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Cash AIR MILES: My alternative strategies

To the point Here are our new strategies for dealing with the end of the exchange of Cash AIR MILES for gift cards at Jean Coutu.

The bad news about Jean Coutu’s gift card strategy has created a wave of anger and frustration, especially among Disney fans.

Now that the dust has settled, we must turn to solutions.

First, it should be noted that the lack of notice did not make much difference.

There was no promotion going on (75 AIR MILES bonus miles for $10) and aspiring Milesopedians would have rushed to spend their miles… at a redemption rate of 95 miles for $10.

And if the rumor turned out to be false, the accounts would have been emptied for no reason, and at a regular rate.

Solutions with AIR MILES

People’s first reaction was to turn their back on AIR MILES and their credit cards.

If that’s really your intention, here are some ways to get rid of your cash miles.

The different Cash AIR MILES partners

At in-store partners, the rate of 95 AIR MILES miles per $10 applies at all times.

Then, many businesses offer electronic coupons on the AIR MILES site:

  • Uber Eats
  • Door Dash
  • Hudson’s Bay
  • VIA Rail
  • Starbucks
  • Action Car and Truck
  • Cineplex
  • Grocery Gift Card
  • The Ultimate Dining Card
  • Timber Mart
  • Kernels
  • Pizza Pizza
  • IGA – Quebec

Update June 8th 2022: **Note: As of the beginning of 2023, IGA, Marchés Tradition and Rachelle Béry stores will no longer be linked to the AIR MILES program. See this article on Scene+ which will be the new rewards program of IGA, Rachelle Béry and Les Marchés Tradition.

Current AIR MILES offers

These offers were often available during the Shop the Block or the Bonus Boom promos.

It’s not as straightforward as the promotions at Jean Coutu where 75 AIR MIL ES miles could be redeemed for $10. On the other hand, when you do calculations with “early returns” of miles, the exchange rates are still very good.

Shell: 75 miles for $10 until December 18

Échange chez Shell

IGA: 71.25 miles for $10 from December 16 to 22

Échange chez IGA

Jean Coutu: 82.5 miles for $10 from November 18 to 24

Échange chez Jean Coutu

Rachelle Béry: 82.5 miles for $10 from December 16 to 22

Échange chez Rachel Béry

Alternatives through credit cards

Yes, but I was saving up for Disney gift cards and I won’t be able to get them for free anymore.

Un collecteur AIR MILES mécontent

The Disney gift card strategy at Jean Coutu was a very easy way to earn hundreds or thousands of dollars for a magical trip.

However, it is important to remember that this strategy was basically a cash back strategy.

Here are illustrated and quantified examples of how to replicate this tactic in other ways through credit cards.

In addition to all the cash back and bonus rewards points, you’ll earn points on your Disney World purchases.

Cash AIR MILES bonus miles

Through Milesopedia’s exclusive offer, the BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®* offers a welcome bonus of 3,000 AIR MILES after $3,000 in purchases in 3 months. This means (or meant):

  • $310 cash back at any partner at the regular rate of 95 miles for $10 (10.5% back on $3,000)
  • $400 in gift cards at Jean Coutu during the 75 miles for $10 promotion (13.33% discount on $3,000)

There is a difference of 2.83%, but the miles are earned for “free” with the welcome bonus. This is still a great card for easy cash back earn just like the other AIR MILES credit cards.

American Express Membership Rewards points

If you look at the American Express Cobalt® Card and its current bonus, you can earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points for a total of $7,500 over the course of a year.

Plus, if that amount is spent exclusively at grocery stores or restaurants, you’ll earn 37,500 points on purchases. (total cash back of 11.66% on $7,500)

Disney gift cards, which can be found in grocery stores, can help you unlock your bonus and earn 5X points.

When the monthly card fee is taken into account, the final discount is 11.43% on $7,655.88.

Finally, this percentage return is when the points are used as cash back. Since American Express Membership Rewards points are transferable to other programs, including Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy, it’s possible to earn more than 11.43%!

Here are the 7 cards participating in the Membership Rewards program.

National Bank Reward Points

On the National Bank World Elite Mastercard side, the offer is 15,000 points after $3,000 in purchases (≈ $135 cash back or 4.5%). At first glance, this does not seem very high.

On the other hand, this card offers many other advantages that cannot be overlooked.

First of all, the annual fee is waived for the first year. Secondly, travel reimbursements and unlimited access to the National Bank Lounge add tremendous value to this card.

The actual return valued with this card is $525 ( 17. 5% on $3,000).

Credit card insurance is not calculated in this valuation of the 17.5% return on $3,000. Since the insurance is excellent, I am adding value because it will not be necessary to buy it elsewhere.

HSBC Rewards Points

On the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® side, it is possible to get 100,000 points simply by keeping your account open for 6 months if you are a Quebec resident.

The annual fee is charged in the first year, so the return is $500 in travel rewards (336% return on $149). Don’t forget the $100 annual credit! The return is 1020% on the $49 that came out of your pocket.

Why have we never talked about these high cash rebates in the past? These are not cash rebates per se, they are simply free points applicable on travel expenses.

For non-Quebec residents, there is no annual fee for the first year, but to unlock the bonus, $6,000 must be charged to the card (5.8% return on $6,000). Taking into account the $100 credit, the return is 7.5%.

Finally, there are no foreign currency conversion fees and, most importantly, you’ll earn points on your spending at Disney World.

TD Reward Points

At TD, the current promotion on the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card is 100,000 TD Rewards points worth up to $400 and $500 depending on how you use them.

For Quebec residents, there is no expense needed to get these points! For others, the return is up to 40% or 50% on $1,000 in purchases.

Bank accounts for travel savings

It was more fun having thousands of dollars worth of Disney gift cards in our hands, but there is another way to look at it.

The experience of this strategy may seem dull, but it will lead to the same result.

Consider American Express Membership Rewards points when used for cash back:

1,000 Membership Rewards points = $10 credit on any purchase

Instead of waiting for your trip, why not reduce your grocery bill immediately?

The redemption rate for your points remains the same.

So in this case, if I save $101.97 on my groceries, I can go deposit $101.97 in a separate account for my trip to Disney or whatever.

Échange de points-privilèges sur l’épicerie

So whether it was the free groceries or the trip, at the end of the day, I got $101.97 back somewhere.

My personal strategy with Jean Coutu gift cards has never been Disney gift cards.

It wasn’t because I don’t want to go to Disney, but I preferred to get Amazon, SAQ, Netflix, etc. gift cards to cut down on my usual immediate spending.

By paying less money right away, I had more in my account to cover my trip.

Instead of stocking your drawer with gift cards, you’ll be able to watch your savings account balance grow as a result of daily savings.

The pleasure of having all these gift cards in hand is not the same as looking at a bank balance online. However, it will be your travel “chest”, regardless of how it looks!

This requires a different kind of effort and a certain willingness not to touch the savings before your trip!

Bank account opening promotions

Finally, did you know that you can get bonus money foropening a new bank account?

The choices are vast: Tangerine, National Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, CIBC, etc.

Tangerine‘s promotions often recur for new chequing and savings accounts. Welcome bonuses are around $150 – $200.

In addition, there are special savings rates ranging from 1.5% to 2.75% for new deposits.

Did you know that you can support the Milesopedia website by using our links? Whether it’s credit cards or bank accounts, you’ll get the same or even an exclusive offer!


Update June 8th 2022: **Note: As of the beginning of 2023, IGA, Marchés Tradition and Rachelle Béry stores will no longer be linked to the AIR MILES program. See this article on Scene+ which will be the new rewards program of IGA, Rachelle Béry and Les Marchés Tradition.

Remember that rewards programs are privileges. The terms and conditions can be changed, at any time, at their discretion, and the program… even abolished!

In the world of travel hacking, the only constant is change. It is imperative to adapt.

You play with the cards you’ve been dealt.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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