One of the best things about credit cards is that they open up a whole new world of getting rewarded for the purchases you were already planning on making. (Credit cards should NOT be considered extra income, remember?)

Reward credit cards can often be divided into three main categories:

So, let’s break down one of the rewards programs that should set off your “flexible rewards” radar – the BMO Rewards program.

Value of a BMO Rewards Point: High: $0.0071 for travel
Low: $0.0054 for merchandise
Ways to redeem BMO Rewards: * Redeem for any travel – 0.71 cents per point (CPP)
* Investments – 0.67 CPP
* Gift cards – 0.56 CPP
* Merchandise – 0.54 CPP
* Experiences – 0.65 CPP
How to earn BMO Rewards: * 2 personal credit cards
Who these rewards are good for: * World Travellers
* Investors
Frequently Asked Questions: * Level of flexibility? High
* Is there a way to earn rewards faster? No
* Blackout dates? No
* Do rewards expire? No
* Rewards cover taxes and fees? Yes
* Can rewards be transferred? No
Plus up to $300 travel bonus.
Ends October 25th.

Best way to redeem BMO Rewards

Spending money and earning rewards is usually the easy part (at least for most of us, anyway). However, things can sometimes get a little more complicated when it comes to redeeming your rewards.

You work hard for your money, and in turn for your rewards, so you’d want to get the most out of them.

However, that isn’t always easy. When you find a card that lets you redeem your rewards a number of different ways, it’s very rare for that card to give you the same value for your rewards no matter what you redeem them for. So, if you’re not a mathematician, it isn’t always clear how to get the biggest bang for your buck.

The BMO Rewards Mastercard and the BMO World Elite Mastercard allow cardholders to redeem their points for a number of different things:

Because of this flexibility, let’s dive a little deeper and break down the BMO Rewards Program.

…A guide to redeeming your BMO Rewards.

Up, up, and away

One of the best parts of the BMO Rewards is that they can be used for any type of travel, at any time…

No blackout dates and no restrictions.

They can be used for flights, hotels, rental cars, cruises, vacation packages, and even used to pay the taxes and fees that are associated with your travel – almost sounds too good to be true, eh?

$1 in travel will cost cardholders 140 BMO Rewards points, which means 1 BMO Reward is worth approximately 0.7 cents:

$1 / 140 = 0.0071

Here are a few examples (I used the first week of June for examples):

Travel Cost BMO Rewards
Flight from Toronto to Montreal $235.82 (round-trip, taxes included) 33,014 points
4 nights at Las Vegas Hotel $249.00 ($55.09/night, taxes included) 34,859 points
Flight from Toronto to New York $335.71 (round-trip, taxes included) 46,998 points
5 day car rental in Vancouver $469.78 ($78.30/day, taxes included) 65.768 points
Flight from Toronto to Vancouver $676.37 (round-trip, taxes included) 94,270 points
5 nights at New York Hotel $1,197.13 ($191.54/night, taxes included) 167,858 points

Considering, for a limited time, you get a welcome bonus of 35,000 welcome points (if you spend $3,000 in your first 3 months), you could be on your way to planning your next vacation before you know it.

The catch?

Sadly, there is a bit of a downside.

Any travel that you book needs to be booked through the BMO Rewards travel agent.

The one silver lining is that BMO Rewards…does price match. This means, that if you do your research and shop around some, you could find some good deals, helping your rewards stretch even more.

Money, money, money

The second best way for cardholders to use their BMO Rewards would be for them to redeem them for investments.

For 15,000 BMO Rewards points, you can contribute $100 directly into your BMO investment account (and then in increments of $100 after that).

$100 / 15,000 = 0.0067

This calculation shows us that investments are worth a little less than travel, but not by much.

The downside: you can only transfer your money into a BMO investment account, but once the money is there, you would be able to do whatever you want with it, almost making it a “limited” cash back card.

Two other options

You also have the options of donating your rewards as well as applying your rewards as a statement credit. It will be interesting to see if BMO gives those rewards the same value.

Gift cards

When it comes to credit card rewards, gift cards aren’t usually the best way to go when you want to get the best value.

That being said, however, sometimes gift cards might make the most sense for you personally. Perhaps you want “money” for a certain store, or you want to stock up on gift cards to have on hand as gifts (because…let’s face it, who doesn’t love getting a gift card?)

But just as a word of caution, not all gift cards are created equal, and a little comparison could go a long way.

Take this chart or instance:

Gift Card Amount BMO Rewards Value

Golf Town

$100 19,500 $100/19,500 = 0.005

Fairmont Hotels

$100

18,500

$100/18,500 = 0.0054

Best Western Hotels

$100

17,500

$100/17,500 = 0.0057

Birks $250 40,000

$250/40,000 = 0.0063

While 0.0013 cents in the difference might not seem like a big deal, those little savings can add up big. So, be sure to pay attention to what gift cards you are considering, and the value difference between them.

Merchandise

Merchandise is another one of those “tricky” areas. If you are willing to do a little shopping around, you could get a pretty great return on your rewards. Check out the chart below for some examples. 

Item Cost BMO Rewards Value

Female Fossil Watch

$150 on Fossil website 25,000 $150 / 25,000 =
0.006

13” Apple MacBook Air

$999 on Apple website 277,500

$999 / 277,500 =
0.0036

Signed Baseball (J.Donaldson)

$399 on Frameworth website 55,500

$399 / 55,500 =
0.0072

Toro Recycler Lawn Mower $399 on HomeDepot website

87,500

$399 / 87,500 =
0.0046

The merchandise that you can get with your BMO Rewards come from a range of different categories:

  • Electronics
  • Home and Garden
  • Kitchen
  • Travel Essentials
  • Business Essentials
  • Fashion and Accessories
  • Health and Wellness
  • Sports and Leisure
  • Toys and Baby

…and value really comes down to the cardholder themselves. If you have zero interest in taking a trip this year, but you are really in need of a new lawn mower, using your rewards for merchandise could totally make sense.

My sister and her husband used their credit card rewards to buy their kids a pingpong table for Christmas this year. Did they get the most value out of their rewards? Probably not. But they got a pretty big gift for their kids, without having to spend any money out of their own pocket and without having to leave the comfort of their house. For them, that was pretty valuable.

Experiences

The final area we wanted to break down a little more was the BMO Experiences.

While these things might not be for everyone, there is some real value here…if you’re in the mood for a little adventure, that is.

These items are very specific and are only good if you:

  • live in a certain area, or…
  • plan on taking a trip there soon.

These items can range from a menu tasting for two at a popular restaurant in Toronto, to bungee jumping in British Columbia.

Some of these items give you a really great return on your rewards, but more than that, they give you something amazing to remember. These are bucket list items that no-amount-of-money-can-buy for the right person.

Check out this chart to see if any of these experiences are on your bucket list:

Item Cost BMO Rewards Value

Whale Watching Tour in Nova Scotia for 2

$100

13,2000

$100 / 13,200 =
0.0075

Vancouver 48 Hour Hop On/Hop Off Tour

$52

12,800

$52 / 12,800 =
0.0041

Caving Adventure for Two at Horne Lake

$338 43,200

$338 / 43,200 =
0.0078

How to earn BMO Rewards

There are two cards from BMO that will allow you to earn BMO Rewards and they are:

  • , and
  • .

And below is a break down of how many rewards you can earn with each card.

BMO Rewards Mastercard BMO World Elite Mastercard
Annual Fee $0 $150 (First year free)
Welcome Bonus Up to 20,000 points (terms) 35,000 points (terms), first year free
Points per $ 1 BMO Reward 2 BMO Rewards
Points Multiplier N/A 3 BMO Rewards on travel, dining, and entertainment up to $50,000 spent annually
Apply Now Apply Now Apply Now

With the BMO Rewards Mastercard it is nice and simple:

No annual fee and you get 1 point for every dollar spentanywhere you spend it.

The BMO World Elite Mastercard isn’t quite as straightforward…

For an annual fee of $150, this card will allow you to earn 3 points for every dollar spent on travel, dining and entertainment (up to $50,000 spent annually combined) and 2 points for every other dollar you spend.

You will, however, get the first year free.

Related: BMO World Elite Mastercard Review

BMO Rewards Question and Answer

How flexible are these rewards?

There are very flexible rewards. You can book any travel you like through BMO Rewards, or convert your points into investments for little difference in value.

Is there a way to earn rewards faster?

No, credit cards are the only way to earn BMO Rewards.

Are there blackout dates?

No. As long as travel providers have availability, you can book anything without worrying about blackout dates.

Do points expire?

Most reward programs include a clause that specifies that the program can be wound down if needed. Read this excerpt from BMO:

“Points will not expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing…”, however “[BMO] reserve[s] the right to terminate the program with two (2) months prior notice. During the two month notice period, [they] may cancel, change or substitute some or all of the current rewards. Despite anything in these terms and conditions to the contrary, the right to earn points and redeem points will terminate at the end of the two (2) months’ notice period.”

Can points cover taxes and fees?

Yes, your points can be used to cover taxes and fees as well.

Can points be transferred?

No. BMO Rewards cannot be transferred to any other rewards program, but you can pool your BMO Rewards points with the BMO Rewards points that you earn with your BMO Rewards Business Credit Cards.

And there you have it

While some cards really devalue your rewards when you redeem them for anything other than their main intended use, with these two BMO Rewards cards – the BMO World Elite Mastercard and the BMO Rewards Mastercard – you have 5 main options:

…And as long as you’re willing to take the time and do a little research, you should be able to spend your points confidently – knowing you got the best rewards for your situation.