There are a wide variety of sponsors that allow you to earn Air Miles, but each one rewards you with varying amounts of miles based on their own one-of-a-kind rewards structure. It can all get very confusing very quickly.
If you want to know all the ways you can earn, redeem and maximize Air Miles, then Stephen has already written a complete guide, which may just overwhelm you. However, I have found that we can earn a decent amount of Air Miles quickly and easily simply by shopping at a select few high earning sponsors as well as using a good Air Miles credit card.
I think it’s important for each individual to craft their own unique strategy based on what works for them taking into account your available time and energy to put into it. Settle on something repeatable that gives you maximum rewards per amount of time invested.
Maximizing Air Miles at Participating Sponsors
Each sponsor offers Air Miles at a different rate but here are some of the best deals:
- Candlewood Suites (hotels) – 1 Air Mile for every $5
- Budget Car Rental – 1 mile for every $10
- Crowne Plaza – 1 mile for every $5
- Embassy Suites – 1 mile for every $8
- Holiday Inn – 1 mile for every $5
- Pharmasave – 1 mile for every $10
- Staybridge Suites (hotels) – 1 mile for every $5
- Intercontinental Resorts (hotels) – 1 mile for every $5
- Hilton Hotels – 1 mile for every $8
- Hampton Inn – 1 mile for every $8
As you can tell from the list above, most hotels and resorts offer the best value for earning Air Miles. When planning a trip or vacation it is definitely something to keep in mind when choosing accommodations.
Earning Air Miles at Safeway
I have found Safeway to be the single best source of quickly earning Air Miles while spending a minimal amount of money and without a huge time investment, because everyone needs to buy groceries anyway. Here is what you need to watch out for:
Safeway shoppers can earn 1 Air Mile for every $20, and they regularly offer deals for collecting Air Miles like “Spend $100 to earn 100 Air Miles”. These deals are usually offered twice per month on weekends. Considering you would need to spend $2,000 using a BMO Air Miles Mastercard to earn 100 Air Miles, this is an easy way to fast track your Air Miles balance.
Customer Appreciation Days
Safeway also offers Customer Appreciation Days, typically the first Tuesday of every month that gives shoppers either 10% off or 20X their base Air Miles. If you spent $140 you would earn 140 Air Miles. The miles work out slightly better than the 10% discount if you use them for Air Miles Cash and if you choose a high value Air Miles Dream reward like an airline flight, you can do much better.
‘Bonus Event’ Products
Safeway also offers additional miles for buying products from a small group of bonus event products’. For example, from their latest weekly flyer you can earn 60 bonus Air Miles if you buy 5 items from a selection of various Kraft products. You’d just need to price-compare at other stores to make sure you are getting the best deal possible for those products after taking the miles earned into account.
Safeway Email Direct
Safeway sends out weekly emails containing coupons for deals on Air Miles. For example, last month Safeway had a coupon to earn 50 Air Miles by purchasing a certain group of products. Some of the coupons are printable while others do not require a hard-copy coupon. Click here to sign up for Safeway Email Direct.
In Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, shoppers can earn 7x their base Air Miles when they use the Safeway pharmacy. At a Safeway pharmacy you would receive 35 Air Miles for a $100 prescription.
Air Miles Credit Cards
Next, you’ll want to pick up a good Air Miles credit card so you can earn miles on all your everyday purchases. Stephen has done a thorough analysis of all the Air Miles credit cards on the market to help you pick the one that will give you the best value. You can see that here:
One card that really stands out on that list is the American Express Air Miles Reserve Credit Card with its hefty annual fee of $299. Along with this fee it offers exclusive travel rewards for cardholders. Here is a breakdown of the Air Miles benefits:
- 2,400 free Air Miles when you charge a minimum of $3,000 to the card within the first 3 months.
- A free companion flight (maximum value of 1,450 Air Miles) annually when redeeming a flight through Air Miles.
- Air Miles FlexFly – exclusive access to airlines, departure times and flights not available through the regular Air Miles program.
- Waived Air Miles flight booking admin fee (usually $30 for booking over the phone, $15 online).
Which Card Should You Choose?
Deciding which card is best really depends on what your own personal spending habits are like. The BMO Air Miles World Mastercard offers more Air Miles for your money and also requires 25% less Air Miles to redeem for rewards. The drawback is the $99 annual fee, so it would only be worth it if you spend approximately $20,000 or more annually.
The BMO Air Miles Shell Mastercards (regular version and World version) are very similar to the BMO Air Miles cards, and would be better for anyone who spends a significant amount on fuel (Air Miles bonus at Shell gas stations or car rentals (bonus at National Car).
AMEX offers a variety of cards with annual fees ranging from $0 to $299. For most people, the card with no annual fee (American Express Air Miles Credit Card) would make the most sense because offers comparable value to the other cards without having to spend more money to recoup an annual fee.
For higher spenders, the American Express Air Miles Platinum Credit Card likely makes the most sense, while the reserve card only makes sense for frequent travelers.
Tip: Regardless of which card is used, it is also a good idea to run as many payments as possible through the card to maximize the number of miles earned. Recurring monthly payments such as gym memberships, cell phone bills, cable bills, and utility bills are all examples of monthly costs that can be paid through your credit card.
BMO Air Miles Bank Account
If you’re uncomfortable using a credit card for all of your purchases, then BMO offers an Air Miles bank account that allows you to earn 1 Air Mile for every $30 in debit spending. It offers unlimited everyday banking transactions and a host of other features. Unfortunately, the monthly fee is $13.95.
If you want to recoup the monthly fee through collecting Air Miles, then you’d need to spend about $2,700 monthly on your debit card, which assumes an Air Mile is worth about 15 cents. Therefore, it is probably only worth getting this account if it offers other banking features you were already looking at paying for. There’s also the added incentive that BMO is giving away 1,000 Air Miles when you open the account.
Becoming An Air Miles Gold Collector
Air Miles collectors can achieve gold status by simply shopping at 5 different Air Miles sponsors within one year. This could be a huge perk because Gold Collectors are able to enjoy reward miles savings up to 40% off select flights and vacation packages.
Redeeming Your Air Miles
Redeeming Air Miles Dream Rewards can be done online through the AirMiles.ca website. Air Miles cash rewards require 90 Air Miles for $10 off at participating merchants.
Air Miles Dream Rewards can vary in terms of value, but generally the best value can be found by redeeming for flights. A wide variety of merchandise is available and the ‘Deals’ section of the site offers the best in terms of merchandise value.
To maximize our Air Miles I buy groceries at participating sponsors such as Safeway and always use the ‘spend $100 earn 100 Air Miles’ coupon that gets offered occasionally. When we need a rental car we use Budget because they offer good value for the money spent. In the past we have used an Air Miles MasterCard and put virtually all purchases on there to earn as many miles as possible.
We generally redeem Air Miles to reduce our monthly expenses. My wife has family in Vancouver so we tend to fly there twice per year and use Air Miles for these flights. We have found the best value is for travel rather than merchandise, and redeeming for travel also allows us to reduce our costs rather than redeem for merchandise we don’t want or need.
Do you collect Air Miles? If so, what is your personal strategy?