Points Guru Chronicles: How the Air Miles Program Works

Craig Sebastiano
by Craig Sebastiano March 15, 2017 / No Comments

Air Miles is one of the most recognized rewards programs in Canada. If you want to earn points faster, you should consider getting an Air Miles credit card.

About Air Miles

The Air Miles rewards program was launched in 1992 and now has more than 10 million active collector accounts. In late 2011, the company announced that all reward miles already earned would expire on Dec. 31, 2016 and all miles earned after that would have a five-year timeline in which they’d need to be redeemed. After a number of customers complained and just before the Government of Ontario banned loyalty rewards points from expiring, Air Miles cancelled its expiry policy in December 2016.

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Air Miles Cash and Dream Rewards

Beginning in 2012, members were given the option of redeeming their miles for Air Miles Cash or Dream Rewards. Air Miles Cash allows you to redeem miles towards your everyday purchases either in store or for electronic vouchers at participating reward partners. Dream Rewards allows you to redeem miles towards travel or merchandise.

When you create or sign into your Air Miles account, you can set your rewards balance preference and decide what percentage of your miles you want to allocate to Air Miles Cash and Dream Rewards. Note that miles can’t be moved between Air Miles Cash and Dream Rewards balances.

How to earn Air Miles

Air Miles can be earned in a number of ways. First, you can get Air Miles by presenting your card at a number of partners, including Best Western, Embassy Suites, Foodland, Fountain Tire, Hampton Inn, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Lowe’s, Marlin Travel, Rexall Pharma Plus, Rona, Safeway, Shell, and Staples.

Second, you can earn Air Miles by signing into airmilesshops.ca and making purchases at more than 100 online retailers, including Amazon.ca, Apple, Banana Republic, Coach, eBay, Hudson’s Bay, J. Crew, Microsoft, and Sears.

And third, you can sign up for an Air Miles credit card to help you earn points more quickly. BMO Bank of Montreal and American Express offer a number of travel rewards credit cards affiliated with the Air Miles rewards program.

BMO offers these cards: The BMO Air Miles MasterCard (no annual fee and 500 bonus Air Miles), the BMO SPC Air Miles MasterCard for students (no annual fee and 400 bonus Air Miles), and the BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard ($120 annual fee and 2,000 bonus Air Miles). With the two no-fee credit cards, you’ll earn one mile per $20 spent on the card. And with the World Elite MasterCard, you’ll earn one mile per $10 spent.

American Express offers these cards: The American Express Air Miles Platinum credit card ($65 annual fee and 2,000 bonus Air Miles) and the American Express Air Miles credit card (no annual fee and 500 bonus Air Miles).

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BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard

bmo-air-miles-world-elite-mastercard

  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn one mile for every $10 in credit card purchases
  • Get up to 2,000 bonus Air Miles (limited time)

 

American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card

american-express-air-miles-platinum

  • $65 annual fee
  • Earn one reward mile for every $10 in card purchases at Air Miles sponsors as well as grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada
  • Earn one reward mile for every $15 in card purchases everywhere else
  • Receive a welcome bonus of 2,000 Air Miles when you charge $500 in the first three months

The more miles you earn, the better your rewards. There are three membership levels:

  • Blue—This is the standard level for members who earn up to 1,000 miles in a calendar year.
  • Gold—Members who earn between 1,000 and 5,999 miles receive up to 30% off on flights, up to 50% off merchandise and event rewards, and access to exclusive events and contests.
  • Onyx—Members who earn 6,000 or more miles a year receive up to 40% discounts off flights, up to 50% off merchandise and event rewards, access to exclusive events and contests, priority service at the call centre, and personal shopper service.

Program updates

Beginning on April 3, the online merchandise rewards catalogue will be available to all collectors. And Gold members will be able to receive up to 10% off all merchandise while Gold members will receive up to 20% off. Also, up to 40% of the merchandise will be available for purchase using credit card and Dream Miles.

How to redeem Air Miles

Cash rewards can be redeemed instantly in store at participating reward partner locations or online for Air Miles eVouchers. Flight redemptions and hotel bookings can also be made online, but vacation packages can only be booked over the phone.

The value of Air Miles

When redeeming your miles for flights, there are low and high seasons. Mileage requirements are fixed at a higher level for the high season, making flights during these times more expensive than if you travelled during the low seasons.

  • Low season: Jan. 8 to Feb. 28, April 1 to May 31, and Sept. 16 to Dec. 15
  • High season: March 1 to March 31, June 1 to Sept. 15, Dec. 16 to Jan. 7

Have you ever wondered how much one mile is worth? The value of Air Miles depends on what you redeem your them for. For example, if you choose to redeem your miles for a round trip from Toronto to Kansas City, one mile could be worth as much as $0.3020 during the low season. But if you used the miles and flew to Montreal, one mile is worth only $0.1004. According to our research, the average value of one mile is $0.121.

If you collect Air Miles Cash and redeem 95 miles for $10 off or for a $10 eVoucher, your miles are worth just $0.1053 each ($10 ÷ 95 miles = $0.1053).

The bottom line

To earn points faster, you should use an Air Miles credit card to pay for all of your purchases. If you use your Air Miles credit card and present your membership card at participating retailer, you can maximize the number of miles you earn.

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