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Updated: April 03, 2023

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Air Miles points guide: How to get the most out of your Air Miles points

Artem Avetisyan / Shutterstock

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Updated: April 03, 2023

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware that some (or all) products and services linked in this article are from our sponsors.

We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Please be aware this post may contain links to products from our partners. We may receive a commission for products or services you sign up for through partner links.

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.

Related: Best Air Miles credit cards in Canada

How can you earn AIR MILES?

The best way to rack up 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:

Card name Annual fee Sign-up bonus Regular rate for earning Air Miles Accelerated rate for earning Air Miles
BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®* $120 (waived for the first year)* 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®* $0 800 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*

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

Quick Facts

Eligibility criteria

Credit score required: Excellent

Min. personal income required: $80,000

Annual fee: $120

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* â€“ 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*.

Click here to apply or learn more by reading our BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®* review.

*Terms and conditions apply

BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*

Quick Facts

Eligibility criteria

Credit score required: good

Min. personal income required: $15,000

Annual fees: $0

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*.

Click here to apply or 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 give the below AIR MILES calculator a spin. 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. You can read this article for a more detailed explanation of how the calculator works.

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 balance

When you want to check your AIR MILES 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

How to redeem AIR MILES

Once your points start adding up, you can redeem your Cash Miles in-store by simply showing your collector card or app and asking to cash in on your points at check out. Redeeming your Miles for eVouchers can be done online through the official website.

To redeem Dream Miles, you’ll also need to log in online and use their travel portal or browse their rewards catalogue for over 1,000 reward options.

Where can you earn double AIR MILES?

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.

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 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.

Additional highlights

Comparing cards BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®* BMO® AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*
Rating 4.5/5 4.5/5
Credit score required Excellent Good
Insurance Comprehensive travel insurance package included* Double manufacturer’s warranty up to a year and automatically insure items against theft or damage for 90 days from date of purchase with your card
Extras Complimentary membership in Mastercard Travel Pass provided by DragonPass* Low 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 9 months (2% balance transfer fee applies)*
Card review Read more Read more

BMO is not responsible for maintaining the content on this site. Please click on the Apply now link for the most up to date information.

About our author

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.

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