What if you want a rewards program that will allow you to redeem for more than just travel?
AIR MILES are still one of those 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||BMO Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard|
|Apply||BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard|
|Apply||American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card
(no min. income)
|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|
* 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
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. However, for a limited time, BMO will actually give you the first year for free!
Even better than that, 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.
- Insurance coverage that by far beats out any other AIR MILES card.
- Priority Pass membership and 2 complimentary lounge passes.
- Great perks like 15% discount on AIR MILES flights.
- Annual fee waived for the first year.
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.
The BMO Shell 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 (though, you still get 10 different types), and there is no lounge access included.
Bottom line: the only reason you should go with the Shell World version instead of the World Elite is if you can't meet the $80K minimum income requirement of the Elite card (but you can meet the $60K 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. However, BMO’s 3,000 miles is a limited time offer and should be going back to 1,000 points on April 30th, 2018.
Taking a close second is 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
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, you have a few options.
Surprisingly the BMO IGA AIR MILES Mastercard is your best bet. Not only does this card double your miles at IGA, but it also gives you a small 1.25x bonus at Shell gas stations, which is nice.
Not an IGA shopper? Then I would suggest the BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard. It has pretty much the same rating and many of the same features of the IGA Mastercard - but instead gives you 2 miles for every $20 spent at Sobeys and Foodland locations.
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.
This card annually gives cardholders a free companion flight when redeeming up to 1,700 Miles on flights – as well as 4 complimentary lounge passes. Add to that the 24/7 concierge service and the ability to use your miles for business class flights, taxes and fees, and other flights that are typically unavailable to AIR MILES collectors – and it’s easy to see why this card is at the top of the pack.
Plus, this is the only AIR MILES card that will 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.
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|
|3||BMO Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard||6.9||$99||2.12|
|4||BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard||6.9||$99||1.91|
|5||American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card||8.0||$299||1.89|