If you’re anything like us, whipping out your Air Miles card at grocery stores, gas stations and hotels is a long standing habit. High five for being an all-star Air Miles collector! But the question is: how do we make the most of all those Miles earned?
Collecting Miles is the easy part – it’s redeeming them (or even finding out how many miles we have, to begin with) and really taking advantage of their value where it becomes complicated. The following tips will not only give you the information you need in order to redeem those hard-earned Reward Miles, but also demonstrate how to get the most bang for your buck (or in this case, Miles).
1. Know how many Miles you have
As starting points go, this is a good one. Visit the Air Miles site and key in your card number in order to see how many Miles you’ve collected to date. (If you’ve been collecting for years and this is your first time checking, enjoy! You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.)
2. Be conscious of in-store deals
The success of this tip is based solely on your observation skills. Simply keep your eyes peeled when shopping in store at sponsor locations and make a point of stocking up on certain items when additional Miles are being offered. (Brushing up on the list of sponsor locations is also helpful here!)
3. Know the difference between Cash and Dream Reward balances
A key step in taking advantage of your Air Miles Rewards is understanding where your Miles go once earned. Your card automatically accumulates Miles in the Dream balance (used towards traveling, merchandise, event tickets, prize ballots, etc.) as opposed to the Cash balance (used in place of cash at sponsor locations for everyday shopping like groceries or gas). You have the freedom to manually adjust what percentage of your earned Miles goes towards one or the other by logging in to your account online and adjusting your balance preference.
4. Know the value of your Air Miles Dream Rewards
According to research done by RateHub, the dollar value of one Dream Reward Mile is $0.121 and should be used as your benchmark in value. In other words, you should only be redeeming Air Miles when the value offered is close to or above $0.121. If, for example, the value of a product is $550.08 and requires you to redeem 7,200 miles to purchase it, each Mile would be worth $0.0764 ($550.08 ÷ 7,200 = $0.0764) and therefore would not be worth it. The equation can be applied to any product, as long as you know its dollar value.
5. Think twice about redeeming Reward Miles for merchandise
While browsing the Air Miles site, you’ll find tons of attractive merchandise available in exchange for your precious Dream Reward Miles. Unfortunately, the average value of a Reward Mile for merchandise is $0.0715, according to RateHub. Compare this to the $0.121 benchmark (see #4), which is the average value per Mile for flights. To be clear, your Miles have a lot more value if redeemed for travel rather than merchandise.
6. Research the most valuable flights
Straight up, certain destinations just offer better value when redeeming Dream Reward Miles. While RateHub’s value per Mile of $0.121 shows the average value for flights to all regions in both high and low seasons, there are obviously certain regions that have a much higher value. To get the most bang for your buck in this case, it’s worth doing a bit of research to determine which locations offer those higher values (or simply reference the chart that RateHub has already laid out under their Value of Miles tab). Calculations also show that redeeming Miles during the high season offers greater value than during the low season.
7. Redeem for last minute travel
It’s no secret that as a departure date draws nearer, the price of the flight increases. The neat thing about Air Miles, though, is that the number of Reward Miles required is a fixed amount – regardless of how close the departure date is at the time of purchase. In other words, booking last minute travel with Reward Miles is a great way to get higher value per Mile.
8. Get the whole family contributing
Families who contribute together can reap the rewards together! Once a member is logged into his/her account online, it’s easy to request additional cards under the existing cardholder. Get your spouse to start using his/her card along with you, or even get cards for your teenagers (although they may want to start racking up Miles of their own).
9. Redeem Air Miles Cash at sponsor locations
Hands down, using Air Miles Cash at sponsor locations is the best way to take advantage of the rewards program in your day-to-day life. With every 95 Cash Miles earned, you can receive $10 off your purchase (must be spending minimum of $10 before taxes) – resulting in Cash rewards having an average value of $0.105. If you’re collecting Air Miles Cash (see #3 for setting your account preference), expect to receive discounts at sponsor locations regularly. Trust us – you’ll smile every time the cashier at the grocery store trims down your bill!
10. Use the best Air Miles credit card (for you)
Using an Air Miles-affiliated credit card is key in maximizing reward earning potential. Speaking strictly in terms of value, the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard currently tops the list with its 3,000 Miles welcome bonus and many additional travel perks (but has an annual fee of $120). The American Express Air Miles Platinum Credit Card is comparable, with 2,000 Miles welcome bonus and no annual fee in the first year ($65 annual fee after the first year), but less in bonus perks. For those looking for a card with no annual fee, both the BMO Air Miles Mastercard and The American Express Air Miles Credit Card offer similar welcome bonuses, rates and reward earning potential.