Air Miles is one of the oldest and most widely known loyalty and rewards programs in Canada. For many years, if you asked any person on the street what loyalty programs they were a part of, Air Miles would often be one of the cards you’d find in their wallet. The program has been ubiquitous with an easy-to-redeem currency and the main points program to save on travel costs.
In recent times, Air Miles has lost a few major partners and thus has fallen a bit from its former glory. Of note, previous partners such as Sobeys, Safeway, and more, are now linked to the Scene+ Rewards program. As a result, the program has lost a fair amount of its earning and redemption options. However, a few niche opportunities still exist.
Cash Miles vs Dream Miles
When you first set up your Air Miles account, you are asked if you want to collect cash miles or dream miles, and in what ratio (percentage). This percentage can be adjusted in the future. This means that if you earn 10 Air Miles and have a 70% cash mile and 30% dream mile split, your 10 miles will convert to 7 cash miles and 3 dream miles.
Cash miles are redeemable for cash equivalent items, such as purchasing gasoline at a Shell station or purchasing an Uber Eats eVoucher on the Air Miles rewards store. On the other hand, dream miles are redeemable for travel and personal shopper purchases.
You can adjust your cash miles and dream miles earning percentages as often as you like by logging into your Air Miles account. Any changes made will be effective the following business day. We will cover more regarding which redemptions each type of Air Mile is eligible for.
Cash miles cannot be transferred to dream miles and vice versa. This means that once you have earned a cash mile or dream mile, that cannot be changed. As a result, ensure you have your balance preference set properly in advance of earning a large amount of Air Miles.
Earning Air Miles
There are five main ways to earn Air Miles in Canada: credit card welcome bonuses, spending on Air Miles branded credit cards, making purchases through Air Miles Shops, Air Miles promotions, and spending at Air Miles associated retailers.
Credit Card Bonuses
Bank of Montreal (BMO) offers both personal and business Air Miles credit cards with various perks and welcome bonuses. Being approved for a new Air Miles credit card (or even multiple) is the fastest way to accrue a large amount of Air Miles in the least amount of time.
There are four Air Miles credit cards offered in Canada:
|Credit Card||Welcome Bonus||Net Value|
|BMO AIR MILES World Elite Business||3,000 AIR MILES||$450||Apply|
|BMO AIR MILES World Elite||2,000 AIR MILES||$300||Apply|
|BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business||1,000 AIR MILES||$150||Apply|
|BMO AIR MILES||800 AIR MILES||$120||Apply|
Credit Card Spending
Each of the Air Miles credit cards listed above earns miles at various rates, depending on the purchase category and card that is being used for the purchase. However, the earning rates are quite poor as you will typically earn one Air Mile per $10, $12, or $20 spent. If we value one Air Mile at 10.5 cents, this is a return rate of 1.05%, 0.875%, and 0.5% respectively.
While holding an Air Miles credit card can be a good way to increase your balance, there are many better options for credit cards when it comes to maximizing the rate of return on your spending.
Related: Best Grocery Credit Cards in Canada
Air Miles Shops – Online Shopping Portal
Similar to Rakuten and other cash back online shopping portals, Air Miles Shops is a great way to increase your Air Miles balance simply by shopping online. In order to take advantage, simply visit Air Miles Shops and sign in to your Air Miles account. From there, click through to any partnered retailer and make a purchase to earn miles.
Air Miles are earned at a base rate of 1 mile per $20 spent at any partnered retailer through Air Miles Shops. However, there are often promotions at certain points in the year that increase the rate at which you can earn Air Miles.
Check out our guide linked below if you are interested in learning more.
Air Miles Retailer Spend & Promotions
Air Miles can be earned for all purchases at partnered retailers. Miles are earned at various rates depending on the partner, and partners do vary depending on the province you are located in.
Oftentimes, retailers will run specific promotions that may see you earning a set amount of Air Miles for making a specific purchase. For example, you may earn additional miles or miles at an increased rate for purchasing a premium type of fuel at Shell.
You can find a list of all Air Mile partner offers in your province here.
Redeeming Air Miles
There are four options for redeeming your Air Miles for rewards: travel, Onyx personal shopper, in-store purchases, and merchandise & eVouchers.
If you are collecting Air Miles dream miles, you can redeem them towards flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, cruises, and tickets for US theme parks and attractions.
Redemption rates vary when using your dream miles for any travel redemptions, so it is important to check if you are redeeming for at least a value of 10.5 cents per Air Mile.
If you are interested in exploring the option of redeeming your Air Miles for travel purchases, click here. Simply select the type of redemption you are interested in making, enter the relevant details such as dates and routing, and search. You will then be able to see the total dream miles cost for your desired travel redemption and you are able to proceed with the purchase if interested.
Onyx Personal Shopper
If you are an Onyx Air Miles member and you want to redeem your dream miles for a merchandise purchase, the best option is taking advantage of the personal shopper program. This exclusive redemption option is only available to Onyx members and gives you the opportunity to redeem miles toward any physical item you can dream of, provided you have the required miles.
When using this redemption method, dream miles are cashed out at an approximate rate of 95 dream miles = $10 CAD. You are easily able to estimate the total miles required on the Air Miles personal shopper website. From there, you can choose to submit a formal price quote provided you have enough dream miles in your account.
In the past, I have redeemed dream miles for an espresso machine and laser printer through the personal shopper service. In my experience, the process was quick once a dream mile quote was provided and I approved the order.
If you want to learn more about the personal shopper process or submit for a merchandise redemption of your own, click here.
In-Store Purchases & eVouchers
If you are collecting Air Miles cash miles, you can redeem them for purchases at in-store retailer partners and for eVouchers. Cash miles can be redeemed at a rate of 95 miles for $10 CAD.
If you want to redeem your cash miles at an in-store retailer partner, simply tell the cashier that you want to redeem Air Miles towards your purchase. If you are redeeming at a gas station pump, you will be prompted to redeem Air Miles after swiping your membership card. You can see all retailer partners available for your province here.
Air Miles also offers virtual gift cards, or eVouchers, which can be redeemed for and used online or in-store. These eVouchers are available for a variety of retailers and services, including The Keg, Spotify, Uber Eats, and more. You can see all of the eVouchers available for your province here.
Air Miles Elite Status
Similar to other loyalty programs, Air Miles members can earn status within the program that grants them access to a variety of benefits. Status is earned based on the total number of miles accrued in one account during a calendar year.
Once the status is earned, it is good for the current calendar year and the following calendar year.
Air Miles members need to earn between 500 and 4,999 miles during a calendar year to qualify for gold status.
Alternatively, two credit cards offer immediate gold status as a perk of holding the credit card. Both the BMO Air Miles Mastercard and BMO Air Miles No-Fee Business Mastercard will grant status upon being approved for either card.
Gold members receive a handful of perks within the Air Miles program:
- Redeem up to 30% fewer dream miles on flight awards
- Redeem up to 5% fewer dream miles on merchandise
On the whole, Air Miles gold status is not worth pursuing as it doesn’t have any significant or truly beneficial perks.
Air Miles members need to earn 5,000 miles during a calendar year in order to qualify for onyx status.
Alternatively, many credit cards offer immediate and complimentary onyx status as a perk of holding the credit card. All of the following cards will grant instant onyx status once you are approved for them: BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, BMO Air Miles World Elite Business Mastercard, and the BMO Air Miles Business Mastercard.
Onyx members receive access to a variety of perks including:
- Redeem up to 40% fewer dream miles on flight awards
- Redeem up to 10% fewer dream miles on merchandise
- Priority customer care phone line
- Personal shopper redemption service
The most valuable perk is most likely gaining access to the personal shopper redemption option, which makes it so you can redeem Air Miles for any physical item that you desire. If you are interested in earning onyx status, check out our related article below.
Related: Earn Air Miles Onyx Status Fast
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is an Air Mile worth?
One Air Mile is worth 10.5 cents.
Do Air Miles expire?
Yes. If an Air Miles account is inactive for 24 months, the miles within that account will be lost.
What is the minimum number of Air Miles I can redeem?
The minimum number of Air Miles that can be redeemed for any redemption is 95 Air Miles (worth $10).
How can I check my Air Miles balance?
You can check your Air Miles balance by logging into the Air Miles app or website.
Are Cash Miles or Dream Miles better?
This is situational depending on your redemption goals. Cash miles are better for retail and gift card purchases, whereas dream miles are better for travel and merchandise redemptions.
What can I redeem my Air Miles Cash Miles for?
Air Miles cash miles can be redeemed for in-store purchases and eVouchers with partners. You can see the full list of Air Miles partners available in your province here.
What can I redeem my Air Miles Dream Miles for?
Air Miles dream miles can be redeemed for travel purchases and through the Onyx personal shopper service for merchandise of your choice.
How can I adjust my cash miles and dream miles preference?
You can adjust your cash miles and dream miles preference by logging into your Air Miles account and clicking “Balance Preference”. From there, you can adjust the earning preference percentages. Any changes will take effect the next business day.