AIR MILES has come under fire recently for the mismanagement of their expiry policy and the availability of desirable rewards for consumers. They eventually backtracked and cancelled their expiration policy entirely.
With all the bad press, they are trying harder than ever to please their customers and keep them informed. They've redesigned their website to make it easier to use, they're emailing program updates on a regular basis now, and they're beefing up their security as well to help protect your hard-earned miles from thieves.
That doesn't mean all the problems are gone - and whether or not you continue to collect AIR MILES is completely up to you.
But, if you are going to collect, you might as well choose a top AIR MILES credit card to help you earn and redeem that much faster.
AIR MILES Credit Card Comparison
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.
To give you more options, cards that aren't branded as AIR MILES cards but allow you to convert points to miles are also included.
|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||American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card|
|Apply||BMO IGA AIR MILES MasterCard|
|Apply||BMO Sobeys AIR MILES MasterCard|
|Apply||American Express AIR MILES Credit Card|
|Apply||BMO AIR MILES MasterCard|
|Apply||BMO SPC AIR MILES MasterCard|
|Apply||MBNA Best Western MasterCard1|
|Apply||Hudson's Bay MasterCard1|
|Score||Miles Per $100 Spent2||Bonus Miles5||Annual Fee||First Year Free?||Extra Cards||$25,000 Spend Score3||$100,000 Spend Score4||Insurance Score||Perks Score|
* Limited time promotion ending soon.
1. In the cases where the credit card in question earns points of another kind than AIR MILES, points are assumed to be converted to AIR MILES in the most favorable way possible.
2. Miles Per $100 Spent is a calculated number that factors in spending spread sensibly across spending categories like groceries, gas, drugstore, travel, bills, and everyday spending. All points are converted to AIR MILES when determining reward value. All spending bonuses, tiers, limits, and caps are taken into account. Sign up bonuses are NOT included in these numbers, so that will be an extra perk for you.
3. $25,000 in annual spending works out to $2,083 in monthly spending which is achievable for a typical Canadian family funneling most of their spending through credit.
4. $100,000 in annual spending works out to $8,333 in monthly spending which is too high for most families. I have included these numbers to better evaluate cards and give an advantage to those that don't have spending caps or limits. It also allows cards that have a good tier system to shine at higher spending levels.
5. The sign up bonus is a lump sum of points or miles you get when first opening a new credit card. It is often given when you make your first purchase, spend a reasonable amount of money on the card within the first X months, keep the card open for X months, or some combination of those. The criteria to qualify for the sign up bonus are usually very reasonable.
The Top 3 In Detail
1) BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard
This card absolutely destroys the rest of the competition when it comes to both earning AIR MILES faster and great perks like best in class insurance coverage. As the top AIR MILES card it automatically gets a score of 5, but the astonishing part is the next highest card isn't even close to it with a score of 2.82. In most of my rankings, the 2nd place card usually score at least a 4.5 or higher. The only reason not to get this card is if you can't qualify or your spending is too low to justify the $120 annual fee.
You can also combine this card with a premium banking package from BMO to get its annual fee waived. Further, you can waive the monthly banking plan fee by keeping a minimum balance in your chequing account. Normally I avoid premium banking packages like the plague, but this combo from BMO is actually quite decent.
Why You Want It:
- Earn 1 AIR MILE per $10 spent on all purchases - the highest of any card.
- 25% discount on AIR MILES flight bookings which really boosts reward value.
- The best insurance coverage, by far, of any AIR MILES card.
- 2 free passes annually to Priority Pass lounges worldwide.
- Great perks like concierge service.
- Large 2,000 mile sign up bonus.
2) American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
The American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card is the best card for most collectors because it comes with a lower annual fee, a large sign up bonus, a high earning rate, and you can qualify for the card even with a very low income. It gives you most of the benefits of the more premium cards, without all the extra hassle. Back when I was a bigger AIR MILES collector, this was my card of choice.
Why You Want It:
- 1 mile per $15 spent on all purchases - higher than the usual 1 mile per $20.
- 1 mile per $10 spent on gas, grocery, drugstore, and AIR MILES sponsor purchases.
- Lower annual fee ($65) than most other premium cards with similar benefits.
- Has better travel insurance coverage than most of the no fee cards.
- Low minimum income requirement of only $15,000.
3) BMO AIR MILES World MasterCard
The BMO AIR MILES World MasterCard is very similar to the BMO AIR MILES World Elite MasterCard but not nearly as good. For a $20 annual fee savings you lose your sign up bonus, your mile earning rate drops from 1 mile per $10 spent to 1 mile per $15 spent, you get worse insurance coverage, and there is no lounge access included.
Bottom line: the only reason you'd choose the World version over the World Elite is if you can't meet the $80K minimum income requirement of the Elite card.
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 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 $80,000 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, 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 most of the no fee cards from BMO often have 500 bonus mile promotions. I update this table monthly, so if there isn't a promotion right now, one will probably be coming soon.
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 BMO IGA AIR MILES MasterCard or the BMO Sobeys AIR MILES MasterCard. These cards are almost identical except that one doubles your miles at IGA and the other at Sobeys. The IGA card also gives you a small 1.25x bonus at Shell gas stations, which is nice. Really the choice comes down to if you have one of these grocery store chains nearby.
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 is better in each of those categories than almost all of the other AIR MILES cards.
If you want something with no annual fee and a low minimum income, then the MBNA Best Western MasterCard would be what I'd suggest. It has 7 types of insurance coverage, which is very high for a credit card with no annual fee.
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.
Converting Hudson's Bay Rewards To AIR MILES
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.
Converting Best Western Rewards To AIR MILES
You can redeem Best Western Rewards in 5,000 point increments with each group of 5,000 points being worth 80 AIR MILES. You're going to lose a fair amount of point value by doing this, but it's an option if you have the points and really want the extra miles.
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.