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Comparison of the AMEX Air Miles Reserve and BMO Air Miles World Elite Cards

As requested by one of our readers, we will be comparing the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card and the BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard. A second question was whether Air Miles is worth a second look considering the upcoming end of the Aeroplan and Air Canada partnership. Feel free to share any other suggestions in the comment section below!

Before we get into the comparison, let’s start with some of the highlights of each card:

American Express Air Miles Reserve Card

  • $299 annual fee
  • $50 annual fee for supplementary cardholders
  • Earn 2,400 sign up bonus points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 1 mile for every $10 spent at Air Miles Sponsors, grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada
  • Earn 1 mile for every $15 spent on all other purchases
  • Receive Onyx elite status with Air Miles
  • Receive a Companion Flight Benefit (once per calendar year when redeeming for any reward flight flight for a companion on the same itinerary as the primary cardholder, up to a maximum of 1,700 reward miles)
  • Receive 4 complimentary visits per year to Priority Pass Worldwide Lounges
  • Receive access to the Toronto Pearson Priority Security Lane
  • Receive access Toronto Pearson Priority Limo and Taxi Lanes
  • Receive access to FlexFly Redemptions
  • Receive ability to redeem miles to pay for taxes and fees on a flight redemptions
  • Receive waived Air Miles flight administration fee

BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard

  • $120 annual fee
  • $50 annual fee for supplementary cardholders
  • Earn 2,000 sign up bonus miles (if you apply before August 31, 2017)
  • Earn 1 Air Mile for every $10 spent on all purchases
  • Receive a 25% discount on North America reward flights with no blackout periods
  • Receive 2 Priority Pass lounges passes per year

Annual Fee

This is a straightforward comparison, the one with the lower annual fee wins. The real question though is whether the annual fee is worth it.

Winner: BMO

Sign Up Bonus

The regular sign up bonuses are actually 1,000 for the BMO card and 2,400 for the AMEX card. All else equal, the winner is to the card that offers the higher regular sign up bonus.

Winner: AMEX

Earning Ratios

The BMO card actually has the edge on this one, even though they have the lower annual fee. I value 1 Air Mile at 11 cents a piece, so you are earning 1.1 cent per dollar or 1.1% return (11 cents / $10). This is still a fairly dismal return to me. Unless you are getting more than 11 cents per mile in value, I would not use an Air Miles co-branded credit card for my day-to-day spending.

Winner: BMO

Other Benefits

The AMEX card clearly has many more features and benefits associated with the card. I will break down whether the annual fee is justified:

  • BMO ($120) – 25% discount on North America reward flights + 2 lounge passes
  • AMEX ($299) – Companion Flight Benefits + 4 lounge passes + waived Air Miles flight administration fee + Onyx elite status

The AMEX card charged $179 more in annual fees, but to me, the Companion Flight Benefits alone already makes it worth it. Furthermore, to me, having Onyx status is better than the 25% discount from BMO.

Winner: AMEX

Whether Air Miles is worth a Second Look?

I have personally not put much effort in collecting Air Miles in the past few years. I still present my loyalty card at partnered stores, but I have not gone out of my way to collect them.

I think that it is worth a look if you feel that you have the time and energy to really study the Air Miles reward program to get value out of your redemption. There is still value to be had and I always recommend diversify your miles and points portfolio.

Conclusion

If you take the entire package into consideration, I would give the American Express Air Miles Reserve Card the overall edge. Their features and benefits can more than cover the annual fee. The value gap (between annual fee versus features and benefits) with the AMEX card is much larger value gap than with BMO card.

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Pointshogger aims to provide analysis and updates on earning loyalty reward points and maximizing the value of your points. We hope to inspire our readers to experience the joy of travel and make the most out of what they've already got!

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