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There is a lot of hype around the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. Heck! I even included it in my list of the best travel credit cards in Canada as the winner of the Air Miles category.
Today we’re going to investigate whether or not the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is worth the hype or if you should be looking at a different travel credit card instead.
There is no doubt that the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is one of the best Air Miles credit card in Canada. It has the best Air Miles sign-up bonus, a simple point earning structure, and a first year annual fee waiver. However, the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard isn’t a great choice in general. When compared to other travel credit cards in Canada, it falls short. This is a good card for Air Miles loyalists, but everybody else should give it a pass.
Okay. Clearly you now know that I’m not a big fan of the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard.
It isn’t so much that the card itself isn’t great, but it is more that the Air Miles program itself is terrible.
There are high taxes and fees on airfare, lots of blackout dates and seats, you have to depart from Canada, and you don’t earn points very quickly.
All in all, it is difficult to find a positive spin to put on the Air Miles program.
But! We’ll get deeper into the Air Miles program later on in this article.
We’re still going to go through a complete breakdown of the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, so you can decide whether or not it is the right travel credit card for you.
While I don’t love the Air Miles program, there are some really cool features and perks that come with the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard.
BMO, in general, is known to have unique perks associated with their travel credit cards, and this card is no exception!
Here are some of my favourite perks and features of the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard:
- 15% discount on North American flights booked with Air Miles
- 15% discount on Cirque du Soleil shows touring Canada
- 20% discount on Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas
- Extended warranty and purchase protection
- Two complimentary Lounge Key passes
- $40 yearly annual fee rebate when you have a BMO Performance Plan bank account
Pros and Cons of the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard
- Best Air Miles credit card in Canada
- Unique and beneficial extra perks
- Mastercard extended by a Big 5 bank and widely accepted/trusted
- Only collect and redeem Air Miles
- Low points earning ratio
- Have to deal with BMO, which in my experience is often unpleasant
You earn and redeem Air Miles with this credit card.
There is no option to transfer your points to a partner program like many other Canadian travel credit cards have.
This puts you at a disadvantage because Air Miles is one of the least flexible travel rewards points in Canada.
With Air Miles, you have to book a flight that originates from Canada. That means you don’t have the option to book a one-way flight from, say, Europe to Canada to get home.
If you wanted to use your Air Miles for a one-way flight for your European vacation, your only option is to use it on the outbound flight that departs from Canada.
The Air Miles program is one of the easiest programs to use, but it is also frustrating when you have to work within their rules and don’t have much travel flexibility.
You earn 2,000 Air Miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months of holding the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard.
That is a fairly generous sign-up bonus, and you can book an ultra short-haul round trip flight with 2,000 Air Miles.
A round-trip flight from Edmonton to Calgary, Vancouver to Victoria, or Toronto to Thunder Bay can all be booked using the 2,000 Air Mile sign-up bonus.
This sign-up bonus is comparable to other sign-up bonuses on travel credit cards in Canada, and there is nothing to complain about there!
The BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard has a really straightforward and easy points earning structure.
It is a great card for beginners because you don’t have to worry about using the card strategically in different categories.
No matter what you purchase, you earn 1 Air Mile for every $10 you spend on the card.
Yup! It is really that easy and straighforward!
The downside to that is there aren’t any special categories where you earn 1.5x or 2x points on your purchases.
This really slows down how quickly you can earn points!
The other way you can earn extra Air Miles is by showing your Air Miles card in participating stores or shopping through the Air Miles Shop.
The Air Miles Shop allows you to earn extra Air Miles when you shop online at some of the most popular retailers in Canada. Stores like Chapters, The Bay, and David’s Tea are all on the Air Miles Shop.
You have to log into the Air Miles Shop and shop through their link to earn your extra Air Miles. If you go directly to the store’s website, you won’t earn those extra Air Miles.
One of the best parts of the Air Miles program is how easy it is to redeem points!
No matter what you want to redeem your points for, all it takes is a few clicks of your mouse!
They even have free skipping if you purchase merchandise with your Air Miles!
You can redeem your Air Miles for flights, hotels, car rentals, travel experiences, merchandise, and gift cards.
It is all done through the Air Miles website, and you search for the hotel or flight just as you would if you were using cash and going through a traditional travel website.
You really have to give it to Air Miles for making it so easy to redeem your points!
Best Way to Redeem Air Miles
Air Miles is known for having high taxes and fees, so the best strategy for redeeming Air Miles is to use them for rewards that cost you the least out-of-pocket.
I personally like to use my Air Miles for travel experience like theme park and museum tickets. You get a pretty good value for your points, and you don’t have to pay any cash in addition to the Air Miles you redeem.
Other great options include hotels, short-haul flights within the same province, and last-minute flights.
All of these redemptions will get you the best bang for your points.
You do have to be careful when redeeming your points for flights though! Pay attention to how much you’re being charged in taxes and fees and really do the math to figure out if that redemption is the best use of your points or not.
You should strive to be getting at least 10 cents worth of value out of every point you redeem. Anything below that is considered a less than desirable redemption rate.
With that being said, I always say that it is better to use your points for anything than to let them go to waste and not use them at all.
That isn’t common advice you’ll hear in the travel hacking community, but it is the truth!
Most people tell you to get the most value possible out of every point, and it can lead to people letting their points go to waste because they’re waiting for the perfect moment to redeem their points.
Don’t be that person!
Use your points for what suits your needs, and try to get the most value for your points in whatever way you choose to use them!
Worst Way to Redeem Air Miles
On a value per points basis, one of the worst ways you can use your Air Miles is to redeem them for long-haul international travel.
The value per point tends to be much lower than on shorter fights, hotels, or travel experiences.
Outside of not getting a great value on long-haul international flights, the absolute worst way you can use your Air Miles is redeeming them for a flight that has extremely high taxes and fees.
I know I keep going on and on about the taxes and fees, but it is honestly shocking at how high some of them are!
There have been multiple times where I’ve gotten to the last screen in the redemption process and aborted the mission because the taxes and fees were too high.
I’m talking over $600 worth of taxes and fees!
You’re using potentially thousands of points with an approximate value of 10 cents per point and then are expected to pay hundreds of dollars of taxes and fees on top of it!
It just doesn’t sit right.
Many travel points programs require you to pay taxes and fees, but they are so much higher with the Air Miles program.
The taxes and fees really bring down your value per point value so make sure you do updated calculations taking into consideration the taxes and fees before you pull the trigger and redeem your points!
Why I Don’t Like the Air Miles Program
By now it should be pretty clear that I don’t love the Air Miles program.
It may be one of the most popular travel points programs in Canada, but it doesn’t deserve the popularity it has.
Here are just a few reasons I dislike the Air Miles program:
- Flights have to originate in Canada
- High taxes and fees
- Points earning is quite slow even if you have an Air Miles credit card
- Lack of flight customization and normally get stuck with long layovers
- Rental car option not available in many countries
The annual fee on the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is $120.
The first year’s annual fee is rebated, and you receive a $40 rebate on your annual fee every year going forward if you have a BMO Performance Plan bank account.
This is one of those cards where they require a minimum income. If you’ve read a number of my blog posts, you know that I am opposed to minimum income requirements.
I think they are elitist and exclude far too many people who would use the card responsibly. I completely understand that it is a tactic credit card issuers use to protect themselves from having people abuse their cards, but it is an outdated and classist practice.
American Express has the best travel credit cards in Canada and doesn’t have a minimum income requirement. More credit card issuers should follow suit and eliminate the need for a minimum income.
But I digress.
BMO is one of the worst when it comes to minimum income requirements. All of their annual fee credit cards have an outrageously high minimum income requirement.
BMO requires you to earn at least $80,000 in personal income or $150,000 in household income.
The average Canadian household income in a household where two adults are working is $84,900!
That means the majority of Canadians won’t have access to this credit card. BMO’s personal income requirement is just a few thousand dollars lower than the average household income in Canada.
Just because you’re underpaid at your job does not mean you shouldn’t have access to travel credit cards.
Don’t let a credit card issuer make you feel like you don’t deserve their credit card just because they have elitist requirements and only cater to the financially privileged.
Who Should Get the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard
This is a great card for Air Mile die hards.
There are people who swear by Air Miles, and it is their favourite travel point in Canada.
If you’re not an Air Mile enthusiast, I don’t see any harm in getting this card and then cancelling it before your first year is up.
The annual fee is waived in the first year, so you’re not shelling any cash out for this card.
The only thing you need to consider is the opportunity cost of holding this card.
You have to spend $3,000 in the first three months to get the sign-up bonus. You could spend that $3,000 to meet the minimum spend on the American Express Gold, TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite, or American Express Aeroplan and get points that will potentially benefit you more.
But if it works with your current travel hacking strategy, then there is no harm in getting the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard.
Just make sure you cancel it before the second year, so you don’t have to pay an annual fee!
Who Should NOT Get the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard
I think people serious about travel hacking and getting the most value out of their travel rewards should pass on the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard.
It lacks the flexibility that most travel points programs have, and you’re really limited in your options since the flight has to originate from Canada.
Additionally, it is quite difficult to earn a lot of Air Miles quickly. The BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard doesn’t offer any bonus categories, and you earn a flat 1 point per $10 spent across the board.
This is a decent option for people wanting to redeem points for experiences, but it really isn’t a viable option for people looking to redeem for flights- especially luxury flights in business or first class.
Alternative Credit Cards
I know this review is a little harsh, but I want you to know the good and the bad before you apply for any credit card.
The BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard just falls short.
It is a great credit card when compared to its peers and fellow Air Miles cards. However, when you review the card objectively and compare it to other travel credit cards on the market, it comes in as one of the most disappointing travel cards on the market.
You don’t get a ton of value each year to justify paying a $120 annual fee. Outside of the first year with the sign-up bonus, the perks you get with the card aren’t worth paying $120 for.
In my (humble) opinion, I see no harm in getting the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard for the first year and then promptly canceling it before the second year annual fee kicks in.
I would only get it if I had exhausted the other travel credit cards I’m eyeing up and would not prioritize it over a more robust and versatile credit card like the American Express Cobalt, HSBC World Elite Mastercard, or American Express Aeroplan.