Changes to BMO World Elite Mastercard

Changes to the BMO World Elite Mastercard: Our Straightforward, Spin-Free Take

Last updated on July 31, 2018 Views: 8154 Comments: 21

After BMO announced changes to its World Elite Mastercard in November, GreedyRates readers have left comments of concern. Details released by BMO were initially vague, so many cardholders assumed the worst.

The formal changes have since been announced, and overall I feel that the BMO World Elite Mastercard is being devalued.

As is typical of corporate announcements, BMO has tried its best to put a positive spin on things and released the following updates to the card according to this page. (you can also skip below to read the GreedyRates version translated from PR speak into plain Canadian English.)

Original BMO announcement text

Earn BMO Rewards points 50% faster!

Get rewarded even sooner. Earn 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1.00 spent on eligible travel, dining and entertainment purchases, up to $50,000 in purchases per year.

Enjoy more rewards flexibility

We have reviewed the BMO Rewards program, and are making some changes to give you more choice and better value across our range of rewards:

  • Travel reward changes
    The number of BMO Rewards points needed to redeem for $1.00 in travel rewards will be increasing from 100 to 140 points. We understand that receiving full value for your travel rewards is important to you and we are committed to honouring the purchasing power of the BMO Rewards points you’ve already earned. As of January 15, 2018, we will be adding extra points to your BMO Rewards account to offset the impact of this change so you won’t lose the value of your points. This means there’s no rush to redeem your points now.
  • Improved value of merchandise and gift cards 
    BMO Rewards is not just about travel. As of January 15, 2018, you’ll be able to redeem for the same great merchandise and gift cards with up to 20% fewer points!
  • Invest more for your future with BMO financial contributions
    We have improved the value you receive when redeeming your points for eligible BMO investment accounts. You’ll be able to invest with 25% fewer points. It has never been more rewarding to invest in what matters to you most.
  • Coming February 2018! Turn your BMO Rewards points into cash
    For the ultimate in flexibility, treat yourself by purchasing whatever you want, wherever you want and use your BMO Rewards points to pay down your credit card balance. Get ready to pay yourself with points!

What this means

Until January 15th 2018, cardholders will continue to earn 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent. For every $1 in travel credit you want to redeem, it costs 100 points. This essentially makes the existing deal a straight 2% return on all your purchases.

With the new features coming in, you’ll earn 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, dining and entertainment purchases, while all other purchases will still get 2 points for every $1 spent. Sounds like an upgrade, right?

Except it’ll now cost you 140 BMO Rewards points for every $1 in travel credit you want to claim.

Some number crunching reveals that the overall return now works out to 2.14% on travel, dining and entertainment and 1.43% on everything else. Travel, dining and entertainment purchases now earn 7% more than they did, but all other categories earn 30% less. BMO isn’t wrong per se by stating you can earn points 50% faster, but they’ve neglected to note the second, less savory side of the math.

The upcoming cash back feature may appeal to cardholders that value flexibility, but the return on cash back is worse than rewards redemption for travel. For every 50 cents you want to claim toward your bill, it’ll cost you 140 points. That means your spending will only earn you a return of .72% – 1.05% when going the cash back route, which is clearly a bad deal whatever its flexibility.

The good news is, your current accumulated points won’t be downgraded. BMO will add 40% more points to your account to offset the changes, so you don’t lose any value there. That said, new applicants should pay close attention to the signup bonus if there are any further changes. Currently there is a bonus of 20,000 BMO Reward points, which has a value of $200. When the changes kick in, that bonus will be worth just under $143. Hopefully, BMO will increase the signup bonus, but since they haven’t said anything, I suspect that won’t be the case. GreedyRates will reach out to them for comment and report back.

Is the card still worth holding on to?

It’s understandable that a lot of cardholders are upset by what they see as a devaluation of their card, and are considering cancellation. But before you speed-dial customer service, it’s worth a reminder that the card still comes with some pretty impressive additional benefits.

  • Comprehensive travel insurance for 21 consecutive days
  • Flat fee, optional travel insurance for those between the ages of 65-74
  • Priority Pass membership with 4 annual airport lounge passes
  • No blackout dates and the ability to use points on taxes when claiming travel rewards
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty

The annual Priority Pass membership and lounge passes are worth about $200. And 21 days of travel insurance is quite long compared to other cards. The value of both those benefits may offset anything you’re losing in the new redemption changes, so hanging on to this card may still be worth it if you’re a frequent traveller. That said, every BMO World Elite cardholder should consider some alternative credit cards in the travel category, which might be of comparatively greater value after the BMO devaluation.

Other travel cards worth considering

American Express Cobalt – The new American Express Cobalt card gets you 5 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, bars, grocery stores and food delivery in Canada. An Amex Rewards point is worth about $0.01, so the return on those purchase categories is about 5%. Compare that to the BMO World Elite Mastercard’s return of 2.14% on travel, dining and entertainment.

You’re allowed to transfer your Amex Rewards points to Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) at a 2:1 ratio, which means every $1 spent on eligible categories earns you 2.5 SPG points. And with SPG, you can transfer your points to 30+ airline loyalty programs at a 1:1 ratio. Plus for every 20,000 points you transfer to an airline partner, you get an additional 5,000 points, so your transfer ratio becomes 1:1.25. This is nothing to scoff at.

Scotiabank Gold American Express – The Scotiabank Gold American Express consistently ranks as one of the best travel rewards credit cards in the Canadian market, because you earn 4 Scotia Rewards points for every $1 spent on gas, groceries, restaurants, and entertainment. With those spend categories, you’re earning 4% back, since it takes 100 points to claim $1 in travel. There are no blackout dates at all, which gives you flexibility. You can choose to book your travel through Scotia Rewards’ full-service travel agency or on your own with points being redeemed later.

Article comments

21 comments
Daryn C says:

Hi. Great Info. I am looking for a new credit card to go along with a new business I have. I spend about $1,000,000 per year and want to use the points or cash back or whatever for unrestricted travel with my family 2 or 3 times a year. The spending I would use on this card would be considered normal but my suppliers don’t accept Amex. I thought the BMO world elite M/C or MBNA rewards world elite would give the most bang for the buck but I am not sure. Can you shed some light on this for me? Thanks for the help. I thought I read somewhere MBNA rewards are going down from 2% to 1.67% in Jan. 2019, but is the BMO card better strictly on the points earned basis. I am not concerned with lounge access, insurance, or other perk but of course I will take these into consideration and do value them, but just a straight dollar spend versus points. Thanks again for all help with this issue!!!

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hey Daryn,

Thanks for the detail in your request. You want to pick a card that offers the best rate on your expenses? You’ll likely want a card with a favorable flat rate “all-category” earnings model, so no matter what you buy you’ll also save. It’s also crucial for you that the card’s rewards–be they cash back or points—are redeemable towards travel (airfare etc.).

In this regard you’ve chosen well in the MBNA Rewards World Elite card, and also with the BMO World Elite. It’s flat 2.00% back has been downgraded if you’re redeeming points for cash back, but this doesn’t apply to you because you’re interested in travel. MBNA has excellent vacation packages and access to airfare. The BMO card you like, the World Elite, is a great choice because you know you’ll be spending on travel (it’s accelerated earnings category of 3 points per $1 or 2.10%), and the base rate of 2 points per $1 on everything else is a solid 1.40% value (per our Loyalty Program Bible).

GreedyRates

Becky james says:

Hello. What are your thoughts on the bmo world elite vs the bmo airmiles world elite? Thank you!

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hey Becky,

Here’s a quick summary of the main things to look out for when comparing the BMO World Elite and the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercards. In a one-one-one comparison, the World Elite Mastercard comes out ahead despites some drawbacks. The World Elite card collects BMO Rewards instead of Air Miles, so you can use them on travel, but also as a cash credit, on merchandise, and other rewards, making them more flexible overall. At a per-point value of $0.07, earning at the base rate of 2 points per $1 is the equivalent of 1.40% when using the regular World Elite card. It also has a higher annual fee by $30 (fee of $150) but a better introductory bonus according to our Loyalty Program Bible–35,000 BMO Rewards points ($245 value) instead of the Air Miles World Elite’s 2,000 Air Miles ($210 value). It also has two more free entries to airport lounges via LoungeKey, for a total of 4 complimentary passes per year.

Meanwhile, the Air Miles World Elite card may be better if you’re a fan of the great Air Miles program in Canada, which lets cardholders get insider access to hotels, rental cars, and airfare. Otherwise, it likely has a slightly lower total earnings potential even with the ability to earn double miles at Air Miles partners. Both cards have similar insurance coverage. Ultimately, the choice is up to your own preferences. Let us know if you need anything else.

GreedyRates

WM says:

One thing to note: If you are a secondary card holder, you won’t be able to get into the lounge without the primary account holder.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hello WM,

Nice observation. We’ve informed readers before about the limits of airport lounge access, but it’s great to get a reminder. For all those cards that offer entrance into worldwide airport lounges—the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card and BMO World Elite Card, for example—if you’re a secondary cardholder that wants to use the card to enter, you’ll need to be with the primary cardholder. Even if you have a voucher that gives free entry, the same applies. It’s therefore important to set the primary cardholder as the one who does the most frequent travelling.

If one’s wife is a consultant who flies every week, for example, then she should be the primary cardholder even if her husband earns more, or already has an existing account with the bank. Otherwise, she would find herself unable to enter the lounge using her card. It’s the small things that sometimes make a big difference! Thanks again.

GreedyRates

S Danndy says:

I have been hanging onto my BMO World Elite, even though there have been numerous changes the past few years (point accrual changes, second card fee increases, and now the priority pass changes). The one thing it has that many other cards do not (with the exception of Desjardins World Elite, I believe) is the comprehensive travel insurance. I went with this card so I don’t need to buy extra insurance for most of my travel — and insurance offered by this card is much better than many others (trip cancellation, interupption, delay, baggage, car rental, etc…) — so look at all of the details prior to making a decision. We have access to a free TD Visa Infinite card with our banking and the BMO is much better for insurance, so I keep that one.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hey S Danndy,

Great writeup. We’re totally with you on all your points and are grateful that you’ve provided some criteria by which you rate new cards on your radar. If you’re over the BMO World Elite card due to its numerous changes over the last few years, then it’s logical that you’d want to swap it out for something else. However, if you can’t let go of its amazing travel insurance benefits, know that the most recent “downgrade” to LoungeKey (instead of Priority Pass) isn’t really a big deal. The company and network are virtually identical, and you’ll still get your four free passes to lounges worldwide.

However, we’re also aware that it isn’t the most convenient to carry a credit card just because you like two of its many perks. We suggest that you cancel the card (after spending your rewards, of course) and check out the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card as a replacement. It allows you to earn Scotia Rewards points at an impressive rate, pay 0.00% fees for foreign transactions, get 6 free passes to Priority lounges in the airport, and enjoy an awesome suite of insurance benefits as well. These rival even the BMO card that you love. Here’s what you get: travel emergency medical, trip cancellation and interruption, flight delay, delayed and lost baggage, travel accident, rental car collision and damage, and hotel and motel burglary insurance. For a $139 annual fee, that’s not bad—better even than BMO’s World Elite card.

If you need any other suggestions, we’ll be happy to provide. Thanks again!

GreedyRates

Ursula Bachman says:

For your information BMO World Elite Mastercard does not give you 4 priority passes per year. This apparently has been changed to only two per year!! I just received confirmation of this so you may want to revise what they provide. I’m none to happy with BMO at the moment and I’m considering going to another card especially with more revisions coming.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Ursula,

Thanks very much for coming to us with your new information! Could you please share the source of information you’ve received that states you’ll only receive two airport lounge vouchers? We’re aware that BMO is changing from Priority Pass to LoungeKey but haven’t heard anywhere that they’re also reducing the number of passes that cardholders get every year. We’re a bit skeptical but would love for you to help, if you can. Remember—you can’t always believe what you read if it isn’t an official source, and these are the only sources of information we rely on.

In terms of devaluation, we don’t see the Priority Pass as much of a downgrade. LoungeKey is essentially the same thing, owned by the same company and with a similar network worldwide. If you’re considering switching to a different card anyway, let us recommend you an alternative. Scotiabank swooped in with their Passport Visa Infinite after BMO and MBNA recently changed some of their travel cards (likely to steal customers), and so far they’ve managed to claim the number one spot in terms of travel cards. The card offers 6 free airport lounge passes yearly, has a lower annual fee than the BMO World Elite card, great insurance benefits, and 0.00% foreign transaction fees. Check it out—you’ll like what you see!

The GreedyRates Team

cb says:

I have the BMO world elite and the Td first class travel. I put about 5k per month on cards, pay off every month. i also travel alot for business. any help on which of these two cards i should max out the most?

The GreedyRates Team says:

Greetings CB!

Thanks for your comment about the BMO World Elite versus the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite card. If you’re spending $5,000 per month with your credit cards and paying your balances entirely, then it should be simple to determine which card is the best. The best measure of superiority is likely the rate of points you’ll earn, what you earn them for, and then what you can redeem them on. BMO’s World Elite card earns BMO Rewards points at the highest rate of 3 per $1 when you spend on travel-related purchases, and then 2 per $1 for everything else. You can use these points on merchandise, travel, cash credit and more.

Meanwhile, TD’s First Class Travel Visa Infinite card earns TD Points at a rate of 3 per $1 on everything, and then 9 points per $1 when you book travel via ExpediaForTD.com. TD Points can be redeemed on a similar array of rewards, experiences, and cash credits. According to our Loyalty Program Bible, TD Points are very slightly less valuable than BMO’s, with a difference of just $0.002 per point, which varies depending on what you redeem them for. This means that given an average purchase of $1, you’d see $0.014 (2 points worth $0.007) with the BMO card and $0.015 with the TD card (3 points worth $0.005).

With a difference this negligible, we should also look at how you’ll be rewarded for purchasing travel arrangements with either of these cards. BMO will let you earn points for any travel-related purchase, netting a value of $0.021 (3 points worth $0.007 each) per $1. TD’s card earns 9 points per $1 spent, meaning you’ll see $0.045 (9 points worth $0.005 each) for every $1 spent, but only on Expedia’s special site—ExpediaForTD.com. If you like Expedia, there’s no question which card is better. However, if you don’t like Expedia, and you’d also prefer to earn at a slightly higher rate for broader travel-related purchases, BMO is the likely winner.

In our opinion, TD’s card is better for you. With a lower annual fee and similar medical coverage, you’ll likely get more value from the First Class Visa Infinite card than you would with the BMO card. However, it’s crucial that you also like ExpediaForTD.com, so check it out and narrow your decision accordingly. Thanks again.

The GreedyRates Team

Ricardo Chen says:

Hi,

Which card would you choose, between BMO World Elite MC or WestJet World Elite MC and why?

I’m in the same boat with a lot of other users of the BMO card and with the devaluation might be considering something different.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Ricardo,

Thanks for your request for a card comparison between the BMO World Elite Mastercard and the WestJet World Elite Mastercard. For your convenience, we’ll compare the WestJet card with the BMO card in bullet-point format and follow up with a short explanation of what might be best. To begin, let’s look at the specific benefits of BMO’s card:

BMO’s World Elite Mastercard:
– 3 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent on travel, dining and entertainment
– 2 BMO Rewards points for every $1 spent elsewhere
– Comprehensive travel insurance for 21 consecutive days
– Flat fee, optional travel insurance for those between the ages of 65-74
– NEW LoungeKey membership with 4 annual airport lounge passes
– No blackout dates and the ability to use points on taxes when claiming travel rewards
– Purchase protection and extended warranty
– 35,000 welcome point bonus (Value: 35,000*.007=$245)
– Points can cover taxes and fees
– $150 annual fee

Compare that to WestJet’s World Elite card:
– 2.00% back in WestJet Dollars for travel via WestJet
– 1.50% back in WestJet Dollars elsewhere
– Free checked bags
– Comprehensive travel insurance for 15 consecutive days
– $250 WestJet dollars
– LoungeKey membership and airport lounge access
– Annual companion flight
– $119 annual fee

In terms of earning points or rewards, BMO will earn much faster and from a larger variety of purchases. Their rewards points also cover taxes and fees, while WestJet makes it clear that fees and taxes will not be covered. BMO also has the edge when it comes to insurance and luxury, given that coverage extends for an additional 6 days over WestJet’s card (21 days versus 15), and it includes four free VIP airport lounge passes.

However, WestJet has a lower annual fee ($119 versus $150), and delivers more value directly to cardholder when they signup. Their bonus of $250 WestJet Dollars is generous and already eclipses the ±$245 value of BMO’s 35,000-point bonus (which you need to spend $3,000 to get anyway). On top of that, WestJet provides each primary cardholder with a companion flight voucher every year, plus free checked bags. In our opinion, even with the changes to BMO’s card, it still comes out ahead for those who want to be covered with insurance for longer, travel in luxury, and more quickly earn points that will cover a greater amount of your trip cost.

Good luck with your choice!

GreedyRates

Joe says:

Good day, I’ve got:

-Desjardins Visa Odyssey Gold: used only for 60 days travel insurance perk (I don’t buy anything with it).
-Rogers World Elite MC: used only for the 4% (-2.5%) cash back outside of Canada
-AMEX Blue Sky I rarely use (it’s a free AMEX just in case)
-Visa TD Aeroplan Infinite and BMO MC World Elite

Which one would you close between the 2 last ones? I love the Priority Pass privileges but which card is better bottom line and why?

Thanks in advance.

Brian says:

It seems the priority pass is being replaced with only 2 months to use any accumulated priority passes. Seems a bit short notice for a change like this.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hey Brian,

Thanks for your comments about the BMO World Elite Mastercard. There are many changes being made to the card in terms of its points-earning potential, but the travel perks that cardholders enjoy are largely the same. We’ve heard of no changes being made to the Priority Pass benefit or the four vouchers granting free entry into airport lounges, and would love a source for your comment if you can reply with another comment (or email us).

Per the information available from BMO, the only alterations to its World Elite card in November are the number of BMO Points required to redeem for travel rewards (as outlined in the article above), and a few other minor details. You’ll get the Priority Pass membership and four free lounge entry vouchers each year. Remember that a Priority Pass isn’t the same as a one-time voucher: it’s the name of the program granting you priority status at airport lounges. This means that you’ll always be able to get into the lounge—and at half price—compared to a non-member.

Get back to us whenever you can. Thanks!

GreedyRates Staff

Mel says:

I can confirm that as of Aug 1, 2018, priority pass is no longer a perk. I just received a letter outlining that they are switching over to Lounge Key. We still get 4 passes, but I don’t know if the lounge network is as extensive as PP. Short notice for sure and the change, along with the points devaluation earlier, really annoys me and is making me consider switching to TD Expedia one.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Mel,

Your information is correct. BMO is moving away from the Priority Pass airport lounge system and has decided that Mastercard’s Airport Experiences package (provided by LoungeKey) is the new replacement. However, this shouldn’t be construed as a bad thing for cardholders like yourself. In fact, it’s the opposite.

LoungeKey offers the same benefits as Priority Pass—access to over 1,000 airport lounges in over 120 countries—but it also serves as a lifestyle accessory for getting discounts at other places in the airport. Spas, restaurants, book stores and other retailers will give discounts to LoungeKey members. Its network is the same size, if not bigger. This makes sense when you realize that the two programs are owned by the same company, but if you want more information on the specific nuances between Priority Pass and LoungeKey, Mastercard has a helpful FAQ that we’ve linked below. We may also write about the new upgrade in the future, so keep an eye out for our more detailed take on it.

https://airport.mastercard.com/en/faq

Thanks for your comment!
GreedyRates

Brian says:

I’ve got
Amex Platinum
Amex Gold
Amex Cobalt
BMO World Elite Mastercard
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite
Which card would you recommend me using the most after introductory bonus for travel? I’m Canadian. Thx in advance.

GreedyRates says:

Hey Brian, that’s quite a diverse array of credit cards you’ve got there! It looks like you’ve gotten the most out of these cards’ introductory bonuses, and now you want to know which ones to keep and which to cancel. A big factor in your answer will be what you spend the most money on, and which type of rewards you prefer.

For example, you have the Amex Platinum and Amex Gold cards, which are mostly cards that earn points on travel and offer excellent travel rewards. The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card belongs in the same category, but it’ll probably be accepted at more merchants. In our opinion, you should cancel the Amex Gold card at least.

The Amex Cobalt and the BMO World Elite Mastercard are also somewhat similar, with rewards earned mostly from transportation, dining, and entertainment. However, the Amex card’s rewards are more flexible, so possibly consider cancelling the BMO card and keeping the Cobalt card to represent the only Amex in your wallet.

GreedyRates Staff