BMO Rewards has made a favourable permanent change to its program: no longer will you need to redeem points through the BMO travel portal; instead, you’ll be able to book any travel using your BMO Rewards credit card and apply points to it at the optimal ratio of 0.67 cents per point (cpp).
Redeem BMO Rewards at 0.67cpp Permanently
BMO is one of the banks whose reward program we’ve been critical of in the past, particularly due to unpopular moves like reducing the travel redemption rate from 0.71cpp down to 0.67cpp.
To add insult to injury, the resulting ideal redemption rate of 150 BMO Rewards points = $1 in value was exclusively available on the BMO Rewards Travel Portal, which can often be quite buggy.
Prior to this year, if you wished to redeem BMO Rewards for any other type of purchase not made on their web portal, then you’d have to accept a frankly pathetic rate of 200 BMO Rewards Points = $1. This amounts to an uninspiring 0.5cpp.
Now, BMO has at least recognized that they may need to experiment with the inflexibility of their redemption model and offer consumers a little bit more punch for points redemptions.
That’s why going forward, you’ll be able redeem your BMO Rewards points on all travel purchases anywhere at the aforementioned ideal rate of 150 points per $1, or 0.67cpp.
As long as your BMO Rewards credit card purchase codes as flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, buses, trains, or any other type of travel, you’ll be good to go when it comes time to burn your BMO Rewards points.
To redeem, simply sign into bmorewards.com, select the “Pay with Points” tab, and use as many points as you desire to offset your qualifying purchase.
Why Should You Pay Using BMO Rewards Points?
This permanent change is ideal, because it not only allows you to redeem your points however you want, but it also lets you avoid the bank’s in-house travel agency (if and when it ever reopens). Oh, didn’t I mention that there’s trouble in paradise?
At the moment BMO Rewards’s own internal travel portal isn’t functioning at all, and the issuer has indicated no timeline of when it might reopen. Therefore, this option to redeem on travel your own way is the only way to extract maximum value from the BMO Rewards program.
Normally, flying on itineraries booked with an internal travel agency such as BMO’s can prevent you from earning rewards, such as Aeroplan points or Alaska miles. Booking hotels would similarly preclude you from earning sweet rewards, such as World of Hyatt points or Marriott Bonvoy elite qualifying nights.
Likewise, you wouldn’t be able to garner benefits such as suite upgrades or free breakfast that you might earn as a result of being a hotel elite member. Furthermore, you also wouldn’t be able to employ the “Latitude Attitude” and use eUpgrades to instantly transform your cheap economy seat into a business class one.
This new option of redeeming on travel “as you go” provides a much more competitive experience: you can book any travel directly with the provider, entitling you to all of the points, nights, and benefits offered by your chosen loyalty program, and then retroactively use BMO Rewards points to offset the charge.
Effectively, BMO Rewards is now on par with HSBC Rewards and Scotiabank’s Scene+ as one Canada’s more flexible travel rewards currencies.
Now if only the rest of the Big 5 banks would catch up – I’m looking at you, CIBC Aventura and TD Rewards…
Best BMO Credit Cards for Earning BMO Rewards
The most basic BMO Rewards product, the aptly-named BMO Rewards Mastercard, is barely worth mentioning due its low welcome bonus of 10,000 points, which is equivalent to $67 in travel. That’s barely even a Megabus ticket.
At the other end of the spectrum is the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Privilege. This card has a hefty $499 annual fee, but it offers a $200 annual credit to offset the cost, as well as a welcome bonus of 50,000 BMO Rewards Points after spending $6,000 in the first three months of holding the card. It also includes six DragonPass lounge passes.
These points would be worth $365 toward travel going forward. Therefore, after paying the high annual fee, your profit would only be $66, plus some lounge visits.
However, I think it’s BMO’s middle-of-the-road cards that offer the best value under the current promotion.
While the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is second-rate by comparison, it still offers a decent sign-up bonus of 30,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months, as well as a waiver of the $150 annual fee.
$200 in travel for free isn’t insignificant, and the card also comes with four complimentary DragonPass lounge visits per year.
On the other hand, you have the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite, which in my opinion is the clear winner. Its $120 annual fee is waived in the first year, and you instantly receive a $50 per calendar year in lifestyle credit.
Furthermore, its welcome bonus of 30,000 BMO Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first three months puts it on par with the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard, and it earns 5x the points on eats, drinks, and groceries.
|Credit Card||Best Offer||Value|
|Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points||$320||Apply Now|
|2,000 Air Miles||$265||Apply Now|
|Up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points||$221||Apply Now|
|10,000 BMO Rewards points||$77||Apply Now|
|Up to 90,000 BMO Rewards points||$74||Apply Now|
When it comes to the Bank of Montreal, I often have mixed feelings. Their constant devaluations of signature products leave a poor taste in the consumer’s mouth, and I’ve felt in recent years as if the company hasn’t kept pace at all with their competitors.
As a result, it’s good to see this financial institution finally make a proactive choice by attempting to refresh their beleaguered in-house BMO Rewards program by making it possible to redeem points against any travel at the optimal value of 0.67cpp.
Still, if BMO is to become a serious contender, this is but a preliminary step to rebuilding customer goodwill and competitive advantage. Due to the recent pattern of devaluations, it’s almost certainly better to keep on redeeming BMO Rewards quickly, instead of trying to build them into a stash.
Until next time, don’t use in-house online travel agencies.