Sunday Reader Question: Why don’t you talk about Air Miles?

Because they suck.










But seriously, I don’t talk about Air Miles because they’re very frustrating to redeem for flights, access extremely limited award inventory, and carry high surcharges. If you’re going to a store that offers Air Miles, you might as well collect them, as you’re getting a marginal return, but don’t expect to use them for air travel.

Unlike Aeroplan or other frequent flyer programs, the best redemption value for Air Miles is gift cards (I like the VIA Rail gift card). You used to be able to redeem Air Miles for movie passes for good value, but they recently devalued that redemption. I’ve also heard you can get good value for redeeming on Vancouver Aquarium tickets.

Do I collect Air Miles? Yeah, when I do groceries or get my favourite gin. However, I hear time and time again people telling me they’ve collected Air Miles for years, and when they went to redeem, are unable to. Air Miles has set up an expectation that they’re meant to be used for air travel, which I disagree with. If you collect for a long time, can stomach the fees, and you’re lucky with the available award inventory, you can use them for air travel (many years ago, I redeemed a flight to Baltimore… which in hindsight, I should have just paid for, as the surcharges made the redemption cost close to a paid ticket). Reset your expectations: Air Miles are optimally for merchandise/gift cards/money-off redemptions, and not for air travel.


  1. Air miles removed fuel surcharges for domestic flights about a year ago, and raised the miles requirements to compensate.

    Availability should be better than Aeroplan since they buy cash tickets on multiple carriers instead of relying on the x inventory bucket on air Canada. As with Avios, short haul flights are where it shines

  2. Still collect AM and redeem for air travel. Thought it was a good deal until this year. Flights within Canada on Air Canada were booked with Tango fare, not Flex fare. This meant no seat selection unless you paid for them.
    After these flights, I will be cancelling my Amex and BMO AM credit cards and go to something that offers cash back.

  3. AirMiles have had great redemption availability between YYC and IAH. One year I booked 7 tickets for different family members as my brother lives there. There fees are a little high, but 7 tickets in a year for spending I will do anyways? With a Safeway 70 steps from my front door?? I have almost 2 million points across many programs and will continue to collect on…

  4. With all due respect, you are wrong in your assessment of Air Miles. And I am an AE MM. As pointed out above, Air Miles reduced their scam charges dramatically a few months ago and increased point prices to compensate.

    Air Miles is excellent value for short haul flights. I’ve used them, with zero availability problems, several times to fly from Ontario to New York to board a cruise ship. The point price on Air Miles for that is infinitely more value than using Aeroplan points.

    I’m looking at vacation trip in the future from Ontario to Newfoundland and again Air Miles for that will be much greater value than Aeroplan. I’ve also checked a variety of availabilities for that trip and never encountered a problem.

    Air Miles loses its competitive edge for long haul so I’d never to be using them to fly to YVR. And they are just as bad value as Aeroplan if you want to use them for toasters and boomboxes.

    Air Miles are easy to collect for everyday purchases for groceries, gas, the LCBO, etc and you can collect them on those purchases while paying with a credit card that earns your airline points.

    Air Miles merchants also offer great bonuses that are easy to collect. I’m going to spend $40 at Rexall on Monday and get 80 Air Miles. At an estimated value of 20 cents a mile that’s a great deal. And next month I’ll pick up 150 Air Miles from Shell just for buying gas 10 times in 8 weeks.

    My advice is collect Air Miles whenever possible and convenient. Take advantage of the bonuses. And use your miles for short haul flights. Its easy and the rewards are excellent!

  5. You have to redeem and collect smart. We have redeemed Airmiles for many many electronics, watch, luggage,camera, video camera, gaming,lawnmower, furniture, kitchen appliances, hotel rooms,and over 20 flights. We are flying to Europe with a week of hotel all with Airmiles, NO surcharges, as Westjet will allow Airmiles to collect those with your points. As with any reward system, shop smart, be informed and use it exclusively.

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