I’ve written before about how I redeem Air Miles for gas gift certificates.  I think that the best Air Miles rewards are items that will help subsidize my monthly budget, rather than using them for expensive flights and hotels.

In just the past 5 months I have earned 1050 Air Miles and redeemed them for six $20 gas gift certificates from Shell ($120).  But are we maximizing our Air Miles by purchasing the gas gift cards?  Let’s take a look at some of the different categories available on their website and see what the best rewards are:

Related: The AirMiles rewards program has significantly changed since the writing of this post.  For a complete up-to-date article about the new Air Miles rewards program, including how to redeem your Air Miles for the best rewards, click here – Air Miles Cash vs. Air Miles Dream – What You Need To Know

Air Miles Rewards

Music & Movies

  • Blockbuster Video Rental – 30 Air Miles
  • CD or DVD – Between 120 and 190 Air Miles
  • Cineplex or Empire Movie Night for Two – 175 Air Miles
  • iTunes $25 Gift Card – 210 Air Miles

Dining & Entertainment

  • Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Ticket – from 50 Air Miles
  • Earl’s $25 Gift Card – 195 Air Miles
  • Boston Pizza $50 Gift Card – 395 Air Miles
  • Toronto Raptors Basketball Ticket – from 410 Air Miles

Fashion Gift Cards

  • Roots $20 Gift Card – 120 Air Miles
  • The Gap $25 Gift Card – 185 Air Miles
  • HBC $50 Gift Card – 400 Air Miles

Home & Renovations

  • Rona $20 Gift Card – 150 Air Miles
  • Pier 1 $25 Gift Card – 185 Air Miles
  • Staples $25 Gift Card – 225 Air Miles

Subscriptions & Reading

  • MoneySense Magazine (7 issues) – 110 Air Miles
  • Canadian Business Magazine (22 issues) – 150 Air Miles
  • Readers Digest (12 issues) – 180 Air Miles
  • MacLean’s Magazine (52 issues) – 275 Air Miles
  • Chapters $50 Gift Card – 365 Air Miles

It’s difficult to determine what the best Air Miles rewards are for your specific needs.  As you can see, the gas gift card is certainly not giving me the best value.

However we are living on a single income and one of my goals is to reduce our monthly expenses.  Since we have to fill up our vehicles to get around, if we can subsidize this expense by even $20 per month it is worth it to me.

I’ve come to realize that, while I’m not maximizing my rewards cards, I’ve at least selected the most practical option for redeeming my rewards.  There isn’t really another alternative that would accomplish my goal of reducing monthly expenses, since everything else basically falls into the entertainment category.  I do the same thing with my Aeroplan miles.

The other thing that I’ve clued in on is that the Air Miles rewards program is not a very lucrative system and is probably best used to supplement your main rewards credit card.  I use the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard, which offers a 2% rebate on groceries and gas, and 1% back on all purchases.

The gas certificates work out to about a 0.75% rebate (using the ratio of $15 spent = 1 Air Mile).  Taking advantage of bonus Air Miles events at sponsor locations will definitely help you maximize your rebate.

Just for fun, if I had to choose the best rewards in terms of value for money spent I would consider the following alternatives to the gas gift cards:

  1. Cineplex or Empire Theatres Movie Package – To get 2 free tickets plus two regular soft drinks and one regular popcorn for 175 miles is pretty good value.  That package has to be worth $30 and you’re getting it for $20.
  2. Earl’s $25 Gift Card – My wife and I love going to Earl’s and for 195 miles we would be getting slightly better value for our rewards by getting this gift card instead of the gas gift card from Shell.
  3. Rona $20 Gift Card – Anyone who knows me would laugh at this choice since I am Canada’s worst handyman, but for 150 Air Miles you can’t beat this value for redeeming your points.

The reward that I didn’t mention that appeared to have the best value was the $20 Roots gift card for 120 miles.  I just don’t think Roots sells anything for less than $100, so the reward would be more like a gift that keeps on taking.

Do you use Air Miles for travel or for something else?  What are some of your favourite rewards?

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