BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite® Mastercard® Review

Last Updated on June 8, 2022
First posted on September 2, 2015


We first reviewed this card back in 2015 and kind of left the review sitting there collecting dust! Since that time the card and the AIR MILES program have undergone numerous changes so an updated review was well overdue. The BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®* is the pride and joy of the co-brand partnership between BMO and AIR MILES. It is considered the flagship credit card out of the handful of cards the AIR MILES program has available. So what do we at Rewards Canada think of the card? Read on to find out!

Overview

The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard is a premium credit card that is extremely popular with Canadians. This card is for collectors who have AIR MILES as their primary program and want an easy way to boost their Reward Miles balance while having a card with great travel insurance and benefits.

Costs & Sign up Features

The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard is one of the few remaining premium cards charging an annual fee of only $120. Many of this card's competitors have been bumping that fee up into the range of $139 to $150. For additional/supplementary cards you are looking at $50 per year for each card.

Right now the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard has a welcome bonus offering up to 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles along with the first year annual waived on the primary card which provides a savings of $120. To receive the 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles you have to spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months of having it.

This is a relatively easy welcome bonus offers to achieve as you only have to spend $1,000 per month at the start to earn it. Those 2,000 AIR MILES Reward Miles are worth around $210 and seeing that you pay no annual fee in the first year it's like getting $210 in your pocket for free!

The interest rate on the card is 20.99% on purchases. 23.99% on cash advances and balance transfers.

Like all World Elite Mastercards in Canada the minimum annual income requirements are $80,000 personal or $150,000 household.

Earning

The card earns AIR MILES Reward Miles and the changes this card saw in early 2021 were primarily in this category. The card moved from a flat 1 Reward Mile per $10 dollar spent to the following:

  • 3 AIR MILES Reward Miles for every $12 spent at participating AIR MILES partners
  • 1 AIR MILES Reward Mile for every $12 spent on all other eligible purchases.

You do have to note that 'participating AIR MILES partners' does not cover all AIR MILES partners but rather only around 10 to 14 partners depending on which province you live in. Due to this fact, we here at Rewards Canada find the accelerated partner earn rate quite limiting. Click here to see those partners

MAJOR UPDATE (June 7, 2022): News has come out that Empire, the owner of Sobeys, Safeway and other groceries stores and drug stores that are partnered with AIR MILES have become co-owners of the Scene+ program and will switch to that program. The switch will begin in August in Atlantic Canada and by early 2023 all stores coast to coast will move to the program

This is a big hit to the AIR MILES program and to this credit card as Empire's store represent nearly half of the partners where you can earn this accelerated rate of 3 miles for $12 spent.

Learn more about this news here: Scene+ scores big at the expense of AIR MILES - watch for grocery earning and redeeming to come soon to the program!

Valuation Chart

Spending Category Miles earned per $12 dollar spent Average rate of return on spending*
AIR MILES Partners 3 2.5%
All other spending 1 0.875%
*Based on the Cash Miles value of 10.5 cents per Reward Mile
(All other redemption options including travel may fall below or above this amount)


Redeeming

There are multiple redemption options in the AIR MILES program which include travel, cash back, merchandise, and more.

Travel

This redemption category underwent big changes in 2021 when AIR MILES revamped their flights program and as such technically changed all the co-brand cards including the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard. There were both positive and negative to the changes to the flight program. On the positive side was opening up the ability to redeem miles for flights worldwide, that is you can now redeem for flights that don't originate in Canada. Want to fly from Los Angeles to Miami? You can now redeem your miles for those sort of flights. As well you can now redeem miles for all fare classes - not just economy. You can use your miles for economy, premium economy, business and first class flights. This all comes with more availability, the old version of AIR MILES flights was limited to a certain amount of seats per flight on select airlines, now there are more airlines available and if you can pay cash for a seat you can redeem miles for it.

On the negative side was the change to dynamic pricing. That is the fixed mileage amounts for travel were done away with and now the required miles closely follow the cash price of a ticket. This meant a lot of the outsized value you used to be able to extract from the AIR MILES program was gone. In the old version of AIR MILES flights we valued each mile at 11 to 15 cents each when redeemed for flights. Many times you could exceed 15 cents and even get value in 20 cents or higher range. Now with the new program we value them between 9 and 10.5 cents. AIR MILES told us all flight redemptions should get at least 10.5 cents in value however in my experience in looking for flights it typically falls below that. On occasion we have seen some flights provide value above 10.5 cents but not by much and they have been few and far between. That was the trade off - the new flights program provides more availability and flexibility for a lower value per mile.

In general however I feel most collectors are happy with the changes due to the increased flexibility in the new flights program.

You can redeem AIR MILES Reward Miles for vacation packages through AIR MILES' partnership with Red Tag Vacations and this is one of the stronger travel redemption options in the program. This partnership allows you to redeem 909 miles for $100 (and multiples thereof) towards vacation packages booked via Red Tag Vacations. That works out to 11 cents per mile of value which bumps the rate of return on the BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard up to 0.92% to 2.75%

You can also redeem AIR MILES Reward Miles for hotels and car rentals. Both of these have varying redemption rates where you can see values below that 10.5 cent average for Cash Miles but you can also see values higher than that. In the past some car rental redemptions provided big returns of 20 to 30 cents per mile and in one of my latest searches on June 7, 2022 I found a value of 14 cents per mile for a week long rental in Los Angeles.

Cash back

This is what Rewards Canada uses as AIR MILES has become a tertiary program in our household. The Cash Miles option as AIR MILES calls is set in your AIR MILES account so that you can redeem miles for a cash discount at select AIR MILES partners in store. The rate is 95 miles for a $10 credit and we at Rewards Canada use this option regularly at Sobeys. There are also some eVoucher options that allow you to redeem at the same rate (or multiples of that 95 miles to $10) and some of those partners include DoorDash, Spotify and Uber Eats.

The 95 miles to $10 credit provides you with a value of 10.5 cents per mile.

Merchandise

This is really what AIR MILES has become famous for. Years ago when AIR MILES did reveal some statistics on redemptions, flights made up less than 10% of all the rewards redeemed for by AIR MILES members. What were most members redeeming for? Merchandise. I don't think a day goes by without me seeing some on Twitter happily announcing some sort of merchandise they redeemed for with their AIR MILES. Merchandise is something AIR MILES does well.

Features and Benefits

The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard is well known for some of the extra benefits it provides. Two of those key benefits are an AIR MILES Reward flight discount and automatic elite status in the program.

At the time of writing this review the card offers a 15% discount on the miles required any time you redeem miles for a flight in North America. This discount has been in place for quite a few years after it replaced a 25% worldwide discount the card originally offered. As of July 4, 2022 this 15% discount will change back to a worldwide discount and also go back to being 25% but there are new restrictions to it. Rather than being an ongoing discount, it will be an annual (once per year) discount that you can apply to a flight redemption you make and it is capped at a maximum of 750 miles. For some members this revamped discount will be a welcome change as perhaps they only redeem once per year or less and redeem for flights that don't cost a lot of miles so to receive a 25% discount over 15% is good for them. For other collectors however it will be the opposite as they redeem multiple times per year and will now have to choose only one of those flight redemptions to apply this discount to.

Recommended reading: Changes coming to the flight discount benefit on the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard

The next key benefit on the card is automatic Onyx Status in the AIR MILES program. This benefit was added to card when AIR MILES came out with their changes to the program in late 2021. Previously only available to American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card cardmembers or those collectors who earned 6,000 or more miles in a calendar year, this top tier elite level is now an additional benefit for the World Elite card  

On the insurance side of benefits the card has the full slate of coverage that can be expected with a premium travel card. It has the standard Travel Accident, and Car Rental insurance. On top of that it has Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Flight Delay and baggage insurance as well as 15 day out-of-province emergency medical insurance benefit for those up to 65 years old.

The card comes with Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass which is a standard feature across all World Elite Mastercards in Canada. This means you get free membership in the lounge access program that is pretty much the same as Priority Pass if you are familiar with them. While the card covers your annual membership it does not cover the actual lounge visit fees which are currently US$32 per person. This card used to offer two free annual lounge visits on top of the complimentary membership however those were removed as a benefit in early 2021.

Recommended reading: Big News! Mastercard Canada switching lounge access from LoungeKey to DragonPass (which means access to Plaza Premium lounges!)

Finally another benefit to be aware of with this card is unlimited free Wi-Fi through Boingo at over 1 million hotspots worldwide for up to four devices and this includes several airlines such as WestJet. This is another of the benefits afforded to all World Elite Mastercards in Canada.





What is good about this card

The annual discount when redeeming for flight with AIR MILES is good thing to have if you are someone who redeems for flights with the program. To get 25% off and save up to 750 miles annually leaves you with more miles to use in the future.

The automatic Onyx status is the next good thing about this card. Onyx members can get discounts on flights when using miles (up to 40% off) and get discounts when redeeming for merchandise (up to 10% off). Both of those can help stretch your mileage balance further. Onyx status also provides a personal shopper where you can request an item that may not be in the merchandise catalog and they will get it for you to redeem your miles on.

The earn rate of 3 miles per $12 spent for shopping at select AIR MILES partners is the best AIR MILES credit card earn rate in the market as it is equivalent to 1 mile per $4 spent as long as you can shop at those partners. However now we have the news of AIR MILES losing all of the Empire brands of grocery and drug stores over the next half a year or so which means this card will need a serious revamp soon on the earn rate.

The insurance coverage and airport lounge access programs are also good features of this card.

What is not so good about this card

The base earn rate of 1 Reward Mile for every $12 spent is on the low end in the market of premium cards. The rate return of that earn rate works out to less than 1% which is lower than most competing cards.

The structure of the earn, at 1 for $12 or 3 for $12 leads to the potential of missing some points or miles you would earn by using other credit cards. What we mean by this is that you only earn miles for multiples of $12. If your statement balance is $130 you only earn miles for $120 in spending and lose out on that additional $10. Pretty much every other rewards credit card in Canada will reward you for the full $130 in spending.

The limited potential of the accelerated earn rate is also not so good - yes we have it in both sections as it is a strong earn rate but it also falls into being not so good as you can only earn it at a few retailers (and potentially even fewer when Empire leaves the program)

No transfer options that we see with competitors. American Express, RBC, HSBC all have transfer options to other loyalty programs. MBNA is partnered with Alaska Airlines and Best Western and if they provided an option to convert MBNA Rewards points to those partners this card would move even higher up the ranks!

Who should get this card

  • Consumers who have AIR MILES as their primary loyalty program
  • Consumer who redeem AIR MILES for flights so they can save 15% (until July 3) or 25% (as of July 4) on their flights
  • Consumers who Onyx status so they can save miles across the board on various redemptions

Conclusion

Over the past couple of years we have seen numerous changes to both the card and the AIR MILES program that we feel have made this card fall down the ranks in the Canadian market. That being said it is definitely one to consider having if AIR MILES is one your primary loyalty programs and you want some savings when it comes to redeeming miles. It is also if you shop a lot at the AIR MILES partners where this card has an accelerated earn rate - at least for the next few months until Sobeys et al leave the program. Then it will up to BMO and AIR MILES to make some drastic adjustments to this card as it will be hard to justify having it if they don't add some valuable partners to earn those accelerated earn rates at.

I can't say too much more right now, I had more written only a few short days ago about this card but the breaking news about AIR MILES losing their one of their biggest partners has put those words of mine into hiatus. Now we have to wait to see what AIR MILES and BMO will do in the coming months to make up for this major change.

Latest card details:



BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®*


Annual Fee: $120 Primary Card $50 Additional Card
Interest Rate: Purchases 20.99% Cash Advances 23.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents)

Welcome offer: Get 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and we’ll waive the $120 annual fee for the first year*.

· Get 3x the Miles for every $12 spent at participating AIR MILES Reward Partners.*
· Earn 1 reward mile for every $12 in credit card purchases, everywhere you spend*
· Get valuable benefits and offers for digital everyday services from a variety of on-demand apps and subscription services
· Use your card at Costco
· Extended Warranty
· Access over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world - all at no added cost, and no added fees or roaming charges*
· Complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass.*
· Use less Miles with our exclusive 25% discount on one worldwide AIR MILES flight redemption during the calendar year.*
· BMO AIR MILES World Elite Travel and Medical Protection*
· BMO Concierge Service*
· Unlock Mastercard Travel Rewards cashback offers when you travel and shop outside of Canada

*Terms and conditions apply

Apply Now

BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information


Other cards to consider if you are looking at this card:

American Express Cobalt Card
American Express®  AIR MILES* Platinum Credit Card
American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card
BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*

HSBC World Elite Mastercard
RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card
Scotiabank Gold American Express Card
Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card
TD First Class Visa Infinite Card

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