One of the top complaints of the AIR MILES program is actually earning the miles. With a typical base earn rate of 1 mile per $20 spent at partners, it can take a long time to earn enough to travel with.

Luckily, there are more ways you can earn miles. I actually happened to earn 11,172 AIR MILES in the last 12 months.

Today, I’m going to share how I did it, and what I plan to use them for. While I plan on using them for travel, non-travellers can also take advantage and use them to save on everyday purchases.

Here’s a breakdown of how I earned 11,172 in one year, so you too can enjoy the savings I’m going to be getting.

Want to see the detailed breakdown for yourself? Here’s the PDF provided by AIR MILES for what I earned in the last 12 months.

Related: 8 Tips For Using Your Travel Credit Card For A 5-Star Vacation At A 1-Star Cost

AIR MILES earned using base sponsor earn rate – 223 miles

You’re not going to get many miles if all you do is shop at AIR MILES Partners and collect the base earn rate (usually 1 mile per $20 spent, but does vary by partner).

Of all the miles I collected, these 223 miles only represent 2% of the miles earned – not many.

This number does come with the caveat that I’m not a regular shopper at AIR MILES Partners. In fact, I mostly only shop at AIR MILES Partners when they have promotions to earn bonus miles. If you’re a regular sponsor shopper, you could earn more.

But to even earn 1,000 miles on base spending at partners, and assuming you earn an average of 1 mile for every $20 you spend, you would have to spend $1,667 per month, and that’s still not even 10% of the total miles I earned in the last year.

Needless to say, if you want to earn miles for travelling, you’re going to need to do more than just earning miles at the base rates.

Plus up to 4% cash back.
Ends December 18, 2019.

Bonus AIR MILES earned at sponsors – 2,056 miles

Many sponsors offer bonus miles when you purchase select products, or spend past certain thresholds.

I earned 2,056 miles by taking advantage of bonus miles opportunities, or 18% of my total.

The bulk of these, however, were earned at 2 partners – Sobeys and Shell. 972 came from Sobeys, and 465 came from Shell.

Sobeys offers plenty of bonus miles through personalized offers, and on many weeks I can earn bonus miles just by spending a certain amount in store. You can also earn bonus miles on select products, and there are occasional offers where you can earn 95 to 100 miles simply by purchasing $200 in Sobeys gift cards.

Shell is the other one. 4 times in the past year I got an offer where I could earn 100 miles simply by filling up my car 4 times in one month, with a minimum fuel purchase of 25 miles. To ensure I got full value for the bonus, I only filled up 25L at a time. While this can be annoying, just pay at the pump at a Shell station close to make it easier.

Miles earned through major AIR MILES promotions – 3,000 miles

Now we’re starting to see some serious miles. By taking advantage of both Shop The Block and Mega Miles, I earned 3,000 miles, or 27% of the miles I accumulated.

How do these promotions work?

You have to complete bonus offers at sponsors, and you’ll get bonus miles depending on how many offers you complete from different partners.

For the Mega Miles promotion, I completed 5 offers and got the max bonus of 1,000 miles, and for Shop The Block I completed 7 offers and got the max bonus of 2,000 miles. These totals don’t include the bonus miles the sponsors give out as well – those are included in the section above.

Credit card partners are (almost) always part of these big promotions and count as one offer completed. You’ll have to spend a certain amount or make x amount of transactions on your card.

There’s certainly a little work and planning involved in getting these bonuses, but do so and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of bonus miles every year.

Want to know when these promotions happen?

Subscribe to our newsletter (you can do that on our homepage) and we’ll let you know when these promotions come around again. Or, you can bookmark this page where we keep track of all current and past AIR MILES promotions.

AIR MILES earned with credit cards – 5,893 miles

If you’ve been adding up to this point, we’re only halfway towards 11,172 miles. Credit cards will take us the rest of the way.

5,893 miles were earned using AIR MILES credit cards. We’ll divide this section into 2 parts – miles earned on spending and bonus miles earned as part of signing up.

AIR MILES earned with credit card base spending – 893 miles

While this number seems small, I haven’t used my AIR MILES cards for all of my spending (it might only be a 1/3). So depending on your spend, there’s potential for this number to be higher.

Nonetheless, it added 893 miles to the bank (roughly 8%).

Related: AIR MILES Onyx Status: Everything You Need To Know

AIR MILES earned with credit card sign up bonuses – 5,000 miles

Every other number seems quite small when you look at this one.

I took advantage of 2 credit card sign up offers to get these 5,000 miles.

First, I got the . At the time, it had a $65 annual fee, and I got 2,000 miles after spending $1,500 in the first 3 months (it now comes with a welcome bonus of up to 3,500 miles with an annual fee of $120).

Then, I also got the . It gave me 3,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. And while it does have an annual fee of $120, it currently comes with the first year free.

While the deal ended on March 31st, 2019, I signed up for the card while it had a companion flight rebate, where when I book an AIR MILES rewards flight for 2 using my own miles, I’ll receive a rebate on the miles used for one of the tickets.

These are the 2 cards I used to help earn more miles. Want to see other cards available? Our AIR MILES card page lists every card you could use to help accelerate earning AIR MILES.

There you have it

An anatomy of earning 11,172 miles in one year.

All because of smart shopping, taking advantage of AIR MILES promotions, and paying a scant $65 in credit card annual fees.

Potential plans on redeeming these AIR MILES

So what can I do with these miles? Here’s my current plan, and how much I’ll be able to save.

Redeeming AIR MILES for flights

We’re planning a trip to Florida next March. Leaving from Halifax and flying straight into Orlando, I’ll need 3,400 miles and $160 in taxes and fees to book one seat. Since I need to book 3 seats (I have a 4th family member, but since he’ll be under 2 – he flies for free), this is what I’m looking at for cost, and potential savings at the time of writing.

Note that the miles needed for one seat includes the 15% miles discount the provides as one of its perks.

Airline WestJet
Miles Required 10,200
Taxes and fees $480
Actual flight cost $1,992
Total savings $1,512
Value of one mile 14.8 cents per mile

It’s not the best value I could get for my miles as these are high season flights (high season flights don’t offer the best value), but I’m still saving $1,512 over what I would have to pay right now.

Redeeming AIR MILES for a rental car

While it seems I won’t have enough for a rental car (as I only have 972 miles left), with the companion flight rebate I got as part of the , I’ll be getting 3,400 miles back as part of booking the flights (within 45 days). This leaves me with 4,372 miles.

So with those, I’ll book our rental car through AIR MILES to save even more.

We’re not the only ones going on this trip, so we’re going to get a van for everyone to use.

Here’s what I’m looking at:

AIR MILES car rental example

Right now I would have to pay $441 USD (or roughly $584 Canadian) to reserve it.

Agency Budget
Miles Required 3,820
Taxes and fees $98 USD or $130 CAD
Actual cost $584
Total savings $454
Value of 1 mile 11.9 cents

For our transportation on this trip, I’m looking at savings of $1,966, paying only $610 out of pocket, and it’s all because of smart credit card usage as well as making the most out of AIR MILES and their promotions. And I still have 552 miles leftover.

Another way to use your AIR MILES

Not planning on travelling anytime soon? No worries, there are other ways to use your miles.

The best way is to simply collect cash miles instead of dream miles. You can redeem your miles in-store at select sponsors like Sobeys or Shell for an instant discount.

Or, you can redeem them for gift cards and vouchers at other retailers, such as Cineplex, Cara Restaurants, and Via Rail. Any way you use cash miles, 95 miles will give you $10 off.

That means 11,172 miles would give you discounts of $1,170 dollars. Not quite as good as my travel option above, but still great savings on everyday purchases you have to make.

Summary

So there you have it – a guide to racking up AIR MILES quickly, and two different ways you can use them.

And even if you don’t want to get any credit cards, I still would have gotten 5,279 miles with some smart shopping and maximizing offers AIR MILES provides.

What about you?

Does this strategy appeal to you?

Have you done something similar in the past?

We want to hear your story – let us know in the comments below.