Points-based rewards programs may be one of the oldest credit card incentives in the book, but they still have immense potential for adding a little extra fun to your life. The BMO Rewards Mastercard itself isn’t very far off from the basic rewards cards that most lenders offer, but the reward system itself is considerably more noteworthy. That difference puts this card well ahead of many of the others like it.
Let’s Learn More About the BMO Rewards Card
The BMO Rewards card is mostly what you’d expect it to be, but it’s still worth taking a closer look to be sure you know what you’re getting. The reward scheme on this card is nice and simple, something that very much weighs in its favour even if the rates themselves are low. Using it gets you 1 reward point for each dollar you spend. This rate applies at all times and to all purchases, with no limits in place to bottleneck your earnings. Knowing that, it should be easy to predict how many points you ought to end up with by the end of the year based on your current spending patterns.
Perhaps more importantly, though, you have the opportunity to start things off with up to 20,000 bonus reward points when you become a new holder of this card. You’ll get the first 10,000 points just for making your first purchase and the next 10,000 from spending at least $1,000 in the three-month period immediately after getting the card. That’s a lot of points to get you a good head start! You can also take advantage of the secondary bonus offer up for grabs here if you like; transferring a balance from any existing cards onto this one will allow you to cut your payable interest to just 1.99% for the first 9 months, which is almost certain to be a significant discount. It’s not a reason to get this card all on its own, but it’s excellent for smoothing over a transition for you if you’re trying to leave your old cards behind you.
For benefits, this card includes the purchase protection and extended warranty availability that you can get from pretty much any credit card now. It also comes with a slight discount (25% off) on rental cars at Avis or Budget car rental locations, a token benefit that is better nothing but doesn’t significantly improve the appeal of the card all on its own. If you want this card, you probably want it for the rewards, with one notable exception. If you’re a student, you can also get the SPC version of this card that comes with a membership in the SPC (Student Price Card) program. The monetary value of this perk is only about $10, but it’s not the dollar amount that matters here. This membership has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars depending on how you shop, so it’s very nice to have around and can deliver value for you that goes far beyond its sticker price. If you qualify for that version, it’s definitely better to apply for that one instead.
What You Need To Apply
As a basic card, the BMO Rewards Mastercard doesn’t ask for too much of its applicants. You’ll need to be of legal age to sign a contract, of course (in other words, at least 19 years old), and you’ll also need to be bringing in some regular income. It doesn’t have to be much, though – even the income from a student job could easily be enough. There is no annual fee to pay for this card, so you don’t have to rule it out if you’re not willing to pay year after year. The only part of the application process where some people might run into trouble is with the required credit score. Nominally, at least, this card does prefer that you have a small head start on building a credit score in order to get it. You don’t have to have a great or even a good score, but you shouldn’t have an empty file either.
However, the good news is that there may be a way around that stipulation. The fact that the SPC version exists at all indicates that BMO is willing to at least entertain accepting applicants who lack established credit scores. You’re still more likely to be approved with no credit if you apply for that version directly, but if you’re not a student at the moment, you might still be lucky enough to get the standard version with a blank credit file. This is even more likely if you have had a savings or chequing account with BMO for a while now, as that would have given them the chance to observe your financial habits and gauge your potential creditworthiness based on that. Basically, if you’re at all interested in this card, don’t let your lack of a credit score hold you back from applying – it may prove not to be an impediment at all.
What Makes BMO Rewards Cards Special
All credit card reward systems are a little bit different, and some are clearly better than others in terms of value or what they provide. The BMO rewards system is one of the best around because it has a ton of extremely varied potential and it gives the redeemer full control of those possibilities.
- Think you want to buy your mother a lovely new necklace for her birthday or Mother’s Day? You can use points for that.
- Would you rather take a relaxing trip to Bermuda on a discount? You can use your points to get money off of the plane trip there.
- Prefer to have your fun a little closer to home? Tickets to concerts and other events are available as well.
- Thinking you should start investing in your future? You can put some points toward an investment account with BMO and watch their value grow over time.
- If you’re more impatient than that option requires but would still like something roughly equivalent to cash, you can cash in points for statement credit at a less favourable redemption rate.
All of these options are available to anyone who holds a BMO card that helps you accrue reward points, including those who have the basic BMO Rewards Mastercard itself. With just the entry-level card, you will of course earn points more slowly than you would with a better one, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. You can always switch to a better card later if you really want to secure those elevated rates.
One slight drawback of this system, though, is that the value of the points is generally good, but not great. There are credit card reward systems that allow you to make your points go much further than this one does, and their associated cards typically net you those points at a rate very similar to the cards attached to BMO’s rewards. This means that it can take a little longer than you might like to earn enough for a good reward at times, even if you’re sure to get there if you wait long enough.
The BMO rewards points also do not have a consistent value across all their potential redemption categories. This is only to be expected when you’re looking at such an incredible range of options; BMO has good reason to want to incentivize you to use your points in certain specific ways (usually ways that benefit the company itself or at least costs them less to provide). However, it does make certain options much less lucrative for you without actually limiting your access to them, which some may find slightly deceptive.
The most obvious example of this is found when you compare what is available in the cash and investment redemption options. Using up 15,000 points gets you $100 of what is essentially cash if you choose to redeem it in the form of investments, but if you want to apply those same points to a statement credit, you’ll only get $50 for the same sum of points. That’s double the cash value for the investment option, a not inconsiderable difference that may end up guiding a lot of your decision-making. Travel rewards are similarly incentivized, but they are also harder to use than some of the other less-favourable options like gift cards. Maximizing the value of your points comes down to making smart choices about where you can fit the high-value options into your life and where you can afford to spend cash money instead.
The Consensus on the BMO Rewards Mastercard
It’s unlikely that you’ve heard much fanfare over the BMO Rewards Mastercard. As fun and versatile as the BMO rewards system in general might be, there are other cards offered by this provider that will get you far more points to use in a shorter amount of time. They also have better benefits, as compared to the virtually non-existent ones you’ll find here. Those cards typically get much more praise than the workmanlike BMO Rewards Mastercard. This discrepancy is only to be expected. It’s unreasonable to expect people to be as excited about a basic card as they are about top-of-the-line luxury cards with excellent reward rates and benefits attached to them.
However, the mere fact that most people have subdued opinions about this card says nothing about its true level of quality. Most people recognize that it is at least as good as the entry-level cards that most other providers have put out there. While it does attract some criticism for not being a proper cash back card (those types are generally among the most popular of all credit cards due to the sheer usefulness of their rewards), it is favoured by others for at least having a pseudo-cash back option. The reward rates themselves are up to industry standards and your options for what to do with them are unparalleled. Not everyone wants this kind of card, but those that do will not be unhappy with this one.
Coming to Conclusions
The BMO Rewards Mastercard is a seemingly unexciting credit card, but it is perfectly serviceable all the same and even holds a few surprises for you. While you’ll want to aim higher in the long term, for those just starting to build their credit or recovering from a credit downturn, this card is an excellent tool to help drive that process forward. It doesn’t make a particularly good first choice, but if your true first choice doesn’t work out, it’s a good backup option that you’re almost sure to successfully get.