5 Air Miles Rewards That Give You The Best Value

5airmilesrewardsthatgiveyouthebestvalue.jpgWhen redeeming your rewards in any rewards program you need to be extremely careful with your choice of reward. Not all rewards are created equal and, if you make a poor choice, you can easily waste much of the effort you exerted in collecting those points or miles! The same is true with Air Miles. Some Air Miles rewards offer fantastic value but many more will quickly drain your Air Miles account balance without giving you much in return.

With so many different reward options available and with many rewards, like flights, having a changing value, it can be extremely difficult to know which reward you should choose. Sure that TV looks nice! But if you crunch the numbers, chances are you could get more than twice as much value for your Air Miles by redeeming them for something else and just buying the TV on sale at the lowest possible price. You can read through our complete guide to the Air Miles rewards program to get all the details, but this post will lay out the top 5 Air Miles reward choices that will give you the best value, and here they are:

Buy 1 Get 1 Free Movie Tickets

 

A little advertised reward that is available on the AirMiles.ca website, are buy 1 get 1 free certificates for movies at either Empire Theatres or Cineplex. They also have free admission and night out passes, but these give you significantly less value for your miles. These certificates only cost 30 miles and, depending on how you value a movie ticket, can be worth in excess of $10. That’s a value of u

pwards of 30 cents per mile.

In contrast, if you were to choose to purchase a free single admission reward instead it would cost 75 Air Miles (13.3 cents per mile) and a night out package for two including a single popcorn and two drinks costs 175 Air Miles (roughly 17 cents per mile). The buy one get one free certificate is the obvious choice, especially if you are only a part time Air Miles collector with a smaller balance. The only thing to watch out for here is that the Cineplex certificate has pretty strict terms of use whereas the Empire Theatres certificate can be used on any day and for any movie no matter how new. You will have to pay a small additional fee for 3D movies and they do not work at IMAX theatres. Here are direct links to these rewards on the Air Miles website:

Car Wash Packages From Shell

Another reward that offers great value is certificates for car washes at Shell gas stations. This reward may not be as valuable to you if you already know of a cheap place to get your car washed, you enjoy washing your car yourself, or if you don’t have a car wash equipped Shell gas station nearby. Barring those exceptions, this reward is an attractive option because you get 2 free car washes for the cost of 75 miles. The certificates they send you are redeemable for the best car wash your local Shell offers, which usually costs at least $10 after taxes. Doing the calculations with that valuation yields a return of 26.7 cents per mile.Unknown Object

Now there is one complication that many people, including myself, have run into using these certificates. On the front of the certificate it has $6 printed in big bold letters. Underneath that big number there is very small text indicating that this is the minimum value of the certificate not the maximum. If you read the fine print it also clearly states that you can redeem the certificate for any car wash that the station offers. Many of the employees I have encountered had never seen this particular Air Miles certificate before and thus incorrectly assumed that it was only worth $6. Kindly pointing out that this is the minimum value and directing them to the fine print will usually resolve the issue but sometimes you may need to speak to a manager to get it straightened out. In the end, I have always gotten the best car wash for free just like the certificate promises. Here is a direct link to the reward on the Air Miles website:

Flights

Flights are very hard to value and they are confusing to book with Air Miles because you have to use their flight zone map to determine exactly how many Air Miles your trip is going to cost. Most airline rewards programs have a fixed mileage cost for flights anywhere in North America but this is not so with Air Miles. The cost in miles also varies depending on if it is “high season” or “low season” as defined by Air Miles themselves so it is harder to squeeze more value out of your miles by flying in a busy season.

The real trick here for getting good value on your reward flights is to take advantage of expensive routes, smaller airports, and discounts on the number of Air Miles required to book your flight. AirMiles.ca has weekly sales and even bigger flight discounts for collectors with gold status, so you should wait until one of these sales pops up before you book. If you can’t find a sale, you can also apply for the BMO Gold Air Miles Mastercard because all cardholders get an automatic 20% discount off the regular price in Air Miles for flights. There is much more information about redeeming Air Miles for flights on our Redeem Air Miles For More page. Here are some direct links:

Grocery Store And Pharmacy Gift Certificates

While not as good as some of the aforementioned reward options, gift cards still give you decent value for your miles and they are one of the most desirable rewards due to their flexibility and similarity to cash. The reason I’ve singled out grocery and pharmacy gift cards is threefold. First, these types of gift cards all useful to the majority of people. Second, they tend to cost less Air Miles than most other gift cards, especially in Atlantic Canada where there are several $25 gift cards for only 140 Air Miles (17.8 cents per mile). Third and finally, it is sometimes possible to take the grocery store or pharmacy gift card purchased through Air Miles and then use it to buy another gift card for one of the many different stores featured in the gift card malls frequently found at most grocery and drug stores. Doing so increases the flexibility of this reward choice even more.

Sporting Events, Theme Parks, And Attractions

There are some good rewards to be had as far as events and attractions are concerned, but with so many frequently changing and region specific options, you have to keep checking back to see what is available and what kind of value you can get. As I browsed through the current selection, there were a couple of things that stood out to me as having exceptional value.

So those are my choices for rewards that provide the best overall value. What do you typically redeem your Air Miles for? Have you found anything that provides even better value than the rewards listed here?

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Comments

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

This is very interesting and all, but most of these options are NOT available anymore! The Shell car was certificates are gone since they introduced the crappy "cash" rewards, so is the buy 1 get 1 free cinema admission. As for the grocery cards the only "not so bad" one is only valid for Atlantic.

Could you update with the "current" best value airmiles rewards?

December 13, 2012 @ 12:06 pm
SavingMentor
SavingMentor's picture
You are correct. It is difficult to keep everything I've written up to date all the time when I work on this in my (non-existent) spare time. I do want to update more of my older articles and I'm hoping to find the time in the new year.
December 13, 2012 @ 4:25 pm
thomas vikander
thomas vikander's picture
Please DO update, SOON ! Empire Theatres were bought up by Cineplex months ago. Thank you.
February 20, 2014 @ 4:36 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
Yes, this article is sorely out of date. I just don't have the time to keep everything up to date. I will update it when I can find the time. Thanks for looking!
February 22, 2014 @ 8:33 pm
nat
nat 's picture
Airmiles rewards return on a average 1% of the money spent and this is available on most of the credit cards nowadays. It is just a hassle of collecting and redeeming and also most products are too expensive to redeem. It is cheaper to buy these with cash back credit cards.
February 22, 2014 @ 12:11 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
There are still ways remaining where you can earn loads of Air Miles quickly. Safeway is the biggest example. Sometimes you can rack up hundreds of miles with only a little bit of spending. Shell is ok as well if they are having their 10x promotion. You can get 30 miles per fill up which is worth a little more than $3 working out to about a 4% return on your spending. You have to pick and choose, but you're right, I would probably never choose Air Miles as the rewards for my credit card.
February 22, 2014 @ 8:32 pm
Anonymous 2
Anonymous 2's picture
Just shopped at Safeway today. Made two separate $205 purchases and watched for items that I use that had air miles bonuses. Ended with 510 plus 380 air miles in addition to 24 air miles with MasterCard. Total is 914 air miles, enough to make round trip within our province.
August 24, 2014 @ 6:42 pm
Alan
Alan's picture
The only value I have ever received from Air Miles (having collected since inception) was the first two years of the Safeway Air Miles Auction held each spring. Each day there are very limited number of one item available at very reduced cost (in miles). Scored a diamond bracelet valued at $5000 for something like 3000 miles the first year. Unfortunately value has decreased rapidly and the last item was a Tassimo ($79) for about 200 miles. I have used AM for two flights in 20 odd years and had to hold my nose while doing so - the "surcharges" applied to AC or Westjet flights are horrendous and the total cost is marginally cheaper than cash. And up to last year I was a Gold AM member (missed renewal at Gold by a mere 10 miles last year because a transfer I made to cover the difference was not eligible for status). The only good thing about AM is that they are "free" if you always shop at Safeway and stick to the special offers) Don't know how the Sobey's purchase of Safeway will affect next year but expect the worst.
September 11, 2014 @ 6:17 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture
I pretty much just stick to the movie vouchers now. One of the only decent value things left. The Air Miles cash isn't that bad either. The taxes and fees on the flights can be pretty terrible, you're right.
September 12, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

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