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Canada’s 6 Best BMO Credit Cards for July 2021

BMO Bank of Montreal is one of the biggest banks in Canada, offering a wide-ranging credit card portfolio across both the Visa and Mastercard networks.

Below are our picks for the best BMO credit cards in Canada.

Best BMO Credit Cards

Best Overall BMO Credit Card

The BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is the primary way to earn Air Miles. Normally, the card offers 2,000 Air Miles as a welcome bonus, but there’s usually a promotional link for 3,000 Air Miles and a first-year annual fee waiver tucked away somewhere on the Air Miles website.

Unless you spend heavily at Air Miles partners, earning on everyday purchases will be quite slow. Instead, if you’re looking to rack up Air Miles quickly, the card is rather friendly to repeat welcome bonuses.

What makes this card stand out is that you can use 15% fewer Air Miles for flights within North America. When you’re ready to make a booking, it’s always good to have this card linked to your Air Miles account so you can use this discount.

Also, BMO’s World Elite cards are known for offering travel insurance on partially paid tickets. That means you can pay for the taxes and fees for an award flight (whether through Air Miles or another loyalty program like Aeroplan) with this credit card, and your trip will be covered in the event of delays, accidents, and other mishaps.

Best Premium BMO Credit Card

BMO has recently made their first foray into the higher-end lifestyle credit card market with the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege.

The card earns 5 BMO Rewards points per dollar spent on groceries, dining, drugstores, gas, and travel. That’s quite a wide range of categories which earn at BMO’s top rewards rate. When redeemed at the best possible rate, for travel or into an investment account, this works out to 3.33% back.

You can also add an authorized user to your account to earn rewards more quickly. For your trouble, all cards on the account will earn an extra 25% points. If you’re going to go all-in on this premium card, the more the merrier.

There’s a high annual fee of $499, but you get a no-questions-asked $200 lifestyle credit every calendar year to cover a good chunk of your costs. Throw in strong travel insurance and a Priority Pass membership with six annual airport lounge visits, and you’ve got the makings of a proper premium card.

Best Lifestyle BMO Credit Card

The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite is a nice alternative to the top-tier Privilege card. It earns at the same rate of 5 BMO Rewards points per dollar spent on all of the same categories, except for drugstores.

For a much lower annual fee of $120, you’ll get a smaller annual lifestyle credit of $50 and a lower 10% bonus for adding authorized users, and you’ll give up the Priority Pass membership, but otherwise there’s not much difference between the two cards.

If you’d rather keep your annual fees down, or if your income is too low to qualify for the higher-tier card, this card is still a good option for many of the same premium benefits.

Plus, you’ll get the first-year annual fee waived, so you can see how the card suits you before committing long-term (with the ability to double-dip on the $50 lifestyle credit should you decide to cancel).

Best No Fee BMO Credit Card

The BMO CashBack Mastercard is the best BMO credit card with no annual fee.

The card earns 3% cash back on groceries, a ridiculously high rate for a no-fee card and even higher than many premium cards. You’ll also earn 1% back on recurring payments.

However, you’ll only get the bonus rates on your first $500 spent per month. The card isn’t great for high spenders, but if you’re in the market for a card with no annual fee, you’re probably pretty budget-conscious to begin with.

The cash back rate for all other purchases is only 0.5%, and there aren’t any other bonus categories. But this isn’t too far off of the value of the rewards on BMO’s other no-fee cards. All other things being equal, cash back is certainly a more versatile rewards currency, and a strong grocery category only sweetens the deal.

Best Cash Back BMO Credit Card

For bigger cash back rewards, look to the BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard.

The card uses a tiered category bonus structure. Groceries earn 5%, and uncategorized purchases earn 1%, with a handful of other categories rounding out the range in between.

Unfortunately the category bonuses are capped at a low level of spending per month. If you exceed those limits, you’ll only earn 1% cash back.

Like BMO’s other World Elite cards, this one offers travel insurance on award tickets if you pay for the fees and taxes with the card. Sometimes it’s nice to have travel benefits on a cash back card so you can mix and match your credit card strategy.

Best BMO Credit Card for Business Owners

The BMO Air Miles Business Mastercard is our choice for BMO’s top business credit card. It’s very similar to the personal Air Miles World Elite card, but geared towards business owners.

The welcome bonus is a steady 3,000 Air Miles, more reliably high than on the personal card. It does come with a higher minimum spend requirement, so you might not want to prioritize this card unless you have business expenses to help you earn the bonus.

In addition to a stronger welcome bonus, the business card also has a stronger ongoing value proposition. It earns 1 Air Mile per $10 spent, compared to the personal card’s 1 Air Mile per $12 spent at most retailers.

While this card won’t turn any heads, it’s still solid especially for BMO’s standard insurance on award tickets. More specifically, it’s the best of a weak field, as BMO’s in-house rewards program is rather uninspiring.

BMO Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

When choosing a BMO credit card, you should familiarize yourself with what benefits a BMO credit card can offer, what features to look out for, and how BMO credit cards can fit into an optimized credit card strategy.

Why get a BMO credit card?

BMO is the primary credit card partner for Air Miles. As you collect towards a redemption, BMO’s cards give frequent opportunities to earn more quickly through signup bonuses and various Air Miles promotions. Also, on the Mastercard network, they’ll be more widely accepted than the Air Miles cards issued by American Express.

For other travellers, BMO’s premium cards are still incredibly valuable for their generous insurance on award tickets. No matter which points program you book with, you’ll be covered by BMO’s credit card insurance as long as you charge the taxes and fees of your booking to the card. Therefore, even if you don’t collect Air Miles, BMO’s cards could still have a place in your wallet.

If you already bank with BMO, it’s a no-brainer to pick up one of their credit cards. You can get your annual fee for most cards rebated every year if you have a BMO Premium chequing account. This is useful if you plan on keeping a premium card year after year for its benefits and higher everyday earning rates.

What should you look for in a BMO credit card?

BMO has three different types of rewards on their credit cards:

  • Air Miles co-branded cards are best for avid collectors who are either looking for cash discounts on groceries, or who know how to stretch the value of their Dream Rewards. Premium cardholders can also get discounts on flight redemptions.
  • BMO Rewards cards earn points that can be used for travel expenses. You can book flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, or cruises. You can also cash your points out into a BMO investment account at the same rate.
  • Cash Back can be redeemed any time. They’re the easiest rewards to use and understand, but the trade-off is that their value is limited. Compared to their peers, BMO’s cash back cards have strong earning rates on popular categories, but low limits on spending before your rewards revert back to the base level.

Traditionally, the bulk of BMO’s credit cards have been on the Mastercard network. However, their new flagship BMO eclipse line is made up of Visa cards.

On their new products, BMO has been introducing higher rewards rates on everyday spending, and annual lifestyle credits which can be used for just about any expense.

However, with BMO’s product lineup undergoing a significant overhaul in recent years, card benefits and redemption rates are in turmoil. Some of BMO’s premium products are rather strong, while others are quickly fading away in the shadow of their replacements.

All of BMO’s cards come with the standard benefits for their card tier:

  • All Visa Infinite cards have access to Concierge services, the Luxury Hotel Collection, and the Dining Series & Wine Country program
  • In addition, Visa Infinite Privilege cards come with a Priority Pass membership which includes six annual visits to participating airport lounges and restaurants each year
  • All World Elite Mastercards come with a LoungeKey membership (although free passes are being phased out) and in-flight Boingo Wi-Fi

But perhaps the biggest advantage of BMO’s premium credit cards is travel insurance. They extend insurance to bookings that are partially paid on the card, meaning that they’ll cover award flights if you use the card to pay the cash costs of taxes and fees.

BMO also offers student credit cards that earn rewards. These might be easier to get approved for if you have no previous credit history.

BMO routinely offers First Year Free promotions for new signups for all cards at or below the World Elite tier. If this incentive ever disappears, it’s better to wait for it to come back before applying.

What’s the optimal strategy for BMO credit cards?

When it comes to maximizing credit cards as a whole, BMO credit cards play a relatively minor role in a savvy individual’s wallet compared to the other major credit card issuers. Indeed, BMO credit cards are generally seen as the weakest offerings out of the Big 5 Canadian banks.

BMO’s Air Miles credit cards can help you easily rack up a large Air Miles balance. However, while Air Miles is a very popular retail rewards program among Canadians, the truth is that the potential upside of Air Miles is rather limited compared to more powerful travel programs like Aeroplan.

Some travellers might consider Air Miles a useful secondary currency for reducing out-of-pocket travel expenses, but looking at the big picture, there are certainly much bigger fish to fry in the rewards landscape.

Similarly, BMO’s very own BMO Rewards points is a weak program compared to its peers.

Not only is the redemption value very low at 0.67 cents per point, but there is significant friction in the redemption process, as you need to book travel through BMO’s internal travel portal rather than being able to use your points towards whatever travel you want to book.

The single redeeming factor for BMO credit cards is their insurance coverage. Since BMO’s credit card insurance applies on partially paid tickets, they can be very useful for charging your award taxes and fees to ensure your trip is covered by BMO’s travel insurance.

Therefore, in an optimized credit card strategy, you might choose one BMO credit card that fits your needs the best to keep for the purpose of having travel insurance on an award ticket. Then, you’d prioritize more powerful credit cards from other issuers before engaging further with BMO credit cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some questions we frequently hear from readers about the best BMO credit cards in Canada.

Which credit bureau does BMO check?

BMO checks Equifax.

Can I have more than one BMO credit card at the same time?

Yes, you can have any combination of premium and entry-level cards.

Can I do a product switch with BMO?

BMO isn’t known for awarding welcome bonuses on product switches. You can downgrade to a no-fee card if you want to preserve the account, however.

Can I get BMO business cards?

Yes, you can apply as a sole proprietor doing business as your own name. Sometimes BMO will ask for business registration documents to support your application, so it’s best to be prepared with those.

Ricky Zhang

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