BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* Review
The BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* comes armed with a number of features designed for high-income globetrotters, like flexible airport lounge access and travel insurance*. It’s a particularly valuable asset if you:
- Travel between provinces/territories or internationally at least 3–4 times per year;
- Are frequently in need of a rental car; or
- Regularly shop at retailers that accept only Mastercard.
But there’s no shortage of upscale rewards credit cards in the Canadian market, and if you don’t check off at least two of the boxes listed above you should consider other options that can help you earn a bigger bounty of rewards, or that offer superior travel perks.
In This Article:
Pros & Cons
- High-value welcome offer
- Flexible airport lounge access
- BMO Rewards points can be used to cover flight taxes and fees
- Great for those who frequently rent cars
- Good for Costco and No Frills shoppers
- So-so earn rates relative to its annual fee
- Points have low redemption value compared to other travel rewards programs
- Charges foreign transaction fees
- Relatively high minimum income requirements
New cardholders can earn up to 60,000 bonus points total.* The first 30K points are earned by making at least $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of opening the card, which is a relatively low spending barrier*. Another 2,500 points can be earned for each month in which you make at least $2,000 in eligible purchases, applicable for the period starting four months after you open the account and ending 15 months after you open the account* (12 months * 2,500 points = another 30K points). 60,000 BMO Rewards points should be enough to cover a round-trip flight from Toronto to Cancun or Vancouver to Honolulu.
The annual fees for both the primary cardholder ($150) and first supplementary card ($50) will also be waived in the first year, bringing the maximum welcome bonus value to $600*. That’s very competitive relative to other credit card welcome offers.
Earning Rewards Points
The BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* has the following three earn rates:
- 5x the points for every $1 spent on eligible travel purchases*
- 3x the points for every $1 spent on eligible dining and entertainment purchases and recurring bill payments*
- 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else*
The rate for eligible travel purchases* out to a 3.3% return on spending if you redeem the points for travel, or if you deposit them into a BMO Investment Account (see ‘How Much Are BMO Rewards Points Worth?’ below). The 3 points per $1 rate works out to a maximum 2% return, which is competitive for travel spending and entertainment.
That said, there are several other Canadian rewards and cash back cards with superior earn rates on dining, so you might consider those instead if you eat out a lot. Read our article about the best credit cards for restaurants to find out which cards edge out the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* in that respect.
Also, keep in mind that this accelerated rate applies to the first X amount you spend within these combined categories per year; after you cross that mark you’ll earn 1 point per $1 in those categories*.
How Much Are BMO Rewards Points Worth?
Following BMO’s regrettable devaluation of BMO Rewards points in 2021, 1 BMO point is now worth about $0.0067 when redeeming for travel, including flights, car rentals, hotel rooms, and vacation packages (150 points = $1 in redemption value). Other redemption options include:
- Investing BMO Rewards points in a BMO Investment Account
- Cashing in points toward a statement credit (max value of $0.005 per point)
- Redeeming points for products from diverse merchants like Le Creuset, Dell, and Rayban
Cardholders should be aware that the value they get for their points varies from one redemption path to the next. See the below table for details.
|Redeem for Travel||Redeem for Investment||Redeem for Merchandise||Redeem for Gift Cards||Redeem for Statement Credit|
|Single Point Value||$0.0067||$0.0067||$0.0037–$0.0065||$0.004–$0.0045||$0.005|
|Minimum Redemption||No minimum||15,000 points ($100 value)||N/A||N/A||200 points ($1 value)|
You can learn more about the BMO Rewards program by reading our complete BMO Rewards Guide.
Airport Lounge Access
The BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* provides cardholders with Complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass.* This authorizes you to relax in any of the 1,300+ airport lounges available.
But what makes this card stand out is that it offers four free entries each year*. Most World Elite Mastercards offer just the basic membership, in which each lounge entry costs $32 USD. Plus the free lounge passes from the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* are flexible; you can use them yourself, or they can be used to admit your travel companions. The combined value of these four lounge passes is $128 USD, equivalent to $164 CAD as of January 1, 2022. The value of that feature alone exceeds the $150 annual fee for the primary cardholder.
The insurance package offered by the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* is fairly comprehensive overall, with a few highlights that outperform the insurance offered by most travel rewards cards, and some weaknesses as well. The coverage is summarized in the table below:
|BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*: What's Covered?|
|Travel Emergency Medical*: Under age 65, up to 21 days of consecutive coverage. Covers up to $2,000,000. Does not mention if must charge trip to your card.|
|Delayed and Lost Baggage*: Up to $750 per person up to a maximum of $2,000 per trip for lost, stolen or damaged baggage. Up to $200 for baggage delay of over 12 hours.|
|Trip Cancellation*: Up to $2,500 per person up to a maximum of $5,000.|
|Trip Interruption*: Up to a max of $2,000 per insured person.|
|Flight Delay*: Up to $500 per person per trip for flight delays of more than 6 hours.|
|Auto Rental Collision/Loss Damage*: Up to 48 days of consecutive coverage when you charge the full amount of your rental car to your card. Limited to vehicles up to $65,000 in value. Insurance also covers theft or damage to personal effects up to a maximum of $1,000 for each person, per occurrence. Total benefits during each rental period are limited to a max of $2,000.|
|Hotel/Motel Burglary: N/A|
|Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance*: Up to $500,000 per insured person; entire cost of trip must be charged to the card to be eligible for insurance.|
|Purchase Protection*: Covers theft of or damage to items within 90 days of purchase with the card.|
|Extended Warranty*: Extends a purchased item's original manufacturer's warranty by up to one year. Lifetime maximum coverage of $60K for Extended Warranty and Purchase Protection combined.|
For those who rent cars with some regularity, it’s worth noting that this is one of the rare cards in Canada that covers theft or damage to personal effects as part of its rental car insurance*. The same protection unfortunately doesn’t apply to the theft of items from your hotel room, which seems to be the only complete coverage exclusion from the card’s travel insurance suite.
The total amount of out-of-province emergency medical coverage is an impressive $2M (most policies only cover up to $1M)—that said, it’s only valid for the first 21 days of a trip, and it only applies to those under age 65*. The primary cardholder, their spouse, and dependent children are covered. You can pay out of pocket to Allianz, the card’s insurance provider, if you’d like an extension of the coverage period or if you’re a senior citizen in need of a separate emergency medical policy, but the out-of-pocket charge for that might be pricey.
If you’re over the age of 65 or if you frequently stay in hotels, in which case it’s highly recommended to have some form of hotel/motel burglary insurance, we recommend that you check out our list of Canadian travel rewards cards with strong travel insurance to see if there might be a better card out there for your needs.
Other Card Perks
- Access over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world – all at no added cost, and no added fees or roaming charges*
- Get valuable benefits and offers for digital everyday services from a variety of on-demand apps and subscription services
- BMO Concierge Service*
- BMO Roadside Assistance (must pay additional $69–$98 annually)*
Interest Rates and Fees
- Annual Fee: $150 for primary cardholder; $50 per supplementary card
- Purchase Interest Rate: 20.99%
- Cash Advance and Balance Transfer: 23.99% interest (21.99% for Quebecers) + 1% fee (minimum $5)
- Foreign Transaction: 2.5% charge per foreign transaction
- Missed Payment/Late Payment: Purchase interest rate and cash advance/balance transfer rate increase to 25.99% and 28.99% respectively if you have two late payments in a 12-month period
In order to qualify for the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* you must be at least the age of majority in your province or territory, and you’ll need a personal annual income of $80,000 or more, or a household annual income of $150,000 or more. BMO will expect an Excellent credit score, with no bankruptcies in the past seven years.
How Does It Compare?
|BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®*||Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card||American Express Cobalt® Card|
|Annual Fee||$150 primary; $50 additional||$139 primary; $0 first additional and $50 each after that||$155.88 ($12.99 monthly fee)|
|Rewards Earn Rates||5x the points for every $1 spent on eligible travel purchases,* 3x the points for every $1 spent on eligible dining and entertainment purchases and recurring bill payments,* 1 point for every $1 spent everywhere else.*||2 points per $1 on groceries, dining, entertainment, and daily transit; 1 point per $1 on everything else||5 points per $1 on Canadian groceries, restaurants and food delivery; 3 points per $1 on eligible Canadian streaming services; 2 points per $1 on Canadian travel, gas, and transit; 1 point per $1 on all other purchases|
|Rewards Redemption Value||Poor||Average||Excellent|
|Airport Lounge Access||Complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass,* with four annual complimentary passes.||6 free entrances annually to Priority Pass lounges||None|
|Insurance||Good/Fairly comprehensive||Excellent/Very comprehensive||Good/Fairly comprehensive|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||2.5%||0%||2.5%|
The Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card edges out the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* in a number of key categories. Its points are worth more when redeemed for either travel or a statement credit; its travel insurance suite has no significant weaknesses or gaps; it offers more free annual airport lounge passes; and it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. That said, as a Visa it won’t be accepted at some major stores, like No Frills and Canadian branches of Costco. It’s also missing some of the BMO card’s rental car benefits, like insurance coverage for personal belongings damaged or stolen in a rental car.
The American Express Cobalt® Card lacks some of the BMO card’s added travel goodies, like airport lounge access, but it can help you really rake in rewards points at a much faster rate than you would with BMO. If you spend $6,000 per year on groceries and $3,000 per year at restaurants you’ll earn 45,000 points with the Cobalt. And Amex Membership Rewards® points are worth more than BMO Rewards points when the time comes to redeem them. That said, Amex is not as widely accepted by stores as Mastercard, which may limit the number of points you can potentially earn, depending on where you shop.
Who’s the Card For?
If you’re a regular international traveller, you often find yourself in a rental car, and/or you tend to shop at stores that accept Mastercard, but not Visa (e.g., Costco and No Frills), the BMO Ascend™ World Elite®* Mastercard®* is probably a perfect fit for you. It will cover most of your travel needs and will help you earn rewards points at a decent clip.
But if you can live with a Visa or Amex, there are other cards out there that will either allow you to earn more rewards points on everyday spending or reap superior travel benefits, like better airport lounge access; more comprehensive insurance; and waived foreign transaction fees. And if you absolutely need a Mastercard for just a few merchants here and there, you can always elect to use a Visa or Amex as your primary travel card, while holding onto a no-annual-fee Mastercard as a back burner option.
*Terms and conditions apply
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