There are as many different AIR MILES credit cards as there are people. At least it feels like it! If you love to travel but hate throwing money away, it’s time to consider an AIR MILES credit card. But there are so many AIR MILES cards on the market, how the heck do you choose the right one? We’ve got your back. We’ve hand-picked some of the best AIR MILES credit cards in Canada to get you from here to there and crush your travel goals faster!
- How does the AIR MILES Rewards Program work?
- How do I earn AIR MILES?
- The best AIR MILES credit cards in Canada
- Best overall: BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
- Best no-fee: BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
- Best for daily purchases: American Express Air Miles Platinum
- Best for frequent flyers: American Express AIR MILES Reserve
- Best for students: BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students
- Best for business owners: BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard
- Best no-fee for business owners: BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard
How does the AIR MILES Rewards Program work?
AIR MILES is one of Canada’s most recognized rewards programs, right up there with PC Optimum and Aeroplan. They’re basically the Big Mac of loyalty programs, and for good reason. AIR MILES members earn miles by presenting their membership card when they make a purchase from an AIR MILES partner, or any time they use their AIR MILES credit card. You can even double-dip your AIR MILES rewards when you use your AIR MILES membership card and your AIR MILES credit card together in certain stores.
Once you have enough miles, you can redeem them for travel, free or discounted stuff, and tons of other services too. AIR MILES can also be redeemed for cash back at partner locations, every 95 miles earns $10. When you open an account, you can choose to earn Cash Rewards Miles for cash back, Dream Miles for travel and products, or a combination of both. The AIR MILES rewards program gives you the power to earn and redeem points your way.
How do I earn AIR MILES?
The AIR MILES loyalty program is free and anyone can join. Once you become a member, you can accumulate miles by presenting your AIR MILES membership card when shopping in-store or online at AIR MILES partner retailers. To earn miles even faster, you can get an AIR MILES credit card and use it in tandem with your membership card. AIR MILES credit cards allow you to earn miles on all your everyday purchases no matter where you shop, not just at partner retailers.
In addition, if you present your AIR MILES membership and credit card to a partner at the same time, you can earn up to twice the miles depending on the terms of each card. If you use your credit card frequently, the reward rate may end up being higher than the annual fee to help you save even more. But beware! If you don’t pay off your entire balance each month, the interest charges could easily void all the benefits of the AIR MILES program. The best way to get the most out of any rewards credit card is to pay the balance off in full every month!
The best AIR MILES credit cards in Canada
Before choosing an AIR MILES credit card, make sure you ask yourself the right questions. Here are some things to consider before you submit an application:
- What do you want to do with your miles?
- How often do you plan to use them?
- Do you already have too many credit cards?
- How do you want to use your credit card?
- Can you afford the annual fee?
- Will you pay off the full balance each month?
- Do you prefer travelling or getting free stuff?
To help you find the right AIR MILES credit card, here is our selection of the 7 best AIR MILES credit cards in Canada.
Best overall: BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
Annual Fee: $120
Welcome Offer: Up to 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and no annual fee for the first year.
Minimum income required: $80,000 per person or $150,000 per household
Rewards Earn Rate: Up to 3 Miles per $12
Not only is the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard our top pick for globetrotters, it might just be the best AIR MILES credit card overall. It is a great credit card for good reason. Let’s take a look at what this top card has to offer:
The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard gives you one of the best rewards earn rates and one of the best welcome bonuses too. Currently, new cardholders earn 2,000 bonus miles) when they spend $3,000 on the card in the first 3 months. That’s a value of $210 towards your next purchase with Cash Miles! But wait, there’s more! The $120 annual fee is waived for the first year. Between the two, that’s $330 worth of sign-up offers. Cha-ching!.
Cardholders earn 1 mile for every $12 in purchases, making it one of the most generous programs. But you can earn up to 3 miles per $12 spent when you shop at AIR MILES partner merchants. Plus, you can double dip to earn even more miles when you use your AIR MILES membership card and your BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard together at the same time.
The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard offers several benefits for travellers. These include complimentary membership to the Airport Experience program provided by Loungekey, which provides access to a network of more than 1,000 exclusive lounges at 400 airports around the world. Travel and medical insurance is also provided for 15 days outside the province and country.
This great travel card also provides access to more than one million Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, with no additional fees or roaming charges. Another important benefit of the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard is the 15% discount on all AIR MILES flights in North America. Cardholders also benefit from purchase protection and an extended warranty on items purchased with the card. With these, your purchases are protected against theft and damage for 90 days, and the manufacturer’s warranty is doubled by BMO for up to one additional year.
Best no-fee: BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
Annual Fee: None
Welcome Offer: 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
Minimum Income Required: $15,000 per person
Rewards Earn Rate: Up to 3 Miles per $25
Enough with the fees, am I right? If you don’t want to pay for your credit card, the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard is a great option. Without an annual card fee, the AIR MILES earn rate is lower, but this card still packs a punch for budget-conscious jet setters. Although it does not offer the same benefits as the other AIR MILES cards on this list, it comes with a significant welcome offer of 800 Bonus Miles, worth $80 in purchases with AIR MILES Cash. A free card that pays you to sign up? Add to cart!
The reward rate for the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard is relatively low at just 1 mile for every $25 spent. However, you can earn 3 miles for every $25 spent at participating AIR MILES Rewards partners to rack up the miles even faster. And remember, you can get twice the miles when you present your AIR MILES Membership card at the same time you make a purchase with your BMO AIR MILES Mastercard.
New cardholders can also benefit from a 1.99% introductory rate on balance transfers for the first 9 months; a 1% balance transfer fee applies. The BMO AIR MILES Mastercard also includes an extended warranty and purchase protection on items purchased with the card.
Best for daily purchases: American Express Air Miles Platinum
Annual Fee: $120
Current Welcome Offer: 2,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles
Rewards Earn Rate: 1 Mile per $5
American Express credit cards are always a popular choice among reward card connoisseurs. The American Express AIR MILES Platinum card is one of the top AMEX cards for travel lovers. Right now, new cardholders can also enjoy a welcome bonus of 2,000 miles when they spend $1,500 on their card in the first 3 months. That’s a value of $200 towards your next purchase with AIR MILES Cash! There is no expiry date indicated for this sign-up bonus, but it is subject to change without notice.
American Express AIR MILES Platinum cardholders earn miles at a rate of 1 mile per $5 spent at eligible restaurants, cafes, grocery stores and gas or public transit purchases. For all other purchases, the reward rate is 1 mile for every $10 spent. And don’t forget, you can double up the miles when you use your American Express AIR MILES Platinum and present your AIR MILES Membership card when you shop with partner merchants.
In addition to its great earning rates, the American Express AIR MILES Platinum card offers several other advantages and benefits too. These include travel accident insurance (out-of-country only), rental car theft and damage insurance, purchase protection and a reservation program for your outings.
Although it has many advantages for travellers, it does not waive the annual card fee for the first year, which makes the welcome bonus less attractive than that of the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard. In addition, it should always be remembered that American Express cards are not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard.
Best for frequent flyers: American Express AIR MILES Reserve
Annual Fee: $299
Current Welcome Offer: 2,400 Bonus Miles and a $100 statement credit
Rewards Earn Rate: Up to 1 Mile per $10 on groceries, gas, drugstore and AIR MILE partner purchases/ 1 Mile per $15 on all other purchases
New American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card Cardmembers, earn a welcome bonus of 2,400 AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles when you charge a total of $3,000 in purchases to your Card within your first 3 months of Card membership. That’s enough for two select flights!
With an annual fee of $299, it is the most expensive credit card on our list. But the extensive travel benefits and other perks justify the fee. You get lounge access and up to 1,700 points for a companion flight per yearwhen you redeem for any flight Reward within the AIR MILES®* Reward Program.
American Express AIR MILES Reserve cardholders earn 1 Mile for every $10 spent at AIR MILES Partners, 1 mile for every $10 spent at eligible grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies in Canada, and 1 mile for every $15 spent on all other purchases.
When it comes to additional benefits, the American Express AIR MILES Reserve comes with many benefits that travellers will particularly appreciate. The card gives you immediate access to AIR MILES Onyx status which allows you to get up to 40% off flights, among other things.
In addition, the AIR MILES Flexfly program allows you to book flights with other airlines and to destinations that are not available under the AIR MILES flight program. How much are your AIR MILES worth? 770 AIR MILES are equivalent to $100 to be used in this program.
Another exclusive feature of the American Express AIR MILES Reserve card is the ability to redeem your AIR MILES for taxes and fees. You can also redeem your miles for business class seats, as well as get a ticket for a traveller once a year.
Another exclusive benefit of this credit card is the free Priority Pass membership, which gives you access to airport lounges around the world. In addition, you benefit from several types of travel insurance (out-of-province and out-of-country), waived AIR MILES flight administration fees, and priority security at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
In addition to all the travel benefits listed above, the American Express AIR MILES Reserve also includes American Express Experiences coverage.
Best for students: BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students
Annual Fee: None
Welcome Offer: 800 Bonus Miles
Rewards Earn Rate: Up to 3 Miles per $25
Your first credit card is a rite of passage into adulthood. It’s how you establish and start building your credit score. A good credit score is something you will need throughout your life, like when you apply for an apartment, a mortgage, insurance, a cell phone, and even a decent job. With the BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students, you can build credit and get rewarded for it at the same time!
New cardmembers get 800 Bonus Miles when they spend $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months. You’ll earn 3 miles for every $25 spent at AIR MILES partner merchants, and 1 mile per $25 spent everywhere else. The BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students is an ideal way to save money and get free stuff while you establish good credit habits. You can accumulate AIR MILES to pay for a well-deserved break after months of studying for those nerve-wracking exams! University is no joke, treat yo’self.
The BMO AIR MILES Mastercard for Students is available to those aged 18 to 24 years old who have reached the age of majority in their province, and are enrolled in a post-secondary institution such as a CEGEP or university. To get this card, you must also be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and have an annual income from employment, a grant or scholarship, a student loan, or a family allowance.
Best for business owners: BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard
Annual Fee: $120
Welcome Offer: 3,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and no annual fee for the first year
Rewards Earn Rate: Up to 1.25 Miles per $12
This card is a great choice for business owners who spend a lot on their business credit cards and want to earn AIR MILES while they’re at it. With the BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard, you’ll earn miles at a rate of 1 mile for every $12 spent on regular purchases, and 1.25 miles when you use it at participating Shell gas stations. Right now, you’ll get a welcome bonus of 3,000 AIR MILES when you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months, and the $120 annual card fee is waived for the first year. This great offer expires on December 6th, 2022.
Another benefit of the BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard is that it includes several types of travel insurance such as:
- collision damage waiver insurance;
- personal and business property insurance;
- accidental death or dismemberment insurance in rental vehicles and for accidents on board a common carrier.
You will also travel with peace of mind since the card also offers the following protection on:
- luggage and personal effects
- baggage or flight delays
- trip interruptions, postponements, and cancellations
To take advantage of these benefits, simply use your card when paying for your travel reservations. The BMO AIR MILES Business Mastercard is a solid card for business owners, but if you’re curious about what other business cards have to offer, check out our list of The 10 Best Business Credit Cards in Canada.
Best no-fee for business owners: BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard
Annual Fee: None
Welcome Offer: 1,000 Bonus Miles
Rewards Earn Rate: Up to 1.25 Miles per $20
Are you a new business or small business owner? If so, BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard might be a good fit for you. There’s no annual card fee, which saves you money while you scale and still offers great AIR MILES rewards, just earned at a slightly lower rate. As a welcome offer, new cardholders will get 1,000 Bonus Miles, a value of $100 towards your next purchase with AIR MILES Cash. To qualify for this offer, simply spend a minimum of $3,000 on your card within the first 3 months of opening your account.
Since the BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard is free of charge, you earn AIR MILES at a slower pace. Thus, you will earn 1 mile for every $20 spent on regular card purchases. If you use your card at a participating Shell gas station, you earn 1.25 miles for every $20 spent. It is, therefore, an interesting option if you frequently use your vehicle for your work.
Another benefit of this card for your business is the inclusion of a liability waiver program, which protects you in the event of misuse of the card by an employee. The BMO AIR MILES No-Fee Business Mastercard is a solid choice for business owners, but if you’re curious about what other business cards have to offer, check out our list of The 10 Best Business Credit Cards in Canada.
The best AIR MILES credit card in Canada, overall, is the BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard. It has one of the highest earn rates at 1 MILE per $12 in card purchases, with up to 3 MILES per $12 spent at AIR MILES Partners. The card also includes 12 different complementary insurances related to travel and items purchased with the card. You also get an exclusive 15% discount on AIR MILES flights in North America without any blackout dates.
The good news is that you can choose whether you earn all Dream Miles, all Cash Miles, or a mix of both depending on your need, goals, and shopping habits. While you can’t swap one kind of earned MILE for another, you can change the ratio of MILES you earn on purchases if your needs or preferences change later on.
Dream Miles will give you the highest redemption value when used for flights and other travel-related expenses. However, there are fewer redemption opportunities and more restrictions. You will need to spend more time planning and pay close attention to detail in order to get the best value for your Dream Miles. Dream Miles are a good choice if you love to travel and don’t mind putting in the work to optimize your MILES.
Cash Miles have a lower redemption value but you can redeem them almost immediately in-store or online. Where available, 95 Cash Miles will get you $10 off a purchase when you swipe your AIR MILES card. You can also redeem your Dream Miles for goods and services through the AIR MILES website. The AIR MILES program is one of the largest loyalty programs in Canada with a large network of partner merchants across the country. Therefore, you have much more flexibility to redeem your Cash Miles to save money on everyday purchases. Despite the lower redemption value, Cash Miles are a good choice if you are less concerned with travel, and prefer more ways to save when you shop instead.
Choose an AIR MILES credit card with the highest earn rate in categories where you spend the most, as long as you can earn enough MILES to more than offset any annual card fee. Adjust your shopping habits to prioritize AIR MILES partners over non-partners, whenever possible. Double up the MILES when you open an AIR MILES account and present the membership card in addition to your AIR MILES credit card when making a purchase at an AIR MILES partner. Take advantage of Bonus MILE offers at participating stores, as well as the annual AIR MILES Shop the Block event, and various Mega Miles events throughout the year. Bank of Montreal offers banking packages that earn AIR MILES with your debit card. Finally, if you have a good credit score, you can open various credit cards to take advantage of their AIR MILES welcome offers.
Find the best credit card for your needs by answering a few questions.
About The Author: Hannah Logan
Hannah is a Canadian-based writer who specializes in personal finance, travel and lifestyle. She has been writing online since 2014 and her work has appeared in various online media.
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