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Published October 6, 2023
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10 minutes

Air Miles Rewards Program in Canada: A Complete Guide

Air Miles is one of Canada’s most popular loyalty rewards programs. Members can earn, collect and redeem Dream Miles and Cash Miles for travel, retail and more.

Canadians have a lot of choice when it comes to loyalty rewards programs. One of the largest (and arguably most complicated) is Air Miles. The program offers many ways to earn and redeem both miles and cash, but getting the most out of your Air Miles may require a little research, forethought and careful planning.

What is the Air Miles program?

Launched in 1992, Air Miles is one of Canada’s most popular loyalty rewards programs with nearly 10 million members. In 2023, the Bank of Montreal (BMO) acquired the Air Miles Reward Program from LoyaltyOne. 

As an Air Miles member, you can earn miles by showing your membership card or entering your membership number when you shop at eligible retailers, or by using a BMO Air Miles credit card to make purchases. 

After amassing a sufficient number of miles, you can redeem them for a variety of items like flights, merchandise or instant cash rebates at select retailers.

How do Air Miles work?

You can earn Air Miles in the form of Dream Miles, Cash Miles or a combination of both. After you open an Air Miles account, you’ll be asked how you want to allocate the rewards you earn. For example, you may choose to allot 20% to Dream Miles and 80% to Cash Miles, or 100% Dream Miles and 0% Cash Miles — the choice is yours. You can adjust your selection at any time.

What are Air Miles Dream Miles

Dream Miles are miles that you can redeem for non-cash rewards, such as flights, car rentals, merchandise and experiences.

What are Air Miles Cash Miles?

Cash Miles can be converted into cash or cash-like eVouchers, which are handy for online purchases.

You can only redeem Cash Miles in-store or online at participating Cash Miles partners.

Dream Miles vs. Cash Miles

Dream MilesCash Miles
Redemption optionsNon-cash rewards, such as flights, rental cars, hotel stays, concert tickets and merchandise.Cash rewards, such as in-store rebates or eVouchers.
Air Miles valueVaries considerably by redemption method. For flights, the average value of 1 Air Miles Dream Mile is 11.35 cents. More specifically, you can expect to get around 10.1 cents per Air Miles Dream Mile for economy class redemptions and 12.60 cents per Air Miles Dream Mile for business class redemptions, according to NerdWallet’s analysis.95 Cash Miles are worth $10, and you can redeem miles in $10 increments up to a total of $750 per day.
ProsCan be redeemed for a variety of items.Easy to use, stable value.
ConsLack of standard mile value makes it hard to predict value.Can only be used as cash and can’t be converted to Dream Miles.

Best Air Miles Credit Cards in Canada

Compare all different air miles credit cards side-by-side and find out the best card that will meet your need with special perks and benefits

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How much are Air Miles worth?

Cash Miles have a specific value: You can redeem 95 Cash Miles for $10 cash towards a purchase (or eVoucher), which gives each Air Miles Cash Mile a value of 10.5 cents. You can redeem Cash Miles in $10 increments up to a total of $750 per day.

Dream Miles do not have a consistent value because they vary based on how they’re redeemed.

For example, if you redeem your Air Miles Dream Miles for merchandise, you may get a value of about 7 cents per Air Mile. However, when you redeem your Dream Miles for a hotel room, you may get a per-mile value of approximately 12 cents. These different mile valuations underscore why, to maximize the purchasing power of your Air Miles, it’s important to figure out the value before you redeem them.

Nerdy tip

In general, you get the best deal when redeeming Air Miles Dream Miles for travel. 

    How many Air Miles for a flight?

    NerdWallet analyzed over 75 data points to compare the Air Miles redemption values of flights in 2022 and determined a “cent-per-mile” value for each flight.

    Based on our analysis, the average value of 1 Air Miles Dream Mile is worth 11.35 cents.

    More specifically, you can expect to get around:

    • 10.10 cents per Air Miles Dream Mile for economy class redemptions.
    • 12.60 cents per Air Miles Dream Mile for business class redemptions.

    These values can fluctuate based on several factors, such as where and at what time of year you’re travelling (i.e., during holidays or other peak times), and how far ahead of time you book your flight.

    For example, when redeeming miles for an economy ticket from Toronto to Mumbai 20 weeks in advance, the value of a single Air Mile can be as high as 22 cents, at the time of this writing. However, if you book the same ticket only one week out, each Air Mile has an approximate value of 16 cents.

    Unfortunately, unlike some travel rewards loyalty programs (like Aeroplan), Air Miles does not offer a flight chart with info about how many miles are needed to reach a particular destination. 

    To find the actual amount of Air Miles needed for a specific trip, you’ll need to search for flights on the Air Miles travel portal. You can adjust your dates slightly to see whether it affects the number of Air Miles required for a flight.

    How to earn Air Miles

    To get the most out of your rewards, select how you want to earn your miles by using the slider tool in your account profile. Choose a percentage of Cash Miles and Dream Miles that makes sense for you. For example, if you want to only redeem your miles as cash, you could set the slider to 100% Cash Miles and 0% Dream Miles.  

    Present your Air Miles membership card

    When shopping in person or online at an Air Miles retail partner, you just need to present your card or input your membership number to earn Air Miles.

    The amount of Air Miles you earn varies among retailers. For example, at the time of writing, you get 1 Air Mile per $15 dollars spent at Budget Car Rental, whereas, with Global Pet Foods, you earn 1 Air Mile for every $20 you spend.

    Shop with an Air Miles credit card

    A fast and easy way to accelerate your earnings is with a co-branded Air Miles credit card.

    Air Miles is owned by BMO, which offers five credit cards that earn Air Miles on purchases.

    Here are five BMO credit cards that earn Air Miles rewards.

    • BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
    • BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
    • Student BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
    • BMO AIR MILES World Elite Business Mastercard
    • BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard

    Use a BMO AIR MILES debit card

    You can earn 1 Air Mile for every $30 you spend using a BMO Debit Card that’s attached to an Air Miles chequing account. If you also hold a BMO AIR MILES World Mastercard or BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, you can earn an extra 25 miles per month.

    Shop online via the Air Miles portal and eStore

    On top of earning Air Miles directly when shopping at merchants in person or online, you can earn rewards using the Air Miles shopping portal at Rather than going directly to a partner retailer’s website, you go through the Air Miles eStore and earn 1 Air Mile for every $20 spent.

    Book travel through the Air Miles travel portal

    You can earn points by booking travel-related items like flights, hotel stays and rental cars via the Air Miles travel hub.

    Take advantage of Air Miles bonus offers and promotions

    Air Miles partner merchants sometimes offer special promotions or bonuses that allow members to earn additional miles. You can find current promotions by checking out the Air Miles website.

    Answer surveys to earn free Air Miles

    You can earn miles by answering surveys online with companies like Shopper’s Voice. You can find a list of current surveys that offer rewards on the Air Miles website. 

    How to sign up to the Air Miles Reward Program

    Air Miles membership is free and can be completed online. You must be at least 16 years old to apply. 

    When filling out the online application, you must provide your name, date of birth, address and email, then set up a password. Once the application is approved, you’ll receive a physical membership card in the mail within two to three weeks. 

    You’ll also be sent your membership number and digital card via email, so you don’t have to wait until your physical card arrives to start earning miles. 

    Membership is automatic for eligible BMO credit card holders. 

    Air Miles Onyx status

    Air Miles Onyx status is the highest status tier available for the Air Miles loyalty program. You must earn 5,000 or more miles within a year to attain Onyx status or hold a BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, BMO AIR MILES World Elite Business Mastercard or BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard. Onyx status gives you access to exclusive perks, like discounts of up to 40% on Air Miles flights, 10% off for merchandise redemptions and priority customer service.

    Air Miles Gold status

    Air Miles Gold status is the tier below Onyx. It’s for Air Miles members who collect between 500 to 4,999 miles in a calendar year or hold a BMO AIR MILES Mastercard or BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard.

    Benefits for Gold status include up to 30% off the number of miles needed for certain flights and 5% off the miles required for eligible merchandise redemptions. 

    Is it worth joining the Air Miles program?

    Air Miles is free to join, so there’s no downside to signing up. It takes very little effort to earn miles — simply show your membership card or enter the number at checkout, for example.

    That said, it can take a fairly long time to earn rewards. To accumulate a significant amount of miles in a reasonable amount of time, you’d likely need to use an Air Miles credit card or constantly be looking for generous offers.

    Air Miles pros

    • Join for free.
    • Maximize your rewards with special offers and promotions.
    • Earn miles through a wide array of retail partners.
    • Earn miles through one of BMO’s five Air Miles credit cards.
    • Access Onyx and Gold status tiers for extra benefits.

    Air Miles cons

    • Redemption value is hard to determine.
    • Miles cannot be transferred to other loyalty programs.
    • Dream Miles cannot be converted to Cash Miles and vice versa.
    • Air Miles expire if an account is inactive for 24 months.

    Air Miles alternatives

    One alternative to Air Miles is Air Canada’s Aeroplan points, another of Canada’s well-known travel reward programs. Aeroplan also has co-branded credit cards and an online shopping portal. 

    The value of an individual Aeroplan point may be lower than that of a single Air Mile when redeemed for flights, but you could be in the air faster with an Aeroplan credit card. 

    For example, with the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard, you can earn 3 miles for every $12 you spend at retail partners. To compare, you can earn between 1.25 and 3 Aeroplan points for every $1 you spend on purchases made with the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card. Using the above example, you’d need to spend at least $396 to collect roughly 100 Air Miles, but just $33 to $80 to earn 100 Aeroplan points.

    Finally, Aeroplan has an attractive “Family Sharing” feature that allows up to eight family members or friends to pool their points, making it easy to redeem Aeroplan points for maximum value.

    Make sure you compare the Aeroplan and Air Miles features before you decide what’s best for your needs.

    Frequently asked questions about Air Miles

    Is BMO buying Air Miles?

    In June 2023, the Bank of Montreal announced the completion of its acquisition of LoyaltyOne’s Air Miles Reward Program

    How much are 5,000 Air Miles worth?

    5,000 Cash Miles are worth $525, as 95 Cash Miles have a monetary value of $10 (giving each mile a value of 10.5 cents).

    The cash value of 5,000 Dream Miles is hard to pin down since it depends entirely on how you redeem them. You can experiment with the Air Miles search tool to explore different trips and see how far your 5,000 Dream Miles can take you.


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