Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is officially here, is it a card worth considering?

The BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is officially here. First announced back in February, this is the rebrand and revamp of the BMO World Elite Mastercard. As of today the card name changes and the earn rate structure changes as well. In general, the changes to the card can be considered a devaluation. Back in 2015 it was #1 in our Travel Points Cards with Annual Fee category but with multiple devaluations over that time it started dropping down and for 2022 sits in 5th spot. Now, it appears the card may even fall completely out of the top 5 thanks to these further changes. 

Name Change

The first change to the card is the card name. The BMO World Elite Mastercard is now known as the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard.

Earn Rate Changes

This is the area of concern as BMO has changed the earn rates. Two accelerated categories do get better, some stay the same and the base earn rate.... well let's just say BMO took the axe to it. So you might say with two being better and only one worse that can't be so bad can it? Well it depends on your spending habits.

Here's what the card earned up until May 2:

  • 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, dining and entertainment purchases*
  • 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent everywhere else

And the new rates as of May 3:

  • 5x the points for every $1 spent on travel
  • 3x the points for every $1 spent on dining and entertainment
  • 3x the points for every $1 spent on recurring bill payments like your streaming services, phone bills, or memberships
  • 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else 

Ok, so travel is getting better, 5 points per dollar, that's pretty sweet or is it? Well if you want to get technical it's the equivalent of 3.34 points per dollar (or a 3.34% return) as you have to redeem 150 points towards $1 of travel. I'm not going to go into huge detail here, rather you should read our article When earning 5x points isn't the same as earning 5x points - a loyalty lesson as that goes into great depth on this subject that BMO actually triggered last year. Anyways, to get 3.34% back on travel spending is pretty sweet though this is capped at $15,000 in spending annually. This cap kind of surprises me - the people who you are trying to appeal with a high earn on travel are those who spend a lot on travel and easily spend way more than $15,000 per year in that category.

So that's travel, what about the other earn rates?

Dining and entertainment remain at 3 points or a 2% return and now they have added recurring bills to that category which means those move up from 2 points per dollar to 3 points. That's a nice addition to the card but not a game changer. However there is a big caveat now - the 3x Dining and Entertainment is capped at $10,000 per year and so are recurring bills.

The rest of the spending on the card though? This is what just nerfed this card. They have moved the base earn rate to 1 point per dollar down from two. Cutting it in half. And if you are quick at math from the above numbers you'll see that's worth .67 cents or a .67% return on all other spending. I've said this ever since BMO launched their eclipse cards late in 2020 that no premium card should have a base earn rate below 1% yet now with these changes BMO now has three premium cards with 0.67% base earn rates. That's absolutely atrocious. I would never pay a $120 or in this case a $150 annual fee on a card that can't give me a 1% base earn rate. Think about shopping at Costco, which BMO used to promote so much on their cards - you are going to earn 0.67% at Costco with this card. What do other cards offer? HSBC World Elite is 1.5%, Brim World Elite Mastercard is 2% and the list goes on (See: Top 5 Mastercard Cards to use at Costco). And it is this big clip to the base earn rates that actually make this card worse, well that and the lower caps in place now - it used to be a $50,000 total cap across the categories, now we are at $45,000.

Then what happens if you hit those caps? $15,000 travel, $10,000 each on dining and entertainment, $10,000 recurring bills? Well you earn only the 1 point (0.67%) per dollar in those categories on any spending above that level. I don't know about you but before the pandemic the Rewards Canada family easily spent more than that in travel, dining and entertainment on annual basis

Welcome Bonus

The current limited time welcome bonus offer on the card is the same offer we saw on the old version of the card. That offer is up to 60,000 points along with the first-year annual fee waived for both the primary ($150) and first authorized ($50) cardholders. The bonus offer is awarded as follows: 30,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months, and 2,500 points for each subsequent month in which you make at least $2,000 in purchases on your card, for 12 months. This is one of the highest and longest spend requirements the market today. You need to spend $27,000 on the card over the span of 15 months to receive the bonus.


Seeing that they devalued the travel redemption rate last year which knocked off some value from this card at that time and had also done so a few years prior there are no changes in redemption value. Whew! 

Still you have to redeem for travel via BMO Rewards whereas most competitors allow you to book travel with anyone and give you time after you travel to redeem for those charges. Not so much with BMO. So here you have less flexibility, tighter caps and overall lower earn rates than the likes of the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®, the American Express Cobalt® Card , the Scotia Gold American Express Card and more!

Limited time redemption offer

One shining light right now, if you can call it that, with the BMO Rewards program is they are offering a special redemption rate of 150 points to $1 for any travel booked with the card - you don't have to book with BMO Rewards. This offer is only available until September 30 and was put in place after Rewards Canada noted that BMO was pushing a lower redemption value on their customers due to a technical issue with bookings:

Other features and benefits

The card does have some notable benefits such as airport business class lounge access with four annual passes (it is the only Mastercard offering annual passes) and very strong insurance coverage which includes covering flights booked with other reward programs so long as the taxes, fees or whatever charges are paid for with the BMO card (Aeroplan would be a prime example). I know some people have this card just for the insurance coverage!

Wrapping it up

Back to question from the title of this post. Is the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard worth considering? Well, every card is worth considering and there may be a few situations where this card is worth it. The insurance coverage is one of the best in the market and the four lounge passes on top of the lounge access membership do provide some great value. Also it may be a consideration for those customers who do purchase travel and like to keep their banking products with one bank, in this case BMO. Other than that it really when you look at other cards in the market BMO's only hope at keeping a competitive card in the market has been dashed. Yes, it is being marketed as the highest earning travel card but say you spend $20,000 a year on travel and I know a lot of people who do spend that or more, you would end up earning 80,000 points on the BMO Ascend Mastercard or about $536 of value towards travel. The HSBC World Elite Mastercard in comparison would net you 120,000 points worth $600 that you can redeem with any travel provider.  So please keep that and everything else already mentioned in mind if you are considering this card.

Click here to learn more about the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard


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