Which AIR MILES Credit Card Is Best For 2016?

bestairmilescreditcards.jpgTwo out of every three Canadians collects AIR MILES and, if you want to maximize your rewards, having an AIR MILES credit card just makes sense!

But why settle for any old card, when you could be earning a lot more miles and experiencing a lot more perks by getting the best one?

Figuring out which one is best is easier said than done though ... that's why I analyze every single detail of these cards and then rank them using a comprehensive system I personally developed over the last five years.

No more comparing feature by feature trying to weigh the pros and the cons - you can rest assured that the top card on my list is the best fit for most Canadians. My rankings are also continually updated so you can be sure you aren't getting stale information.

AIR MILES Credit Cards Compared And Ranked

The cards in the table are ordered from best to worst. Please note that the table scrolls horizontally by using the slider at the bottom.

  Credit Card
Apply BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard
Apply American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
(low min. income!)
Apply BMO AIR MILES World MasterCard
Apply Hudson's Bay MasterCard
Apply BMO Sobeys AIR MILES MasterCard
Apply American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card
Apply American Express AIR MILES Credit Card
Apply BMO AIR MILES MasterCard
Score Miles Per $100 Spent Bonus Miles Annual Fee First Year Free? Extra Cards $25,000 Spend Score $100,000 Spend Score Insurance Score Perks Score
5.0 10.0 1,000 $120 No $50 4.6 5.0 5.0 2.9
3.3 8.0 2,000 $65 Yes Free 4.6 3.2 1.0 2.8
3.0 6.9 0 $99 No $35 3.4 1.4 4.2 1.6
2.6 6.3 0 $0 Yes Free 5.0 1.7 0.0 2.2
2.4 5.5 400
500*
$0 Yes Free 4.6 0.8 0.8 2.2
2.2 8.0 2,400 $299 No $50 0.0 0.4 2.7 5.0
2.1 5.2 500 $0 Yes Free 4.4 0.4 0.2 2.4
2.0 4.8 0
500*
$0 Yes Free 4.2 0.0 0.8 1.9
* Limited time promotion ending soon.

What The Numbers Mean

The score you see above is calculated very carefully accounting for all the features of each credit card including:

  • Rewards per dollar spent including all bonus spending categories like gas, groceries, etc.
  • The impact of both typical spending habits and high spending habits.
  • Annual fees for primary and secondary cardholders.
  • If the first year is free.
  • The size of the sign up bonus.
  • What insurance coverage the card offers across the 15 different types that I track.
  • What other perks big and small the card might have like concierge service, lounge access, companion flights, low minimum income, etc.

That's right, you only have to look at one number to know if you are getting the best card. If one particular feature is of more importance to you, then you can dig into the other scores like spending, insurance, and perks. There are many more features you can compare side by side using the above table or you can read on below for my discussion of the features people value most.

I also want to point out that Miles Per $100 Spent is a calculated number that factors in spending spread across all the different bonus spending categories in a sensible way that would fit the daily life of a typical Canadian. That way, you know roughly how many AIR MILES you will really earn when using the card and can easily compare the cards against each other.

What's Important To You?

What you think is the most important feature of a credit card might not line up with my own assessment. Therefore, if one of the features listed below is of great importance to you, then you might want to consider applying for a card that does well in that particular area.

1) Earning Miles As Fast As Possible

If all you want is the most bang in miles for your buck, then the new BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard has no equal. You get 1 mile per $10 spent across all spending categories, which none of the other cards can match. That works out to exactly 10 miles per $100 spent. The problem is, you'll need an income of $70,000 or more to qualify!

My recommendation is to go with the American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card because it has a combination of a high earn rate (8 miles per $100 spent), a reasonable annual fee of $65 that is waived for the first year, a massive sign up bonus of 2,000 free miles, and a lot of premium perks and features for little cost.

2) Getting The Biggest Bonus For Signing Up

The highest sign up bonus award goes to the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card at 2,400 miles. It does have a higher annual fee of $299 but also comes with a nice list of exclusive perks you won't find on other cards.

If you want free bonus miles, then the American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card is best because you get 2,000 at no cost with the annual fee being waived for the first year. It's a great way to try the card out with no risk while getting more than $210 worth of free miles (worth more if you redeem for flights). Better yet, you only need a $15,000 income to qualify - what fully employed person doesn't make that?

3) No Annual Fee

If you can't imagine ever paying an annual fee for a credit card, then your best choice is surprisingly the Hudson's Bay MasterCard. This card, backed by Capital One, allows you to earn 2 HBC points per dollar spent. Additionally you get 25% bonus points for all your spending credited to your account twice a year. That works out to 6.3 miles per $100 spent, not counting an additional 15% bonus you get 4 times a year if you have AIR MILES Gold status. All you have to do is link your HBC account with your AIR MILES account, and your points will automatically be converted to miles and credited to you once a week.

If you'd rather earn AIR MILES directly, then the BMO Sobeys AIR MILES MasterCard is a solid second choice, especially if you shop at Sobeys or Foodland for groceries already.

4) Top Insurance Package

If you're a frequent traveler, then the insurance coverage offered by a good credit card can easily save you thousands of dollars. Whenever you rent a car you can decline the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) that adds up to $20 per day to the bill. If you drop your brand new iPad within the first 90-120 days of owning it, you can get a full repair or reimbursement of the purchase price.

Need medical insurance? Good cards offer from 15-31 days of travel medical absolutely free which could easily cost you hundreds per trip. With 15+ types of credit card insurance available, the potential savings certainly don't end there!

The BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard has the top insurance package hands down offering 14 out of the 15 types of insurance that I track. Not only that, but it offers the best insurance in 12 out those 14 categories when compared to all the other cards which is a very impressive feat.

If you want something with a tolerable annual fee and low minimum income, then the American Express Platinum AIR MILES Credit Card would be what I'd suggest.

5) Great Perks

One card really stands out when it comes to perks: the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card.

It gives you a free companion flight once a year, 4 lounge passes, concierge service, and an annual free partner ticket when redeeming up to 1,700 Miles on flights. You also get the ability to use your miles for business class flights, taxes and fees, and other flights that are typically unavailable to AIR MILES collectors. It even allows you to waive the administration fee you normally have to pay when booking a reward flight.

Other perks include priority access to security, taxi, and limo lines at select Canadian airports and exclusive access to better concert and event seating via American Express Front Of The Line. The $299 annual fee is steep, but if you like perks then this card is worth it.

Converting Points To Miles

You may see a few credit cards in the above table that seem out of place because they don't reward you in AIR MILES directly. However, certain rewards programs allow you to convert your points to miles for free. I wanted to include those cards that allow you to turn your points into miles to be thorough and provide a few unconventional options.

There used to be more options for converting, but since HBC Rewards stopped allowing you to convert points from Esso Extra, the options have become a lot more limited. 

Converting From Hudson's Bay Rewards

This is an easy conversion that can be set up to convert your points automatically on a weekly basis. It costs 40 HBC points to earn one AIR MILE and that conversion ratio has been factored into all the numbers in the above table such that everything is displayed in miles instead of points.

Looking For Travel Rewards Credit Cards?

The cards listed here are AIR MILES rewards miles only. Follow this link if you are looking for travel credit cards.

Hot Credit Card Deals This Month:

  • Best Cash Back Credit Card
    • 2% earned on ALL purchases - no caps or limits
    • 10,000 bonus points = $100 cash + no annual fee for the first year
    • I personally earned $1,053 cash back with this card in 2015
    • Redeem your cash any time and not just as a statement credit
    • Looks like a travel card, but points convert to cash at 2% rate
    • Great insurance and perks including RARE price protection
  • The #1 Credit Card in Canada
    • 25,000 bonus points - worth about $750 when converted to Aeroplan miles
    • Can also redeem points for ANY travel booked with ANY travel provider
    • Double rewards on grocery, gas, drugstore, and travel purchases.
    • Low minimum income to qualify - $20,000
    • First year free, cancel anytime
    • See why it's #1
  • $150 Cash Bonus + Amazing Insurance Coverage + FREE Roadside Assistance
    • 1.75% cash back on ALL purchases
    • 14 different types of insurance included - the best in Canada
    • Double the usual extended warranty and purchase protection coverage
    • $2,500 trip cancellation & $2,000 trip interruption
    • Personal effects insurance - covers lost/stolen items for your whole trip (rare)
    • FREE roadside assistance included - 1 of only 2 cards to offer this
    • Total of $150 in cash sign up bonuses - ends August 31st

Comments

Code Clements
Code Clements's picture

Very useful. I have been looking for a better deal.

December 11, 2015 @ 7:40 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Glad you found the information useful and it helped you find something better than what you already had!

December 13, 2015 @ 10:37 pm
Nadine Mullin
Nadine Mullin's picture

I have looked around Google quite a lot at this topic and your info is excellent! I have one strange concern, though: I am an RBC client and find having my credit card within my regular online banking keeps me in check because I see it/pay it every time I get paid/log in. Since I have no reason to log into BMO, there's no built-in rigour. Have you researched RBC's air miles card? Is it a bad option? Insights welcome!

December 15, 2015 @ 3:23 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Hi Nadine. I'm going to be publishing a more thorough analysis of all the travel related credit cards in Canada in early 2016. That one will include the RBC cards. RBC doesn't really have a lot of standout cards but they aren't bad either. The Avion Infinite isn't a bad card at all. There are definitely better ones out there but if you simply must have an RBC travel rewards card, then I'd probably go with the Avion.

December 15, 2015 @ 4:55 pm
Adrianne
Adrianne's picture

Nice post, however, a minor detail regarding the HCB Mastercard (from their website):

"Please note that only Hudson’s Bay Rewards points earned at Hudson’s Bay, Hudson’s Bay online and Home Outfitters, or otherwise awarded by Hudson’s Bay Company or any of its affiliates can be redeemed for AIR MILES® reward miles."

So unless you spend a lot at these stores, it might not make much sense to get this card.

December 31, 2015 @ 12:16 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Thanks for commenting Adrianne. I don't think this impacts things much because you can earn HBC points at ANY store using the HBC MasterCard. That is a legitimate way to earn HBC points, so those points will still be eligible to be converted to AIR MILES.

January 02, 2016 @ 7:15 pm
Chris Philpotts
Chris Philpotts's picture

One more note to point out. The BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard allows you to book flights at a 25% discount in miles. Not sure if the other cards do that as well but if you're redeeming for flights it means the miles are actually worth more with that particular card.

January 05, 2016 @ 6:24 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, that's one of the great perks of that card that was taken into account when computing the total score but I didn't really mention it in the article specifically. Thanks for pointing it out Chris!

January 07, 2016 @ 11:56 am
Colleen
Colleen's picture

You're site has become a credit card pusher. And I can't trust your recommendations anymore.

January 14, 2016 @ 4:02 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I'm sorry to hear that Colleen. It is true that the site uses credit cards as a way to earn money. However, I will never ever recommend a credit card or other product that I don't 100% believe in or would use myself.

I have also built a credit card ranking system from the ground up over the past 5 years that ranks credit cards by ALL of their features. In any of my comparison articles, I always include links to all credit cards whether I earn any money from them or not. If the top card doesn't pay out any money, then it is still the top card no matter what.

I'm not sure how long you have been a reader for, but some of the earliest content on HowToSaveMoney.ca was about credit cards and maximizing their rewards. This was long before the site earned any money from those cards at all. I've also personally been using rewards credit cards to save money and travel the world practically free since 2003, long before I even conceived this site. I don't want to see people in debt and only recommend using a credit card if you can pay off your bill every month like I do.

Given all of that, you'll see that comparing credit cards and maximizing their rewards is actually long standing passion of mine. This year I have been attempting to update and add to much of my older credit card content because it has become so out of date.

I'm sure you'll also be happy to know that I'm planning to launch a new site focused entirely on credit cards so I can move a lot of those types of articles off HowToSaveMoney.ca. I will still be producing some credit card related content here, but mostly just comparison articles and not reviews and credit card related news.

If you are interested to learn more about how the site makes money and our policies, we have just updated our Terms, Privacy, and Disclosure document.

January 20, 2016 @ 4:57 pm
Marie Rose Hagen
Marie Rose Hagen's picture

Re: BMO World Elite
What happens if your income is high enough to allow enrolment and then goes down in subsequent years?
MR

March 25, 2016 @ 11:28 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Missed this question earlier Marie - my apologies. It is no problem if your income goes down, you will still be able to keep the card just fine as long as you have a good track record of paying on time. I wouldn't report the income change to them either unless they ask you to.

April 07, 2016 @ 2:46 pm
m albert
m albert's picture

Is the 3000 bonus air miles still available with BMO World Elite

April 06, 2016 @ 9:41 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, it is still ongoing - I think it ends in May.

April 07, 2016 @ 2:44 pm
Anne Marie
Anne Marie's picture

Why does the BMO World Elite card require the $70,000.00 income? My income is less but I'm a good money manager and always pay my bills. I would like to apply for that card.

April 26, 2016 @ 9:04 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

$70,000 is actually the standard for all World Elite cards. I believe Infinite cards are also $60,000 or $70,000 across the board. I'm not 100% sure of the reason for it, but I'm sure there are several.

One thing I do know is that you can qualify for cards where you don't quite meet the income requirements if your credit is good enough. Also be sure to include all possible sources of income when giving them this number. If you receive money through any means - add it in. If you're even close, I'd still give it a shot. The worst they can say is no.

April 27, 2016 @ 3:46 pm
Laura Mazerolle
Laura Mazerolle's picture

How are these bonus cards really suppose to be so good for someone wanting to use these for flying? My husband & I, each have been accumulating for years, on the Aeroplan and Airmiles cards. We just checked them today, we are barely able to fly to Montreal or Toronto from Saint John, NB. Are these cards a waste of time to chase points?

April 30, 2016 @ 4:38 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

The trick Laura is to sign up for credit cards fairly regularly with large sign up bonuses. For instance, one of the BMO cards has a 3,000 mile bonus right now. That's enough to get flying right away. There are also good Aeroplan offers that will get you enough miles for a trip across North America just with the sign up bonus.

Then, when collecting miles in-store, you also need to stay on top of bonuses to make it really worthwhile. Otherwise, you can just expect a small discount from time to time for buying stuff you would anyway - better than nothing.

For everyday spending for a family on your credit card, you should be able to easily earn 2,500 miles a year at a rate of 1 mile per $10 spent. In 2 years you'd have enough for short haul tickets for 2 people + fees and taxes.

May 02, 2016 @ 11:34 am
Mark McShane
Mark McShane's picture

Definitely use the links provided on this site. The current bonus for the BMO World Elite Card according to the BMO website is for 1000 air miles. I figured that the 3000 mile deal was expired but that isn't the case at all. If you follow the link on this page, it goes to a special deal page on the BMO site and still includes the 3000 air miles described above. I went through the application process which confirmed the 3000 air mile bonus was indeed still valid. Thanks to the link above I got an extra 2000 bonus air miles that I would have been screwed out of by going straight to the BMO site. Howtosave indeed. Sweet.

May 04, 2016 @ 7:56 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes sometimes affiliate offers are better than what the banks offer on their own sites. I happen to be affiliated with BMO and they also happen to sometimes give better offers to their affiliates. Affiliate relationships do not affect my rankings though. The number #1 ranked card is always #1 no matter if I am affiliated with them or not.

May 05, 2016 @ 12:15 pm
Norman Kling
Norman Kling's picture

Hot Credit Card Deals This Month are listed. Caveat: regarding the Tangerine Mastercard, to be eligible for the 3 bonus categories, you must have the cash reward deposited to a Tangerine bank account, otherwise you are eligible for only 2 bonus categories and the cash reward is credited on your statement. An excellent feature is that the cash reward is paid monthly and not annually (like so many other cash back cards). I have had the card for 6 months and highly recommend it.

I have a no-fee TD Visa Drivers Reward card and use that card for gas which is rewarded at 2%, thus I do not use Tangerine's gas bonus category but elect another category.

May 16, 2016 @ 6:46 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Although not specific to this article, that's good information about the Tangerine card Norman. That's the reason why I put "up to 3 bonus categories" in the Hot Credit Card Deals section. The good news is that anyone can get the 3rd category if they really want it because Tangerine accounts are free.

May 16, 2016 @ 9:05 pm
porgiamor
porgiamor's picture

Sobeys Airmiles N/A anymore I clicked and it's no longer available thru BMO.

June 04, 2016 @ 5:13 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Still coming up for me. I was able to get to the application.

June 05, 2016 @ 3:09 pm
Simon
Simon's picture

BMO World Elite Card Air miles Mastercard is now 50$ for the second card

June 22, 2016 @ 12:00 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Thanks for pointing that out Simon. I just noticed the $50 the other day too and was shocked because my own data said it was free for secondary cards. This must be a new fee then as I heard a bunch of banks raised fees recently. I've updated the article.

June 22, 2016 @ 11:35 pm
Ron Natura
Ron Natura's picture

Hi Stephen,
I am wondering if that extra 2000 bonus is available as Mark McShane was telling about. What link he was using?
Many thanks
Cheers
Ron

June 23, 2016 @ 8:00 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

That deal is now expired everywhere Ron, sorry. I will update this page if they ever bring it back though (no guarantees).

June 24, 2016 @ 4:37 pm
Robert Donnelly
Robert Donnelly's picture

Very interested to see your "best" credit card ratings. Somewhat surprised to see Amex heading or leading in so many categories. They are one of the card companies that Credit Card Acceptors like to deal with the least. They have a reputation for slow payment, higher fees to retailers, and falling worldwide acceptance.

June 24, 2016 @ 4:00 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, the reason they are accepted less is because their merchant fees are a bit higher. However, they offer cards with some of the best rewards and features out there along with providing excellent customer service.

June 24, 2016 @ 4:39 pm
Norman Kling
Norman Kling's picture

Do you know if or how double dipping is allowed for the AirMiles bonus on credit card applications? A few months ago I applied online for a BMO AirMiles Mastercard and received 600 bonus AirMiles. Now there is an offering of a BMO IGA AirMiles Mastercard with a 500 AirMile point bonus. The fine print stipulates "Limit of one (1) offer per AIR MILES Collector Account (“Collector Account”)". Even though the credit cards have different sponsors, i.e. BMO vs BMO IGA, it is not clear to me whether I would be eligible for this second bonus. Any idea? (I suppose I could possibly apply for this second MasterCard and not provide my AirMiles account collector number and likely have a second AirMiles account created for me...whadda'ya think?)

Norman Kling

July 04, 2016 @ 3:10 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes, you definitely can get the bonus for multiple cards even if they are from the same issuer (BMO in your case). Many times you can get the bonus again for the SAME card although the terms you listed indicate that it may not be the case with BMO.

If you wait more than a year and try again on the same card, I wouldn't be surprised if you were successful.

July 05, 2016 @ 12:45 pm
Maria
Maria's picture

I just viewed the BMO website (bmo.com) & the grey-colour BMO Sobeys AirMiles Mastercard does not seem to be available (through the link that shows all the available BMO credit cards) however the blue BMO AirMiles one is still there.

I then checked the Sobeys website (bmosobeys.com) & it is still there & application link seems to work?

I wonder if it's being phased out? Hope not. Thanks,

July 05, 2016 @ 10:48 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I believe this is because BMO doesn't market the card through their own website and marketing channels. It is marketed by Sobeys and through their channels. It has a dedicated landing page for that purpose. I haven't heard any word of it being phased out.

July 06, 2016 @ 1:19 pm
Maria
Maria   's picture

Great! Thanks for the reply

July 07, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

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