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AIR MILES rewards guide: How to get the most out of your AIR MILES points

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Updated: April 01, 2024

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AIR MILES is one of the most popular loyalty programs in Canada. With over ten million active collector accounts across the country, the chances are you or someone you know is already collecting points. But if you’re new to this or just aren’t getting anything out of your points yet, we’ve got you covered. Let’s get on with living your best life and find out how to get the most out of your AIR MILES points.

What are AIR MILES?

AIR MILES are points you can collect to redeem some sweet rewards, like travel, merchandise, and discounts at stores. To earn AIR MILES points, you can:

  • Earn miles from spending at participating stores
  • Use an AIR MILES credit card
  • Buy them directly from airmiles.ca (useful if you’re a few points shy of redeeming a reward you have your eye on)

The number of miles you can earn from shopping typically depends on the retail partner, but in most cases, it works out to 1 reward mile for every $20 spent. When using an AIR MILES credit card, you can double dip at participating merchants.

You can choose to collect your points as either Cash Miles, Dream Miles, or a combination of both. You have complete control over how your miles are split, and you can change your preference at any time online.

How can you earn AIR MILES in Canada?

The best way to collect AIR MILES is to make purchases with an AIR MILES credit card and to shop at special AIR MILES partner stores. Here are some of the most lucrative cards for earning AIR MILES:

AIR MILES card Card name Sign-up bonus Regular rate for earning Air Miles Accelerated rate for earning Air Miles
BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard® BMO AIR MILES® World Elite®* MasterCard®* 2,000 AIR MILES* 1 MILE per $12 spent* 3x the Miles for every $12 spent at participating AIR MILES Reward Partners* 2x the Miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store*
BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®* BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®* 800 AIR MILES* 1 MILE per $25 spent* 3x the Miles for every $25 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners* 2x the Miles for every $25 spent at any eligible grocery store*

Earn air miles faster ➡️ upgrade to the World Elite Mastercard

BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®*

3x Cardholders earn an accelerated 3x the Miles per $12 spent at participating AIR MILES partners*,

2x 2x the Miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store*

1x reward mile for every $12 in credit card purchases, everywhere you spend*

25% discount on one worldwide AIR MILES flight redemption during the calendar year.*

$120 Annual Fee

20.99% Purchase APR

23.99% Cash Advance APR 21.99% for Quebec residents

23.99% Balance Transfer Rate

Excellent Recommended Credit Score

$80,000 Required Annual Personal Income

$150,000 Required Annual Household Income

Welcome Offer

Get 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and we’ll waive the $120 annual fee for the first year*.

Learn more

You can earn the most points per dollar – you’ll get 3x the Miles for every $12 spent at participating AIR MILES Reward Partners* and 2x the Miles for every $12 spent at any eligible grocery store*, and then 1 reward mile for every $12 spent anywhere* – with the BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®*. The welcome bonus of 2,000 points* (when you spend $3,000 within your first three months) is the most you’ll get from any AIR MILES credit card and the annual fee of $120 is waived for the first year*. Other benefits include an exclusive 25% discount on one worldwide AIR MILES flight redemption during the calendar year.*, complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass*, and a comprehensive travel insurance package*.

*Terms and conditions apply

Earn Air Miles without paying an annual fee

BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*

3 miles Get 3 Miles for every $25 spent with AIR MILES Partners.

2 miles Get 2x the Miles for every $25 at grocery stores and supermarkets.

4 miles Double up your Shell Go+ Miles on eligible fuel and in-store purchases.

$0 Annual Fee

20.99% Purchase APR

22.99% Cash Advance APR 21.99% for Quebec residents

22.99% Balance Transfer Rate 0.99% introductory interest rate for 9 months (fee applies)*

2.00% Balance Transfer Fee

Good Recommended Credit Score

$15,000 Required Annual Personal Income

Welcome Offer

Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles!* That’s enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash*

Learn more

Earning AIR MILES on nearly everything is the main draw for frugal cardholders with the BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*, which collects 1 MILE on each $25 spent on everyday purchases*, with no annual fee. For buying at a participating AIR MILES Partner with the card, you’ll earn 3x the MILES per $25* and 2x the Miles for every $25 spent at any eligible grocery store*, and an 800-AIR MILES* Welcome Offer (when you spend $1,000 within the first three months). There are also some peripheral perks that may or may not be interesting to travellers, like a 0.99% balance transfer rate deal for 9 months (2% fee applies to balance amount transferred)* and car rental discounts*. Learn more by reading our BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®* review.

*Terms and conditions apply

If you’re unsure which AIR MILES card is the best fit for your lifestyle, you can use our AIR MILES calculator. Enter approximations of how much you spend in different categories each month and the features of the cards you’re comparing. The calculator will then tell you the approximate real-world value each card will give you in a year. 

How many AIR MILES points do I need for a flight?

AIR MILES calculates flight redemption rates based on distance. Generally speaking, you can get the most out of your Dream Miles when you redeem them for short-haul flights. Redeeming miles for roundtrip tickets on these popular routes will cost:

Route Air Miles required in low season Air Miles required in high season
Toronto to New York City 1,400 1,700
Vancouver to San Diego 2,500 3,000
Calgary to San Francisco 3,000 4,000
Winnipeg to Cancun 5,000 7,500
Montreal to Paris 6,000 9,000

To find out exactly how many points it’ll take to reach your destination, check out this helpful interactive map.

Airlines set aside a limited number of seats for loyalty program travellers, so your flight choices will likely be more limited than they would be if you were to buy them outright on the market. While redeeming the cost of the flight in AIR MILES, remember that you’re still on the hook for any taxes and fees associated with the flight.

How to check an AIR MILES points balance

When you want to check your AIR MILES points balance, log into airmiles.ca to find your Cash and Dream Miles displayed right at the top of the page. Your points won’t expire, but if you don’t earn or spend any points in 24 consecutive months, your account will go dormant and you’ll lose your balance from account inactivity.

Related: Tips to keep your AIR MILES from expiring

Where can you earn double AIR MILES rewards?

AIR MILES has a diverse partnership roster, from groceries to gas and everything in between.

Check out the full Sponsor Directory, but for a quick idea, you can collect extra points from:

  • Apparel: Adidas, Aldo, Amazon.ca, Footlocker, Gap, Hudson’s Bay, J. Crew, Nike, Roots
  • Auto: Alamo, Budget, Jiffy Lube, National, Shell
  • Grocery, Drugstore, Beverage: Foodland, IGA, Metro, Sobeys, Pharmasave
  • Tech: Apple, Canon, Dell, Dyson, Microsoft, Staples
  • Travel: Booking.com, Best Western, Expedia.ca, FlightHub.com, Holiday Inn, priceline.com

It should be noted that although some sponsors allow you to collect AIR MILES nationally, some of them may only participate in certain provinces or territories. Make sure you check the directory to see where you can earn AIR MILES points near your home.

What are AIR MILES cash miles?

AIR MILES you collect as Cash Miles can be used toward a discount on everyday in-store purchases. You can redeem a minimum of 95 Cash Miles as $10 at checkout, and more in $10 increments up to a maximum of $750 per account, per day. Cash Miles can also be redeemed online in the same increments for eVouchers sent to your email.

Check out this directory for a complete list of stores available in your region that accept Cash Miles. Keep in mind that they can’t be used to buy gift cards or pre-paid credit cards.

What are AIR MILES dream miles?

AIR MILES Dream Miles are points you collect that can be used toward experiences and merchandise. Dream Miles can be used for flights, hotels, car rentals, and even travel insurance.

Your Dream Miles can also be used on thousands of package vacations via the Air Miles partnership with redtag.ca. Redeeming 909 Dream Miles will get you $100 off, and you’ll continue to earn $1 for every $20 you spend on the booking. In 2019, members were able to start using their Dream Miles toward cruise bookings.

AIR MILES Dream Rewards vs. cash rewards

Those who collect AIR MILES have two choices when it comes to allocating their Miles. The first option is Cash Rewards, which you can use toward your everyday shopping at participating partners (mostly grocery stores and drug stores). The second option is Dream Rewards, which you can use for bigger-ticket items such as vacations, events, and electronics.

Now, it is important to remember to choose wisely between the two, as they cannot be transferred. It is possible to do a mixture of both, but many choose to allocate their points entirely to Dream Rewards, as the rewards are exciting and they can have a higher CPM (cost per mile).

Not every reward has the same CPM so you will want to do a little bit of math and make sure that you are getting the best deal on the reward that you choose. To do this, take the retail price of the product that you want and divide it by the number of miles you will need to exchange for it. Obviously, the higher the CPM, the better the deal for you.

For example: The GoPro Hero 7 Silver is $399.99 retail, but it’ll cost you 6,100 Dream Miles for a redemption. $399.99/6100 = $0.066. Therefore the current CPM when redeeming for a GoPro Hero 7 Silver is 6.6 cents.

Generally speaking, AIR MILES Dream Rewards tend to have a higher CPM compared to Cash Miles, but that’s only when you’re booking flights or vacation packages. Most points collectors agree that if you can get a CPM of 10.5 when making a redemption, you’re getting good value regardless of what you’re claiming.

How to redeem AIR MILES rewards

The AIR MILES rewards program is divided into two categories: AIR MILES Cash Miles and AIR MILES Dream Miles. Each one offers different types of rewards and you have to choose how you want to allocate your points ahead of time (although you can also do a combination of the two).

Cash Miles can be used to pay for in-store purchases (say, your groceries) or for vouchers to things such as movies, restaurants, or even Via Rail.

If you prefer to redeem for bigger items like flights, electronics, or event tickets, then Dream Miles are a better pick.

While the choice is up to you, unfortunately, you can’t swap your miles to either category once you’ve earned them. In other words, if you currently have 2,000 Dream Miles, you can’t switch those to Cash Miles to make a redemption.

How to redeem AIR MILES Cash Miles

Redeeming AIR MILES Cash Miles is less complicated than redeeming AIR MILES Dream Miles.

For example, 95 Cash Miles can be redeemed for $10 in purchases at participating sponsor locations. You can redeem in-store by letting the cashier know that you want to redeem your Cash Miles when you’re checking out.

AIR MILES Cash Miles can be redeemed in increments of $10 up to $750/per Collector Cash Account, per day. Alternatively, you can redeem for vouchers at other participating merchants.

How to redeem AIR MILES Dream Rewards

AIR MILES Dream Rewards can be redeemed for a variety of experiences and products. Common rewards include flights, car rentals, hotels, tickets to attractions, and events. You can also use your points to purchase household items and electronics such as cameras, barbecues, watches, and more. Once you have a sufficient number of Dream Rewards, you can proceed to exchange your points for your desired reward online.

Please note that AIR MILES Dream Rewards gift cards are no longer available. If you are looking for vouchers to restaurants, the movies, etc., they now fall under the AIR MILES Cash Rewards program.

How to redeem AIR MILES Dream Miles for travel

The rewards proven to have the highest CPM are travel-related rewards.

These high CPM include hotels, attractions, car rentals, events, and flights. When redeeming for travel you’ll still want to use your AIR MILES calculator to make sure you are getting a good CPM, but you can rest a little easier knowing that these reward categories generally make your miles go further.

For the highest CPM on AIR MILES flights, your best bet is to choose short-haul domestic flights rather than long-haul international flights.

Interprovincial flights typically offer the most value since they are usually expensive when paying cash, but they’re considered short haul within the AIR MILES program. Last minute flights also tend to have a significantly higher CPM than flights booked in advance. While this may not always work for your travel needs, it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you want the highest value possible for the miles you’ve accumulated.

Note that you can also redeem 909 AIR MILES for $100 in purchases at redtag.ca. That gives you a CPM of $0.11 which is a decent value.

AIR MILES Dream Rewards catalogue

The AIR MILES Dream Rewards catalogue is where you can find all of the options and items that you are eligible to purchase using your Dream Rewards. The online catalogue is divided into different sections including travel, merchandise, and events or attractions. You can use these categories to browse the items on offer. For travel and vacation redemptions, prices will vary depending on the time you choose to travel and where you’re travelling to. Remember to calculate the CPM to make sure you are getting the best deal!

The AIR MILES Dream Rewards catalogue also has weekly deals with select merchandise available for less miles than they would usually cost. There are also occasional travel rewards specials as well. Make sure to take a look at these promos before redeeming your points.

AIR MILES Dream Rewards return policy

Customers should note that all purchases made with dream rewards are final. Once you have received your order confirmation, you cannot make any changes. Refunds, returns, exchanges, or cancellations are not allowed. Should there be an event cancellation, it is up to the artist/venue/or promoter of that event to issue a refund or exchange as they see fit.

Can you transfer AIR MILES from Dream Rewards to cash rewards?

As soon as you sign up for an AIR MILES account, you will have to choose how you want to allocate your points. Your options are Cash Rewards, Dream Rewards, or both. You can choose to earn all your AIR MILES as one or the other, or a combination of the two. Although you can change your earn allocation at any time, once the points have actually been earned as Cash or Dream Rewards miles, you can’t transfer them between the two.

Using credit cards to collect AIR MILES Dream Rewards

The fastest way to collect AIR MILES Dream Rewards is to focus all or most of your purchases onto a credit card that earns AIR MILES. If you like the AIR MILES rewards program, there are a number of potential advantages to using an AIR MILES credit card, including:

  • Earning AIR MILES rewards for every dollar that you spend
  • Extra AIR MILES for shopping at partner retailers
  • Extra AIR MILES for making purchases in specific spending categories (e.g. grocery stores)
  • Special sign-up bonuses for new cardholders, allowing you to earn a large number of miles in a short time
  • Additional benefits, like airport lounge access, travel insurance, low interest rates, etc.

AIR MILES credit cards are processed by either Mastercard or Amex. Mastercard is accepted by a larger number of merchants than Amex (both in Canada and abroad), while Amex cards typically offer more lucrative earn rates.

Tips to keep your AIR MILES rewards from expiring

Wondering if all your AIR MILES will expire in the near future? Here's everything you need to know about keeping your miles active.

AIR MILES expiry: what does it mean exactly?

If you visit the AIR MILES website, you’ll see a notice informing members that AIR MILES has cancelled its expiry policy. At a glance, this seems like great news. But a closer look reveals that the so-called cancellation of the AIR MILES expiry is not quite as clear cut as it seems.

When it comes to the AIR MILES program, no expiration date means that you don’t need to worry about using up your Miles within a certain amount of time, and that the Miles will remain in your account as long as you stay active. But if your account remains inactive for too long it will be considered dormant, and you will indeed lose your AIR MILES. So, while the AIR MILES themselves technically don’t expire, your AIR MILES account can.

When do AIR MILES expire?

As long as you stay active and continue to earn and redeem your AIR MILES, they will not expire. The problem arises when your AIR MILES account becomes inactive for a period of 24 consecutive months. At this point you will lose all of your miles, so make sure you keep your account active by earning some Miles at least once every two years.

AIR MILES expiry statement

The good news is that your AIR MILES won’t randomly disappear on you without warning. You will receive notification in the form of an AIR MILES expiry statement, alerting you to the fact that your account has been unused for too long and you’re coming close to the cut-off period, after which it will be considered dormant.

With that being said, several AIR MILES customers have complained that they never actually received the statement. In the end, it turned out that they indeed received the AIR MILES expiry statements by email, but their email provider labelled the emails as ‘junk’, so the customers didn’t see them.

AIR MILES expiry limit

Unfortunately, there is no limit to the number of miles that you can lose. According to the AIR MILES expiry rules, once your AIR MILES account has reached the dormancy threshold of 24 consecutive months, you will lose all of your miles, even if you’ve amassed a huge number.

How to avoid AIR MILES expiry

There are a few key actions and habits that we recommend to ensure that you get to keep and use all of your AIR MILES rewards.

1. Keep an Eye Out for the Expiry Statement

We highly recommend that you adjust your email junk box settings and add any AIR MILES email addresses to your safe sender list, so that you’ll receive the expiry statement when it’s sent to you and have enough warning time to correct the situation accordingly.

2. Earn or redeem AIR MILES frequently

Your AIR MILES account remains active as long as you continue to collect Miles and/or redeem them for rewards items, so you don’t need to worry about losing your AIR MILES as long as you earn and redeem them with regularity.

3. Get in touch with the AIR MILES team

Sometimes account inactivity might be the result of prolonged illness or other personal problems. If this is the case, then get in touch with the team behind AIR MILES and see if they can do anything to help. They may be able to give you an extension on that 24-month inactivity period or even transfer your Miles to a family member or friend. Exceptions can be made, though normally only in extreme circumstances. Please note that if you are going to go this route, you need to reach out before your account expires. If it’s already been labelled dormant it is likely too late.

4. Use an AIR MILES credit card

One of the easiest ways to safeguard your miles from expiration is to choose a credit card that offers AIR MILES as its rewards program. That way you’ll earn AIR MILES on every purchase you make, which ensures your account will stay active and your miles won’t expire. With an AIR MILES credit card you can also earn double or triple the miles at select AIR MILES partners, and some cards earn extra miles for purchases in specific categories, like gas or groceries.

Not sure which AIR MILES credit card is best for you? Our AIR MILES calculator can save you some math. You punch in how much you spend each month in different categories and the basic features of the AIR MILES card you’re considering, and it tells you how much real-world value the card will yield (in $).

Get the most out of your AIR MILES points

You don’t have to be a jet setter to rack up frequent flyer points to travel for free. Turns out, the best way to collect points is on the ground, using AIR MILES credit cards to supercharge the way you earn them. If you collect AIR MILES, already do most of your shopping with participating sponsors, and pay off your balance in full each month, using an AIR MILES credit card makes all kinds of sense.

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About our authors: faces of finance

Daniel Teo
Daniel Teo, Author

Daniel Teo is a personal finance expert and travel writer based in Toronto. With a passion for financial literacy and a wanderlust that has brought him to over 30 countries, his stories touch on what’s possible when you achieve financial goals. His work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, CBC and on BNN.

Hannah Logan
Hannah Logan, Freelance Contributor

Hannah Logan is a freelance writer, blogger, and content creator from Ottawa. She spends half the year in Canada and half the year travelling around the world. A self-described wannabe Indiana Jones, Hannah first developed an interest in personal finance in an effort to prolong her travel lifestyle. Today, she shares her stories from her travels as well as finance tips, tricks, and knowledge to help others fulfil their savings and travel goals as well. You can keep up with Hannah’s adventures on her personal travel blog, EatSleepBreatheTravel.com or find her on Instagram @hannahlogan21.

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