Canada’s best Air Miles credit cards 2020 - MoneySense

Canada’s best Air Miles credit cards 2020

With excellent options for all types of collectors, there’s never been a better time to join Canada’s best-loved loyalty program.

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Best Air Miles Credit Cards in Canada

Photo by Eduardo Velazco Guart on Unsplash

The Air Miles loyalty program, which rewards collectors when they shop at any of its dozens of partner merchants across Canada, is one of the most established and popular in the nation. Known originally for offering travel rewards, over the years the program has expanded and these days collectors can redeem for merchandise, events and even cash. Whether you’re looking for a basic no fee card, for a huge welcome bonus to get you instant rewards, or for a solid all-around travel card that lets you collect Air Miles, there’s a card that’s right for you. 

The best Air Miles credit cards in Canada


Best no fee Air Miles credit card

BMO Air Miles Mastercard*

If you’re looking for a no fee credit card, why not choose one that rewards you with every spend? The BMO Air Miles Mastercard is a fairly standard everyday card with one serious frill: Cardholders earn 1 Mile for every $20 spent—an earn rate you can double when you shop at Air Miles partners and also show your Air Miles Collector Card at checkout. With no annual fee and a set of standard perks like extended warranty and purchase protection, this is a great entry-level card. When your time comes to redeem, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing your reward—whether it’s a toaster oven, cash for groceries or a flight—was free.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome bonus: Up to 800 bonus Air Miles (400 on sign-up and 400 after $1,000 spent in the first 3 months) and 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 6 months
  • Earn rate: 2 Miles per $20 spent at Air Miles partners and 1 Mile per $20 spent elsewhere
  • Income requirement: None specified
  • Additional benefits: Free additional cards; purchase protection; extended warranty protection; and a discount on car rentals at Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental

Click here for more details about the BMO Air Miles Mastercard*


Best Air Miles credit card for travellers

BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard*

Those who use the Air Miles program primarily for travel will find outstanding perks and bonuses with the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. This card has one of the best earn rates in the field, with 1 Mile awarded for every $10 spent; plus, new members are welcomed with a whopping 3,000 Miles bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months. What really puts this card into its own class are the numerous travel-specific perks for account holders. To start, members get an exclusive 15% discount on all Air Miles flights in North America with no blackout dates. Complimentary membership in Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey, with exclusive VIP access and two annual complimentary passes to over 1,000 lounges worldwide means you can pass your time in the airport in comfort. The included travel insurance is robust, with out-of-province/out-of-country emergency medical for cardholders under 65 years of age. Trip cancellation, flight delay and car rental protection round out the package, and even personal effects coverage for lost valuables is included (the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard is one of the very few cards to provide this).

  • Annual fee: $120 (waived for the first year)
  • Welcome bonus: 3,000 bonus Air Miles with a spend of $3,000 or more in the first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 1 Mile for every $10 spent and collect 2x the Miles with Air Miles partners.
  • Income requirement: $80,000
  • Additional benefits: Complimentary lounge access with 2 annual passes; travel and medical discounts on car rentals; 15% flight discount on Air Miles flights in North America

Click here for more details about the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard*


Best Air Miles credit card for everyday spending

American Express Air Miles Platinum*

When you sign up for an American Express Air Miles Platinum card, you’re getting a welcome bonus of 2,000 bonus Miles—enough for a select flight. And beefing up your account is easy with this card’s strong earn rate on everyday purchases of one Mile per $5 spent on eligible gas, grocery, transit and restaurant purchases, and 1 Mile per $10 on everything else. To top it all off, you’ll earn 25% bonus Miles once a year on your flight redemptions.

Another great feature of this card is it doesn’t have any specific income requirement, meaning it’s easier to qualify for. There are a few drawbacks, though. It lacks out-of-province medical emergency coverage and its welcome offer doesn’t include an annual fee waiver (unlike the aforementioned Air Miles World Elite), bringing down the value of its bonus by a notch. Also, it’s issued by American Express, meaning it’s not as widely accepted as the BMO Mastercard alternatives on this list.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: 2,000 Air Miles with $1,500 in credit card purchases over the first 3 months 
  • Earn rate: 1 Mile per $5 spent at restaurants, coffee shops, groceries, gas and transit; and 1 Mile per $10 spent everywhere else
  • Income requirement: None specified
  • Additional benefits: Free supplementary cards; travel accident insurance; car rental damage and theft protection; purchase protection; access to AMEX Front of the Line

Click here for more details about the American Express Air Miles Platinum*


Best Air Miles card for business

BMO Air Miles Business Mastercard

With an incredible welcome bonus of 3,000 Miles and an earn rate of 1 Mile per $10 spent anywhere, this card sets you up to rake in the rewards. And don’t worry about gassing up the company car: You get 1.25x the Miles when you fuel up at Shell.

Top-notch purchase, warranty, car rental and travel protection are all included for an annual fee of $120 (waived in the first year). 

  • Annual fee: $120, waived in the first year
  • Welcome bonus: 3,000 bonus Air Miles with a minimum $5,000 spend in the first 3 months
  • Earn rate: 1 Mile per $10 spent 
  • Income requirement: None specified
  • Additional benefits: Optional employee cards; purchase protection; extended warranty protection; and travel and car rental insurance


Who are Air Miles partners?

The Air Miles program is super popular in Canada, and their list of partners is one of the main reasons why. First of all, Air Miles has hundreds of partners—retailers and service providers that offer Air Miles when you purchase from them. More partners means more opportunities to earn. Lucky for Canadians, the Air Miles partner list includes some heavy-hitters, where you’re likely to spend a good part of your monthly budget. For example, partner supermarkets include Safeway, Sobeys and Metro, and you can even collect at alcohol partners such as the LCBO, Thrifty Foods Liquor and Safeway Liquor. Rona, Lowe’s and Ace Hardware offer Air Miles in the home improvement and hardware sector. Shell is the gas partner, offering 1 Mile per 15 L at the pump. There are even travel-related partners like Budget, Alamo and National car rentals, and WestJet and Air Canada.

How can you earn Air Miles faster?

With any rewards program, the more you earn, the better the rewards—so how do you make sure you’re earning as many Air Miles as you can? Read on for our top tips.

Use an Air Miles Credit Card to earn Miles everywhere you shop. This way, you can earn on every dollar you spend. You can also “double-dip” with an Air Miles Collector Card when you shop through Air Miles partners. For example, if you use an Air Miles credit card for a purchase at Metro you’ll get Air Miles as they’re a partner store, but if you show your Collector Card as well, you’ll double your haul of Miles.

Check in with Air Miles partner retailers regularly and keep an eye out for multiplier days. When you shop during these events you’ll earn between 2 and 20 times the Miles. Also, when you’re in-store at an Air Miles partner, check for bonuses on the shelves. These are usually promoted through stickers near the shelf price and will allow you to earn more Miles for purchasing a certain product. Or, go online to airmilesshops.ca and search through their stores for items with bonuses. For example, the Hudson’s Bay Company was recently selling their famous striped blanket with a 3x Miles bonus.

When you shop through airmilesshops.ca, you’re using the Air Miles portal to access some of your favourite brands—but better. By shopping here (as opposed to through the store’s website, for example), you’ll have access to deals and be able to collect more Miles that wouldn’t be available to you otherwise. For example, you can collect 5x the Miles when you shop at Dyson Canada and 2x the Miles when you shop at Amazon.ca through the portal.

Finally, credit cards often offer juicy bonuses for signing up, spending a certain amount or opting in to a service like paperless statements. Keep an eye out for tempting promotions.

Air Miles Dream Miles versus Cash Miles

Another feature of the Air Miles program is that it lets you choose from two different ways to earn: in Cash Miles or Dream Miles. 

Cash Miles are Miles that can be used towards everyday shopping for things like groceries or gas at participating partners at a rate of 95 Miles for $10. You could use your Miles on snacks at Metro, on a night at the movies with Cineplex or even on a latte from Starbucks.  The rate is always the same, and Cash Miles are simple to redeem either in-store at Air Miles partners or online for Air Miles e-vouchers. 

Dream Miles are Miles saved towards a “dream” reward, like travel, event tickets or attractions. These tend to be bigger-ticket items, and the redemption rate varies. You could redeem your Dream Miles for a flight booked on one of the Air Miles partner airlines. If you go this route, the value of your Miles will depend on the time of year you fly, as high season flights require more Miles than low season flights. For example, you could fly from Toronto to San Francisco for 4,300 Miles in low season or 5,500 Miles in high season. When redeeming for flights within North America, you can usually use Dream Miles to cover the cost of fuel surcharges and airline carrier charges, but that’s not always the case, especially when travelling internationally. You’ll also have to pay the extra taxes and airport fees out of pocket. Also, you can’t redeem Miles in small increments, and you can only view flights that you have enough Miles to book. However, if you plan and book your travel well in advance, you can get great value from your Dream Miles.

As an Air Miles Collector, you have to choose whether to earn your Miles in the Cash or Dream categories—but don’t worry! You can also choose both. For example, if you want to use all of your Air Miles for everyday purchases, you can go on the Air Miles site and select 100% of your Miles going to Cash. Or, if you want all of your Miles to go into savings against a trip, you’d choose 100% Dream. Or, you can split between the two in any proportion you want: 50:50, 60:40, 80:20, or any other. The only important thing to remember here is that while you can change these settings for new Miles you collect at any time, you can’t move Miles between categories once they’re already been earned.


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