Canada’s best Air Miles credit cards
Want to earn Air Miles on your regular spending? These are the cards to consider.
Want to earn Air Miles on your regular spending? These are the cards to consider.
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 to earn Air Miles through a basic no fee credit card, or don’t mind paying an annual fee for additional rewards, you’ll find solid options below. Plus, you can learn about how the program works, too.
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 $25 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. Plus, check out the impressive welcome offer.
Get more details about the BMO Air Miles 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 $12 spent and three times the Miles at Air Miles partners; plus, new members are welcomed with a whopping 2,000 Miles. 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. 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).
Get more details about the BMO World Elite Mastercard*
When you sign up for an American Express Air Miles Platinum card, you’re getting a welcome bonus of 2,000 bonus Miles—enough to redeem $200 towards your purchases with Air Miles Cash. 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.
Get more details about the American Express Air Miles Platinum*
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).
Get more details about the American Express Air Miles Reserve Card*
No fee cards don’t typically offer much in the way of earnings, but this card still offers a strong rate of 1 Mile for every $15 spent at Air Miles partners and 1 Mile for $20 spent everywhere else. It also boasts a decent welcome bonus of 500 Air Miles.
The card does have a few useful perks worth mentioning, like travel insurance coverage, purchase protection and an emergency card replacement service with 24/7 customer support.
The average cash value of 1 Air Mile sits at around $0.12 to $0.15. The above numbers are not always consistent and can change based on the country or region you live in. What you choose to redeem your rewards on will also play a role in determining the real value of your Air Miles.
You can choose to redeem your Miles for merchandise through the Air Miles store. Everything from digital cameras to computers, laptops, tablets and kitchen appliances is available for purchase. Of course, the point cost will vary greatly depending on which item you choose. (Always do the math to make sure it’s something for which you can’t find a better price elsewhere, too.)
If you plan on using your Air Miles for flights, the biggest variable in determining the value of your miles will be whether you travel during the high or low seasons. Below are the periods considered the high and low seasons for travel:
So let’s say you’re flying from Toronto to Vancouver during the low season, the cost of the flight would be around 3,600 Miles or around $360. During the high season, the same flight would cost around 4,900 Miles or around $490. That represents a difference of $130 or 1,300 points, meaning your Miles are less valuable overall if you fly during the high season. (Note: the example above does not take into account the additional taxes and fees you may have to pay. The numbers will also vary depending on the region and country you are flying to and from.)
Now let’s compare a top Air Miles card to a top cash back card. We’ll look at the earn rates, fees and welcome offers to see how they stack up. In the chart below, we compare the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite Card and the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. Here’s how the cards rank against each other:
|Card||Earn rate||Annual fee||Welcome offer|
|Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite Card*||4% on groceries and recurring bill payments
2% on gas and transit
1% on everything else
|$120 (waived for the first year)||You can earn 10% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000). Must apply by May 1, 2022.|
|BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard*||1 Mile for every $12 spent
3x the Miles with Air Miles partners
|$120 (waived for the first year)||Earn 2,000 bonus Air Miles ($210 value) when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months|
So which card has better rewards? It depends on your needs. If you currently spend a lot at Air Miles partners (like Shell and Sobeys) then the BMO card may be a good fit, whereas if you use your credit card at a variety of retailers for groceries and gas, the Scotiabank card may be the better option. Also, the Scotiabank card has a generous 10% back welcome offer for the first 3 months, so if you had some big purchases in mind. Overall, both cards have exceptional earn rates, so you will be raking in the travel or cash back rewards regardless of whichever card you choose.
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 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.
While Air Miles is widely accepted in Canada, the program is only offered at a limited number of Canadian gas stations. Currently, Shell Canada and Irving Oil are the two gas stations in Canada that accept Air Miles. The rewards you earn will also vary depending on the province you live in. Of course, this can change, so be sure to check the Air Miles website for the addition of any new partners in the future.
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.
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.
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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