When 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.
- Empire Theatres Buy One Get One Free Movie Certificate
- Cineplex, Famous Players, Galaxy Buy One Get One Free Movie Certificate
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.
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 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.
- Poley Mountain All Day Lift Ticket – 30.9 cents per mile
- Calgary Stampeders Tickets – 23.2 cents per mile
- Air Miles Entertainment Reward Choices
- Air Miles Leisure & Outdoors Reward Choices
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?