Bank of Montreal (BMO) student credit cards in Canada

Fernando Figueiredo

Having a credit card in Canada can help you build up a decent credit history and also claim a few perks like cash back or discounts. Bank of Montreal (BMO) offers two student credit cards. But which one is right for you? Or is there another student credit card out there that’s a better fit?

In this review, we’ll take a look at the options with BMO - and you’ll also read about Wise and how its debit card can help you save money.

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BMO student credit cards: an overview

The two BMO student credits are the Student BMO CashBack Mastercard and the Student BMO Air Miles Mastercard.

While they have plenty of similarities, the key difference is right their in their names: one offers cash back, while the other offers Air Miles.

BMO student Mastercards compared

Here’s a closer look at exactly how these two BMO student credit cards compare:

Feature Student BMO CashBack Mastercard1 Student BMO Air Miles Mastercard2
Annual fee $0 $0
Purchases 19.99% 19.99%
Cash advances 22.99% (21.99 for residents of Quebec) 22.99% (21.99 for residents of Quebec)
Rewards system Cash back Air Miles
Welcome offer Up to 5% cash back for the first three months 800 bonus Air Miles
Spend rewards on Anything – it’s cash Air Miles – discounted travel etc.

As you’ll see above, there are more similarities than differences between the two credit cards. Further similarities, not mentioned in the table, include extended warranty and purchase protection, and discounts on car rental with National and Alamo, plus Cirque du Soleil discounts¹ ².

But which of the two rewards schemes is better for you?

Before we get into that, here are a couple of other things to note.

BMO student credit card limits

What will your credit limit be? Unfortunately there’s no fixed rule here. BMO will likely offer you a particular limit based on your own credit history and circumstances.

As you’re a student, expect relatively low credit limits – but it’ll depend on things like your annual income.

BMO student cards eligibility

For either the CashBack or Air Miles Mastercard, you’ll need to be between 18 and 24 and studying at a post-secondary school that BMO recognizes. You’ll also need to have reached the age of majority in your province, so the lower age limit could in fact be 19.

And you will need to be earning income as well, whether from employment, a scholarship or grant, a student loan, or just from your family.

International students can apply by visiting a BMO branch; Canadian citizens and permanent residents can apply online¹ ².

Student BMO CashBack Mastercard: how does it work?

The Bank of Montreal CashBack Mastercard for students works just like any other cash back credit card. When you spend money on your card, you get a percentage of that money back each month. The exact percentage you get back depends on what you spend money on.

With BMO’s CashBack Mastercard, you get at least 0.5% cash back on everything. On recurring bill payments you get 1% – that includes things like streaming services, mobile phones, and subscriptions. And on groceries you get 3%.

There’s currently an offer where you can get 5% cash back on everything for the first three months, on the first $2,500 you spend. So you could get as much as $125 back in those first three months – although only if you spend as much as $2,500³.

How do you get your cash back? It can go straight into a BMO account of yours, you can invest it with BMO, or you can simply use it as credit against your bill¹.

Student BMO Air Miles Mastercard: how does it work?

BMO’s Air Miles Mastercard is similar in concept: the more you spend, the more rewards you can claim. But it’s a little bit more complex in terms of both how you accumulate points, and what you can do with them.

As a basis, you earn 1 mile for every $25 you spend. But at participating Air Miles partner stores – for instance Shell, IGA and Staples⁴ – you earn 3 for every $25. And if you additionally show your Air Miles Card at one of these partner stores, you can get double miles.

What can you do with your miles? Various things: most famously of course you can book travel with them, whether flights or hotels or whatever else. But you can also use them as Cash Miles, redeemable with various partners. 95 Cash Miles equates to $10⁵.

Like the CashBack Mastercard, the Air Miles Mastercard is currently running a welcome offer. You could get up to 800 miles as a sign-up bonus, if you spend $1,000 on the card in your first three months³.

Wise card: save your money when you spend in different currencies

If you’ve just moved to Canada or plan to spend in different currencies, meet Wise. The Wise card is not a credit card, but is 4x cheaper than banks for spending abroad..

Get local account details

The Wise card is part of the Wise account, which means that you can add, hold, and convert over 40 currencies instantly. You can also get your own bank details for 10 different currencies (including CAD, USD, GBP, EUR, and more) to receive money from those places.

Get the mid-market rate and avoid high conversion fees

You won’t have any high or hidden foreign transaction fees - your money gets converted with the real mid-market rate, no matter if you spend in-person or online in over 200 countries.

The only cost you’ll have is a very low and transparent conversion fee, in case you need to convert your Canadian dollars. Unlike other accounts, there are no monthly or annual charges, nor any minimum balance requirements.

Check how to save money with Wise

Which Bank of Montreal student credit card should I get?

Which is better: the CashBack Mastercard or the Air Miles Mastercard? Of course, it depends on what’s right for you.

If you travel a lot and are sure you’ll do your shopping at Air Miles partner stores, the Air Miles credit card could work out great. If you’re less sure about those things, the CashBack credit card is probably worth considering instead.

True, it’s a lot less exciting to get rewarded each month by having some money knocked off your credit card, but simply in terms of dollars and cents you might well end up saving more this way.

What other student credit cards are there?

BMO’s two student credit cards are popular options, and for good reason. But they’re not the only show in town. A few other options are:

  • CIBC Dividend
  • Scotiabank Scene
  • Scotiabank L’earn
  • PC Financial
  • Signature RBC Rewards
  • American Express SimplyCash

It’s not all about credit cards, either. Prepaid cards are an alternative that can ensure you never go into debt: you only pay money you’ve already topped up your card with. Koho is one option here that gives you cash back, much like a credit card might. And, if you’re looking for cards for international students in Canada, the options might be different too.

Whatever credit card you end up going for, good luck on making the best choice for you, that will allow you to spend your time as a student concentrating on the stuff that really matters, confident that you’re spending money wisely.


Sources:

  1. Students – BMO CashBack Mastercard
  2. Students – BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
  3. BMO credit cards Terms & Conditions
  4. BMO Air Miles Mastercard Participating Air Miles partners
  5. Air Miles Cash rewards

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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