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Last updated: May 1, 2021

Canada’s 5 Best Air Miles Credit Cards for May 2021

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’s usually a promotional link for 3,000 Air Miles tucked away somewhere 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.

Also, BMO’s World Elite cards are known for offering travel insurance on partially paid tickets. That means you can pay for the taxes and fees for a flight reward (whether with Air Miles or with another program, like Aeroplan) with this credit card, and your trip will be covered in the event of delays, accidents, and other mishaps.

The rewards structure on this card is changing this month. Starting with your May 2021 statement, you’ll earn 3 Air Miles for every $12 spent at partner retailers, and 1 Air Mile for every $12 spent elsewhere.

Best Air Miles Credit Card for Business Owners

The BMO Air Miles 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 will continue to earn 1 Air Mile for every $10 spent even after the World Elite card’s earning structure changes in May 2021. 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.

Best Air Miles Credit Card for Families

When family travel is often restricted by rigid vacation dates and award availability for larger groups, you’ll want as many options as possible within your loyalty program.

In that regard, the American Express Air Miles Reserve Credit Card excels, with the best discounts and widest range of options available.

Once a year, you’ll receive a Companion Flight. When you book one flight for 1,700 Air Miles or less, you’ll get a second one for free, only paying the cash component of taxes and fees. You can also book a flight for more miles, and just pay any excess owed out of your Air Miles Dream Rewards balance.

As a cardholder, you’ll automatically receive Air Miles Onyx status. You can use this to book a wider selection of flights, as well as unlock up to 40% mileage discounts on select flights and up to 10% cash discounts on paid fares accompanying reward flights.

If you fly as a couple, you can basically count on 1,700 free Air Miles each year, which we’d value at $255. And for the rest of your entourage, you’ll definitely want to make use of your Onyx benefits.

Finally, for maximum flexibility, this credit card has an exclusive Air Miles FlexFly feature. You can book other airlines and business or first class seats, which aren’t available to other Air Miles members. Even if you’re just looking for economy seats, FlexFly Redemptions can be had for a fixed rate of 13 cents per point, exceeding the Cash Miles rate and giving you the confidence of getting a solid consistent value for your bookings.

If you frequently travel as a group, the unique savings you’ll get from having this card could be well worth the $299 annual fee, despite its paltry everyday earning rates.

Best Air Miles Credit Card for Daily Spending

On the other hand, if earning on regular purchases is more your style, look no further than the American Express Air Miles Platinum Credit Card.

With 1 Air Mile for every $5 spent in select categories, the card earns at double the base rate of other Air Miles credit cards. Also, you’ll get the bonus rate at all grocery stores, restaurants, bars, gas stations, and public transit operators. This sets the card apart from other Air Miles cards, which have higher earn rates only at partner stores.

Also, once each year, you can get up to 750 Air Miles rebated off of your first Dream Rewards booking. Valued at approximately $112.50, this pretty much offsets your $120 annual fee.

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 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.

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
  • American Express Experiences (including Front of the Line event ticket presale) and Amex Offers for American Express cardholders
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’s 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.

Ricky

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