Air Miles is one of the best-known loyalty programs in Canada.
And everyone has an opinion on it: you either love it or hate it.
But with 8 ways to redeem your miles, 3 channels to collect them, and…
…a high 17.2 cents per mile when you redeem for flights ‒ there’s a reason why we, Canadians, still keep this loyalty card in our wallets.
Air Miles at a glance
|Value of an AIR MILE:||High: $0.216 for concerts
Low: $0.077 for merchandise
|Best ways to redeem AIR MILES:||* Flights – 17.2 cents per mile (CPM)
* Car rentals – 16.2 CPM
* Hotels – 12.3 CPM
* Vacation packages – 11 CPM
* Attractions – 13.4 CPM
* Concerts – 21.6 CPM
* Merchandise – 7.7 CPM
* Cash rewards – 10.5 CPM
|How to earn AIR MILES:||* Loyalty card at AIR MILES sponsors
* BMO AIR MILES Plans
* 15 credit cards
|Who these rewards are good for:||* World Travellers
* Entertainment Lovers
* Avid Savers and Investors
|Frequently Asked Questions:||* Level of flexibility? Medium
* Blackout dates? No
* Will I lose my miles if I cancel an award flight? Yes
* Do rewards expire? Not anymore
* Rewards cover taxes and fees? No
* Can rewards be transferred? No
* Is there a way to earn rewards faster? Yes
Calculating the value of an Air Mile
When most people hear “AIR MILES,” they think travel.
In reality, there are a variety of ways to redeem your miles.
And since all redemptions are not created equal, it’s important to know what your miles can potentially be worth.
Choosing between Dream and Cash Miles
Before looking at what a mile is worth, you’ll first have to decide whether you want to collect Dream Miles or Cash Miles.
You can collect all of one type, or earn a combination of both. For example, you can set a preference to earn 75% Dream Miles and 25% Cash Miles.
Cash Miles can only be used for in store discounts or cash vouchers, while Dream Miles are used for everything else.
Once a mile is earned in either category, it cannot be transferred to the other.
Value of an Air Mile when redeemed for travel: 14.1 CPM
Redeeming for travel is one of the best ways to redeem your miles.
And with AIR MILES, you actually have 4 different options for redeeming your miles to cover travel expenses:
Flights: 17.2 CPM
Flights generally offer the best value for your miles.
And with AIR MILES there’s always plenty of availability since there are no blackout dates on their flights.
The caveat? Unless you can book well in advance and are flexible with your travel dates, you’ll end up using more miles for your flights.
AIR MILES has a flight chart that tells you how many miles you need to fly somewhere. However, there are limited quantities of these seats available and you’ll often be required to redeem more than what’s listed.
If you can be flexible with your dates and get the lowest required mileage flights, the value of each mile will increase by 3.4 cents, from 13.9 to 17.2 cents per mile.
That’s a 25% boost in value.
To show the range of value you can get when booking flights, we surveyed 4 options for each flight:
- flights booked on very specific dates during low season,
- flights booked on very specific dates during high season,
- flights booked with flexible with the travel dates during low season, and
- flights booked with flexible with the travel dates during low season.
Please note: AIR MILES only allows you to view flight redemptions that you have enough miles to cover. Therefore, we were only able to look at flights that require fewer than 2,750 miles.
Lowest Miles required and fully flexible dates:
|Winnipeg – Ottawa in low season|
|AIR MILES||1,600 miles + $131.25 in taxes and fees|
|WestJet Price||$462 (taxes and fees included)|
|Value of 1 mile||20.7 cents|
|Winnipeg – Ottawa in high season|
|AIR MILES||2,000 miles + $131.25 in taxes and fees|
|Value of 1 mile||18.1 cents|
Miles Required when dates are not flexible, and lowest mileage levels are not available:
|Winnipeg – Ottawa in low season|
|AIR MILES Cost||2,160 miles + $131.25 in taxes and fees|
|Value of 1 mile||15.3 cents|
|Winnipeg – Ottawa in high season|
|AIR MILES||2,700 miles + $131.25 in taxes and fees|
|Value of 1 mile||13.4 cents|
As you can see, being flexible with your dates really helps increase the value of your miles, but there are no additional cash savings between the two options.
A few other notes regarding flight bookings:
- Porter and WestJet generally required fewer miles than Air Canada.
- If you live near (or frequently fly into) the Toronto area and Porter flies to your destination, be sure to check flights leaving from Billy Bishop airport. These flight options generally require fewer miles.
- There are always flights available to book. But if you’re looking for the lowest mileage fares, you need to book at least 6 months in advance. And during peak season, it took some digging to find lowest mileage flights even 8 months in advance.
Car rentals: 16.2 CPM
Car rentals also offer a good value for your miles.
We surveyed 1-day weekend rentals for both compact cars and minivans at Canada’s biggest airports, and reserved the cars 1 month in advance.
We came to an average value of 16.2 cents per mile, with compact cars giving you a higher average mile value than minivans.
Hotel stays: 12.3 CPM
Hotel stays are not quite as good as flights or car rentals, but they still provide a decent value.
Booking 1 month in advance for a Friday & Saturday night stay in Canada’s major cities, we were able to find a decent selection of hotels both in downtown cores and near the airport.
We came to a value of 12.3 cents per mile, with hotels near the airport providing a slightly higher mile value.
Vacation packages: 11 CPM
When redeeming for travel, vacation packages provide the least value for your miles.
909 miles = $100 travel certificate, a value of 11 cents per mile.
To use miles this way, you can redeem your miles for a travel certificate and then use that certificate at redtag.ca.
Value of an Air Mile when redeemed for an attraction: 13.4 CPM
AIR MILES has a number of attractions where you can use your miles.
From zoos to aquariums, theme parks and ski lift tickets – there really is something for everyone.
We came to an average value of 13.4 cents per mile when used on attractions.
Below is a sampling of what is available, the miles required, and how much the attraction costs.
|Attraction||AIR MILES Required||Actual Cost||Value per mile|
|Calgary Zoo – 2 tickets||300||$57.65||19.2 cents|
|West Edmonton Mall Galaxyland or World Waterpark admission – 2 tickets||495||$85.06||17.2 cents|
|Mont Tremblant Lift Ticket||725||$113.80||15.7 cents|
|Toronto Zoo – 2 tickets||450||$58||12.2 cents|
|Vancouver Aquarium – Adult||340||$42.56||12.5 cents|
|Busch Gardens Tampa – Single Day||995||$122.954||12.4 cents|
|SeaWorld Orlando – Single Day||995||$122.954||12.4 cents|
|Ripleys Aquarium Toronto – Adult||350||$39.55||11.3 cents|
|Lake Louise Lift Ticket||1,110||$119.7||10.8 cents|
|7 Day Walt Disney World Resort Ticket – Adult||5,400||$543.15||10.1 cents|
Value of an Air Mile when redeemed for a concert: 21.6 CPM
Thanks to a partnership with Live Nation, AIR MILES allows you to use your miles to see some pretty great concerts.
There was a wide range of value, between 10 – 30 cents per mile, so it isn’t always the best deal, but if you love going to concerts, this can be a great way to use your miles.
Below are some of the tickets available at the time research was conducted.
|Concert||AIR MILES Required||Actual Cost||Value Per Mile|
|Rod Stewart – Victoria||4,400||$441.50||10 cents|
|Paul Brandt – Red Deer||1,400||$335.40||24 cents|
|Natalie McMaster – Calgary||1,550||$475.80||30.7 cents|
Value of an Air Mile when redeemed for merchandise: 7.7 CPM
AIR MILES also provides a wide variety of merchandise available for redemption.
Unfortunately, redeeming for merchandise will give you the worst value for you miles, with an average of 7.7 cents per mile.
But, if you have lots of miles and can’t see yourself taking a trip anytime soon, this could still be a good option for you.
|Item Name||AIR MILES Required||Actual Cost||Value Per Mile|
|Dyson Ball Animal 2 Upright Vacuum||6,800||$678||10 cents|
|Kool Karz Mercedes Benz G55 AMG Electric Ride On||7,200||$675.74||9.4 cents|
|Napoleon Prestige Pro 665 with Infrared Rear and Side Burners – Propane||41,600||$3,445.37||8.3 cents|
|JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker||3,225||$248.6||7.7 cents|
|Cuisinart Precision Master 5.5-Quart (5.2L) Stand Mixer||4,400||$339||7.7 cents|
|Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Wristband||2,600||$192.1||7.4 cents|
|Apple iPad Mini 4 – Silver – 128GB – Wi-Fi||8,400||$597.77||7.1 cents|
|LG 49″ UK6300 Ultra HD 4K TV||9,800||$678||6.9 cents|
|Coleman Darkroom Sundome 4-Person Conventional Tent||1,800||$124.53||6.9 cents|
|Panasonic Mid-Size Genius Inverter Microwave||3,400||$226||6.6 cents|
|Hamilton Beach Flip Belgian Waffle Maker||1,200||$73.45||6.1 cents|
Value of an Air Mile when redeemed for cash rewards: 10.5 CPM
The last option is to redeem your miles for cash.
However, in order to to do this you’ll have to set your preferences to collect cash miles.
With this preference, 95 miles will give you $10 either directly in store or through a voucher, giving you a value of 10.5 cents per mile.
In store redemption
To redeem in store, scan your card, let the cashier know you would like to redeem your cash miles, and get an instant discount at the register.
Participating merchants include:
- Sobeys (Atlantic Canada only)
AIR MILES will also allow you to redeem your miles for e-vouchers.
Select the merchant you want to redeem with, and you’ll get an email with a voucher you can use in store.
Here’s a list of some merchants where this voucher can be used:
- Alamo ($20 vouchers only)
- Hudson’s Bay
- Marlin Travel
- National Car ($20 vouchers only)
- Via Rail ($20 vouchers only)
While among the lowest point value, if you only collect the occasional mile this could be the best way to redeem your miles. It can take quite a while to save enough miles to travel, but every 95 miles you collect can be turned into $10 quite easily.
How to earn Air Miles
Knowing how valuable these miles are is one thing, but know the best ways to earn them is another.
There are three ways to earn AIR MILES:
- an AIR MILES Rewards Card,
- by adding the AIR MILES Plan to your BMO debit card, or
- by using 1 of 15 AIR MILES credit cards that are currently available in Canada.
Air Miles Rewards Card
Using an AIR MILES collector card is a great place to start.
Most AIR MILES partner stores will offer you 1 mile for every $20 you spend in store, while some sponsors give you ways to accelerate what you earn.
For instance, if you shop at Sobeys and have the app, you’ll get personalized offers that give you additional miles for items you buy in store.
Bonus: Head to this page and see some great offers to earn you even more miles.
BMO’s Air Miles banking plans
Keeping track of which stores give AIR MILES, can be a bit of a pain.
Thankfully, there are ways to earn rewards, no matter where you do your shopping.
For instance, BMO currently offers a banking plan that allows you to earn AIR MILES on all of your debit purchases.
For a monthly fee of $15.95, you’ll be able to earn 1 mile for every $30 you spend, anywhere.
Plus, maintain a minimum monthly account balance of $4,000 and you’ll get a 50 AIR MILES bonus every month.
Air Miles credit cards
If you’re only earning miles at select stores,or at a rate of 1 mile for every $30 spent, it could take quite a while to earn enough to go on that dream trip.
Adding an AIR MILES credit card to your wallet is a great way to earn rewards on ALL of your purchases.
Here are the credit cards that allow you to earn AIR MILES faster.
|AIR MILES Credit Card||Annual Fee||Dollars spent to earn 1 mile||Learn More|
|American Express AIR MILES||$0||$15 at AIR MILES sponsors, $20 elsewhere|
|American Express AIR MILES Platinum||$65||$10 at AIR MILES sponsors, $10 at gas, grocery and drugstores, $15 elsewhere|
|American Express AIR MILES Reserve||$299||$10 at AIR MILES sponsors, $10 at gas, grocery and drugstores, $15 elsewhere|
|BMO AIR MILES Mastercard||$0||$10 at select AIR MILES sponsors, $20 elsewhere|
|BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard||$99||$15 everywhere,
1.25x the miles at Shell, 2x the miles at National & Alamo
|BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard||$120||$10 everywhere, 2x the miles at National & Alamo|
|BMO IGA AIR MILES Mastercard
BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard
|$0||$10 at select AIR MILES sponsors, $20 elsewhere|
|BMO SPC AIR MILES Mastercard||$0||$10 at select AIR MILES sponsors, $20 elsewhere|
|BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard||$0||$10 at select AIR MILES sponsors, $20 elsewhere|
|BMO Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard||$99||$15 everywhere, 1.25x the miles at Shell|
|BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard||$120||$10 everywhere, 1.25x the miles at Shell|
|BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard||$0||$20 everywhere, 1.25x the miles at Shell|
|American Express AIR MILES Business||$180||$10 at AIR MILES sponsors, $15 everywhere|
|American Express AIR MILES Business Gold||$0||$15 at AIR MILES sponsors, $20 elsewhere|
Which credit card is right for you?
No matter what you’re looking for in an AIR MILES credit card, there should be one on this list for you.
Do you only want the best?
The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard is by far the best AIR MILES credit card in Canada.
It will give you:
- 1 mile for every $10 spent on everything,
- more insurance coverage than any other credit card in Canada,
- a 15% discount on AIR MILES flights booked in North America, plus
- the $120 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Please note: This card does have income requirements of either $80,000 household or $150,000 personal, but if you want AIR MILES and can qualify, this card could be the one for you.
Do you want a card with no annual fee?
If you don’t typically spend much on your card over the year, a no fee AIR MILES credit card could be perfect for you.
Despite paying no annual fee, many of these cards give you bonus miles for spending at sponsor locations, which is great if you spend a lot at those retailers.
Do you want a premium card with a lower annual fee?
If you spend a little more on your card and want a higher earn rate, but you’re not quite ready to commit to an annual fee of $99 or more, American Express has you covered.
The American Express AIR MILES Platinum is only $65 per year, and still gives you the ability to earn up to 1 mile for every $10 spent.
Do you want a big sign up bonus?
The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard currently blows all the other cards out of the water.
You’ll get a sign up bonus up to 3,000 miles, plus a companion voucher to be used within the first 12 months. Simply book a flight for two using your own miles, and get a rebate on the miles used for one of the tickets.
And, as one big bonus for having this card, you’ll need 15% fewer miles when redeeming for flights inside North America.
Do you want lots of premium perks?
The American Express Air Miles Reserve packs in a lot of perks for its $299 annual fee.
- automatic Air Miles Onyx status,
- an annual companion voucher to get a 1,700 mile discount on a 2nd ticket,
- a priority pass membership with 4 free visits per year, and
- largest permanent sign up bonus of 2,400 Air Miles.
Do you spend a lot on gas every month?
If you have the ability to get your gas at Shell stations, one of these 2 cards may be for you, as they both give you 1.25x the points for every Shell purchase.
Do you want to earn for your business?
There are even some credit cards that will allow you to earn AIR MILES on all the purchases made for your small business.
How many Air Miles could one of these credit cards give you?
To see what your earning potential is with an AIR MILES credit card in your wallet, below we’ll compare 2 different credit cards…
If you’re spending $2,000* a month and using the American Express AIR MILES Platinum, you should be earning around 1,995 miles annually.
|Reward Type||Point Value (cents)||Yearly Reward Value|
|In Store Discounts||10.5||$209.48|
* Assumes 25% of spending is at AIR MILES Sponsors.
If you’re spending $2,000 a month on the BMO AIR MILES World Elite, you should be earning around 2,400 points annually.
|Reward Type||Point Value (cents)||Yearly Reward Value|
|In Store Discounts||10.5||$252.00|
Air Miles question and answer
Here are some common questions and answers about the AIR MILES program.
How flexible are these rewards?
AIR MILES are fairly flexible.
Here are a few reason why:
- You can almost always book a flight (especially if you’re willing to use a few extra miles). You may however be limited in your options.
- It’s usually pretty easy to find hotel availability, though there’s a limited number of hotels for booking.
- Car Rentals are plentiful and easy to find what you are looking for.
- Plus there are a variety of other ways to use your miles, such as attractions, concerts, merchandise, and in store discounts.
Are there blackout dates?
No, there are no blackout dates. It’s based on seat availability.
Will I lose my miles if I cancel an award flight?
Unfortunately, there are no refunds on flights booked with miles. If you need to cancel an award flight, you will lose your AIR MILES and any payments you made. Changes are permitted but can be restrictive.
Do these rewards expire?
No, provided you earn or redeem miles at least once every 2 years.
Can you use points to cover taxes & fees?
No, miles cannot be used to cover taxes and fees.
Can these rewards be transferred?
No, AIR MILES cannot be transferred to other programs.
Is there a way to earn rewards faster?
Yes, by using a collector card at AIR MILES sponsors, and taking advantage of offers by various sponsors.
AIR MILES continues to be popular in Canada for a reason.
Collecting miles is a great way to help reduce the cost of travelling – especially since there are no blackout dates and plenty of available flights.
And while redeeming for flights is one of the best ways to maximize your miles, there are 7 other ways to use them.