Last updated: November 1, 2018
What if you want a rewards program that will allow you to redeem for more than just travel?
AIR MILES is still one of the most commonly collected and used rewards programs in Canada, and for good reason.
You have two main options for redemption:
- As AIR MILES Cash Rewards (or Cash Miles) – which can be used as cash towards everyday shopping purchases at participating partners, or
- As AIR MILES Dream Rewards (or Dream Miles) – which can be used to go on dreamy vacations, get exciting event tickets, score some great merchandise, or even to enter AIR MILES Dream Sweepstakes.
No matter what way you most like to redeem your rewards, if you are one of the 2 in every 3 Canadians who still choose to collect, you might as well choose a top AIR MILES credit card to help you earn and redeem that much faster.
Compare AIR MILES Credit Cards
Here is a list of best AIR MILES credit cards – 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
(no min. income)
|Apply||American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card
(no min. income)
|Apply||BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard|
|Apply||BMO Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard|
|Apply||BMO IGA AIR MILES Mastercard|
|Apply||American Express AIR MILES Credit Card|
|Apply||BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard|
|Apply||Hudson's Bay Mastercard1|
|Apply||BMO Shell AIR MILES Mastercard|
|Apply||BMO AIR MILES Mastercard|
|Apply||BMO SPC AIR MILES Mastercard|
|Apply||MBNA Best Western 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|
|5.00||10.0||3,000 + 3,0006||$120||Yes||$50||5.0||5.0||5.0||2.6|
|1.00||5.0||up to 800*||$0||Yes||Free||3.3||2.2||0.7||1.3|
|0.94||5.0||up to 800*||$0||Yes||Free||3.3||2.2||0.7||1.3|
|0.88||5.0||up to 800*||$0||Yes||Free||3.3||2.2||0.7||1.0|
* 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.
6. New cardholders will be given 3,000 as a welcome bonus. They will also be given a companion flight rebate that we are valuing at 3,000 additional miles.
Plus a travel bonus worth another $150.
Quantities are limited.
The Top 3 In Detail
1) BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
This card is hands-down the best AIR MILES credit card in Canada. It not only allows cardholders to earn AIR MILES faster than any of its competition, but it also gives them 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 2.60. (For context, in most of my other rankings, the 2nd place card usually score at least a 4.5 or higher.)
If you’re an AIR MILES collector, the only reason not to consider getting this card is if you can't qualify or your spending is too low to justify the $120 annual fee (although, the first year is free!).
There is a way to have this annual fee waived every year after that. You just need to combine this card with a premium banking package from BMO.
While there is a fee to said banking package, you do have the ability to have that monthly fee waived as well. Simply keep a minimum balance in your chequing account and you’re golden. While normally I avoid premium banking packages like the plague, this combo from BMO is actually quite decent.
Why You Want It:
- Earn at a rate higher than any other card, 1 mile for every $10 spent.
- Large 3,000 mile sign up bonus - enough for two short-haul flights.
- One companion flight rebate. Redeem your miles for a flight for you and a friend, in the first year, and your AIR MILES account will be credited for one of those tickets.
- Insurance coverage that by far beats out any other AIR MILES card.
- Enjoy exclusive VIP access to airport lounges worldwide with Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey, plus two complimentary passes annually.
- Great perks like 15% discount on AIR MILES flights.
2) American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
The American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card is the card of choice for most collectors for a few reasons. To start, it comes with a lower annual fee – $65 vs $120. Then it has a large sign up bonus and a nice high earning rate.
But, probably the most surprising thing about this card is that there is no minimum income requirement. This Amex card gives you most of the benefits of the more premium cards, without all the extra hassle.
Why You Want It:
- 1 mile per $15 spent on all purchases – second highest on the market.
- 1 mile per $10 spent at gas stations, grocery and drugstores, and all AIR MILES sponsor purchases - highest on the market.
- Premium benefits with a lower annual fee of only $65.
- Impressive 2,000 mile sign up bonus.
- No minimum income requirement.
3) American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card
If you’re looking for a card that gives you more rewards, even more perks, a pretty solid insurance package, and you are not afraid of a high annual fee, the Amex AIR MILES Reserve could be one worth considering.
Plus, if you’re closer to the $100,000 end of the annual spend scale and you tend to fly a lot, then this really could be the right card for you.
This card will give you 1 mile for every $10 spent at grocery stores, gas stations, drugstores, and at AIR MILES sponsors, and then 1 mile for every $15 spent anywhere else – not to mention the nice-sized welcome bonus you will receive as long as you spend $3,000 within your first 3 months.
With a perks score of 5.0, and the 4th best insurance package on this list, it’s pretty easy to see why this card is among the top three – and amazingly, this card (like all Amex credit cards) has no minimum income requirement.
Why You Want It:
- One complimentary Companion Flight every year when you redeem your points through the AIR MILES flight program.
- 4 annual passes to Priority Pass Lounges worldwide.
- The only card that will waive the AIR MILES flight administration fee that you have to pay when you book your flight.
- Automatic Onyx status in the AIR MILES program.
- The flexibility to book almost any flight with AIR MILES, including business class flights which isn't something normal AIR MILES members can do.
- No minimum income requirement.
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. So 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 what you really want is the most bang in miles for your buck, then the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard has no equal. This card will give you 1 mile per $10 spent across all spending categories. That works out to exactly 10 miles per $100 spent and no other cards on the market right now come close to that. But if you don’t meet the $80,000 minimum income requirement, this card is not for you.
If that is the case, my recommendation is to go with the American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card. It has the second highest earn rates (8 miles per $100 spent), a massive sign up bonus of 2,000 miles, premium perks and exclusive features, and all for a reasonable annual fee of $65.
2) Getting The Biggest Bonus For Signing Up
The highest sign up bonus award goes to the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard at 3,000 miles. Plus, cardholders will be given a companion flight rebate which we are including in the sign up bonus.
This is a one-time rebate and we are assuming an average Canadian will be able to book 2 flights valued at 3,000 AIR MILES each (6,000 miles total) when they take advantage of this companion flight rebate. As such, we've added the estimated dollar value of the 3,000 AIR MILES companion flight rebate to the sign up bonus value for this card.
With an annual fee of $120 and your first year free, this card is totally worth it.
Taking a close second is the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card at 2,400 miles.
If you want free bonus miles, then most of the no fee cards from BMO often have 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
Sometimes paying an annual fee doesn’t make sense. Perhaps, you don’t spend enough to justify it, or you just want a no fee AIR MILES credit card to pair with one of the premium Amex cards.
Whatever the case, if you’re looking for a no fee AIR MILES card, I would suggest the BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard. It gives you 2X miles at selected partners and 2X miles at Sobeys.
4) Top Insurance Package
If you travel often, a good insurance package is a must. The insurance coverage offered by a good credit card can easily save you thousands of dollars.
For starters, whenever you rent a car, you can decline the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) that adds up to $20-$30 per day to the bill. Not to mention, 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 – which is a pretty rare type of insurance.
And if you find yourself in need of emergency medical attention? Good cards will offer anywhere from 15-31 days of travel (emergency) medical – absolutely free. With 16 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 16 types of insurance that I track, making this card not only tops among AIR MILES cards, but one of the best credit card insurance packages – period.
If you’re looking for the best insurance package on a card 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 included, which is pretty 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.
As mentioned above, this card annually gives cardholders a number of great perks:
- free companion flight when redeeming up to 1,700 Miles on flights
- 4 complimentary lounge passes
- 24/7 concierge service
- priority access to security, taxi, and limo lines at select Canadian airports
- exclusive access to better concert and event seating via American Express Front Of The Line
- the ability to use your miles for business class flights, taxes and fees, and other flights that are typically unavailable to AIR MILES collectors
Plus, this is the only AIR MILES card that will waive the administration fee you normally have to pay when booking a reward flight.
While the annual fee of $299 is steep, if you enjoy premium perks, this card is well worth it.
Converting Points To Miles
Some of the credit cards in the above table may seem a little out of place because they don’t reward you in AIR MILES directly...
But there are some rewards programs that allow you to convert your points to miles for free. And to be thorough, I wanted to include those cards that allow you to turn your points into miles 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. 40 HBC points equal one AIR MILE and that conversion ratio has been factored into the numbers above so that everything is displayed in miles instead of points.
Converting Best Western Rewards To AIR MILES
You're going to lose a fair amount of point value by doing this, and I wouldn’t suggest it, but this is an option if you have the points and really want the extra miles. 5,000 Best Western rewards are worth 80 AIR MILES and can be transferred in 5,000 point increments.
Summary of Top 5 AIR MILES Cards
With plenty of options for redeeming your miles from shopping and purchases to travel and experiences – why not get the most bang in miles for your buck? Here's a quick recap of the top 5 AIR MILES cards:
|Rank||Card Name||Miles per $100 Spent||Annual Fee||Score|
|1||BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard||10.0||$120||5.0|
|2||American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card||8.0||$65||2.6|
|5||American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card||8.0||$299||1.89|
|4||BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard||6.9||$99||1.91|
|3||BMO Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard||6.9||$99||2.12|