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Thursday, May 20, 2010

BMO World Elite MasterCard Review

This is the review in full as it appears on the main Rewards Canada site and is the updated version from Dec 30, 2013

In the middle of March 2010 BMO came out with a new MasterCard offering to compete with the Visa Infinite cards issued by other banks in Canada. Until now BMO has only offered Gold or Platinum versions of the various MasterCards they issued. One can assume BMO came out with this card for several reasons. The first is that BMO needs to keep its higher end clientele from jumping ship from their current line of cards to the premium Infinite cards offered by banks like CIBC and RBC. The second reason would be to try and pull some of the current Visa Infinite cardholders away from those other banks, particularly if they are BMO bankers to start with.

The World Elite tag is MasterCard's premium card offering much like Visa's Infinite/Signature branding and is a step up from the World MasterCard. To the best of our knowledge, the BMO World Elite was the first World Elite card offering in Canada. With World Elite comes extra benefits and enhancements like Concierge service, extra insurance benefits, exclusive concert/theatre packages and more. These features are what bring the card in-line with the other premium cards in Canada. Much like the RBC Avion Visa, the BMO World Elite MasterCard allows you to redeem for any travel in any class (flights, hotels, cruises etc.) for a varying amount of points via BMO's own travel agency.

Related: See how the BMO World Elite stacks up against its competition on Rewards Canada's Travel Points Credit Card with Annual Fee Comparison

The BMO World Elite comes with a heftier $150 primary card annual fee versus the average $120 for the Visa Infinite cards. If you apply for this card by Mar 3, 2014 you will have the annual fee waived in the first year. The card offers a 30,000 point welcome bonus which is worth $300 in travel with the newly revised redemption rate. Supplementary cards run $50 which is the same for almost all of the Infinite/Platinum/Gold travel credit card offerings from other banks. The interest rate on the card is 20.5% which is slightly higher then the competitors but most people who have this card will be paying off their monthly balances in full.

The BMO World Elite earns 2 points for every dollar spent on the card for purchases. Since it offers a straight 2 points per dollar (a 2% return) the card does not have any category multipliers like some of its competiors.

On the redemption side, BMO originally made it tough to find out what the redemption ratios were for travel unless you are an actual cardholder. However this has changed as they let you know now that the card offers a 2% return on your spending (prior to September 2013 it was 1.9%) This positions it near the top of the Travel Points Credit Card category as it matches cards like the Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®, the CUETS World Elite MasterCard and mbna Rewards World Elite MasterCard. The BMO World Elite comes ahead of the TD Visa Cards which have a 1.5% return, Diners Club at 1.7% and many other travel points and hybrid cards at 1%. There does not seem to be a minimum amount of points that you need to redeem at one time so this card can be quite advantageous in redeeming for seat sale fares. As an example, flights between Toronto and Ottawa or Montreal often dip below $50 each way and come in under $200 with taxes which means, you could redeem as little as 20,000 points for the flights (or $10,00 in spending) versus 15,000 with CIBC AeroGold Visas or RBC Avion Visas ($15,000 in spending). When redeeming with this card you want to try to do it online as BMO Rewards will charge you $29.95 for bookings made over the phone.For non-travel redemptions the World Elite MasterCard offers a 1% return (100 points = $1)

Features and Benefits
The BMO World Elite comes with a whole host of features and benefits, the majority of which are standard for cards of this level. It has the standard Travel Accident, Flight Delay and Car Rental insurance. The one insurance it has that most of its competitors do not is Trip Cancellation insurance. This benefits covers up to $2,500 per insured person to a maximum of $5,000 per account. The ScotiaGold Passport Visa, TD First Class Infinite and American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum cards are the only other cards that have this type of insurance as standard.

The card also offers free Priority Pass membership which allows access to over 600 business class lounges Worldwide. Normally the pass costs $99 per year plus your entry fee into each lounge of US$27. This feature is also found on the American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum and Diners Club MasterCards. The difference with the BMO World Elite is that it also gives you four complimentary lounge access passes valued at a total of US$108.

What is good about this card
The redemption ratio of 2.0% gives this card a high mark as it matches other top cards in the Travel Points category as is right in line with the average rate of return on many airline cards for economy class seats. The trip cancellation insurance and the Priority Pass benefits that include the three free lounge visits are also a plus feature for this card.

What is not so good about this card
The biggest downfall I can find with this card is that they charge booking fees for redeeming you points for travel bookings that are made by phone. They also have a $25 fee for change or cancellations to your reward bookings over and above any fees charged by the actual travel supplier. For other rewards like financial or merchandise rewards, online orders are free and phone in orders are charged $10+tax. The annual fee is also higher then the card's direct competitors who offer similar features and benefits.

Overall the updated BMO Rewards World Elite MasterCard is much stronger offering than when it first came out and is a comparable match to its direct competitors. Booking fees on phone in rewards, a higher annual fee, and no ability to book travel directly from any provider makes this card fall short of ones like the Capital One® Aspire Travel™ World MasterCard®, the TD First Class Visa Infinite and the Diners Club MasterCard. The biggest benefits behind this card are the 2% redemption ratio and the four complimentary Priority Pass lounge passes that are not offered by other cards. If you bank with BMO and want to keep all your financial holdings with BMO, spend a lot on your card each year and travel a lot then this card makes for a very good choice.

We would like to hear your thoughts on the new BMO World Elite MasterCard by commenting below!

Related Links:
BMO World Elite MasterCard on BMO.com
Rewards Canada's Canadian Travel Credit Card Comparison including the BMO World Elite MasterCard 

Other cards to consider if you are looking at this card:
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Capital One® Aspire ™ Travel World MasterCard®
CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite
CUETS World Elite MasterCard
Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard
Scotiabank Gold American Express
TD First Class Infinite Visa


  1. I won't be sucked in by this mediocre BMO offering. To me, the ridiculous fees and a higher interest rate just doesn't make sense...unless you're a BMO shareholder.

  2. No go. First off I like the J class seats I get with Aeroplan. Sure it's a game but I like to play. Plus with the Aergolds we both use the first $80k on 1.5x. All non 1.5x spending with now go on the new AMEX SPG card. For us we get 2.2%. A Sat. night getaway is 10,000SPG points or $212.00 not spent! $1 spend= 1 spg point.

    Second I book villa's now. Most agencies it's bank draft or credit card with a 5% premium. So how am I going to book with BMO's own agency in my regard? And who's betting you are going to find a decent price for an AI (should you be so inclined)? I managed to swing an AI in Mexico last summer for 70% (saving $3500) compared to any Canadian agency. I booked with Apple Vac.

    My wife also has the Mastercard 2% cash back but they won't increase her measly $5000 limit. So she pays off purchases after 3 days.

  3. what do you think bmo world elite mastercard vs. bmo gold mastercard and airmiles?

  4. TRF, both cards have their pros and cons.
    The pro for the Elite MasterCard is that it allows you to book any travel that is available through the BMO World Elite Rewards center (their travel agency), so as long as a seat is available on a flight you can get it using your points (1000 points = $1.90 towards the travel cost)
    The con is that you have to pay a booking fee for even online bookings made through their reward center.
    The pro for the BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard is the 25% off all Air Miles flights, so you don't have to earn as many miles to fly as regular Air Miles members.
    The con for the BMO card is that you have to book via Air Miles and they only have limited seats for each flight and they also charge booking fees.

    Hope this helps

  5. Firstly, Avion does not have a point multiplier at gas stations and grocery stores.

    Secondly, BMO requires points are redeemed in 10K point increments.

    Fact checking please...

  6. Ummm... the review above does not mention anything about the Avion having a point multiplier, just the Aventura and Aerogold.

    Perhaps you should read better please....

  7. It is correct that we do not mention anything about Avion having a point multiplier.

    Thank you for advising us about the 10K point increments, BMO never disclosed this to us (nor was it on the website) when we did this review last year.

  8. Sep 12, 2011 Update: Thanks to one of readers we have been advised that BMO adjusted their booking fees to $0 for internet bookings and $29.95 for phone bookings

  9. It seems one point missing is BMO elite card pays all surcharges, taxes etc where as all the other cards only pay the basic airfare which can be only 50% of the cost of a ticket. A very poor payback on points used.

  10. The BMO Elite does allow you to use your points for taxes/fee etc but is not the only card to do so. For example all of the following allow you to as well:
    Capital One Aspire
    American Express Gold Rewards Card
    American Express Blue Sky Credit Card
    TD First Class Infinite Visa
    TD Platinum Visa
    RBC Visa Infinite Avion
    RBC Visa Platinum Avion
    and there are more from credit unions, smaller banks etc.

    The only cards that are basic airfare tend to be the Airline/Frequent Flyer cards and the Air Miles credit cards.

  11. I believe the other cards let you SPEND more points to cover cost of additional taxes/fee (this is how my Avion card currently works).
    I understand the BMO ELITE card includes it within the points used (better deal). Is this understanding correct?
    also the BMO Elite card allows travel on any class. My current Avion card does not allow for business class travel.

  12. The Avion card does allow you to redeem points for Taxes/fees but only at 100points/$ so a 1% return versus BMO Elites 1.9% that can be used on the taxes and fees. So depending on what level you redeem at with the Avion the rate of return may by higher than the BMO's 1.9% but it could also be lower especially on the long haul flights where the Avion has a 2% return before taxes and fees but that could easily be eroded to way below that because of the fees and taxes.

    Both cards allow you to redeem for business class but once again the Avion card is at the 1% return against in BMO Elites 1.9%.

  13. I don't think anyone has focused on the real reason to have this card - the amazing airplane lounge access. The Priority Pass annual membership is 100.00 alone, plus 3 or so free visits which are about 35.00 US each - you've already covered the annual fee in this stuff alone!

  14. I have both Avion and BMO World cards. I went with BMO as I already had an AirMiles BMO card and just switched programs.
    To show the difference between Avion and BMO I just booked a flight from Regina to Comox and then Nanaimo to Regina.
    The ticket came to 573.95 plus 113.66 taxes and fees. I had to use the agent as it was a multiple flight not returning from the same airport. The total BMO points were 36190 to pay for all costs.
    I called Avion and checked out the same flight at the same cost. I would have been 35000 Avion points for the fare plus 11366 for the taxes and fees for a total of 46366.
    This is why I have switched to BMO. I would love to stay with the Avion but until they give a competitive reward point redemption I will stick with BMO. BMO also offers a bonus on car rental with National that I take advantage of and we are looking forward to using the Priority Passes when I don't fly AC as I am a SE MM member.

  15. From what I've read the BMO WE MC is far superior in terms of rewards than any other cards. The 1.9% return rate is huge in comparison to other offerings. That's almost double the return than other cards in it's class. For every $1,000 spent you earn $19 back. The sign-up bonus (15,000 points) alone gives you $285 towards your next trip. One step further, if you put all your household spending on this card for a year, let say average $50,000, you're looking at $950 in return. That's more than any other cards at 1% return rate. Check out this site http://www.rewardscanada.ca/cccompare-travelpoints.html for a full list of credit cards available in Canada.

    I realize the annual fees are a bit higher than other cards at $150 instead of $120 but now there's no on-line booking fees, plus more features like free membership to Priority Pass to VIP lounges available to the cardholders that make this card a very attractive choice. Also it's a MC brand so it is more accepted worldwide than AmEx. In my opinion!

    As for the APR, I think 20.5% is very close to the standard 19.9% of other cards. That's a wash if you manage your balances adequately. It only hurts if you own a higher monthly balance and not able to pay it off. Then again it's still better than the retail credit cards.

  16. I have switched to BMO World Elite today. The lady at the call center brought something to my attention which I find it to be interesting.If you have any account with BMO other then your MC, you could redeem your points for cash and deposit it in to your for example saving account at BMO.

    This is good for those people who for one or other reason don't want to redeem their accumulated points towards any travel. So they can cash it and deposited it in their account.

  17. So do you have full access to the Star Alliance lounges like the AC and other ones around the world?

    Can anyone else verify that you can indeed deposit the cash value into your account that you have accumulated?

    1. No, PP allows access to http://www.plaza-network.com/ lounges, which are different from AC Maple Leaf lounges.

    2. Check out www.prioritypass.com for the entire list of lounges that BMO World Elite Cardholders can access.

  18. The best way for you to verify whether you can deposit the cash value into your account is to contact BMO MC call center and ask the yourself. You don't need to take my word for it. As I mentioned before when I switch to them lady told me that it is possible.

    Wishing you best of luck.

  19. I have just had another experience that shows how far Avion has fallen behind BMO World Elite and others.
    I tried to book 2 one way tickets for my Grandsons from Calgary to Saskatoon in August.Because the Avion schedule only allows a return trip it forced me to use the 1% redemption. Therefore a total tickets price of $407 meant 40700 Avion points.
    The same tickets with BMO were just under 22000 points! That meant an additional $18000 in spending for the same ticket.
    The Avion model of short haul/long haul etc as well as return trips is about 15 years old! I have no idea how this card can be rated so high. Maybe at one time but not now.
    I am just running my account down and not using the card but it is a challenge because of the value I am not getting.
    I have just used the Priority Pass at the lounge in Antigua. As you get 3 visits each year at $25-30 a visit it is a very good extra and makes up for the extra $30 in fees. It does apply to some AC lounges depending on the airport.
    The only thing they could do better would be to go to 2%.

  20. It's 4 free visits with the priority pass and not just 3!! The information we receive with the priority pass card is not good. You can call BMO and double check

    1. Yes you are correct, they have changed that since this review was posted way back in 2010. I will update accordingly.

  21. What is your experience with booking on bmorewards.com? I am seriously considering changing my CIBC Aerogold Infinite to either Capital One Aspire or BMO World Elite. My decision is torn by the following:

    Aspire - allows me to book via any method: expedia, hotel websites, travel agent, AI websites, etc; for WElite - I would have to use a rewards website, and worried I wouldn't get the best price.

    Aspire - has redemption "levels", which means if I go into the next level by a couple of dollars then I've lost points; for WElite - it appears that it may be a dollar for dollar amount, are there redemption levels?

    WElite - Priority Pass would be nice!

    What's been the deciding factor for you?

  22. I just received info from BMO that they have made some big changes. But for the better.
    Now redemption and collecting are at 2%. They have dropped the $50 extra card fee.
    They are now counting 2 points per $ to make it easier to track and you can pay for fees and taxes at 2%. Add to that the 4 Priority Passes, 21 day insurance and I think they have vaulted to the top. Glad I stuck with it.
    Now if I could just use up my RBC Avion points at a decent redemption value.
    Maybe this will force them to change as well.

    1. These changes to the BMO World Elite are great, see our post about it here http://blog.rewardscanada.ca/2013/08/bmo-world-elite-mastercard-being.html

      RBC won't change the Avion because as they state you can get over a return of over 2% with the points. But that is only if you max out the ticket price in the short haul category and that gets further devalued by having to pay for the taxes and fees with cash or points but only a 1% for the points. Of course RBC won't tell you this upfront in their marketing about the 2%+ return.

  23. Just saw that their welcome bonus is now 30000 pts or a $300 value. makes it better again.

  24. I've been thinking about switching from my CIBC Visa Infinite to the BMO World Elite but I'm not convinced about giving up on Aeroplan. I just redeemed 50,000 Aeroplan miles for two tickets to LA in April, the value of which is over $1200. By taking advantage of bonus offers, I definitely didn't spend anywhere near $50,000 to earn those miles. However, unless I'm mistaken, $1200 is equivalent to 120,000, or $60,000 of spending. Are there bonuses available to BMO WE cardholders to expedite points accumulation. If not, I don't really see the value compared to Aeroplan.

  25. BMO WE does not have any bonuses that we are aware of the expedite accumulation. In many cases Aeroplan (and other frequent flyer programs) are better than the fixed return credit cards but had those tickets been during a seat sale the better value may have come from BMO WE. It is all dependent on flights, times, availability etc. Most fixed return cards will offer you a return between 1 and 2% whereas Aeroplan is usually in the 1.5 - 2.5% range for economy class tickets. Aeroplan's own studies actually puts it even higher at an average of a 2.8% return.

  26. My husband has a BMO Elite with 500K points which prove worthless as any trip we've tried to book (even as far as 1 year out) requests 900K+ points + $$$ even for the USA. What a waste of a couple years of spending on the BMO card. While Aeroplan is not close to perfect, it's 100% better than BMO Elite even with blackout periods. Has anyone ever actually booked flights using less than 100K points with BMO Elite?...

  27. This sounds odd, you should be able to book any travel even without the full amount of points with BMO Elite. The points are simply converted to cash, if your husband has 500,000 points that is the equivalent of $5,000 in travel. The requests of 900K+ points would mean you are looking at buying flights worth $9,000. Is this the case? If so I would call BMO Rewards to have them check their flight pricing! You can always bring up the flights you like on a website like AirCanada.com and request those when you call BMO Rewards. The total price on Aircanada.com should be the same price BMO rewards gets and then multiply that amount by 100 to get the number of points you need.

  28. In the review BMO WE is slammed a bit for having higher fees. $150 vs $120 for many others. But the others charge $50 for spouse card and BMO doesn't. Makes BMO cheaper for me. Points rate is 2% vs 1.5% for TD. Kind of blows them out of the water.

  29. I am new to this card and I tried to redeem points on travel that I booked through my travel agent and was told I couldn't as I can only redeem points on travel if I book through BMO's travel desk. I have an American Express Platinum card and I can redeem their points against any travel booked through anyone. Much better. I was not told about this when I was pitched the card in my branch. I will probably cancel this card after I next book travel (through BMO, of course) and use up my points.

  30. That is unfortunate that the branch didn't tell you this. This is the biggest drawback on the card and I have mentioned it to BMO numerous times (even once again at a meeting I had with them last week!) Hopefully they'll listen and provide that option to their World Elite cardholders

  31. Are airfares and hotel rates competitive with other travel websites or is this a way for BMO to make back some money?

  32. They should be pretty competitive. BMO does earn a commission on bookings just like Expedia or other sites do but they shouldn't be inflating them to earn extra. But as can be found on so many search sites prices do vary!