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BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard Card Review
7 Dec 2018

BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard | Credit Card Review

Air Miles is a well-known reward system that many Canadians enjoy participating in, and the best way to do that is with an Air Miles rewards credit card. Keep reading this BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review to learn more about how this particular credit card option can fit into your life.

Add this card to your repertoire for a free and easy way to get more Air Miles all year round.


General Information

You Are Interested If You want a free Air Miles card that is easy to get and that gives you ample opportunities to boost your rewards earning rate.
Brief Description The BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard is an entry-level credit card that allows to earn up to 2 Air Miles per $20 of spending depending on where you make your purchases.
Main Requirements You won’t need a very high income to get this card (about $15,000 a year will do), but you should have at least mediocre credit to expect to be approved.

Card Details

Network Mastercard.
Provider BMO.
Card Type This is an Air Miles rewards card that is also affiliated with a specific retailer (Shell), although it can also be used at any other retailer and still provide rewards.

Fees and Interest

Purchase Interest Rate Standard 19.99% interest applies to normal purchases made with this card.
Cash Advance If you need to use this card to withdraw some cash, be prepared to pay 22.99% interest on that sum.
Balance Transfer Doing a balance transfer will cost you the same 22.99% in interest as getting cash would.


Income Requirements This is a basic card that most people who apply will be approved for; you can get it with as little as $15,000 in income.
Household Income Requirements BMO does not consider household income when deciding who may have access to one of these cards.
Annual Fee This card is completely free of annual fees.


Welcome Bonus New holders of this card will currently receive 400 Air Miles points automatically upon making their first purchase with the card, no matter what it is or how much it costs. They will receive an additional 400 Air Miles upon spending at least $1,000 on their card in their first 3 months.
How To Earn Points Using this card will earn you at least 1 Air Mile for every $20 you spend regardless of where you shop, but if you choose to shop at an Air Miles partner retailer, you could receive 2 Air Miles for that same $20 in spending instead.
Benefits This credit card includes extended warranty coverage and purchase protection on everything you buy with it.

About BMO Shell AIR MILES MasterCard

Main Features

Let’s begin our BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review with the most pertinent part of any credit card: the interest rates. This card follows the typical 19.99% purchase interest/22.99% cash advance interest/22.99% balance transfer interest breakdown that dominates the Canadian credit card landscape, so there are no surprises to be had here. As usual, be aware that you will probably be better off with a low-interest card instead of a reward card of any kind if you are nervous about what kinds of fees you might rack up at these standard rates.

Next in our BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review, we’ll look at how many points you stand to earn, starting with the welcome bonus. As long as you know you’ll be able to charge at least $1,000 to your card in the first 3 months, you can count on having 800 Air Miles points to start off with, which amounts to an estimated $80 in value. After that point, what you earn will depend both on how much you spend and where you spend it. Let’s say for the sake of this BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review that you charge $1,000 a month in various expenses to this card without paying attention to bonus opportunities. If you don’t happen to coincidentally shop at an Air Miles partner store even once during that spending, you’ll receive 50 Air Miles for that month. Conversely, spending that same sum exclusively at Air Miles partner locations would get you 100 Air Miles in that month instead, a massive increase.

It’s up to you to figure out how frequently you think you’ll be able to shop at qualifying retailers in order to determine your personal expected point yield. Luckily, the range of stores that fall under this program spans everything from groceries (Sobey’s, Foodland) to clothing (The Gap) to gas (Shell, of course), so you’re sure to have a points-maximizing option available no matter what kind of product you’re shopping for. Once you have enough points in hand, you’ll be able to redeem them for all kinds of specific rewards, including gift cards for Air Miles partner shops, fun consumer merchandise, and of course, credits toward travel costs (you don’t have to pay for an entire trip in Air Miles in order to put some points toward it). This is a fairly varied reward selection that should keep most people happy and eager to earn more.

Now let’s take a minute in this BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review to talk about the benefits this card includes. It’s a basic card that doesn’t come with much in terms of extras like this, but it’s worth going over the few that are bundled with it. With this card in hand, you’ll have access to purchase protection services on anything you buy with it, as well as an extended warranty policy to make it easier for you to be reimbursed for a broken or defective product. Both of these things are small tokens that come with almost every credit card, but they’re still nice to have and come at no cost to you.

In spite of all these positive points, one thing we feel we should mention in this BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review is how it compares to the card that BMO is currently promoting alongside it, the BMO Shell CashBack Mastercard. This is an extremely similar card that exchanges the Air Miles reward system for the more versatile and generally better-loved cash back system, and it arguably outshines the Air Miles version. The clearest example of this is in the tiny difference between the reward rates on the two cards. Based on the value of what you can currently redeem them for, a single Air Mile is estimated to be worth about 10 to 15 cents CAD at this time. This means that if you’re earning 1 Air Mile for every $20 you spend, you’re getting the equivalent of 0.75% in cash back rewards, only slightly higher than the base rate on the cash back card. The bonus rates on the two cards are similarly comparable. Assuming a value of $0.15 per Air Mile (arguably a generous valuation), you can reach the equivalent of 1.5% cash back when shopping at Air Miles partner retailers. This at least matches the top cash back rate, but it unfortunately doesn’t exceed it at all. Because points are limited in their potential uses, one would usually expect the reward rates to be slightly higher to compensate, and the tiny boost you get at the base rate is rather minimal in this respect.

The only true advantage that the Air Miles card has over the cash back one is the wider range of bonus retailers, giving you more chances to earn rewards at the elevated rate. However, just because the points are more easily available in theory does not mean you will necessarily end up with more. To do so, you’ll have to make the conscious choice to shop at those places instead of any other stores. This is not a minor consideration for many people – if you know you rarely shop at any Air Miles partner retailers, you’ll have far fewer opportunities to earn points outside of the welcome bonus. The reward rates themselves, while decent in isolation, look much less impressive with this mind. You could always try to change your ways and spend more at places that qualify you to earn Air Miles points; as stated above in this BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review, the list of eligible companies includes several options for almost all product categories, so one could theoretically get all of their products and merchandise from these qualifying stores alone. However, this would not be a convenient stipulation to follow.

Further, even if you come out ahead on points vs. cash as an infrequent Air Miles partner shopper, you should still consider the lack of flexibility that comes with being rewarded in points instead of cash. The reward catalogue, while nice in comparison to those of other rewards programs, still cannot compete with the ultimate flexibility of cash money. You can use cash to buy literally anything you could possibly want, use it to pay for bills or other necessities, or even just save it for the future. Air Miles can only ever buy you small luxury items or get you some money off of a trip. This is a standard caveat with rewards cards and it wouldn’t be a very pertinent thing to point if there wasn’t a closely comparable cash back option also available from the same provider, but it’s worth mentioning in this case.


There’s a lot to consider in this BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review, both in terms of this card’s attributes on its own and in terms of how they compare to those of its close counterparts. This is a decent credit card option overall, although it suffers somewhat from being paired so closely with the BMO Shell CashBack Mastercard. The two are aimed at exactly the same consumer base and offer fairly similar reward rates (albeit expressed differently, which makes it less obvious); this makes the wider appeal of the cash back reward system even more pronounced than it would usually be and makes it initially difficult to justify opting for this version instead. However, the total point yield value is actually higher on this card if the cardholder consistently shops in the right places. Deciding between the two will require a careful evaluation of the pros and cons of each in terms of how they fit into your life. Generally, those with strong brand loyalty to retailers that appear on the Air Miles partner list will get enough mileage out of this card to make it the preferred option of the two.

About BMO

BMO first opened its doors as a single branch in 1817 – the very first bank branch in Canada, to be exact. By this point, the company has been around for over 200 years, and it’s become known as a bank with excellent customer service. It has successfully served millions of Canadians through two World Wars and several dire financial crises without missing a dividend payment since 1829. They now boast bank branches all over the world. We all know their name, but they have truly earned their positive reputation.

What We Think

This BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard review may have been somewhat mixed up to this point, but we want to end on a more positive note. This is a free card, and that alone makes it hard to complain about any other aspect of it; anything it gives you is a free benefit for you to enjoy. However, when competitors and even BMO itself are offering arguably more useful reward schemes, it’s hard not to want a little more from it. It still does usually beat out the cash back option on a dollar-for-dollar basis, but the restrictions it forces you to abide by may not always be welcome.

Don’t let all this make you think that this card isn’t worth your time, though; for a certain type of consumer, it’s the ideal choice among all the options in BMO’s lineup. If you know for a fact that you will be shopping at Air Miles partner retailers often enough to frequently receive the double point rate, this card will theoretically provide you the best value of all of BMO’s free cards. Just make sure that you have your eye a trip or something from the catalogue to spend it on first. In the end, you know yourself best – if this sounds like it would be a good credit card choice for you, it probably is.