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Air Miles Guide Featured

The ultimate travel hacking guide on AIR MILES

To the point AIR MILES is Canada's best-known loyalty program and you absolutely need to know it to save a lot of money on your travels or every day! With this ultimate travel hacking guide, you'll learn how to earn and redeem AIR MILES reward miles.
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Open an AIR MILES account

To open an AIR MILES account, it’s easy: you’ll have to go to the AIR MILES website and follow the instructions (whether you already have a loyalty card or not).

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The distinction between CASH and DREAM rewards

The first thing to know about AIR MILES is about reward miles.

There are two kinds:

  • CASH rewards
  • DREAM rewards
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The Cash - Dream rewards - AIR MILES

CASH Rewards

CASH miles are used to earn cash rewards for everyday purchases such as gas and groceries.

cash rewards uses
AIR MILES Cash rewards

The value is fixed and is the easiest currency to use in the AIR MILES program.

DREAM Rewards

DREAM miles are redeemed for dream rewards such as travel, amusement park tickets or products.

dream rewards uses
Air MILES Dream rewards

Value is variable and it is the currency that can deliver the best return in the AIR MILES program.

It’s up to you to make your choice of accumulation based on your goals. To find out what’s best for you between Cash or Dream, keep reading!

The choice of accumulation between Cash and Dream

Before earning AIR MILES reward miles you’ll need to define your type of earning. 100% cash or 100% Dream… or a combination of both.

  • If you prefer concrete and immediate rewards, it will be best to choose the CASH rewards
  • If you are more flexible with your dates, it is better for you the DREAM rewards.
accumulation air miles jm
Le choix d'accumulation de milles

You can change the accumulation level whenever you want (the change will be taken into account at 3:00 a.m. (EST) the next day).

Earn miles

Cash vs Dream: different options for everyone. To help you in your choice, check out this article!

Whether you choose to use your miles for Cash or Dream rewards, you’ll need to earn them!

Let’s see together all the earning possibilities:

With purchases from partners

AIR MILES has more than 120 partners and 100+ online sponsors.

Mile earning rate will be different for each partner. Here are some examples:

  • ACE: 1 mile / $20
  • Best Western: 20 miles per stay
  • Staples: 1 mile / $40
  • IGA: 1 mile / $20
  • Jean Coutu: 1 mile / $15
  • Rona: 1 mile / $20

Keep an eye on the flyers of each of AIR MILES partners: with strategic purchases, you could earn many AIR MILES bonus miles!

air miles featured circulaires
Read the flyers to earn more miles!

To view the full list of AIR MILES retailers, it’s here!

With airmilesshops.ca

AIR MILES has an online shopping portal called airmilesshops.ca.

airmilesshops explanation
Comment fonctionne airmilesshops.ca

By using this portal before shopping online, you will get 1 mile / $20 of purchases. This is called “the basic offer.”

Then, during promotions, comes the “multiplier”of partner shops AND from the whole site airmilesshops.ca.

The multiplier from partner stores

Regularly, AIR MILES partner stores offer mileage accumulation promotions through a multiplier.

5x miles air miles
5x les milles avec ce partenaire

For example, if it is indicated that you will earn 5x the miles, it means that:

  • you will get 1 mile / $20 purchases (basic offer)
  • you will get 4 miles / $20 purchases (bonus offer with the multiplier)

That’s 5 miles / $20 in purchases.

That’s why AIR MILES indicates 5x the miles.

Knowing that 1 mile = $0.105 then 5 miles = $0.525. This makes a cash return of 2.6% in this example ($0.525 / $20).

The multiplier on the whole airmilesshops.ca website

What’s interesting is when AIR MILES also offers a multiplier on the entire airmilesshops.ca portal.

10x miles airmilesshops
10x the miles on airmilesshops.ca

In this case, the multiplier offered by the store and the one offered by airmilesshops add up on the basic offer:

For example, if it is indicated that you will win:

  • 5x miles at the shop
  • and 10x miles on all airmilesshops.ca stores
card  air miles rewards card
airmilesshops.ca

This means that:

  • you will get 1 mile / $20 purchases (basic offer)
  • you will get 4 miles / $20 purchases (bonus offer with the multiplier)
  • you will get 9 miles / $20 purchases (bonus offer with airmilesshops.ca multiplier)

That’s 15 miles / $20 of purchases.

With 1 mile = $0.105 then 15 miles = $1,575. This makes a cash return of 7.9% in this example ($1,575 / $20).

With credit cards welcome bonuses

AIR MILES is a partner with 2 financial institutions offering a lot of AIR MILES credit cards

  • American Express
  • BMO
air miles amex bmo

Each of these cards will get you a welcome bonus when you apply for it. This is a good way to earn many AIR MILES bonus miles quickly!

AIR MILES and American Express

American Express has 2 AIR MILES credit cards for individuals:

And 2 AIR MILES credit cards for self-employed / professional / small businesses:

AIR MILES and BMO

BMO has many AIR MILES credit cards

With purchases on credit cards

To earn AIR MILES reward miles faster, it’s best to use your AIR MILES credit cards(see the choices above) as often as possible!

Miles earning rate will often vary on the issuer and the type of card:

Be sure to double-dip by paying with your AIR MILES credit card and showing your AIR MILES loyalty card at the checkout.

With promotional events

Throughout the year, AIR MILES runs promotional events during which you can earn many miles.

Apart from the credit cards welcome bonuses, events are one of the best opportunities to earn hundreds of miles.

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L'événement Méga Milles d'AIR MILES

Now that we know how to earn many AIR MILES miles let’s redeem them:

Redeem Cash reward miles

Let’s discover together all the redemption possibilities with CASH miles:

For in-store discounts

AIR MILES CASH rewards can be redeemed directly in-store (IGA, Jean Coutu, Shell…) for an instant discount at the checkout.

95 miles = $10, or 10.5 cents / mile.

This is the easiest way to redeem CASH rewards. Our advice: wait for promotional periods… to buy gift cards

Gift cards

Throughout the year, brands like Jean Coutu run promotions to encourage you to redeem your CASH reward miles.

Thus, it is common to be able to redeem only 85 miles for $10.

Like 85 miles = $10 or a value of 11.8 cents / mile

air miles jean coutu 85

This is a great time to buy gift cards with your CASH miles (but it’s impossible with DREAM miles)! It’s a regular practice for Disney fans!

cartes cadeaux disney chantal
L'échange de milles ARGENT pour des cartes-cadeaux Disney

To learn more about redeeming CASH rewards to save money at Disney World, check out this article!

For electronic certificates

As we have seen above, with some stores you can redeem your CASH rewards miles DIRECTLY at the checkout.

For others, it will be necessary to use an electronic exchange voucher to be retrieved online.

95 miles = $10, or 10.5 cents / mile

Redeem DREAM miles

A little more complex to use than CASH rewards, Dream Miles can however get you a better return on your miles.

Here are all the possibilities for redeeming DREAM miles:

For flights

With The Dream Miles, it is possible to book flights directly from the AIR MILES website.

An interactive map lets you know the fares from which it is possible to find flight rewards:

map air miles flights
Destinations to fly with Dream rewards

Rates vary on:

  • distance
  • season

Short-haul flights: the best deal

The best use of AIR MILES Dream Miles is on short-haul flights.

That is to say, local flights (usually destinations within 2 hours flight) such as Montreal to New York, Boston, Toronto, Halifax, St John…

All of these destinations are accessible from 1,400 miles in low season and around 2,500 miles in high season.

map air miles flights
Destinations to fly with Dream rewards

Here is an example of a flight from Montreal to Halifax.

On AIR MILES, the rate 2,155 miles and $141.72 in taxes.

This rate includes a 15% discount for BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®* holders (which we will detail later). Without the discount, the fare would be 2,478 miles.

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Montreal - Halifax - AIR MILES

Let’s compare this ticket (same dates and flights) with the cash price:

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Montréal - Halifax - AIR MILES

To find out the valuation of an AIR MILES reward mile, here is the calculation:

(Cash Price – Taxes Paid) / Number of miles used

($610 – $141.72) / 2 155 miles =21.7 cents / mile
With 15% discount

($610 – $141.72) / 2,478 miles – 18.9 cents/mile
Without the 15% discount

We are well above the valuation of a Cash mile at 10.5 cents / mile! To use properly your miles, you must ALWAYS do this little calculation!

To learn more about booking a flight with your AIR MILES reward miles check out this article!

15% discount on flight

Only one AIR MILES credit card in Canada offers a 15% discount on all AIR MILES reward tickets (in North America). This is the BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®*

This card also has 2 free access to airport lounges and has great travel insurance.

You can earn 1 AIR MILES reward mile / $10 ,everywhere, including at Costco. This is the best credit card in Canada to earn AIR MILES reward miles on your purchases.

In addition, for a limited time, this one is free for the first year !

To learn more about this excellent AIR MILES credit card check out this article!

For car rentals

AIR MILES reward miles can be redeemed for car rentals.

Here’s an example of a mid-size car rental, for a week, in Orlando.

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A car reservation with AIR MILES miles

It costs 1,910 miles and US$ 75 in fees.

Compare this with Costco Voyages, which often has the best rates when it comes to car rental:

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A car reservation on Costco

The same car, for the same period costs US$ 365.97.

To find out the valuation of the AIR MILES mile, here is the calculation:

(Cash Price – Taxes Paid) / Number of miles used

(US$ 365.97 – US$ 75) / 1,910 miles = 15.2 US cents/mile
or 20.24 cents/mile

This is a very good use of the Dream Miles. At more than 20 cents per mile, you double the valuation compared to Cash rewards (10.5 cents/mile).

To learn more about renting a car with AIR MILES, check out this article!

For holiday packages and cruises

You can redeem Dream Miles on AIR MILES’ travel portal, powered by Redtag.

Many holiday/all-inclusive package providers are suggested:

  • Air Canada Vacations
  • Transat
  • WestJet Holidays
  • Sunwing
  • Signature Vacations
  • Porter Escapes
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Booking all-inclusive with AIR MILES bonus miles

The Dream Miles redemption rate will always be the same: 909 miles = $100

For example, an all-inclusive week in Cuba:

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Use AIR MILES miles miles for all-inclusive

You can apply 13,635 miles to save $1 500.

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Use AIR MILES miles miles for all-inclusive

Here, 1 Dream mile = 11 cents

In this case, redeeming Dream Miles is closest to the value of Cash rewards So it’s not the best redemption possible, but it can still be interesting.

To learn more about booking an all-inclusive with AIR MILES reward miles check out this article.

For hotels

It is also possible to redeem Dream Miles to book hotel nights.

Description to come: the AIR MILES website having a problem for hotels at the time of writing this article.

hotels air miles fr

For events and attractions

In its awards catalogue, AIR MILES has a “Events and Attractions” section.

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Use AIR MILES miles for amusement parks

It is therefore possible to redeem Dream Miles to buy tickets to theme parks like Disney World:

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Use AIR MILES miles for Disney World tickets

Comparing this type of ticket with the public fare, directly on the Disney World website:

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Ticket prices on Disney World's website

To find out the valuation of the AIR MILES reward mile, here is the calculation:

(Cash Price – Taxes Paid) / Number of miles used

US$ 530.61 / 5,900 miles – 9 US cents/mile
or 12 cents /mile

This is an option to look at and fluctuates greatly throughout the year ( regarding promotions made by Disney AND the exchange rate).

To learn more about using AIR MILES for Disney, check out this article.

For merchandise

Finally, it is possible to redeem Dream Miles on AIR MILES’ rewards catalogue to buy products.

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AIR MILES product catalogue

On the Dream Rewards catalogue , there are discounts based on status:

  • 10% less miles for GOLD members
  • 20% less miles for Onyx members

The mileage rate will vary depending on the items and your status. Let’s take the example of an easily comparable article:

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A product with AIR MILES Dream rewards

To compare the price, let’s take the same product on amazon.ca:

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The product on Amazon.ca

To find out the valuation of the AIR MILES mile, here is the calculation:

Cash Price / Number of miles used

$ 515 / 5,270 miles = 9.77 cents/mile
for all members

$ 515 / 4,216 miles = 12.2 cents/mile
for members with Onyx status

A basic tip: you don’t buy products with miles. However, depending on the status, some members may find it OK!

Managing your miles

Now you know how to earn and use your AIR MILES reward miles.

Let’s see how to manage them… every day!

The value of miles

As you saw above, there are 2 types of miles… but several valuations!

So, we agree to say:

  • 1 Cash mile = between 10.5 cents and 11.8 cents
  • 1 Dream mile = between 9 cents and 25 cents

This means that the welcome bonus of the BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®* is worth between $270 and $750!

You understand this: if you want to play it safe, you will earn CASH reward miles. If you are more flexible you will earn in DREAM reward miles.

The expiration of miles

AIR MILES miles no longer expire.

Transfer miles

It is impossible to transfer miles from a Cash account to a Dream account and vice versa.

It is possible – but very expensive – to transfer miles from one AIR MILES member to another AIR MILES member: 15 cents/mile!

Tip: When you apply for an AIR MILES credit card you can provide the account number you want. It’s convenient to earn welcome bonuses and miles from credit cards spending on the same account!

Status

AIR MILES has 3 levels of status:

  • Blue
  • Gold
  • Onyx

Each of these status will offer its own benefits:

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The different levels of AIR MILES status

The most interesting status to get is the Onyx status which offers:

  • up to 40% off flights
  • up to 20% off items
  • a personal assistant service to use Dream Miles
  • priority access to the customer service center

Tip: Credit cards welcome bonuses count towards higher status! This made it very easy to get GOLD or even Onyx status very quickly!

Conclusion

AIR MILES is the must-have loyalty program in Canada due to its footprint in many partner stores.

It appeals to all audiences:

  • those who prefer cashbacks will get Cash rewards
  • those who want to afford travel or activities will get Dream rewards

Finally, to ease the accumulation process,there are about ten credit cards affiliated to the AIR MILES program , enough to get thousands of miles!

This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.

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