If you’re itching to travel again, BMO has a card designed to help you get there. With an attractive insurance package and perks like airport lounge access, the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard seeks to tempt users into the BMO Rewards program. But here’s the big question: Is the card good enough to justify the $150 annual fee? We delve into what the card offers and show you exactly how it stacks up against other travel reward cards.
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BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard quick facts
Annual fee: $150 (waived for the first year)
Interest rates: 20.99% purchases, 23.99% cash advances (21.99% for Quebec residents)
Welcome offer: Get 60,000 points when you sign up for the card.
Earn rate: 5 points per $1 on travel, 3 points per $1 on dining and entertainment, 1 point per $1 on everything else
Income requirement: $80,000 annually or $150,000 household
Perks: Access to over 1 million Wi-Fi hotspots all over the world, BMO concierge service, extended warranty, purchase protection and BMO World Elite travel and medical protection
5 things you need to know about the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard
The card lets you collect BMO travel rewards
The BMO Rewards program allows you to earn BMO Points on your credit card purchases, redeemable for travel expenses such as flights (including all taxes), hotels, cruises and vacation packages. With the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard, you earn 5 points per dollar on travel, 3 points per dollar on dining and entertainment and 1 point per dollar on everything else—a competitive offering.
The card has a generous sign-up bonus
New members receive a welcome offer of up to 60,000 BMO Rewards points. This works out to approximately $429 in travel rewards, depending on how you redeem. Plus, they sweeten the pot by waiving the annual fee for the first year.
You’ll get airport lounge access
Cardholders of the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard receive complimentary membership to Mastercard Travel Pass by DragonPass which entitles them to VIP access and four annual complimentary passes, good at 1,000 airport lounges across the globe.
It comes with great travel insurance
The BMO Ascend World Elite Total Travel and Medical Protection package is a tempting and valuable perk, providing out-of-province/out-of-country emergency medical protection up to $2 million, plus coverage for flight delay or cancellation, lost or delayed baggage (including personal effects insurance), and car rental collision damage coverage. Purchased separately, this coverage could cost around $120 per trip, but cardholders get it for an unlimited number of journeys of up to 21 days each.
It’s widely accepted
While most main credit card processors enjoy extensive international coverage, Mastercard has an edge as the only brand accepted at Costco.
How do I redeem my BMO Rewards?
With BMO Rewards, the redemption process is as simple as logging in to your account. To redeem for rewards, you can avail yourself of the full-service online travel agency or shop from their catalogue. You can book with any airline without blackout dates or seat restrictions, and BMO also offers price matching, so you can be sure you’re getting the very best deal.
What are BMO Rewards Points worth?
Points redeemed for travel come in at a value of 140:$1 ($0.007 per point), meaning that you’ll need 35,000 points for $250 towards travel expenses. Importantly, you don’t have to redeem a minimum number of points, or any, to book travel—and you can pay whatever your points don’t cover by charging that amount to your card.
Redemptions for gift cards and merchandise are just as simple (you select from an online catalogue), but you’ll typically get less value from your points compared to travel. Finally, you can redeem your points for financial products, but this option comes at a steep reduction in value. For 7,000 points you can get $50 in a BMO investment account (which is about $0.007 per point), or for 15,000 points you’ll receive $50 towards your credit card bill (about $0.003 per point).
With all these redemption options, the BMO Rewards program is extremely flexible—this is one of the main reasons it’s so popular—but for the very best point-to-dollar ratio, travel rewards are the way to go.
Does BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard have trip cancellation insurance?
The BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard has a strong travel coverage package, the card offers both trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance. The card has got you covered for up to $2,500 for the non-refundable and non-transferable portion of your canceled trip. As for trip interruption, BMO has also got your back, as it will cover up to $2,000 for the cost of one-way airfare departure and any unused non-refundable prepaid arrangements.
Does the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard come with lounge access?
With the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard, you get a free membership to Mastercard Travel Pass, which gives you four annual airport lounge visits that can be used at 1,000 airport lounges worldwide.
What are the best ways to benefit from this card?
Even though the BMO Rewards program offers numerous redemption possibilities, travel rewards give you the very best value—with no seat restrictions or blackouts. Add to that the card’s airport lounge access, and travel and medical insurance, and you’ve got a very competitive product for travellers.
Are there any drawbacks to the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard?
Despite a very strong showing in many respects, there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of. The first is that the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard commands an income threshold of $80,000 per year for an individual (or $150,000 per household) and an annual fee of $150 (most travel cards come in around the $120 mark). An extra $30 per year may not matter much to high-earners, but the fee may give you pause, especially when you consider that some cards offer more lucrative bonus categories. The Scotiabank Gold American Express, for example, offers 5 Scotia Points on restaurants and groceries.
Finally, the BMO Rewards website could use some work, given that it’s the portal through which users must make redemptions. Improvements to site speed would go a long way to keeping customers happy, and would help cement the brand’s reputation as a top-tier provider.
The $150 annual fee on the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is nothing to sneeze at, but for frequent flyers, the travel rewards more than make up the expense. Still undecided? New cardholders get their money back instantly in bonus points and a fee waiver, so you effectively have a year to see for yourself. If you’re interested in BMO cards, but don’t want to collect travel rewards, check out our list of BMO’s best credit cards.
Is the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard worth the annual fee?
The answer to whether the BMO Ascend World Elite Mastercard is worth the high annual fee of $150 will depend on a variety of factors. If you’re a frequent flyer and traveler and earn more than the card’s income requirement, the answer is yes. The annual fee would most likely be canceled out by the free lounge access and travel insurance, if you’d be paying for those two services out of pocket each time you travel.
On the other hand, the card’s high-income requirement and annual fee may be a barrier for some and a reason to choose another card instead. And, if you’re a fan of earning cash back instead of points then may not be the best choice since there is no such offering with the card.
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