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The best BMO credit cards in Canada for 2020 (and how BMO rewards cards work)

Bank of Montreal (BMO), one of Canada’s big five banks, offers over a dozen personal credit cards with a wide range of benefits.

Whether your financial priorities are earning cash back, saving points towards travel, or a low interest rate, it’s easy to find a card that’s suited to your personal needs and spending habits. Below, we break down our picks of the best BMO credit cards for 2020.

The best BMO credit cards in Canada

Credit CardBest BMO Card ForAnnual Fee
BMO World Elite Mastercard (View)Travel Points$150 (Waived for 1st Year)
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard (View)Cash Back$120 (Waived for 1st Year)
BMO CashBack Mastercard (View)No Annual Fees$0
BMO Air Miles World Elite (View)Air Miles$120 (Waived for 1st Year)
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard (View)Low Interest$20 (waived for 1st year)
BMO CashBack Mastercard (View)Students$0
Also read: How BMO rewards cards work

Best BMO credit card for travel

Card details

  • $150 annual fee (waived for the first year)
  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per dollar on travel, dining and entertainment purchases; 2 points per dollar on everything else
  • Earn up to 40,000 bonus points (value: $280) within your first year
  • VIP lounge access with the included Mastercard Airport Experiences membership, plus 4 complimentary passes per year ($140 value)
  • Income requirement: $80,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Best BMO credit card for cash back

Card details

  • $120 annual fee (waived for 1st year)
  • Welcome Offer: 5% cash back on all purchases (up to $200) for first 3 months
  • 1.5% cash back thereafter
  • Free access to Roadside Assistance membership
  • Income requirement: $80,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Best no fee BMO credit card

Card details

  • No annual fee
  • Welcome Offer: 5% cash back on all purchases (up to $100) for first 3 months, plus a $50 cash back bonus (when you spend $6,000) in your first year
  • 3% cash back on groceries and 1% on recurring bills ($500 monthly cap on each category)
  • 0.5% cash back on everything else, plus an additional 4.5% bonus cash back up to a maximum of $1,500 spent in the first 3 billing cycles
  • Terms and conditions apply

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Best BMO Card for Air Miles

Card details

  • $120 Annual fee (waived in the 1st year)
  • Earn 1 Air Miles reward mile for every $10 in credit card purchases
  • Welcome Offer: Get up to 3,000 bonus Air Miles
  • VIP Airport Lounge Access – 2 free annual passes to Mastercard Airport Experiences from LoungeKey
  • Income requirement: $80,000

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Best BMO Card for low interest

Card details

  • $20 annual fee (waived for 1st year)
  • Low interest rate of 12.99%
  • 9 month introductory rate of 3.99% on balance transfers
  • Includes zero liability, extended warranty, and purchase assurance

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

Best BMO Card for students

Card details

  • No annual fee
  • Welcome Offer: 5% cash back on all purchases (up to $100) for first 3 months
  • 3% cash back on groceries and 1% on recurring bills ($500 monthly cap on each category)
  • 0.5% cash back on everything else

Read in-depth card description (+/-)

More on BMO credit cards

BMO Rewards

If you carry either the BMO World Elite Mastercard or the no fee BMO Rewards Mastercard, you’ll join the bank’s own branded loyalty program and earn BMO Rewards points on every dollar you spend.

When using BMO Rewards points for travel, you’ll get $1 for every 140 points you redeem. That works out to a consistent value of about $0.007 per point. The advantage here is that unlike some other programs, point values won’t change based on your flight destination – making it easy to calculate what your rewards are worth in dollar terms.

BMO Rewards points are also super flexible since you can use points to book flights with virtually no airline restrictions and can apply points to cover the cost of flight tickets as well as any associated taxes and fees.

The one drawback is that when you’re redeeming points, you’re required to use BMO Rewards’ proprietary website and can’t use points to book flights directly from an airline or third-party travel website. That said, it’s not all bad since BMO Rewards does offer a price matching guarantee. According to BMO, “if you find a lower advertised price (for airfare or vacation packages) available to the general public through a Canadian retail website at your time of booking, the BMO Rewards Centre will match it.” Simply put, if you find a comparable flight for cheaper, you won’t lose out on the better value.

Aside from travel, you can also redeem BMO Rewards points for merchandise and gift cards from BMO Rewards’ online catalogue. For these non-travel redemptions, point values can fluctuate. For example, the value of 1 BMO Rewards point will be different depending on if you redeem points for a free iPhone or a necklace from Pandora, or even from one gift card to another. You can even redeem BMO points for cash to invest in a BMO account (in which case, you’ll get about $0.0067 per point) or to pay off your monthly balance (about $0.0033 per point).

On average, you’ll get more value out of your points when redeeming BMO points for travel and less for merchandise, gift cards, cash, or anything else non-travel related. As a result, we suggest you stick to using BMO Rewards points for travel as much as possible, and if you’re not much of a flyer, consider a straightforward cash back credit card instead of a points card.

Air Miles

With any of BMO’s Air Miles credit cards, you’ll earn (you guessed it) Air Miles.

An Air Miles credit card can be a great fit for you if you’re an Air Miles Collector and do a lot of your shopping from stores affiliated with the program. That’s because you can earn miles twice when shopping from Air Miles stores – provided you pay with your Air Miles credit card and show your Air Miles Collector Card at the same time.

Air Miles can be collected in-store at a number of partner retailers (like Rexall, Sobeys, Metro, LCBO, and Shell) as well as many others online (like Adidas, Aldo, and more).

You can redeem Air Miles in one of two ways:

1. Dream Miles, which you can use to book free flights. The value of Dream Miles aren’t consistent and vary depending on two key variables – your flight destination and the time of the year you’re travelling. That’s because Air Miles relies on an elaborate chart system, making it hard to pin point the exact value of each Dream Mile. The redemption process also isn’t the most flexible. You can’t redeem Dream Miles on all airlines or use Miles to cover taxes or fees. Your options might also be further limited since Air Miles does have seat restrictions.

For all its complexities, Dream Miles can offer great value when you book in advance and fly to certain destinations. For example, we’ve calculated you can get up to a very strong $0.1535 per Dream Mile when redeeming for a flight to British Columbia during low season. On average, Ratehub has calculated the value of 1 Dream Mile to be $0.121 for flights. Aside from flights, you can also use Dream Miles to get merchandise from Air Miles’ large catalogue of products that includes everything from watches and electronics to toys and more.

2. Cash Miles, which you can use towards your everyday purchases at Air Miles Partner stores to earn discounts. Cash Miles redemptions are pretty straightforward. You can redeem 95 cash miles to get $10 off your purchases at Air Miles Partner retailers – either in store at the counter or online with e-vouchers.

One of the major benefits of Cash Miles over Dream Miles is simplicity. Cash Miles values are consistent (1 Cash Mile always equals to $0.105), so working out the value of your rewards is easy. Plus, Cash Miles help you save on your everyday shopping instead of travel, which can be a better fit if you’re not much of a flyer. There are some drawbacks to Cash Miles though. For one, Cash Miles can only be redeemed at eligible Air Miles Partner stores (including Metro, Cineplex, Shell, and more) – so it’s not as flexible as a full-fledged cash back credit card. Second, on average, you’ll get less value out of your Miles when using them as Cash Miles versus Dream Miles.

One final but important note: once you redeem your Miles as Dream Miles or Cash Miles, you can’t swap between the two. So make sure to put considerable thought into which Miles type is right for you beforehand.

Cash back rewards

With any of BMO’s cash back credit cards, you won’t have to wait an entire year to get your rewards like with some other cash back cards. As soon as you’ve accumulated at least $50 in rewards on your BMO Card, you can start redeeming your cash back at any time in increments of just $10.

Bundle BMO accounts and save on fees

You don’t have to open a bank account with BMO in order to get a BMO credit card. In fact, you can have a credit card, chequing account, and savings account from different banks all at the same time. 

That said, there can be advantages to sticking with one financial institution for everything. Case in point: The BMO Premium Chequing Account

If you open a BMO Premium Account and also have a BMO credit card, you’ll automatically get the card’s annual fee waived every year. The BMO Premium Chequing will rebate the annual fee for either one of the following cards: the BMO World Elite ($150 annual fee), the Air Miles World Elite ($120 annual fee), or the BMO CashBack World Elite ($120 annual fee).

Keep in mind though, there are some caveats to the BMO Premium Chequing Account. First, it’ll only waive the annual fee on a BMO credit card for the primary cardholder, not on authorized users. Second, and most importantly, the BMO Premium Account is free as long you maintain a $5,000 balance in your account but it’ll cost $30 monthly if you don’t maintain that balance. Therefore, this account is only really worth it if you can sustain a $5,000 minimum balance at all times.

BMO and the Mastercard advantage

All of BMO’s credit cards are Mastercards. That’s a plus, since out of the three major credit card companies in Canada (the others being American Express and Visa), Mastercard credit cards are the most widely accepted. In fact, some major retailers (like Costco and No Frills) only accept Mastercard.

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