BMO Harris Smart Advantage™ Account Review


You’re in the market for a free checking account and you want the security that comes with a bigger, FDIC-insured bank. Where do you turn?

If you don’t care about bells or whistles or financial perks, the BMO Harris Smart AdvantageTM Account is a good place to begin. It’s about as simple as a checking account can get without sacrificing any of the basics.


What Is the BMO Harris Smart Advantage Account?

The BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account is a free checking account from BMO Harris. It’s a simple account with no monthly maintenance fee, no ongoing minimum balance, a broad fee-free ATM network, and a sign-up bonus that’s better than most free checking accounts’.

This account has few value-added benefits or perks. For example, BMO doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM fees or waive overdraft fees for Smart Advantage account holders. But the account does have an excellent mobile app that basically eliminates the need to bank in-branch.

What Sets the BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account Apart?

The BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account has no truly unique features, but it does stand out for a few important reasons:

  • No monthly maintenance fee with electronic statements. As long as you opt into electronic statements, this account charges no monthly maintenance fee.
  • Above-average sign-up bonus for a free checking account. For a free checking account, Smart Advantage has an excellent sign-up bonus that’s worth $200 with qualifying direct deposits. 
  • Big ATM network with no withdrawal fees. BMO Harris Bank has more than 40,000 ATMs in its fee-free network. But be forewarned that BMO doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM fees on this account.

Key Features of the BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account

The BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account is a basic checking account that stands out mostly for its generous sign-up bonus and no monthly maintenance fee.

Sign-up Bonus

Open a new BMO Harris Smart Advantage Account by July 14, 2023, and get a $200 cash bonus when you receive a total of at least $4,000 in qualifying direct deposits within the first 90 days your account is open.

Minimum Deposit and Balance

The minimum deposit to open a BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account is $25. There’s no ongoing minimum balance once your account is open.

ATM Network

BMO Harris is part of the Allpoint ATM network, which means it has more than 40,000 fee-free ATMs across the United States. That includes many areas where BMO Harris doesn’t have branches.

However, Smart Advantage doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM fees, so avoid those to avoid surcharges.

Possible Account Fees

This account has no monthly maintenance fee when you opt into paper statements. Otherwise, your monthly fee is $3.

Other possible fees include:

  • A $3 out-of-network ATM fee
  • A $15 fee per overdraft unless you opt into Overdraft Protection, which may involve interest charges
  • A $3 fee per check image if you’re not enrolled in paperless statements

Mobile Features

BMO Harris has a comprehensive, user-friendly mobile app that supports:

  • Free mobile check deposit
  • Person-to-person Zelle transfers with no BMO user fees (though other fees may apply)
  • Budgeting and expense-tracking tools
  • One-dashboard view of all your BMO bank and credit card accounts

Advantages

BMO Harris Smart Advantage has no monthly maintenance fees, a generous sign-up bonus, and an unusually large fee-free ATM network. 

  • No monthly maintenance fee with paper statements. BMO Harris Smart Advantage charges no monthly fee (or any other type of maintenance fee) as long as you opt into paper statements. Otherwise, the paper statement fee is $3 unless you meet certain other qualifying criteria.
  • $200 sign-up bonus with qualifying direct deposits. By the standards of the no-maintenance-fee checking space, BMO Harris Smart Advantage has an above-average sign-up bonus. The direct deposit requirement is manageable for many would-be account holders too.
  • More than 40,000 fee-free ATMs. BMO Harris Bank has a big fee-free ATM network that includes many more than just BMO-branded machines. This is a big advantage over banks with smaller or proprietary ATM networks, including big ones like Chase Bank.

Disadvantages

BMO Harris Smart Advantage’s downsides revolve around what it lacks: relationship benefits, out-of-network ATM rebates, ongoing bonuses for account holders, and interest on balances. 

  • No relationship benefits. BMO Harris Smart Advantage is an entry-level checking account with no relationship benefits for account holders. By contrast, the BMO Harris Premier Account offers quarterly bonuses on credit card spending and discounts on loans originated with BMO. If you can afford that account’s maintenance fee or meet the waiver requirements, it’s a more rewarding option.
  • No out-of-network ATM rebates. BMO Harris Smart Advantage doesn’t reimburse out-of-network ATM surcharges. This is a disadvantage relative to BMO Harris Premier, which does, and other more generous checking accounts too.
  • No ongoing bonuses. Unlike the more generous BMO Harris Premier Account, Smart Advantage has no ongoing bonuses for account holders. The sign-up bonus is all you get.
  • No interest on balances. This account earns no interest on balances. That’s a disadvantage relative to the growing number of high-interest checking accounts on the market, a list that includes some accounts with no maintenance fees.

How the BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Account Stacks Up

If you’re just looking for a basic free checking account, BMO Harris Smart Advantage is perfect for you. If you’re looking for something more generous, it’s not — but the BMO Harris Premier Account could be.

BMO Harris Smart Advantage BMO Harris Premier
Monthly Maintenance Fee $0 $25, but can be waived
Waiver Requirements None needed Yes, required $10,000+ balance
ATM Fee Reimbursement None Up to $25 per month
Credit Card Benefits None Up to $75 in quarterly spending bonuses
Mortgage Benefits None Closing cost and interest rate discounts
Interest on Balances None 0.01% APY

Final Word

The BMO Harris Smart AdvantageTM Account is a no-frills free checking account that’s ideal if you’re not looking for anything fancy. With only a token minimum opening deposit and no ongoing minimum balance, it’s a good starter bank account that you can easily grow into (and hopefully, eventually, grow out of). The above-average sign-up bonus and robust mobile app are nice too.

However, if you expect more from your checking account, Smart Advantage probably won’t cut it. Unlike the BMO Harris Premier Account, it offers no discounts for BMO borrowers, no bonuses on credit card spending, and no out-of-network ATM fee reimbursements. It’s your money — choose wisely.



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