Air Miles in Canada

This is not a programme which receives very much attention in the blogs from what I see.  For my Canadian readers who may not know much about Air Miles, the general idea is that you earn miles which you can use for travelling.  At first glance this seems to be just like any other.  However, after looking closer, you will notice it is nothing like a regular frequent flyer programme.  First of all… it is not associated with an airline, also it is focused on spending with partners rather than flying.

So if it is not based on flying, how do you earn these things?  Well it is both simple and complicated…  The simple part is this, you sign up for the programme (for free) and you get a little blue card in the mail with your member number.  This card is then used when you go to shops which participate and you are awarded miles based on how much you spend.  It is not as simple as most programmes in this regard though.  It is not 1 mile per dollar, each store is different, some are 1 mile per 20 CAD spent, some are 1 mile per 5 and others are one mile per 100 spent.  Of course the key here is to remember to bring the card with you.  As with most other programmes, you can also earn through credit card spending.  Bank of Montréal offers credit and debit cards which earn Air Miles.  BMO has a regular and a gold MasterCard which earn miles.  The main difference is that the gold card earns 1 mile per 15 CAD for a 99 CAD fee as opposed to the free one which earns 1 mile per 20 CAD spent.  Like AAdvantage, there is also a toolbar which earns miles for searching and when shopping with online partners.  Earning the most miles per transaction would likely be the same as with a purely airline based programme which is using the miles earning credit card while shopping at participating shops.  The toolbar can also help with that online so that you do not have to use the special links all the time.

So why would anyone care about this complicated system to earn miles to travel with?  The short answer is that if they are primarily motivated to travel, they would not care to use this system.  Air Miles has already thought of that though.  Which is why they offer many other options for redeeming your miles.  In fact, I am not sure why it even retains the name Air Miles since travelling is not the main focus of redemption either.  Aéroplan may find this a threat to their programme which is why they have been offering rewards other than travel as well.  The Air Miles programme would appeal to those who do not earn loads of points and do not plan to use then quickly.  The reason for for this thought it that unlike Aéroplan miles which disappear after 7 years, Air Miles never expire.  This gives the ability to save over a long period of time.


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