BMO Rewards Guide | How to maximize your points

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Are you looking for a BMO Rewards guide? BMO Rewards is one of the most popular credit card rewards programs since it’s easy to earn and redeem points. Naturally, many people who bank with BMO will have a credit card that allows you to earn BMO Rewards points, but you can sign up for a BMO credit card regardless of where you bank.

What also makes BMO Rewards so great is how you have the ability to redeem your points for multiple things beyond travel. Not every redemption has the same value which is why you want to know what your points are worth. In this BMO Rewards review, I’ll go over how you can get the most value out of your BMO Rewards points.

BMO Rewards review

BMO Rewards points value

As of May 5th, 2021, it’ll now take 150 BMO Rewards points to claim $1 in travel. That’s up from 140 points. That means one BMO Rewards point is worth .67 cents. Existing BMO Rewards collectors will receive a top-up, so they don’t lose any value, but ALL points earned moving forward will be worth less.

This is clearly annoying, but the only thing you can do about it is switch rewards programs. That’s easier said than done as you may have a huge pool of points collected. The best thing you can do for now is to maximize the value of your points. Here’s what the value of one BMO Rewards point is based on redemptions.

Redemption typeRedemption value
Travel.67 cents per point
Investments.67 cents per point
Gift cards.50 - .63 cents per point
Merchandise.45 - .65 cents per point
Statement credit.33 cents per point

As you can see, the BMO Rewards point value is best used for travel purchases and investments. Most people will use their points for travel, but as you’ll find out shortly, using your points for investments might be the better value. Gift cards have a slightly lower value, but it depends on which merchant you’re redeeming with. While merchandise can have a value close to travel, most items are worth much less.

How to redeem BMO Rewards points for travel

Booking a travel redemption with BMO Rewards is easy and BMO Rewards offers two ways to book: you can book online through your BMO Rewards account/travel portal or you can call in for assistance. BMO Rewards is a full-service travel agency so you can book the following:

  • Flights
  • Rental cars
  • Rail tickets
  • Hotels
  • Holiday packages
  • Cruises

You can use your BMO Rewards points for any seat available on any flight, and there are no blackout periods. Best of all, you can use your points to pay for any taxes and fees. Note that you will still earn airline loyalty miles and status miles when booking through the BMO Rewards portal. In addition, you can book travel for other people using your points.

BMO Rewards does offer a price match guarantee on airfare and vacation package bookings, but BMO Rewards prices are usually aligned with what you can find on other sites. If you don’t have enough points to pay for the entire redemption, you can use as many points as you want (there is no minimum), and charge the remaining cash balance to your BMO Rewards credit card.

Many people don’t realize that when you book travel with the BMO World Elite Mastercard, as long as you spend any amount of your travel purchase on the card, your travel insurance applies. This applies to paying in cash and points. That means you could charge or redeem $1 with your card/points and you’d have access to great travel insurance.

How to redeem BMO Rewards for investments

One huge advantage of BMO Rewards is that you can redeem your points for investments. If you have a BMO Investments account, you can redeem 15,000 BMO Rewards points for $100 in investments. At face value, that redemption is worth the same as travel redemptions, but you need to think long term.

For every $100 you invest, you hopefully have a long time frame. So let’s say you put that money in your RRSP or TFSA, that money could grow quite a bit over the course of your life. It’s not that uncommon to get 4-6% in returns annually with a balanced portfolio and that amount compounds every year.

Travel redemptions give you an immediate return, but using your BMO Rewards points for investments could give you more value in the long run. This is a classic case of delayed gratification.

How to redeem BMO Rewards for gift cards and merchandise

BMO Rewards gives you the option to redeem your points for gift cards and merchandise like all rewards programs. For some reason, BMO Rewards makes things slightly complicated as quite a few merchants have different redemption values.

  • $25 Cineplex gift card = 5,500 BMO Rewards points
  • $50 Sport Chek gift card = 10,000 BMO Rewards points
  • $50 Sobey’s gift card = 10,500 BMO Rewards points
  • $150 Simons gift card = 27,500 BMO Rewards points
  • $200 Fairmont hotels and resorts gift card = 36,000 BMO Rewards points
  • $200 Hudson’s Bay gift card = 36,500 BMO Rewards points

To figure out the best value for gift cards, take the dollar value of the redemption and multiplying it by 100. Then take that number and divide it by 100. For example, 50 X 100 / 10,500 = .48 cents per point.

When it comes to merchandise, every item has a different value. In 99.9% of the cases, redeeming your points for merchandise over travel will be of a lower value.

How to redeem BMO Rewards for cash

BMO Rewards allows you to redeem your points for a statement credit which is basically cash. For every 15,000 BMO Rewards points, you get a $50 cash credit. You can redeem in increments of 15,000 points so 45,000 BMO Rewards points would be worth $150. That means your points are worth .33 cents when going this route. That’s half the value of travel redemptions!

The credit takes 3-5 business days to show up on your account and it only applies to the primary cardholder.

Generally speaking, you never want to redeem your points for gift cards or a statement credit unless you’re under financial hardship as they offer a much lower value compared to travel rewards.

Do BMO Rewards points expire?

No, as long as you have an active BMO credit card that earns you BMO Rewards points, your points will not expire. If you plan on cancelling your card, you should redeem all your points before doing so. If you can’t use all your points for travel purposes before you close your account, redeem them for gift cards or a statement credit.

How BMO Rewards compares to others

While BMO Rewards doesn’t allow you to book on your own like Scotia Rewards and doesn’t have a fixed points flight program like CIBC Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards, BMO Rewards is still highly competitive and has lots of advantages such as:

  • No blackout dates
  • No minimum amount of points to redeem
  • Price match on airfare and travel packages
  • Arguably the best earning rate of all major bank travel program when using BMO World Elite MasterCard
  • BMO World Elite MasterCard insurances covering award redemptions

That said, one thing that BMO Rewards lacks is any transfer partners. Mind you, this isn’t common among the major banks but RBC Rewards does allow you to transfer your Avion points to WestJet Rewards which American Express has Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy as partners.

How to earn BMO Rewards points

You can earn BMO Rewards points by using BMO Rewards credit cards. The easiest way to earn BMO Rewards points is from sign up bonuses and your everyday spending. BMO has a few different cards that earn you BMO Rewards points. This includes both consumer and business cards. The BMO World Elite Mastercard stands out as it is consistently ranked as one of the top credit cards in Canada and is one of the best BMO credit cards, but I’ve listed a few others for your reference.

BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®*

  • $150 Annual fee – Fee waived in the first year
  • Get 25,000 BMO Rewards points as a welcome bonus
  • Get 5,000 points on your first anniversary
  • Earn 3 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on dining, entertainment, and travel purchases
  • Earn 2 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Mastercard Airport Experiences membership provided by LoungeKey, plus 4 annual complimentary passes
  • Comprehensive travel insurance package included
  • Free global WiFi

The BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* has long been known as one of the best travel credit cards in Canada due to its generous signup bonus of 25,000 BMO Rewards points. The earn rate of 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, entertainment and dining purchases; and 2 points per $1 spent on all other purchases is also comparable to other cards. There’s no denying that the Mastercard LoungeKey membership and 4 free annual airport lounge visits is appealing since the actual value of this benefit is more than $250. One little known fact about the BMO World Elite Mastercard is that you only need to charge a portion of your travel expenses (as in any amount over 0%) for your card to qualify for the included travel insurance.

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card

  • $120 annual fee – Waived in the first year
  • $50 annual fee per authorized user
  • Up to 40,000 BMO Rewards points sign up bonus
  • $50 annual lifestyle credit
  • 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on dining, groceries, gas, and transit purchases
  • 1 BMO Reward point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn 10% more points when adding an authorized user to your account
  • Mobile device insurance
  • Extended warranty
  • Purchase security
  • Pay with points option

The BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card is relatively new and is appealing due to the increased earn rates. While there’s no denying that earning more points is always good, you need to factor in the actual value of your points. 5 BMO Rewards points per $1 spent on dining, groceries, gas, and transit purchases has a real value of 3.35 cents. That’s still incredible, but you could argue that the Amex Cobalt card is better. It’s worth noting that the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite* Card has a better redemption value when using your points to pay compared to the standard BMO Rewards rate. You can claim 200 points for $1 in redemptions, a value of .50 cents per point.

BMO Rewards® Mastercard

  • No annual fee
  • Up to 10,000 BMO Rewards points sign up bonus
  • Earn 1 BMO Rewards point for every $1 spent
  • Earn 2 BMO Rewards points at participating National and Alamo car rental locations
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty

If you don’t qualify for the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* or you don’t like paying an annual fee, then the BMO Rewards® Mastercard is a good option. The sign up bonus is worth up to 10,000 BMO Rewards points. Your earn rate is a straight 1 point per $1 spent, but you earn 2X that at participating National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car locations. The included purchase protection and extended warranty are a nice touch considering this is a credit card with no annual fee.

Final thoughts

My BMO Rewards review is positive even though it ranks last on my list of Canada’s bank travel rewards programs. It may not be the best travel rewards program from a major bank in Canada, but you can quickly earn points with the BMO World Elite Mastercard. Redeeming your points is also easy since there are no blackout dates and no minimum points required to redeem an award.

BMO Rewards Guide | How to maximize your points

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

2 Comments

  1. Mary Kenny on February 23, 2020 at 7:08 PM

    Does BMO Elite have a cash reward instead of points?

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