If you’ve been on the Air Miles website recently you may have noticed a few changes to how you earn and redeem your rewards.  First, there’s a new feature called Air Miles Cash.

Starting March 2012 Air Miles collectors can instantly redeem the reward miles in their Air Miles Cash balance towards purchases at participating sponsors.

Second, there is another feature called Air Miles Dream rewards, which basically replaces the old program.  Here you can still find Air Miles travel booking options and redeem Air Miles for gift cards, activities and merchandise.

Here’s what you need to know in order to set-up your allocation between Air Miles Cash and Air Miles Dream rewards balances:

New Air Miles Cash Feature

Air Miles Cash is a new program feature that allows you redeem your reward miles instantly at the checkout towards purchases at grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies.  You can redeem 95 Air Miles for $10 off at the checkout.

Unless you have already made these changes online, any Air Miles you’ve earned prior to December 31st, 2011 should exist inside your Dream rewards balance.  These Air Miles can still be used to redeem for travel, merchandise and more.

The new Air Miles program now gives you the flexibility to choose how you want to allocate your reward miles.  You can earn just towards your new Air Miles Cash balance, both your Air Miles Cash and Dream rewards balances, or do nothing and keep earning inside your Dream rewards balance.

Setting Up Your Account

It’s easy to get started.  If want all of your earned Air Miles to go towards your Air Miles Cash balance, log-in to your account, select the Air Miles Cash balance option, follow a few simple steps and you’re ready to go.

If you want to earn Air Miles towards both Air Miles Cash and Dream rewards balances, select the ‘Air Miles Cash and Dream’ option and move the slider to choose how you want to allocate your Air Miles.  Remember, you’re not transferring your existing Air Miles, you’re choosing how they will be allocated in the future.

Once you’ve decided on a preference, follow the instructions and you’re ready to start earning towards both your Air Miles Cash and Dream rewards balances.

You can adjust your preference at any time, in case you change your mind.  For example, if you choose to split your reward miles evenly between Air Miles Cash and Dream rewards balances, and you earn 20 Air Miles at the grocery store, 10 Air Miles will go to your Cash balance and 10 Air Miles will go to your Dream rewards balance.

Redeeming Air Miles Cash

When you reach 95 Air Miles in your Cash balance, you can redeem them for $10 off your bill at participating sponsors when you swipe your Air Miles collector card at check-out.

At this time, you can still redeem Air Miles for gift cards and certificates but according to the Air Miles website this will be phased out over time and be fully replaced by the new Air Miles Cash balance feature.

Current Participating Sponsors

There are only a few confirmed sponsors in the Air Miles Cash balance program at this time.  Hopefully this list expands soon:

  • Jean Coutu
  • Metro
  • Rexall / Pharma Plus
  • Rona
  • Shell
  • Totem

Final Thoughts

The Air Miles Cash balance feature allows for instant redemption at checkout, which is a nice alternative to waiting 4-6 weeks for a gift certificate to arrive.  However, as a loyal Air Miles collector, I’m not a big fan of these new changes because the reward miles are devalued in favour of instant gratification.

I like to redeem Air Miles for $20 gas certificates at Shell, which I used to redeem online for 175 Air Miles.  Now it will cost 190 Air Miles to get $20 off at checkout.

Eventually the Air Miles Cash program will replace all gift card rewards that were once available for redemption.  Hopefully more sponsors will come onboard as the program develops.

For loyal Air Miles collectors like me, it’s hard to see anything positive coming out of these changes.

My account is currently set to allocate 100% of my Air Miles towards the Dream rewards balance, but I have a feeling I won’t be using Air Miles as often as I used to.

As travel programs like Air Miles and Aeroplan continue to tighten restrictions and devalue rewards, I think most people are better off using a cash back credit card to collect and earn rewards on everyday spending.

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