BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking Review: Extra perks for Midwestern sports fans

Four friends watching a Chicago Bulls game react with excitement while watching the game from the sofa.Image: Four friends watching a Chicago Bulls game react with excitement while watching the game from the sofa.
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BMO Harris Smart Advantage checking accounts at a glance

Physical locationsMore than 500 branches (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin)
Getting startedBy phone, in person or online ($25 opening deposit)
Monthly service feeNone
Overdraft fees$15 per overdraft (if overdrawn by $50+)
Other feesWire transfer, ATM card replacement, cashier’s check, money order, foreign transaction fee and others
How to depositZelle, direct deposit, in branch, mobile check deposit
How to withdrawZelle, checks, debit card, ATMs, in branch
Notable featureChoose between three debit card designs: Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks or Milwaukee Bucks (discounts at certain team stores)

BMO Harris is a popular regional bank with most of its locations in Arizona, Florida and the Midwest. It’s a full-service bank with options for savings accounts, loans, investment accounts, and more — including checking accounts.

It offers three main options for checking accounts, the most popular being the Smart Advantage as the main BMO Harris everyday checking account. Read on to learn more about BMO Harris Smart Advantage Checking.

5 things to know about a BMO Harris Smart Advantage checking account

1. You won’t earn interest

A lot of people think of savings accounts when it comes to earning interest, but there are actually many options for checking accounts that earn interest too. Unfortunately, this BMO Harris everyday checking account isn’t one of them.

If you want to avoid missing out on extra earnings, it’s a good idea to keep some of your money in a savings account. But then you run the risk of a new problem: the lower your checking account balance, the more likely you are to overdraw your account.

You can learn to divvy up money between a regular checking account and a savings account, or you can shop around for an interest-earning checking account to get the best of both worlds.

2. You won’t pay a monthly maintenance fee (but watch out for other costs)

While some checking accounts require a minimum balance to avoid monthly maintenance costs, the BMO Harris Smart Advantage checking account doesn’t require a monthly fee at all.

But that doesn’t mean this checking account is fee-free — you could run into charges like ATM fees, overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees, account closing fees and others.

It is possible to dodge many of these fees entirely. But you’ll need to read the fine print and meet the requirements to do so. If you worry a lot about fees, it’s better to seek out a fee-free checking account.

3. You’ll get an online toolset

One of BMO Harris’s strong points is its online and mobile offerings. Its app is highly rated by some users, and it offers useful features like mobile check deposit and mobile cash, which lets you withdraw money from a BMO Harris ATM without having to swipe your card.

BMO Harris also makes it easy to manage your finances through a program called Total Look, which lets you do things like make a budget and set savings goals. This lets you add and view the current balances of all your financial accounts, even if they’re not with BMO Harris (though you won’t be able to interact with them).

4. You can choose from two types of debit cards, one with sports perks

You can opt for a regular debit card with this account. But if you’re a sports fanatic, you’ll appreciate BMO Harris’s special debit card offerings. You can choose among three card designs, each with the logo of a favorite Midwest sports franchise: the Chicago Bulls, the Chicago Blackhawks or the Milwaukee Bucks.

Even better, using your debit card will net you a 15% to 20% discount on your team’s merchandise when you use it the United Center Team Store (for the Chicago teams) or the Fiserv Forum Bucks Pro Shops (for the Milwaukee Bucks).

5. You can opt-in to overdraft protection

If you want some extra assurance that no transactions will be declined, even if your funds are a little low, you can consider opting in to receive overdraft protection for debit card and ATM transactions. The big caveat is that if any transactions, including those covered by overdraft protection, do indeed overdraw your account, you’ll likely be charged a $15 overdraft fee each time. Another option is to set up a backup account for free overdraft transfers or set up an overdraft line of credit at a high 18% APR.

Does BMO Harris have a monthly fee?

Technically, there’s no monthly maintenance fee for the BMO Harris Smart Advantage checking account. But you may be automatically signed up for paper statements when you open your account, and there’s a $2 monthly charge for this service. You’ll need to take the initiative to opt out of this service in order to make this BMO Harris everyday checking account free of monthly fees.

What does everyday checking mean?

An “everyday checking account” is a colloquial term that usually describes a basic, no-frills checking account that meets the needs of most people.

It offers more perks than an entirely bare-bones account, such as a second-chance checking account that some banks offer to people getting back on track financially. It’s also not as feature rich as the premium checking accounts that some banks offer, which usually come with requirements like a high minimum deposit amount, an ongoing monthly deposit amount minimum or other criteria to keep the account open.

Not sure if BMO Harris’s Smart Advantage checking account is right for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Ally Bank: If you don’t mind giving up the convenience of being able to walk into a brick-and-mortar bank, the online-only Ally Bank offers many accounts that charge fewer fees and also yield more interest.
  • Mint: BMO Harris’s budgeting and savings tools are handy, but if you’d like a more holistic option with extra features and automations, the free Mint app is worth a try.

About the author: Lindsay VanSomeren is a freelance writer living in Kirkland, Washington. She has been a professional dogsled racer, a wildlife researcher, and a participant in the National Spelling Bee. She writes for websites such a… Read more.