Air Miles is one of Canada’s biggest reward programs. But how do the rewards work? How many Air Miles to fly are needed? And what is the actual value of an Air Miles point? Read on to find out.
About Air Miles
Air Miles just might be the most popular rewards program in Canada. The program is free and easy, allowing members to earn Air Miles when making purchases at participating stores and businesses. Air Miles can be redeemed for a variety of rewards including travel, merchandise, tickets, and even discounts towards your groceries.
Each retail partner offers a different number of Air Miles points earned depending on the purchase, but the average seems to be about 1 Mile earned for every $20 spent. Of course, you can ‘double-dip’ and earn even more by using an Air Miles credit card (more on that later).
New users should note that Air Miles rewards are divided into two different categories, and you get to choose which you’d prefer to collect: Cash Miles or Dream Miles. You can split how you want to earn your Miles per category (e.g. 50/50, 80/20, etc.), but once you’ve earned Miles in a specific category, they can’t be transferred. While you can switch at any time, it’s in your best interest to choose the best option for your needs right away.
Using Air Miles Cash Miles
Air Miles Cash Miles are meant to be used towards any purchases of your typical every-day, in-store items at businesses such as Rexall, Metro, Starbucks, and more. With Air Miles Cash, it’ll cost you 95 cash miles to claim $10 at participating stores. You’ll need to redeem, at minimum, $10 worth and up to a maximum of $750 per account per day. Increments will increase at $10 levels.
Air Miles Cash Miles can also be redeemed online for e-vouchers (in the same increments as you would use for in-store purchases. However, it is important to note that Cash Miles cannot be redeemed for gift cards or pre-paid credit cards.
Interested in learning what stores you can redeem your Cash Miles at? Take a look at this directory.
Air Miles Dream Miles Program
Air Miles Dream Miles is the program to choose if you want to use your rewards towards experiences and merchandise. Think bigger ticket items like flights and hotels, though they can also be used for car rentals and travel insurance as well. The number of points it takes to redeem a flight depends on where you’re flying to and what season it is. In general, flights offer good value for your Miles, but cashing in your Miles for events (such as concert tickets) can give you even more value.
Another popular way to redeem Dream Miles is with a vacation package through RedTag.ca. The value placed on Dream Miles: 909 Dream Miles is equal to $100 off on these packages. Cruisers will be excited to know that you can now book cruise packages with your Dream Miles as well.
The Best Way to Earn Air Miles
So, now that you’ve figured out what exactly you can use your Air Miles for, you’ll no doubt be wanting to know the best way to earn Air Miles. After all, the faster you earn, the faster you can redeem. You can earn them by shopping at Air Miles partner stores, but the best way to earn Air Miles is to combine shopping at partner stores with an Air Miles credit card.
How it works: you earn Air Miles on every $1 that you charge to your Air Miles credit card, plus twice the Air Miles if it’s a purchase from a participating Air Miles partner. All you have to do is scan or enter your Air Miles membership card at check out, and then use your Air Miles credit card to pay. Using an Air Miles credit card is the fastest way to accumulate Air Miles.
There are a few Air Miles credit cards on the market, but based on our research, we think that these Air Mile credit cards are the best picks in Canada.
|Credit Card||Annual Fee||Welcome Bonus/Points Ratio||Reward Miles||More Info|
|BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®||$120 (waived for first year)||2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles||1 reward mile for every $12 in credit card purchases||Learn More|
|American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card||$120||2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (Conditions apply)||1 Mile for every $5 on food and drinks, gas and transit|
1 Mile for every $10 on all other purchases
|BMO AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*||$0||800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles||1 Mile per $25 on all purchases|
3x Miles per $25 at participating AIR MILES Partners
|American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card||$0||500 Miles||1 Mile for every $15 at Air Miles Sponsors|
1 Mile for every $20 on all other purchases
BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®
The BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard® has a great welcome bonus of 2,000 Air Miles (worth $215 at participating stores in cash rewards!) and some of the best points-earning potential on the market. You’ll also get an excellent earn rate of 1 Air Mile for every $12 in purchases charged to your card – the highest Air Miles rate of return currently out there for an Air Miles credit card. Additional perks include a complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey, comprehensive travel insurance (including travel medical up to 15 days), and a 15% discount on all Air Miles flights in North America. The annual fee of $120 is a bit high, but it’s waived for the first year and when you consider the perks and how quickly this credit card will allow you to earn points, you’ll still end up ahead.
- Annual Fee: $120 (first year free)
- Income Eligibility: $80,000 individual or $150,000 household
- Credit Score Required: Excellent
- Welcome Offer: 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
- Additional Perks: Travel insurance, Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey
- Purchase APR: 20.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents)
American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card
At $120 per year, the American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card is a pricier option, but it does an impressive welcome bonus of 2,000 Bonus Miles. To get the bonus, all you have to do is charge a total of $1,500 in purchases to your card within your first three months of cardmembership. That’s enough to redeem for $200 towards your purchases with AIR MILES®* Cash.
This card also has an outstanding earn rate at 1 Mile for every $5 spent at Air Miles sponsors, as well as eligible grocery stores, gas stations, and drug stores. Other purchases earn at a rate of 1 Air Mile per $10. Additional perks include car rental theft and damage insurance and travel insurance. Check out the bonus referral options when applying for the card.
- Annual Fee: $120
- Minimum Income Eligibility: N/A
- Credit Score Required: Good to Excellent
- Welcome Bonus: Up to 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
- Additional Perks: Travel accident insurance, car rental insurance, purchase protection, and buyer’s assurance protection
- Purchase APR: 20.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
BMO AIR MILES®† Mastercard®*
A great no annual fee credit card is the BMO AIR MILES®† Mastercard®* which comes with a decent sign-up bonus of 800 Air Miles Bonus Miles. The earn rate for this card is 1 Air mile per $25 spent on purchases; however, you’ll get 3X the points at participating Air Miles partners.This credit card also comes with an extended warranty and purchase protection. Not bad for a no annual fee credit card with a rewards program!
- Annual Fee: $0
- Minimum Income Eligibility: $15,000/year
- Credit Score Required: Good
- Welcome Offer: 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
- Additional Perks: Extended warranty and purchase protection
- Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99% (21.99% for Quebec residents)
American Express® AIR MILES®* Credit Card
The American Express® AIR MILES®* is another no annual fee credit card worth putting in your wallet. You’ll earn a welcome bonus of 500 Air Miles when you spend $500 on the card within the first 3 months of card membership. The earn rate is 1 Mile for every $15 in card purchases at Air Miles Sponsors, and 1 Mile for every $20 spent everywhere else. Any purchases made with this credit card are also covered by travel accident insurance, buyer’s assurance, and purchase protection. Plus, as an American Express cardholder, you get exclusive American Express Invites™ to entertainment, events, and dining experiences.
- Annual Fee: $0
- Income Eligibility: N/A
- Credit Score Required: Good-Excellent
- Welcome Bonus: 500 AIR MILES Reward Miles when you charge $500 in purchases to your card within the first 3 months
- Additional Perks: Travel accident insurance
- Purchase APR: 20.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
Calculate Annual Air Miles Rewards’ Value
For each of the credit cards above, calculate the Air Miles rewards value you can earn based on your personal spending categories:
Other Ways to Earn Air Miles Fast
In addition to getting an Air Miles credit card, there are a few simple ways you can boost your Air Miles earnings:
- Shop regularly at Air Miles partners: Air Miles has hundreds of retail and service partners that give you Miles when you purchase from them. It’s pretty easy to earn Miles through these partners with everyday spending, as they include popular stores such as Metro, Safeway, Sobeys, Shell Canada, the LCBO, Staples, Rona, and others. Focus your spending at these partners and you’ll quickly see more Miles added to your rewards statements.
- Shop online at AirMilesShops.ca: One way to earn Air Miles fast is to shop online with AirMilesShops.ca – an online shopping portal of 200+ retailers where you can earn Air Miles for every dollar you spend. By shopping through this site, you’ll earn 1 Mile per $20 spent at most participating retailers. In addition, there are often bonus offers that allow you to multiply your Air Miles and get 2X (or even 3X) the Miles.
- Hunt for promos: Air Miles partners sometimes offer special promotions where you can earn as much as 20X the Miles on purchases. Keep your eye out for these offers, and you can really maximize your earn rate.
How Many Air Miles Do You Need to Fly?
One of the biggest questions when it comes to Air Miles is: how many Air Miles for a flight is needed? Unfortunately, there’s no straight-forward answer. The value of your Air Miles depends on where you are flying, the airline class (economy/premium economy/business), and when you are flying.
So if you are wondering, for example, how many Air Miles for a flight from Vancouver to Toronto is needed, it will depend on whether you are travelling during high season or low season:
- Low season falls under the following dates: January 8th -February 28th, April 1st -May 31st , or September 16-December 15
- High season is: March 1st– March 31st, June 1st –September 15th, December 16th-January 7th
The Air Miles program charges clients a fixed mileage level depending on whether you are travelling during the high or low season, and where you are going. You can take a look at the Air Miles “Where Can I Fly” page to get more ideas of how many points you will need to get to your chosen destination. The following chart will also give you an example:
|Route||Low Season||High Season|
Air Mile Value
You can figure out the exact value of an Air Mile if you’re willing to do a bit of research and some math. Just follow these steps:
- Search flight prices on the route you are interested in on a site like Kayak.com
- Search for the same flight route on your Air Miles account, and make note of the points required PLUS the dollar value for additional taxes and fees.
- Take the price you found online via Kayak, subtract the taxes and fees that would be charged if you used your Air Miles. This will give you’re your net gain.
- Then, take your net gain and divide it by the number of Air Miles required to find the value of a single Air Mile for the flight you are looking at.
This same process can be used for all rewards, not just flights.
For those not interested in doing the math, know that several personal finance experts have calculated that the average Air Mile value is somewhere between $0.10 to $0.15. However, when number-crunching, we recommend using the lower estimate just to be safe. By the way, if you’re wondering how Air Miles stacks up against Aeroplan, take a look at our Aeroplan vs. Air Miles comparison guide.
How to Redeem Air Miles
Redeeming your Air Miles is quite easy, though the process will be different depending on whether you chose to collect Cash Miles of Dream Miles.
If you chose Cash Miles, you can redeem them both in-store or online. In-store, you can ask at the checkout to redeem your points. Just show the individual at the register your Air Miles collector card. If you would rather redeem them online for an e-voucher, it can be done through the official Air Miles website.
If you have Dream Miles, you will need to redeem them online. Log into your Air Miles account and use their travel portal. You will find a rewards catalogue here with over 1,000 options to choose from.
Getting The Most Out of Air Miles Points
Air Miles is one of Canada’s most popular rewards programs, and it’s easy to see why: with so many Canadian retailers and services involved as partners, Air Miles are quite easy to collect. However, to really get the most out of your Air Miles points your best bet is to sign up for one of the best Air Miles credit cards. Not only will you get bonus Air Miles just for signing up, you can earn points even faster, just by charging your everyday shopping onto the card. It’s that easy!
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