Lately I’ve been looking into the Air Miles travel program to see if redeeming for flights was a better option.  Since we have a goal to travel to Ireland in the next few years, we might be better off hoarding Air Miles to save for our dream vacation.

Over the past three years I’ve collected close to 8,000 Air Miles and cashed them in for $900 worth of free gas certificates.  I found that with a young family there wasn’t really much time for travel, so my goal was to redeem Air Miles for something useful that would help lower our monthly expenses.

Air Miles Travel

The Air Miles travel program has developed a solid online booking tool that allows users to redeem their Air Miles for flights or purchase a flight using cash.  The website has a handy flight rewards map detailing the total number of reward miles needed for flight redemption, depending on the time of year, and arrival and departure zones.

RelatedAir Miles Cash vs. Air Miles Dream

Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • 1,000 Air Miles = One short haul flight (Calgary to Vancouver)
  • 2,500 Air Miles = One medium haul flight (Calgary to Toronto)
  • 5,000 Air Miles = One long range flight (Calgary to Mexico)
  • 7,500 – 12,000 Air Miles = Dream vacation, any season

Redeeming For Flights

It makes sense to take advantage of the discount for flying during low season.  Peak season flight prices are inflated by up to 35 percent.  We would need 6,300 Air Miles for one free flight from Calgary to Dublin, Ireland during low season, compared with 8,200 Air Miles to book during high season.

According to the Air Miles travel site, in most cases their prices for flights are the same as other websites.  In some cases an airline may have web-only special fares that must be booked directly through their website.

I went through the booking process with both Air Miles travel and WestJet and for the exact same flight the Air Miles travel site was only $15 more expensive.

How To Reduce Reward Miles Cost

Air Miles collectors who carry the BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard are able to enjoy an exclusive 25% discount on all Air Miles travel, with no blackout periods.  The 25% reduction in reward miles cost is significant.  The Calgary-to-Dublin flight would only cost us 4,725 Air Miles during low season, which is a savings of about $180.

If you earn 1,000 Air Miles in a calendar year with at least 5 different Air Miles sponsors you will automatically become an Air Miles Gold collector.  Gold collectors can receive up to 40% off the reward miles for selected flights, and also enjoy exclusive savings on cruises and vacation packages.

Final Thoughts on Redeeming Air Miles for Flights

I know that I’m not getting the absolute best value by cashing in my rewards for gas certificates, but I still like the fact that I’m subsidizing a necessary monthly expense.

But after seeing the huge discounts you can receive on flights as an Air Miles Gold collector, and because we’ve made this trip to Ireland one of our top priorities, I’m going to start saving up my reward miles to help pay for our dream vacation.


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