Air Miles, one of Canada’s biggest and oldest loyalty programs with over 10-million active users, has come through a bad patch of turbulence with a new owner in BMO.
The trouble started in June 2022 when the parent company of grocery retailers Sobeys and Safeway announced it would be dropping Air Miles in favour of Scotiabank’s Scene+ program. Air Miles’ stock quickly lost half its value, and its parent company, Loyalty Ventures Inc., filed for bankruptcy this March. That same day, BMO swooped in to rescue the beleaguered program at a cost of $160-million USD.
Since then, the deal has received court approval and BMO has finalized its takeover of the loyalty program it helped start back in 1992.
What does this mean for your Air Miles Reward Miles and the future of the Air Miles program in Canada? Let’s take a look.
How does the Air Miles program work?
Air Miles is a customer loyalty program that rewards you for shopping at specific retailers. You can earn Air Miles Reward Miles, and then redeem them for travel, merchandise, or store credit.
Air Miles Reward Miles are divided into two categories: Cash Miles can be redeemed like cash when shopping in-stores or online at a fixed value of 10.53¢ per Mile, whereas Dream Miles can be redeemed for travel and merchandise at an average value of 12.1¢ per Mile.
You can choose to earn Cash Miles, Dream Miles, or a combination of both. But once Miles are earned, they can’t be converted to the other kind.
Where can you currently earn Air Miles?
Air Miles has lost some of its biggest partners in recent years. Sobeys, Safeway, Lowes, Staples and Rexall are some of the biggest brands to have parted ways with the program. But there are still plenty of ways to earn Air Miles Reward Miles in 2023.
Currently, you can earn Air Miles in-store at a variety of retailers including major brands like Shell, Metro, Timber Mart, Global Pet Foods, and Jiffy Lube. Online, you can use airmilesshops.ca to earn Air Miles at Amazon, Walmart, and dozens more. You can also earn Air Miles when booking travel with companies including Westjet, Air Canada, Porter, and IHG Hotels.
You can also earn Air Miles by linking any Canadian-issued Mastercard credit card to your Air Miles account and taking advantage of limited-time offers.
Finally, you can earn Miles with an Air Miles credit card from BMO.
With the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, you can earn 3 Miles for every $12 spent at Shell and Metro, 2 Miles for every $12 spent at grocery stores, and 1 Mile for every $12 spent elsewhere. As part of their welcome bonus, you can also earn up to $518 in new Samsung gear plus up to 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and annual fee waived in the first year!
What happens to my existing American Express Air Miles credit card?
As of April 10, 2023 American Express Air Miles credit cards have been discontinued and are no longer available to new applicants. These credit cards include:
- American Express Air Miles
- American Express Air Miles Platinum
- American Express Air Miles Reserve
- American Express Air Miles Business
- American Express Air Miles Business Gold
However, it is important to note that existing cardholders will see no change to their earnings and reward features for the time being. It may be worth considering other American Express credit cards.
Where can you currently redeem Air Miles?
You can redeem Air Miles Cash Miles in $10 increments to pay for purchases at Metro and Shell locations. You can also use the Air Miles website to claim eVouchers that can be used like cash at a variety of retailers like Starbucks, Indigo, Cineplex, and more.
You can redeem Air Miles Dream Miles for flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages and more using the Air Miles website. Note that you’ll have to use your credit card to pay any departure taxes as well as Air Miles’ booking fee of $20 per airline ticket when booking online.
What will change as BMO takes over the Air Miles program?
In its acquisition of Air Miles, BMO has promised to enhance the Air Miles program to make it even more rewarding for customers.
BMO says it will improve Air Miles’ travel booking platform to include better offers, more ways to book travel, and new ways to earn Air Miles when paying for travel with your credit card. It also wants to expand Air Miles to more brands where you can earn and redeem points.
Additionally, BMO has promised to introduce receipt scanning as a way to earn points, similar to the mechanic employed by the cash back app Checkout 51.
According to a news release, “There will also be an increased focus on leveraging AIR MILES’ industry-leading insights and technology to bring more value to the collector and partner experience.” In other words, BMO will be stepping up Air Miles’ ability to collect data about your spending habits and sell it to interested third-parties.
The news release also specifies that Reward Miles will not lose value and there will be no negative impact on your ability to earn and redeem points as a direct result of the acquisition.
What other loyalty programs are there in Canada?
Canada has dozens of loyalty programs similar to Air Miles that allow you to earn points and redeem them for travel and other rewards.
For travel, Air Miles’ biggest competitor is Aeroplan. Aeroplan members can earn points by purchasing travel with Air Canada, by linking accounts with other rewards platforms like Starbucks, and with Aeroplan credit cards offered by TD, CIBC, and American Express. Aeroplan points can be redeemed for flights, merchandise, gift cards and more at an average value of 2¢ per point.
When it comes to store credit, PC Optimum is Canada's leader. With PC Optimum, you can earn points on purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws grocery stores including Real Canadian Superstore and NoFrills, and Esso gas stations. You can also earn points on everyday spending with the PC Financial Mastercard. Points can be redeemed in $10 increments at a fixed value of 0.1¢ per point.
The bottom line
BMO has been involved with Air Miles since its inception over thirty years ago, and the program appears to be in safe hands with its new owner. There are no immediate changes to how you can earn and redeem Air Miles Reward Miles, and the program’s new ownership looks poised to return it to its former glory.