Monday, May 11, 2015

BMO AIR MILES MasterCard Review

(This post is a duplicate of the one found on our main Rewards Canada site)

Touted as BMO's most popular credit card, the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard becomes the first AIR MILES co-brand card that receives the Rewards Canada review treatment! A constant top 5 finisher in our annual Top Travel Rewards Credit Card rankings for Travel Points Cards with no annual fee, this card has been a mainstay for the AIR MILES programs for many years.


The BMO AIR MILES MasterCard is one of two credit cards for the AIR MILES collectors that comes with no annual fee. Perfect for those just starting out with the program or with credit cards in general or for those looking for an additional card for the credit card portfolio that carries no annual fee (ie carry the American Express AIR MILES Platinum and this card) The card makes it easy to earn AIR MILES at an average rate and comes with a decent sign up bonus.

Sign up Features
The BMO AIR MILES MasterCard currently offers a 500 AIR MILES Reward Miles bonus when you are approved for the card. We value a AIR MILES Reward Mile in the $0.11 to $0.15 range when redeeming for travel which means the sign up bonus translates to rougly a $55 to $75 value.

The BMO AIR MILES MasterCard has no annual fee for the primary or secondary cards. The interest rate on the card is19.9% which is in line with most of the cards at this level.

The BMO AIR MILES MasterCard earns 1 AIR MIlES Reward Mile for every eligible $20 spent on the card. The card offers a couple of Reward Mile accelerators as well, you'll earn 1.25 times the miles on purchases at Shell and 1.5 times the miles Alamo and National Car Rentals.

Being a co-brand card, redemption is actually done via AIR MILES not via BMO. This is where the relative strength of the AIR MILES program comes through to make the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard worthwhile for some people as they can earn even more AIR MILES on top of credit card spend via the vast amount of shopping partners that the program has. AIR MILES offers numerous redemption options but of course based on the name, the primary redemption option which most people dream about are flights. Reality is however that roughly only 10% of redemptions in the program are for actual flights. The remainder are for other travel related redemptions (hotels, car rentals, attraction tickets), merchandise or AIR MILES Cash. The majority of AIR MILES Flight redemptions are on Air Canada or WestJet however they also offer flights on American Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Calm Air, Canada North and Central Mountain Air at their lowest redemption levels. Other airlines are available but cost more AIR MILES than what is published on the AIR MILES website. Redeeming AIR MILES Reward Miles for flights nets an average return of 11 to 15 cents per AIR MILE Reward Mile. If you look at what this card's base earn rate of 1 Reward Mile for every $20 means you'll achieve a rate of return of 0.55% to 0.75%.

AIR MILES also lets you redeem for lots of other travel options like hotels, car rentals, cruises and more where you pay with miles and then cash for taxes/fees. Hotels seem like a so-so deal but we have found some really good deals for car rentals. You can also redeem for gift certificates for travel providers like Greyhound, Marlin Travel and several others. Then you have non-travel redemptions and this is what AIR MILES seems to have become more famous for as of late. From merchandise to tickets for attractions there isn't much that you can't redeem for!

Finally you have the AIR MILES Cash option. This is different from the redemptions above which are called AIR MILES Dream Rewards. When you log into your AIR MILES account you can set a percentage of all the reward miles you earn to go into your Dream Balance and your Cash balance. AIR MILES Cash works just like cash at participating AIR MILES sponsors like Sobeys, Rexall, Safeway, Rona, Shell and more. The Cash option has a set redemption value of $10 for 95 AIR MILES Reward Miles. As you can see the Cash Option has a lower rate of return based on our numbers as those same 95 miles would get you on average $12.35 towards a flight.

Features and Benefits

The BMO AIR MILES MasterCard offers only two insurance benefits. Extended warranty protection and purchase protection. These two benefits are standard on most cards whether or not they have an annual fee. Extended warranty extends the manufacturers warranty for items bought with the card while purchase protection reimburses you for items you purchase on the card that may become damaged, lost or stolen within 90 days of purchase.

What is good about this card
The best thing about the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard is the current sign up bonus of 500 AIR MILES Reward Miles. Since the card has no fee you are essentially getting those miles for free.

The miles accelerators for Shell, National and Alamo are also a nice feature of the card.


What is not so good about this card
The regular earn rate of only 1 AIR MILES Reward Miles for every $20 is on the low for a no fee card. Ranging between 0.55% and 0.75% per dollar spent means you could be losing out as other no fee travel cards like the American Express Blue Sky Credit Card or Capital One® Aspire Travel™ Platinum MasterCard® earn up to 1.25% while others earn a flat 1%. Granted, BMO is taking into account that you will be double dipping and earning AIR MILES Reward Miles at AIR MILES sponsors by swiping your loyalty card but nothing stops you from doing that with any of the other credit cards as well.

The features and benefits of this card are somewhat weak as well as more and more no-fee cards have been adding things like CDW Car Rental Insurance, Travel Accident Insurance and more.

For newcomers to the miles and points game, students, first time credit seekers or those looking for a no-fee AIR MILES card to add to their credit card portfolio the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard can be the right choice. The nice sign up bonus that comes at no charge to you is the best part of this card. If you are neck deep in the AIR MILES program but have an American Express AIR MILES card as your primary card than this card can make a good back for those merchants that don't accept Amex like Costco. However if you have well established credit, travel at least once a year, or are looking to rake in rewards as fast as you can there are other options that are better for you. Whether it is an AIR MILES card like the BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard, the American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card or roughly 50 other credit cards from other travel reward programs out of the 80 plus in our market.

Care to comment? Do you agree or disagree with us? Tell us what think about the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard by commenting below!

Related Links:
BMO AIR MILES MasterCard on
Rewards Canada's All Travel Rewards Credit Card Comparison including the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard
Rewards Canada's Travel Points Only Credit Card Comparison including the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard

Other cards to consider if you are looking at this card:
Alterna mbna Rewards MasterCard
American Express Air Miles Platinum Credit Card
BMO Air Miles World MasterCard
Capital One® Aspire Travel™ Platinum MasterCard®
CAA Rewards MasterCard
Citizens Bank Visas
CUETS No Fee Choice Rewards MasterCard
HSBC Advance MasterCard
HSBC Premier MasterCard
mbna Rewards MasterCard
RBC Rewards Visa Gold
Scotiabank Rewards Visa
Vancity enviro Classic Visa

1 comment:

  1. This BMO card also gives the holder the opportunity to buy very cheap travel medical insurance for themselves, their spouse and any children in school up to age 21. We used this for years when the kids were little. Also, you can upgrade to a Gold card at any time, book travel at a 25% discount of the miles, and then go back to the original card and get a rebate for the rest of the year as far as the yearly fee for the card goes.