits to speak of, but still may be worth getting for some people. Having it around gives its holders access to highly flexible rewards that can be used to travel, get merchandise or even top up their statement, so it’s great for people who are undecided as to what they want from their credit card rewards specifically.
The upgraded version of that card is the BMO World Elite Mastercard. It’s reserved for those with high incomes and costs $150 this time, but it’s arguably one of the best cards here. It will get you 3 BMO rewards points per dollar spent on entertainment, travel and dining, and 2 points per dollar when you buy anything else, a fairly good reward rate. It also grants you access to exclusive airport lounges and a very similar insurance package to the two other World Elite options mentioned above. Again, the flexibility of the reward points is one of its most significant strengths.
Business Credit Cards
BMO carries a few credit cards aimed at business owners as well, and the first one we’ll talk about is the BMO Rewards Business Mastercard. This one offers a slightly discounted purchase interest rate of 14.99%, the lowest of BMO’s business card line. It also uses the BMO rewards system and will get you 3 reward points per dollar on common expenses (gas, phone and internet bills and office supplies) and 1.5 points per dollar on any other items. Needless to say, if you really need to economize, this card might not be the best choice for you; the savings if offers are only nominal. However, if you want to achieve a mix of savings and rewards and score some decent travel insurance to facilitate your business trips (things like travel medical insurance are not included, but things like trip interruption and cancellation insurance are), this card might be a viable option.
If you’re going to be travelling extensively, though, you might prefer the BMO Air Miles Business Mastercard or the BMO Air Miles No-Fee Business Mastercard. Both allow you to earn Air Miles at different rates (1 mile per $10 spent and 1 mile per $20 spent, respectively), but both get you 1.25 times the regular reward rate when you buy gas at Shell stations. The no-fee version predictably comes with no benefits, but the standard $120 version does get you 9 kinds of travel insurance to help you out. Most are things like flight delay insurance and trip interruption insurance that are sure to make your business trips more reliably profitable if the unexpected ever happens.
For those who would like to get rewards that they can easily reinvest into the business instead, the BMO CashBack Business Mastercard might do the trick. This one will get you 1.75% cash back on Shell gas and 1.5% on the same bonus categories as the Rewards Business Mastercard, as well as 0.75% back on everything else. There’s no benefits attached to it, but also no annual fee, so there’s no risk to having it if it appeals to you.
Other Credit Cards
BMO also carries a few options that are harder to categorize. The BMO Prepaid Travel Mastercard is one of them. This card is obviously most similar to the travel cards that have appeared before it, but because it’s a prepaid card, it functions differently enough from them to be grouped separately. Instead of extending you a line of credit that you’ll have to pay back, this card functions more like a debit card; it allows you to draw on funds you’ve already loaded onto it.
Frequent cross-border shoppers might look into the BMO U.S. Dollar Mastercard. Using this card allows you to pay for your purchases in USD, skipping over pricy currency conversion fees and foreign exchange fees. You’ll need to keep a separate USD bank account to keep up with the payments, which not everyone will be willing to do. Further, the card costs $35 USD each year, and although you can get that fee waived if you spend enough, the $1,000 threshold is high enough that it isn’t a certainty that you’ll hit it. Therefore, while it does offer some unique utility, this card needs to be used very purposefully in order to be truly useful.
The BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard is the sole option BMO offers for a low-interest card, and at a 12.99% interest rate, it’s about on par with what you’ll get from other providers for this kind of card. Lower rates are out there, though, and given that there is no other reason to opt for this card over any others, this is not one of the better cards in this line.
BMO’s defining trait as a credit card provider is their remarkably even performance across all card categories. Like many providers, they lack many options for intermediate-level cards, but that’s a common weakness it isn’t so much a problem as it is a point on which they could stand to improve. The bigger issue is their lack of standout cards and how that makes it hard for them to be anyone’s first choice.
What We Think
BMO should rarely be your first choice of provider if you have a specific kind of card in mind, except perhaps if it’s an Air Miles card you’re after. However, if you’re just looking for any kind of card that suits you and will treat you fairly, they’re not a bad place to start that search.