Air Miles is Canada’s largest loyalty rewards program, and right now you probably have miles on your mind: As of Jan. 1, 2017, all unused miles collected before 2012 will expire. As well, expiring miles can only be redeemed in the Dream Rewards category for merchandise and travel (flights, hotels, cruises, and car rentals) exclusively through the Air Miles website.
With 79 days until the expiry date, there’s still time to squeeze in a vacation. Your flight, car rental, or hotel stay doesn’t have to occur by Dec. 31, it just has to be booked by then. Plus, you actually receive the greatest dollar value for your Air Miles when you book a last-minute flight as opposed to booking months in advance: The ticket price gets more expensive as the date of a flight approaches, but the required number of Air Miles and taxes remains constant.
The value of an Air Mile depends on your destination and when you travel:
- High season: Dec. 16 to Jan. 7, March 1 to 31, and June 1 to Sept. 15
- Low season: Sept. 16 to Dec. 15, Jan. 8 to Feb. 28, and April 1 to May 31
Most flights assessed by RateHub are better value in high season, but if your vacation time falls outside of that and you have an open mind regarding the destination, you can get better value for your miles by hitting up certain cities during off-peak times. Here are the top destinations with better value per mile during Air Miles’ low seasons:
Forgo the usual suspects (Toronto, Montreal, Calgary) for the more adventurous Yellowknife, which offers a better value of $0.023 per mile during the low season. If you’re more of a city person, you can visit Vancouver for $0.011 more per mile.
It’s an underdog vacation spot, for sure, but Kansas City is the best deal for low-season U.S. destinations, with better value by $0.072 per mile. Pass on Portland in favour of Seattle, which offers better value by $0.016 more per mile. Instead of Nashville or Charleston, you can visit Atlanta at $0.036 more per mile during low season.
There are a few options for a trip to the old continent: Instead of London, for example, it’s cheaper to visit Paris by $0.023 per mile during low season. Instead of Prague, hit up Warsaw, which offers better value by $0.024 per mile. Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul offers better value in low season by $0.004 per mile.
Travellers might be surprised to find that Rio de Janerio is a hot off-season destination, but it’s true—you’ll get better value in low season by $0.03 per mile.
If you’re closing in on the threshold to redeem, you can maximize your earning potential with an Air Miles-affiliated card. Compare the best Air Miles credit cards side by side to find the one that meets your spending needs.
If you’re new to the travel rewards game and want a card with more flexibility, consider the BMO World Elite MasterCard.
With this card, you’ll earn two points per dollar on all purchases that can be used toward flights (including taxes) on any airline with no blackout dates. The card also offers best in-class travel and medical insurance with no limit on trips per year, plus access to the BMO concierge service. The card’s annual fee is $150, and for a limited time you can get a $300 travel credit, plus $2 in travel rewards for every $100 in card purchases.
Whether your points balance is low or high, do your research so your expiring Air Miles don’t go to waste—it’s time to use them, or lose them.
- 3 Ways to Maximize Your Air Miles
- The True Value of Air Miles
- Review: BMO Air Miles World Elite MasterCard
Unsplash: Ashim D’Silva