How I Redeem My Air Miles Rewards

One of my goals this year is to maximize my rewards points.  For years I have been a loyal Air Miles collector.  I have always shopped at Safeway, filled up the car at Shell, and for one time purchases I generally went out of my way to purchase at an Air Miles sponsored business.

I have the Air Miles credit card from American Express, which rewards me with 1 Air Mile for every $15 spent.  I even downloaded the Air Miles Toolbar, which gives* gave me 5 Air Miles for every 50 internet searches (up to a maximum of 30 reward miles per month).

Redeem Air Miles For Products

Unlike most people however, I don’t redeem Air Miles rewards to cash in for flights.  I redeem Air Miles rewards for products like $20 gas gift certificates from Shell.  For 175 Air Miles you can purchase a $20 gas certificate.  So far this year I have earned over 1750 Air Miles rewards and redeemed them for 10 gas gift certificates ($200).

Are the Shell gift cards considered the best Air Miles rewards as far as return on your money spent?  I’m sure there are other products that probably pay at a much better ratio than the gas certificates, but I like the feeling of subsidizing that expense and putting a little bit of money back in my wallet each month.

When I redeem Air Miles, it’s a great enhancement to my overall rewards points strategy that I use along with my favorite rewards credit card, the MBNA Smart Cash MasterCard.

There are lots of other rewards besides Air Miles travel that you can redeem Air Miles for on their website.  From magazine subscriptions, restaurant gift certificates, movie packages, electronics, and appliances, there are some great items to choose from.  Besides, I never liked having to pay all of the fees & taxes that go along with redeeming your points for flights…not to mention the blackout dates that limit your travel options.

Do you like to redeem Air Miles rewards for products or save up and redeem them for flights?  Do you prefer the Air Miles program over Aeroplan miles?

*Updated September 23rd, 2011

The opportunity to earn reward miles with online search though the AIR MILES Toolbar is no longer available as of June 30, 2011.  During the 30 months in which this innovative earning opportunity was available to our Collectors, the online search market has changed substantially to the point where AIR MILES can no longer offer this option to our Collectors.  Please be reminded that the Toolbar will still ensure you never miss an opportunity to earn reward miles at our 100+ online stores.

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  1. Financial Cents on September 6, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Don’t forget the LCBO (in Ontario) to collect Air Miles! I usually save them up and buy a gift card for one of my favourite stores. Gotta love free money!

  2. Echo on September 6, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Here in Alberta the liquor stores have privatized, however there is a network of liquor stores here that are connected to Air Miles called PALS (preferred alberta liquor stores).

    I tend to shop at Liquor Depot, as I hold shares in LIQ.UN

  3. Million Dollar Journey on September 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Good post! I typically redeem for 2 for 1 movie night at Empire Theatres. I believe the return works out to be around 1.7% providing that I earned 1 point per $20 in spending.

  4. Echo on September 6, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Hey FT, thanks for stopping by. It’s great to hear other examples of redeeming rewards for things besides travel. 1.7% is pretty good considering most rewards are at 1% or lower.

    I think Shopper Drug Mart had the best value for points until their recent changes.

  5. youngandthrifty on September 6, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    I redeem them for Money Sense magazine subscriptions. This is the second year in a row I’ve redeemed my points for Money Sense. For a one year subscription, you just need 100 points.

    I’m not very good at collecting points though, I must say. i didn’t know about the Air Miles toolbar- thanks!

    I also redeemed for the Sport Check gift cards too just recently.

    • Echo on September 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      Yeah, the tool bar is great…free 30 Air Miles every month. Money Sense subscription, that’s awesome!

  6. Steve Zussino on September 7, 2010 at 11:06 am

    You are correct in getting the gas cards.

    Where I live (Victoria, BC), the flights are too expensive.

    I believe gift cards are the overall best buy on these points.

    I only belong to Air Miles and Aeroplan.

    Anyone have good luck with Shoppers?

    • Echo on September 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm

      @Steve – thanks for stopping by. I only have aeroplan and air miles too, although I don’t utilize aeroplan as much due to the lower number of sponsors.

      My wife has the Shoppers Optimum Card and the return was the highest of all rewards cards…especially when they combine them with the free gift w/ purchase. But I’ve heard they have significantly reduced their rewards payout now…no idea by how much though.

      • Steve Zussino on January 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

        Optimum Card is great – my wife and I just signed up for it and we posted during their tell a friend event. We even received 37,000 bonus points this past weekend with this great mail-in rebate offer for Neutrogena.

        It is the best points program in Canada – not much for other rewards and you have to redeem at Shoppers but that is OK.

  7. Taylor on September 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve never heard of the Air Miles Toolbar (I’ll have to look into that!). Thanks for sharing!

    I’ve had a lot of success with the Shoppers Optimum Card. I load up on the 20x the points days and wait to redeem when they have a promotion where I usually receive an extra $50.

  8. canrocks69 on September 24, 2010 at 2:08 am

    i use my airmiles for flights and car rentals. I’ve used them at christmas time to fly back to toronto ,normal ticket price was around 1100 i got it for 2100 points( thaxs to my bmo gold card 25% off) and 250 in taxes i’ve done this four times and i flew down to texas at christmas for 1500 points and 130 in taxes would of cost 1200. gotta love those air miles:). Didn’t know about the toolbar how do you go about downloading it?

  9. BankAim on October 31, 2010 at 11:17 am

    We use AMEX cards to earn points. $1 = 1 point. You can then use those points to buy products, just about anything you can think of is in their catalog. But the true value comes to redeeming those points for air miles on Delta. AMEX is partnered with Delta Skymiles, so if you transfer 1 point you get 1 mile. Or you can buy a $200 camera for 48k points, which is close to 2 airline tickets. I’d rather have the tickets. There are no blackout dates so its pretty easy to redeem a ticket for 25k points.

    Do I get a $200 camera or 2 airline tickets? Hmm.. AMEX and Delta is the only way to go! They do charge you a fee for transferring points to Delta, which is very minimal.

    Good post by the way!

    • Roland Fin on January 23, 2011 at 9:23 am

      How do you get those Shell Gas Certificates

      • Echo on January 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

        Hi Roland, you can just go to the Air Miles website, click on redeem Air Miles, and then find “gift cards & subscriptions”. There’s a fuel and car wash section.

  10. Dee on January 23, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I’m not very impressed with AirMiles — it takes too long to accumulate anything exciting for me (i.e. a single person) but Shoppers Drug Mart Optimum is totally worthwhile, even after the changes to the program. I buy most of my household-type items (laundry detergents, dishwasher cleaner, tissues, etc.) on 20X the points days and redeem my points when they have bonus redeem the points events. They also have excellent sales, including on grocery-type items (juice, soups, cereals, etc.). AirMiles pales in comparison. I do pull out my AirMiles card when I do groceries at Metro (pretty frequently, though I also go to Food Basics about as frequently) and it just doesn’t seem to get me anywhere. Shell does not seem to have the best gas prices and I don’t shop much at Rexall given my love of the Shoppers loyalty program.

    • Echo on January 23, 2011 at 10:08 am

      Hi Dee, I agree that the points are hard to accumulate on a regular 1 for $20 basis.

      But just like you stock up on Shopper’s Drug Mart 20X points days, I will take advantage of Safeway bonus Air Miles, either on selected products on your total bill (100 bonus Air Miles for $100 or more total purchase). The pharmacy gives 7X Air Miles as well.

      It’s definitely not the most lucrative rewards program out there but if you look for the incentives they can add up pretty quickly. I redeem my Air Miles for a $20 gas certificate at least once a month.

  11. Paul on February 26, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Now that I live in ON, I found that when I lived in AB I was able to collect more Air Miles due the better offers Safeway had i.e. 10x Points day at the first Tuesday of the month and you got points when you used the Safeway Pharmacy for Rx’s. Here in ON, you cannot collect points on Rx’s so my point accumulation has dropped and I prefer shopping at Loblaws (Presidents Choice) more than Metro (which is a lot more expensive that Safeway).

    One of my brothers who lives in BC gets enough points from one shop at Safeway to afford a lift ticket to Whistler. As you mentioned, there could be better point redemption ratios however it isn’t money you need to spend or is nice little bonus. I have used my for gift cards at Christmas or treating myself to a Starbucks gift card.

    For me now I am an Aeroplan junkie as I prefer trips and have accumulated enough points for 3 business class tickets to Europe in the past three years.

    • Echo on February 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      Hi Paul, I didn’t know that you couldn’t collect points on Rx’s in Ontario. That would definitely make it tougher to accumulate Air Miles for us. I used to be an Aeroplan junkie too when I travelled across Canada frequently for work. Now I don’t travel as much so the Air Miles for gas gift cards works best for me.

      I think the key is to find the rewards program that fits your unique situation the best.

  12. Taylor on May 25, 2011 at 7:05 am

    I still collect Air Miles, but have never redeemed any as my accumulation is pretty small.

    I rely heavily on Visa Avion for accumulating reward points and they can be applied to just about anything.

    I should really be doing both to maximize on my efforts as it is a good way to get double points.

  13. Matt on June 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    It definitely seems like there are many restrictions on flights but using points for other products is a great idea. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Pam on September 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I have never redeemed my Air Miles but this has motivated me to look into how many I have accumulated over the years so I can take advantage of them. I think I will probably use them for something practical too, like gas at Shell as I am quite confident that I don’t have enough to fly anywhere with them. I am like Taylor who commented above. I rack up most of my points by using the Visa Avion. I haven’t redeemed any of those yet either but hope to get a ticket to Asia for free using them in the near future.

  15. Julie on September 21, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I’ve been saving my airmiles for the last three years hoping to save enough for a long haul flight but I have just heard a rumour that Airmiles is changing and we will be having to pay airport charges etc. which we don;t have to do now. I think the changes are coming in November. Does anyone know anymore about this?

  16. canadarocks69 on September 22, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    re julie:you pay for any taxes or airport fees allready when you book a flight using airmiles, the airmiles only cover the cost of the airline ticket.

  17. SE Book on October 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Those are great ways to redeem your miles. But I like saving mine for vacations.

  18. Jihan on November 29, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Hey thanks for posting this, great advice. I prefer Airmiles over Aeroplans, I find that I earn way more airmiles compared to Aeroplan because I don’t have any credit cards that give me Aeroplan.
    Your right redeeming for merchandise and giftcards is better than flights unless you do travel alot, I wait until items I want are on specials to redeem points for also before I redeem it. A little patience goes a long way.

  19. An Exacting Life on January 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I just analyzed my rewards cards. I get 1 Air Miles point for every $20 spent at my grocery store. I figured out this is equivalent to a 0.57% discount on my grocery purchases. My recent post on this shows the math 🙂 I wonder how their new “Air Miles Cash” program will fare.

  20. Andrey on March 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I have BMO and Amex Air miles credit cards. Collecting Air Miles is a great way to eliminate annual cards fees and even make some more money.
    I’ve been a very loyal Air Miles collector since 2009.
    However, I just got a “Capital One” ASPIRE TRAVEL WORLD credit card. The reason is because the value for their reward miles is far greater than the Air Miles.
    I suggest everyone to check them out.


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