Canada’s Best Air Miles Credit Cards - MoneySense

Canada’s Best Air Miles Credit Cards

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. Originally known for offering travel rewards, over the years the program has expanded and these days collectors can redeem Air Miles for merchandise, events and even cash. Whether you’re looking for a basic no-fee option, for a huge welcome bonus to get you instant rewards, or for a solid all-around travel Air Miles option, 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 2 Miles per $20 spent at Air Miles partners, and 1 Mile per $20 spent everywhere else—letting you double your earn rate when you 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 also a good choice for budget-conscious students. When your time comes to redeem, you’ll have the added satisfaction of knowing your reward—whether 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 three 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
  • 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 using the Air Miles program primarily for travel will find outstanding perks and bonuses with the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard. This card has the best earn rate in the field, with 1 Mile awarded for every $10 spent; plus, new members are welcomed with a bonus of a whopping 3,000 Miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. What really puts this card into a class of its own 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 to Mastercard Airport Experiences by LoungeKey, with exclusive VIP access and two annual complimentary lounge passes, 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 protections round out the package, and even offer personal effects coverage for lost valuables—one of the very few cards to provide this.

  • Annual fee: $120
  • Welcome bonus: 3,000 bonus Air Miles with a spend of $3,000 or more in the first three months, and the annual fee is waived for the first year
  • Earn rate: 1 Mile for every $10 spent
  • Additional benefits: 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 card for gas

Shell Air Miles Mastercard*

If you’re a heavy commuter collector of Air Miles, chances are you want to make those gas purchases count. You can double your Miles earnings on gas by filling up at Shell stations and paying with your BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for 2 Miles on every $20 spent. (And you earn the same great earn rate at other sponsors including Safeway, Rexall and Staples). With no annual fee and a big welcome bonus of 800 Miles for new members, this card is a solid choice.

  • Annual fee: $0
  • Welcome bonus: Up to 800 bonus Air Miles (400 on sign-up and 400 after $1,000 spent in the first three 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
  • 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 Shell Air Miles Mastercard*


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 is set to rake in the rewards. And don’t worry about gassing up the company car: Pay at Shell stations and you’ll earn 1.25 times the Miles.

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

  • Annual fee: $120, waived in the first year
  • 3,000 bonus Air Miles with a minimum $5,000 spend in the first three months
  • Earn rate: 1 Mile per $10 spent
  • Additional benefits: Optional employee cards, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and travel and car rental insurance


Honourable mention

American Express Air Miles Platinum*

When you sign up for an American Express Air Miles Platinum card, you’re getting one of the best welcome bonuses in the program: 2,000 bonus Miles with $1,500 in charges in the first three months of membership. (The BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard, which snags a best-of review above, offers a 3,000-Mile bonus, but at double the spend and nearly double the annual fee.) The bonus alone is enough for a select short-haul flight, and beefing up your account is easy with this card’s earn rate of 1 Mile per $10 spent at eligible (stand-alone) gas stations—and grocery stores and drugstores. This is the best rate going, but the default isn’t too shabby either: all other purchases earn 1 Mile per $15.

  • Annual fee: $65
  • Welcome bonus: 2,000 Air Miles with $1,500 in credit card purchases over the first three months, plus a 1.99% introductory interest rate for the first six months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee
  • Earn rate: 1 Mile per $10 spent at partner merchants and 1 Mile per $15 spent everywhere else
  • Additional benefits: Free supplementary cards, travel accident insurance, car rentals damage and theft protection and purchase protection

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


Who are Air Miles partners—and how can you earn Air Miles faster?

The Air Miles program is super popular with Canadians, 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. This means more options to earn. Next, the Air Miles partner list includes some heavy-hitters, locations where you’re likely to spend a good part of your monthly budget, like Safeway, Sobey’s, and Metro supermarkets; Rona, Lowe’s, and Ace in the hardware sector; the LCBO (and Safeway and Sobey’s Liquor) for your adult beverages; Budget, Alamo and National car rentals; and Shell for gas.

While you earn on every dollar you spend when you shop with an Air Miles credit card, you get more—and can “double-dip” with an Air Miles Collector card—when you shop through Air Miles partners. And savvy shoppers who keep an eye out will find promotions and sales events that allow them to multiply their rewards. Finally, you can get to your next reward faster by shopping for everyday purchases at airmilesshops.ca, an online site chock full of special offers from Air Miles partners, where every $20 spent nets you 1 Mile.

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; plus, Cash Miles are simple to redeem either in-store at Air Miles Partners or online for Air Miles eVouchers. Dream Miles are Miles saved towards a “dream” reward like travel, tickets or attractions. These tend to be bigger-ticket items, and the redemption rate varies. For example, your Dream Miles can be redeemed for flights with a number of preferred airlines, but the rate will depend on factors including where you’re going and at what time of year. Generally speaking, Dream Miles may offer better value, but the redemption process involves more planning.

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 earned 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 at any time, you can’t move Miles between categories once they’re earned.

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