Canada’s 3 Best AIR MILES®† Credit Cards

AIR MILES®† is a retail rewards program with many shopping partners across Canada, allowing members to earn AIR MILES®† through their daily purchases and redeem them for flight rewards.

Here are our picks for the best AIR MILES®† credit cards in Canada, which let you earn AIR MILES® much more quickly.

Best AIR MILES®† Credit Cards

Best Overall AIR MILES®† Credit Card

The BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard is the best way to earn AIR MILES®† . The standard welcome bonus is 2,000 AIR MILES®† , but there is usually promotional link for 3,000 AIR MILES®† on the AIR MILES®† website.

The card frequently offers an annual fee waiver for the first year, and it’s rather friendly to repeat welcome bonuses. Safe to say, your AIR MILES®† will rack up quickly when you open this card, but there are also strong reasons to keep it long-term.

What makes this card stand out is that you can use 15% fewer AIR MILES®† when you redeem for flights within North America. No matter how you earn the bulk of your AIR MILES®† , you’ll always want to have this card so you can get the most out of your redemptions.

Best No Fee AIR MILES®† Credit Card

The BMO AIR MILES®† Mastercard®* is a fine entry point for anyone with lower income or a weaker credit history who’s looking to collect AIR MILES®. There’s also a version of the card for students.

With a welcome bonus of 800 AIR MILES®, the card won’t blow you away, but it’s not bad for a beginner card with no annual fee. Don’t expect to earn AIR MILES® quickly, at just 1 AIR MILES®Air Mile for every $25 spent at most stores, or 3 AIR MILES® for every $25 spent at partner retailers.

Instead, long-term, the card is best used to keep your AIR MILES® account active. As long as you make a small transaction every two years, your miles won’t expire. If your oldest credit card is with BMO, you might want to consider downgrading it to this no-fee version to preserve your credit history too.

Best AIR MILES®† Credit Card for Business Owners

The BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Business Mastercard®* is virtually a carbon copy of the personal World Elite card. It’s got the same welcome bonus and travel insurance.

This card continues to earn 1 AIR MILES®† AIR MILE for every $10 spent, while the World Elite®* card only earns 1 AIR MILES®† AIR MILE for every $12 spent at most stores. If the bulk of your business spending isn’t at AIR MILES®† partner retailers, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re using this card for your business expenses, and not a personal card.

You can also earn 25% bonus AIR MILES®† at Shell, so if you’re able to expense gas, you may as well top-up at Shell for extra rewards.

AIR MILES®† Credit Cards: What You Need to Know

When choosing an AIR MILES®† credit card, you should familiarize yourself with what benefits an AIR MILES®† credit card can offer, what features to look out for, and how Air Miles credit cards can fit into an optimized overall credit card strategy.

Why get an AIR MILES®† credit card?

AIR MILES®†  is one of the most popular shopping rewards programs in Canada. There are two types of miles you can collect: Cash Rewards or Dream Rewards.

Cash Rewards have a fixed value of 95 miles = $10. They can be redeemed for discounts on groceries at Sobeys and Metro brands, as well as at other partner retailers.

Dream Rewards can be used for an assortment of travel bookings and experiences that aren’t available with other rewards programs. In particular, you can get good value by using Dream Rewards for car rentals, vacation packages, or tickets to attractions such as Disney World. These opportunities would make AIR MILES®†  quite appealing if they suit your travel style.

Some of these redemptions are also bookable with other loyalty programs (like Aeroplan for example), but it’s usually not the best use of those points – better to save them for flights instead.

That said, you can also use AIR MILES®†  Dream Rewards for flights. Because the award chart is distance-based, you can get great value when you’re flying short distances or when cash fares are high. For example, there are many sweet spots for last-minute bookings, short-haul flights within North America, or trips to remote regions.

What should you look for in an AIR MILES®†  credit card?

AIR MILES®†  credit cards generally aren’t amazing for everyday spending. Instead, you’ll earn the bulk of your AIR MILES®† from signup bonuses.

However, there are significant perks for being a premium cardholder. Top-tier cards may offer discounts on flight redemptions, access to business class and First Class tickets, or companion fares.

You can also earn automatic AIR MILES®† Onyx status as a cardholder, which grants even further discounts and redemption options. And if your card doesn’t have this perk, you can still get closer to Onyx, the highest level in the AIR MILES®† program, thanks to the miles earned from the welcome bonus and everyday spending.

Additionally, AIR MILES®† runs Shop the Block and Mega Miles events a few times each year, in which they offer bonus AIR MILES®† for completing specific tasks. Most of these involve making purchases at partner retailers, but some conditions can only be fulfilled by co-branded cardholders. If you have an eligible credit card, that would make it much easier for you to maximize the promotion.

As always, consider the insurance benefits on any travel credit card. While AIR MILES®† is a hybrid program between retail and travel, their premium credit cards definitely cater to travellers, and there are some decent insurance options available.

Also, all of the AIR MILES®† cards come with the typical benefits for their card tier:

  • LoungeKey membership and in-flight Boingo Wi-Fi for World Elite®* Mastercard®* members.

What’s the optimal strategy for AIR MILES®† credit cards?

While AIR MILES®† is a very popular retail rewards program among Canadians, the truth is that the value of AIR MILES®† is rather limited compared to more powerful programs like Aeroplan.

Therefore, when it comes to maximizing credit cards as a whole, AIR MILES®† credit cards typically play a secondary role in a savvy credit card user’s wallet compared to cards associated with Aeroplan or transferable points currencies.

That being said, AIR MILES®† credit cards may still represent an important piece of the puzzle for certain types of travellers. That’s because AIR MILES®† are relatively easy to earn through shopping events and they do have some specific high-value uses, such as car rentals, Disney World attraction tickets, and short-haul flights as mentioned above.

If you regularly participate in AIR MILES®† Shop the Block or Mega Miles events throughout the year, you’d do well to also pick up a BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite* Mastercard®* for a quick boost to your AIR MILES®† balance and a sweet 15% discount when it’s time to redeem. Your credit card might even give you an additional pathway towards completing tasks under Shop the Block or Mega Miles.

Overall, it’s important to recognize that an AIR MILES®† credit card won’t get you the same spectacular flight rewards in premium cabins that a program like Aeroplan would unlock.

However, since AIR MILES®† are easy to collect through your regular shopping, an AIR MILES®† credit card can certainly be a useful secondary strategy for savvy travellers to reduce their out-of-pocket spending on the various non-flight travel expenses that they’ll inevitably incur on a trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some questions we frequently hear from readers about the best AIR MILES®† credit cards in Canada.

Should I earn Cash Rewards or Dream Rewards?

Cash Rewards come with the benefit of being easy to redeem, with redemptions being completed at the point of sale and in small increments. Also, you’ll get the instant gratification of reaping the rewards that you’ve earned every time you exchange 95 AIR MILES®† into $10 in shopping credit.

Dream Rewards can certainly provide greater value on flight and travel. However, the opportunities for redeeming your Dream Rewards may be more limited and may require much more careful planning compared to the simple and intuitive option of turning 95 Cash Rewards into $10 worth of free stuff.

The decision is really a personal one, depending on your ability to travel, willingness to spend time planning your AIR MILES®† redemptions, and shopping habits at participating merchants.

And remember, if you have a tough time deciding between the two, you can always split your earnings at your preferred ratio between Cash and Dream Rewards.

Can I convert Cash Rewards to Dream Rewards, and vice versa?

No – once you’ve earned AIR MILES®†, they can’t be converted. You can set the ratio of how you want to allocate your miles beforehand, so make sure you’ve set this up to your liking before triggering your next welcome bonus.

How do I redeem Cash Rewards?

When you make a purchase at an AIR MILES®† partner, the cashier will ask you to scan your membership card to earn rewards. If you have at least 95 Cash Rewards miles in your account, they’ll then ask you if you want to redeem them for $10 off your bill.

† Terms and conditions apply. Please refer to the BMO Website for the most up to date information.