Is a BMO Credit Card Right for You?

BMO’s credit card portfolio is relatively small but includes a variety of cards targeting different consumers, from those wanting to build credit to frequent travelers.
Jae Bratton
By Jae Bratton 
Published
Edited by Kenley Young

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When the Canada-based BMO bank acquired Bank of the West, headquartered in the U.S., in 2021, American consumers gained access to BMO’s credit card portfolio, which includes personal and business cards.

As of this writing, BMO offers two cash-back cards, a travel card, a 0% APR/balance transfer card and a secured card. However, a BMO representative confirmed that the card offerings and current card benefits may change in early 2024.

Here’s what you need to know about these cards before deciding whether to apply for one.

🤓Nerdy Tip

While BMO offers business credit cards, this article covers only its personal credit card offerings.

For a break on interest: BMO Platinum Credit Card

Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
NerdWallet rating 

If you need an extra-long reprieve from interest, your best option among the BMO cards is the Platinum Credit Card. For a $0 annual fee, cardholders get 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (as of this writing). There are two important caveats to these offers, though: You may lose the 0% APR benefit if you make a late payment, and the balance transfer must be completed within 90 days of account opening in order to get the 0% APR offer.

The balance transfer fee for all of BMO’s personal credit cards is $10 or 4% of the amount of the balance transfer, whichever amount is greater. BMO only allows balance transfers of credit card debt. And as is standard with most issuers, it doesn’t permit transfers between BMO accounts.

As balance transfer offers go, this is a decent one, but it's possible to find credit cards with longer interest-free promotions. The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, for instance, offers 0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% Variable APR .

🤓Nerdy Tip

All of BMO’s publicly available personal credit cards offer cell phone protection plans. Cardholders are eligible for up to $400 in coverage except for Premium Rewards cardholders, who get up to $600 worth of coverage. To qualify for cell phone insurance, you must pay your cell phone bill with a qualifying BMO credit card. A $50 deductible is required for each claim.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card
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For building credit: BMO Boost Secured Credit Card

BMO’s lone secured card requires a $25 annual fee and a minimum $300 security deposit. Those numbers are on the higher end compared with other secured cards. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card, for example, has a $0 annual fee and a $200 minimum security deposit — and it earns rewards, which the Boost Secured card does not.

However, the Boost Secured does offer two benefits rarely found in other cards for people with bad or limited credit: cell phone insurance and rental car insurance.

For travelers: BMO Premium Rewards Credit Card

The only travel card in BMO’s credit card portfolio, the Premium Rewards card, offers some solid perks for a $79 annual fee, which is waived the first year. Some highlights:

  • 15% bonus points on your account anniversary (15% of total purchases made in the previous year). 

  • A sign-up bonus of 35,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account (as of this writing).

  • Access to over 850 airport VIP lounges worldwide with Priority Pass Select, plus two complimentary visits to participating lounges.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • Lost or damaged luggage insurance.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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By comparison, the venerable Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card awards a 10% points bonus on each account anniversary and doesn’t come with lounge access, and its annual fee is slightly higher than the Premium Rewards card. However, unlike the BMO Premium Rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card features travel partners to which you can transfer your points, often for outsize value.

The Premium Rewards card also earns the following rewards in BMO’s proprietary currency, Flex Rewards:

  • 3 Flex Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible dining, hotels and airfare (on up to $2,500 in combined spending each quarter), and 1x on all purchases after that.

  • 1 Flex Rewards point per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases. 

Flex Rewards points may be redeemed for flights, hotels, merchandise, gift cards and statement credits, among other options. Point values vary depending on the redemption; cardholders can check the redemption value at www.bmoflexrewards.com.

Flex Rewards points don’t expire, assuming your account remains in good standing with BMO.

For cash back: BMO Cash Back Credit Card and the BMO Platinum Rewards Credit Card

Two BMO cards would be good picks as cash-back cards. One earns direct cash back as a percentage of each purchase; the other earns BMO’s proprietary currency, Flex Rewards, which can be redeemed for cash back in the form of statement credit.

BMO Cash Back Credit Card

For straightforward cash-back rewards, the aptly named BMO Cash Back Credit Card is probably the better choice. It has the higher rewards rates, and the rewards categories represent a range of everyday spending. The $0-annual-fee Cash Back card earns:

  • 5% cash back on eligible streaming, cable TV and satellite services.

  • 3% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases, up to $2,500 in combined quarterly spending (1% after that).

  • 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.

The only redemption option is a statement credit. Rewards never expire as long as the account is open and in good standing.

As of this writing, the card also comes with the following sign-up bonus: Get a $200 cash-back bonus when you spend $2,000 within 3 months of opening your account.

BMO Platinum Rewards Credit Card

The Platinum Rewards card, like its Cash Back sibling, earns rewards on gas and groceries, but the rewards rates on the Platinum Rewards card are a hair lower. It earns:

  • 2 Flex Rewards points per $1 spent on eligible gas and groceries, up to $2,500 in combined spending each calendar quarter (1x on all purchases after that). 

  • 1 Flex Rewards point per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases.

Redemption options for the Platinum Rewards card are the same as the Premium Rewards card because both cards earn Flex Rewards.

Citi® Double Cash Card
NerdWallet rating 

In favor of the Platinum Rewards card, its annual fee is also $0, and it has a good welcome offer: Get 25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 within 3 months of opening your account. It also gives cardholders a points bonus every account anniversary equal to 10% of the total points earned in the past year. The Cash Back card doesn’t award an annual bonus.

These are both decent options for cash back. But if you'd prefer a simple, high flat rate back on everything, without the need to keep track of bonus categories, you could consider a product like the Citi Double Cash® Card. It earns 2% cash back on every purchase: 1% back when you buy, 1% back when you pay it back.

The card has a $0 annual fee, and it also offers a 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 19.24%-29.24% Variable APR.

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