No financial institution can be all things to all people, but some come pretty close.
BMO Harris Bank is one of those banks. It’s a full-service bank with hundreds of branches in the United States (mainly in the Midwest and Southwest) and thousands of fee-free ATMs. With a comprehensive array of checking and savings accounts, plus credit cards, auto loans, and more, BMO Harris Bank is about as close as a bank can come to being a one-stop shop.
Does that mean BMO Harris Bank is right for you? Not necessarily. Plenty of other high-quality banks vie for your deposits every day. See whether BMO is the best fit — or whether you should see what else is out there instead.
What Is BMO Harris Bank?
BMO Harris Bank N.A. is an American bank that provides consumer and business banking services online and through a network of physical branches. Eligible deposits with the bank are FDIC-insured up to statutory limits set by Congress.
Its deposit accounts include checking, savings, money market, and certificates of deposit (CDs), and it also offers credit products like credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, personal loans, and private student loans. BMO Harris Bank has a wealth management division that focuses on relatively high net worth individuals and families, but no self-directed brokerage platform.
Is BMO Harris Bank a good place to park your cash, borrow money, and invest for the future? I’ve reviewed dozens of online banks and brick-and-mortar financial institutions over the years, and I believe BMO Harris Bank is in the upper echelon of the brick-and-mortar group. In other words, it’s one of the best traditional banks to work with — in part because it has embraced technology and innovation in a way that many of its competitors haven’t.
How BMO Harris Bank Stacks Up
BMO Harris Bank is a full-service financial institution that consistently ranks among the top traditional banks for U.S.-based consumers.
It competes not only with other big banks like Chase Bank and Citibank but with major online banks as well. If you’re torn between an “innovative incumbent” like BMO Harris Bank and an “established upstart” like Ally Bank, see for yourself how the two compare.
|BMO Harris Bank||Ally Bank|
|Monthly Maintenance Fees for Checking||None on the BMO Harris Smart Advantage™ Account||None|
|Savings Account Yields||Relatively low||3.60% APY|
|CD Yields||Up to 4.50% APY||Up to 4.25% APY|
|Credit Products||Credit cards, mortgages, credit-builder loans, home equity products, personal loans, auto loans, private student loans||Credit cards, mortgages, home equity products, auto loans|
|Self-Directed Brokerage||No, managed investments only||Yes|
|Physical Branches||Yes, in Illinois, Arizona, Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, Missouri, Kansas, and some other states||No|
What Sets BMO Harris Bank Apart?
Where does BMO Harris Bank get its edge? Out of all the bank’s advantages and selling points, three things really stand out:
- A Checking Account With No Monthly Maintenance Fee, Period. The BMO Harris Smart Advantage™ Account is a truly free checking account. It doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee, period, regardless of balance or relationship status with BMO, yet it’s packed with features. It’s rare to find an account like this at a big bank.
- One-Stop Shop for Credit. Even Ally Bank, probably the best online bank for borrowers, doesn’t bother with certain credit products. BMO Harris Bank has a comprehensive lineup of loans and lines of credit, from home and auto loans to personal and student loans.
- Excellent CD Rates (For a Traditional Bank). BMO Harris Bank’s CD rates are competitive with the top online banks for CD customers. And they blow most traditional banks’ CD rates out of the water.
Key Features of BMO Harris Bank
BMO Harris Bank has a comprehensive lineup of deposit accounts and loans, plus some nice value-adds like account opening bonuses and a handy digital app. See what to expect from its products and how to determine which, if any, are right for you.
Account Opening Bonus Opportunities
BMO Harris Bank has some fantastic new account opening bonus opportunities for new checking customers.
BMO Harris PremierTM Account — $350 Cash Bonus
This one is best for higher-income folks who have no problem meeting the direct deposit requirement. Here’s how it works:
Open a new BMO Harris PremierTM Account by July 14, 2023, and receive a total of at least $7,500 in qualifying direct deposits during the first 90 days of account opening. If you do, you’ll get a $350 cash bonus in your account.
This new checking account offer is not available for current BMO Harris personal checking customers, nor to customers who closed a personal checking account within the past 12 months. Open on-line or in branch; accounts subject to approval.
BMO Harris Smart AdvantageTM or BMO Harris Smart MoneyTM Account — $200 Cash Bonus
If you can’t notch $7,500 in qualifying direct deposits during the first 90 days, this bonus could be right for you. It’s nearly as generous:
Open a new BMO Harris Smart AdvantageTM or Smart MoneyTM Account by July 14, 2023, and receive a total of $4,000 in qualifying direct deposits within 90 days of account opening. Do this and you’ll get a $200 cash bonus in your account.
The same restrictions apply to this offer — you must be a new BMO Harris personal checking customer and can’t have had a BMO Harris personal checking account within the past 12 months.
BMO Harris Bank offers three consumer checking accounts, each with its own clear use case. All offer access to in-branch and online banking, plus low- or no-fee transactions at more than 40,000 in-network ATMs:
- BMO Harris Smart Advantage™ Account: With no monthly maintenance fee, this account is ideal for folks with modest incomes and low-ish balances — folks who wouldn’t be able to avoid monthly maintenance fees at most big competitor banks.
- BMO Harris Smart MoneyTM Account: Is a $5 monthly maintenance fee worth it for no overdraft fees, ever? If you occasionally dip into the red, probably yes. And there’s no maintenance fee if you’re under age 25, making this a solid student checking account.
- BMO Harris Premier™ Account: BMO’s fanciest checking account entitles you to relationship benefits like up to $25 in monthly out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement and 0.50% off your home equity line’s interest rate. Benefits increase with your total BMO deposit balance.
Like all banks, BMO charges some account fees beyond the headline monthly maintenance fees (where present). Here’s how the Smart Advantage Account’s fee schedule looks:
|Fee Type||Fee Amount|
|Monthly Maintenance Fee||$0|
|Allpoint and BMO Harris ATM transactions||$0|
|Non-BMO ATM transactions||$0|
|Paper statements||$2, but $0 when you opt into paperless|
|Check images||$3, but $0 when you opt into paperless|
|Overdraft fee||$15, but $0 when you opt into overdraft services|
|Minimum opening deposit||$25|
Savings Builder Account
The Savings Builder Account is BMO Harris Bank’s standard savings account. There’s a $25 minimum opening deposit and no monthly maintenance fee.
Savings Builder’s defining feature is a $5 reward for each month you save at least $200 during the first year. Save $200 per month for all 12 months of the first year from account opening and you’ll clear a cool $60 in extra cash.
Moving forward, the Savings Builder Account has a negligible yield — just 0.01% APY. First-year deposit bonus aside, it’s not suitable if you’re looking for a high-yield savings account. On the bright side, it doesn’t have the usual savings account transaction limit. You’re free to make as many withdrawals as you like without incurring a penalty.
Money Market Account
BMO Harris Bank’s money market account has a higher yield than the Savings Builder Account. However, the yield requires a paired Premier checking account, and your actual return depends on how much you have on deposit across all BMO accounts.
To get the best rates — 2.00% higher than the baseline — you need at least $250,000 in deposits with BMO. And you need at least $10,000 in the money market account to avoid the $10 monthly maintenance fee.
Needless to say, this one’s better if you have a lot of cash on hand.
Certificates of Deposit
BMO Harris Bank offers standard CDs with terms ranging from three months to 60 months (five years). All require a minimum opening deposit of $1,000 and charge interest penalties if you withdraw principal before maturity.
BMO’s standard CD rates are not competitive. The longer-term products earn less than 0.50%, compared with 4.00% APY or higher at the best online banks for CDs.
BMO does offer CDs with competitive rates though. These special CDs, as they’re known, earn upwards of 4.00% APY on terms ranging from 13 to 59 months. They require a minimum deposit of $5,000, but if you can swing that, they’re well worth it.
You can structure select CDs as individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and enjoy tax-deferred or tax-free growth.
Individual Health Savings Account
BMO Harris Bank is one of relatively few banks that offer direct-to-consumer health savings accounts (HSAs). If you’re enrolled in an individual or family high-deductible health plan (HDHP) not through your employer, a BMO Harris Bank HSA can help you save for planned and unplanned medical expenses — or save for retirement if you stay healthy.
BMO’s HSA is delivered by Lively, a leading provider of individual HSAs. There are no ongoing or hidden service fees or monthly fees — you pay nothing out of pocket for the account — and you can withdraw money at any time to cover eligible health care expenses without paying taxes. Your contributions may be tax-deductible as well.
BMO Harris Bank has four consumer credit cards, although its lineup has changed in the past and could in the future:
- BMO Harris Bank Platinum Rewards Mastercard®. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on eligible gas and groceries, up to $2,500 in combined purchases each calendar quarter. Plus, get 10% bonus points on your cardmember anniversary each year (based on prior-year spending) and 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 12 months from date of first transfer (must be completed within 90 days from date of account opening).
- BMO Harris Bank Premium Rewards Mastercard®. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on eligible dining, hotels, and airfare, up to $2,500 in combined spend each calendar quarter, plus 15% bonus points on your anniversary. The same first-year balance transfer promotion applies, but there’s a $79 annual fee after the first year.
- BMO Harris Bank Cash Back Mastercard®. Get 5% cash back on eligible streaming and cable/satellite TV purchases and 3% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases, up to $2,500 in combined spend per calendar quarter. Plus, get up to $400 in cellphone protection (restrictions apply) and the same first-year balance transfer deal.
- BMO Harris Bank Platinum Mastercard®. If you need to finance a major purchase, this is your card. Enjoy 0% APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
Loans and Lines of Credit
BMO Harris Bank offers a full lineup of loans and lines of credit:
- Mortgage loans, including fixed-rate and variable-rate conventional loans, jumbo loans, and specialty loans like VA and FHA mortgages
- Home equity products, including home equity loans and lines of credit
- Specialty property loans for bank-owned properties — BMO is one of the few banks that connects consumers with distressed property opportunities
- Unsecured personal loans and lines of credit
- Savings secured loans — borrow against your savings balance
- Credit-builder loans — ideal for people just beginning their credit journeys
- Auto loans
- Private student loans and student loan refinancing
Premier customers may qualify for rate discounts and other benefits on select loan products.
Wealth Management Services
BMO Harris Bank has a team of in-house wealth advisors who offer financial planning and investment management services customized to your needs. One thing to note here: BMO doesn’t have a self-directed brokerage, so if you prefer to manage your own funds, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Mobile Banking App
The BMO Harris mobile banking app is compatible with Android and iOS devices. It’s capable of handling most everyday banking functions, including online bill pay, money transfers, and statement review.
Advantages of BMO Harris Bank
BMO Harris Bank has a lot going for it. These are its most notable advantages.
- Actually Has a Free Checking Account With No Minimum Balance. BMO Harris Bank is one of the few big banks that has a truly free checking account: the Smart Advantage Account. Most competitors require you to jump through some sort of hoops to avoid a monthly fee or impose age-based restrictions you can’t avoid.
- Offers a Health Savings Account for Individuals. BMO Harris Bank’s individual HSA is another rarity among big banks. And it’s backed by Lively, a leader in the HSA space.
- Built-in Free Overdraft Protection With Smart Money. BMO’s Smart Money Account doesn’t charge for overdrafts, period. Call it complimentary overdraft protection — it’s a big deal if you sometimes cut it close.
- Impressive Range of Deposit Accounts and Loans. BMO Harris has three checking accounts, several savings products, and just about every major type of consumer loan you can imagine. It’s a one-stop shop for consumer financial products and services.
- Competitive Rates on Special CDs. If you can meet the $5,000 minimum balance requirement, BMO’s special CDs are a great deal. Yields range from 2.00% to 3.00% annual percentage yield and appear responsive to changes in benchmark interest rates.
Disadvantages of BMO Harris Bank
Consider these potential drawbacks before opening an account with BMO Harris Bank.
- Poor Savings Account Yields. BMO’s Savings Builder Account has a very poor yield. It’s not even worth talking about, frankly — if you’re in the market for a high-yield savings account, look elsewhere.
- Standard CD Rates Aren’t Competitive. BMO’s standard CD rates aren’t competitive either. Fortunately, as long as the special CDs are available, you don’t have to bother with them.
- Special CDs Have High Minimum Balance Requirements. BMO’s special CDs have high minimum balance requirements ($5,000). If that’s tough for you to swing, you may need to look elsewhere for competitive CDs.
- Premier Benefits Have High Balance Requirements. BMO’s Premier relationship tiers offer lots of potentially valuable perks and benefits, but you have to hold up your end of the bargain by bringing tens of thousands of dollars to the table. The juiciest perks are reserved for people with at least $250,000 in eligible BMO accounts.
Is BMO Harris Bank Legit?
Yes, BMO Harris Bank is legit. It’s the eighth largest bank in North America by assets and serves more than 12 million customers on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. It has been in business for nearly 200 years and has paid dividends to shareholders for virtually all of that time — dividends that have steadily increased over the decades.
For U.S.-based customers, BMO Harris Bank is a Member FDIC institution, which means eligible deposits are insured up to statutory limits by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. When you open a checking, savings, money market, or CD account with BMO Harris, you can rest assured that your money is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government — up to $250,000 per account type.
BMO Harris Bank is a full-service financial institution that has been in business for hundreds of years and serves millions of customers in the U.S. and Canada. It’s accessible through a network of physical branches (mostly in the Midwest and Southwest), through thousands of in-network ATMs, and online and through the BMO Harris Bank mobile app from anywhere.
BMO Harris Bank stands out for several reasons. It has one of the best no-maintenance-fee checking accounts of any big bank. It offers a comprehensive lineup of savings products, although its actual savings accounts don’t have competitive yields. And it’s basically a one-stop shop for consumer credit, from credit cards and auto loans to mortgages and education financing.
If you’re in the market for a new bank, I’d encourage you to give BMO Harris Bank serious consideration. It’s not perfect, to be sure, but it’s better than most.