My 5 Principles for Collecting 100 Air Miles Per Visit To Sobeys

My 5 Principles for Collecting 100 Air Miles Per Visit To Sobeys

Most people have a preferred loyalty program.

Whether it’s Aeroplan, Shoppers Optimum, Canadian Tire Money…the options are endless.

But the one loyalty program I’ve had the most success with is Air Miles.

I’m a teacher by trade, and one day, I was having a staff-room conversation about credit cards and loyalty points.

Air Miles came up and a fellow teacher said, "I never use Air Miles. I have the card, but I can’t get any miles to earn anything. You don’t get enough reward miles to make a difference."

I had to smile and tell her: "In the past three years, I have collected enough Air Miles to redeem a four-day trip to New York (flights and hotel included), an electric snowblower, a raised tomato planter, several nights at hotels in my local city, and a bunch of movie tickets."

The truth is: You can earn Air Miles quickly to get great dream and cash rewards.

My experience with Air Miles

I had been collecting for about seven years – not really earning enough miles to be useful – before I figured out how to make this whole thing work.

Along the way, I have learned a few valuable lessons about how to collect and what constitutes a good deal when it comes to Air Miles.

While there are obvious ways to earn (such as with Air Miles credit cards and shopping at accepted Air Miles locations), there is a lot you can do to earn more miles.

What you really need to know:

Not all miles are equal, and the same is true for rewards.

So let’s start with those miles: the unequal ones.

All you need to know can be broken down into just five simple principles that are guaranteed to help you rack up some serious Air Miles and get some pretty great rewards.

Related: Save Money Using Rewards Programs

5 simple principles for shopping at Sobeys

Shopping at Sobeys is a good step to racking up those Air Miles.

When you make the switch, be sure to follow these five simple principles to ensure you’re getting maximum Air Miles:

  • Get the Sobeys app or go to their website for special weekly offers
  • Look for the big mile bargains
  • Stock up on goods (if you can afford it!)
  • Comparison shop for miles
  • Watch for the gift card bonus

1. Get the app

By getting the Sobeys app or by going to their website and entering your Air Miles card number, you’ll be provided with bonus offers that you won’t get in store.

The example below is from my own account and the items you see are based on past purchases. We use a lot of taco seasoning, bacon, olive oil and Shreddies, so we get some extra savings on some of these items and some extra Air Miles thrown in for purchases we are likely to make.

Related: 31 Money Apps, Products, and Tools You Should Be Using

Because of that, we are earning extra miles and we don’t even have to go out of our way to do it. We just load the offers and buy the things we would anyway. Simple.

Bonus Air Miles using Sobeys app

2. Look for big miles bargains

Certain items have special offers linked to them, which are big, combination offers that help you rack up miles.

They are usually phrased like this: "Buy 5 and get 99 Air Miles" or “Buy $25 in Post products and get 50 miles.”

For me, there have been a couple of really great ways to cash in – coffee, cookies, cereals, apple juice and detergents.

I am married with two kids and these are all things I will need on a regular basis. So when there is a big, in-store bonus, I jump on it!

Related: The End Of Bread Price-Fixing With This Home Experiment

Bread and cereal with bonus Air Miles 

This deal on bread is a great example. As long as you have a large freezer, you can stock up on loaves of bread at a decent price ($2 more than Our Compliments brand, but better quality).

And if you wanted to stock up on cereal, this deal isn’t bad. Although there are certain times of the year when they will give 99 bonus Air Miles when you buy four or five boxes.

3. Stock up on bonuses

When you see a large bonus being offered on a particular brand, it can be worthwhile to buy in bulk to get those miles.

If you are a coffee drinker and don’t care about what brand you’re drinking, then all you have to do is wait.

Sometimes the big bonuses will come with Maxwell House and sometimes it will be another brand. But as soon as you see the large bonus, aim to buy your next couple-of-months worth of coffee at once.

4. Comparison shop

There will be bonuses for competing brands at different rates of return on your dollar. One of the easiest places to see this is in the cleaning aisle:

Scrub Free bonus Air Miles

Scrub Free will net you 10 Air Miles at a a cost of $5, while Hertel’s 10 miles will cost you $6.58.

As long as you aren’t particular about your brands, you should stock up on Scrub Free. Get about 30 or 40 Air Miles worth of the stuff and put it away in a closet.

5. Gift card bonuses

Sobeys will have a promotion every month or so where you can buy $200 worth of gift cards and get 100 bonus Air Miles. Here is how you make this work:

Put your whole grocery budget for the (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) pay period into gift cards of $200 increments. Then go buy your groceries and live off those gift cards until the next pay period or two.

But be warned: Only buy what you can afford to buy.

There are people who make the bonuses work by using credit cards to purchase more than they can afford. This may work for some, but I do not advise it.

Related: How To Eat Healthy On A Budget

My strategy of redeeming Air Miles

Now let’s think back to that lady in the staff room.

If you use the five principles listed above, you’ll have no trouble in getting at least 100 Air Miles with every weekly visit to Sobeys.

But the other part of her complaint still bothers me:

Are you getting enough Air Miles to make a difference? Can you get anything good?

Cash rewards vs. Dream rewards

When you set up your Air Miles account, you are asked to set a slider for the percentage of cash or dream rewards you wish to earn.

For instance, you can choose to have 30% of your Air Miles go into your cash rewards with the remaining 70% going into your dream rewards.

You can go into your account and edit these settings at any time, but mine always stays in one place: 100% Dream Rewards.

I’m a dreamer, what can I say?

The upside of cash rewards

Should you earn cash rewards? The answer is simple, depending on two questions:

  • Are you on a tight budget?
  • Do you want free gas and groceries?

If you answered yes to one or both, then you probably want to set your slider closer to the cash rewards side. You may even want 100% cash rewards.

Keep in mind that the equation for redeeming cash rewards is simple:

95 reward miles = $10

If you follow the five principles, then you can probably earn $10 a week.

Canadians spend an average of $200 a month per person on groceries, while those in the Atlantic provinces spend roughly $150 per person. So in a three-person family, you’re likely to spend between $450 and $600 a month.

Getting $40 off your groceries is a pretty good return on investment (between 7% and 9%).

Another way of looking at it: for every dollar you spend, you earn 9.5 miles.

Related: Best Cash Back Credit Cards in Canada 2018

The dreamer in you

Despite the upside of cash rewards, I’m still a dreamer.

I have gotten some great rewards from Air Miles and the flight rewards are still a good return on your investment. I like keeping my miles and saving for a vacation that I could not otherwise afford.

But you need to be aware of the relative value of your miles. The best case scenario is 1 Mile = $1. But that is almost impossible to attain.

Get close to the 1:1 value

Redeem Air Miles for Napoleon barbecue

When you redeem Air Miles, be sure to get your points as close to the dollar value as possible.

If you redeem your dream miles for a reward like the ones above, you are redeeming 10.7 miles per dollar spent on the Napoleon Prestige Pro 665. Instead, you can redeem 9.4 miles per dollar spent on the lower-end model, which is slightly better. (You should note that this deal is only offered to Gold Members, but you can attain gold status by earning 1,000 miles in a year.)

Remember: Each reward has a different conversion rate – some are for suckers.

In an effort to start a backyard garden, I spent 1,500 miles on a raised planter that would have cost $125 at my local hardware store. The conversion rate worked out to be about 12 miles per dollar – that one hurt.

If you look at the current deal on movie tickets, this also seems like a good deal.

Redeem Air Miles for Cineplex ticket

But in this scenario, 425 Miles = $24.99 at Costco, which works out to be 17 miles per dollar. Ouch.

Air Miles travel

Not all miles are equal. But what is a flight worth? Just like everything with Air Miles, the answer varies, so you need to be educated and do the math.

Air Miles flight calculator

Let’s take a scenario where we want to take a summer vacation to New York for a Yankees game and a Broadway show. For two people, that will cost 5,000 miles (or $1,350 when searching on Expedia at 1:34 p.m., Feb. 13, 2018).

3 miles per dollar is a sweet deal! Your mile is getting really close to par with the dollar on this one (1:1).

This summer, I will be sending my wife to Italy for a week with 7,500 Air Miles. The cost is $1,200 on Expedia, which equals out to a conversion rate of 6.25 miles per dollar. While this isn’t the greatest deal, it gets my wife to Italy, and that is something you should always take into account.

Air Miles credit cards

The best Air Miles credit card in Canada right now is:

But if it's a no-fee card you're looking, check out this one:

Related: Intro To Points And Miles For Travel Hacker Wannabes

Make your miles count

No matter how you redeem your Air Miles, it has to be worth it to you.

Whether you use cash miles, go to a movie, or fly to New York, it has to be something you want. (My wife will never let me live down the ugly, grey planter in our backyard.)

So remember to use the five principles and redeem your points wisely.

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.


Marni's picture

Hi Stephen, thanks for another informative post. Your strategy on this one won't work for me though. I'm a very careful eater (no GMO's, nothing processed, and lots of fruit and vegetables) and cook mostly from scratch so if you're not buying "typical" foods or a lot of name brands, can't see this working for people like me.

July 03, 2018 @ 3:04 pm
George - AIR MILES Cash Expert
George - AIR MILES Cash Expert's picture

Take the CASH.

Keep your life simple, skip the AIR MILES Dream Rewards and go 100% AIR MILES Cash Rewards. Redemption is fast and straightforward, in-store at Metro, Jean Coutu, Rexall, Rona, Shell and Sobeys. Redeem 95 Air Miles for $10 off your bill - instantly. There are other retailers where you can do the redemption online for an eVoucher - including Pizza Pizza and Starbucks, but why waste your time.

Plus keep your eyes out for the Bonus AIR MILES offers in flyers. Metro this week had Scotties facial tissue and Sponge Towels featured at $5.99. This is an excellent price, but Real Canadian Superstore had Sponge Towels at $5.48. However, Metro included 15 Bonus AIR MILES with the purchase of two - for the equivalent savings of over $1.50, bringing the Sponge Towels price down to less than $5.24 (noting you need to purchase any two items - facial tissues and/or paper towels, but that's pretty easy to do).

However, here is the big KICKER, the big SAVINGS. Roughly every couple of months Metro runs a special AIR MILES redemption promotion. Redeem 95 AIR MILES for $10 off your purchase instantly and get 50 Bonus AIR MILES. This is equivalent to an additional savings of over $5.00!!!!! And they typically let you do it three or four days in a row (one redemption per day starting Thursday).

To keep calculations simple and quickly count your savings, one Air Mile is equivalent to 10 cents off (technically it is 10.526 cents).

In conclusion, Skip the DREAM and take the CASH.

July 03, 2018 @ 3:15 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Shell also does a regular Air Miles Cash promotion where you get a miles rebate when you redeem 95 miles.

Dream miles are higher value in general but are an extra hassle for sure. For those who are willing to play the game, Dream is worth considering. However, Cash does appear to be the better value when you factor in the simplicity of it.

July 03, 2018 @ 3:49 pm
Jonathan Underwood
Jonathan Underwood's picture

Well, yes that keeps it simple, BUT in my circumstance an Air Canada flight from my regional airport to Edmonton costs typically $570. I can do the same two way flight by airmiles for 1100 miles which at even a rich 20 cents per mile works out to a conversion of $220. 2.5 times the cost as a cash ticket. Yes there is an administration fee and tax and some flights are restricted, but that still brings it in at half the cost of a cash flight. Well worth it in my situation! At 95 miles per $10, the cash option would cost 5400 airmiles. No contest. Dream wins big time!

July 03, 2018 @ 4:10 pm
Marpy's picture

IMO - Not sure about Sobeys in other areas but in my area (GTA) they are considerably more expensive than other stores for the same item. The exception being sometime when they have an item on sale. A number of their competitors that have lower costs for most other items will also price match Sobeys on that sale item. A lot of the times, the air miles don't come close to making up the extra cost of shopping at Sobeys and as well, programs at PC/ shopper can offer better returns than Airs Miles at Sobeys. As such, I do not shop there much. IMO - They need to up their game!

July 03, 2018 @ 5:05 pm
myfreedom59's picture

If collecting Air Miles, it makes sense to collect as many as possible utilizing the bonus offers and other promos. I find that Air Miles is an expensive reward program though. Earning one Mile usually takes a purchase of a minimum $20 at most places. Most Dream items are more costly than purchasing them elsewhere (where I would also earn reward points). The amount needed to save for my dream trip keeps increasing.

The first rule of saving is not how much you are saving, but how much you are spending. A popular promotional slogan used for awhile was "buy more, save more". As I pointed out to folks, buy more also means spend more. Stocking up is only a saving if you can really use the item and it won't go stale (food), degrade (chemicals/cleaners/body care) or become a burden after a while if you start to really dislike the tedium of the same product but feel obligated to use it because you paid for it.

When the Air Mile expiry fiasco hit, I tried to find something to use up my Dream miles -- nothing I wanted or needed. (and since they "tailor" the available options to each person, I was limited in my choices.) Fortunately, they backtracked on the expiry before I rushed to use up my miles on something I didn't want. I learnt though that "saving" your miles or points a long time for that dream item or dream trip is usually not worth it. The rules change, the value decreases, the item disappears, the retailer pulls out of the program, and your dream goal is gone. Switched to in-store redemption; better for me to use up the miles on cash savings now and get some value from them. Everytime I redeem the Miles for $10 off, I take that $10 saved and add it to my savings account. Building my savings, earning interest, and working towards a goal I want to achieve.

Having said the above though, I believe that earning some reward or bonus is better than earning nothing on a purchase. I try to get the most value possible every time I spend. I do use the Air Miles card and try to earn bonus miles if I am buying the item anyway at a location where the reward is Air Miles. Earning any Miles on my purchases is better than earning nothing.

July 03, 2018 @ 11:10 pm
Kathryn's picture

I am also one of those who switched to 100% Cash miles and love them. I do still have some dream miles and sometime will actually use them. The bonus offers are often great but many are, for me, not for products I ever use (or want to use), and in quantities I would not purchase, and because I am in a small apartment, have limited storage space. My best points bonus reward though was this past week when Sobeys had their 2-day special offers - I bought 4 boxes of Quaker Instant Oats (Regular/Plain, 10 per box) which I eat almost every day, though I prefer the Compliments Balance brand - Quaker was 2/$6 - reasonable price - and *buy 4, get 100 Air Miles* - so that was *spend $12, get $10+ in points* which I thought was definitely worth it. But I also use the load-to-card offers that are for things I want, preferably when they are on sale, at Sobeys - and sometimes they send me Safeway ones also, as I also shop there - and Sobeys and Safeway share a flyer and pricing.


July 03, 2018 @ 11:34 pm
Christine's picture

I already use a lot of these ideas but I go to my local Foodland store, still part of the Sobeys chain and it is right across the street. Much like Sobeys, it's a higher end store but as money is tight here I go for 100% cash miles. As my husband has health issues, we don't travel except to drive to medical appointments out of town and to my sister-in-laws place about an hour away. Hubby can't handle much more than that in the vehicle. The only thing I ever got with Dream miles was my big stand mixer, back when they were looking to cancel miles beyond a certain time.
I use the same ideas for my PC optimum card as well as my Canadian Tire card. I'm letting those miles and points add up through the year to use for Christmas shopping along with points I cash out for gift cards, usually Amazon and Indigo-Chapters, that I get doing online surveys. I'll be watching for a big redemption event at Shoppers again this year. I won't be spending much at all out of pocket for Christmas again this year which really helps on a fixed income that barely covers the bills.

July 04, 2018 @ 2:52 pm

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