REVIEW Air Miles – Flying Much Lower Than It Used To

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Air Miles is a reward program that offer you “Air Miles” when you shop at selected retailers and service providers.  This program used to be a good one, but things have changed for the worse.  It is no longer the program that  it used to be from our perspective here at

The Air Miles Program Logo

You can redeem Air Miles to receive various products, services, gift cards, and “yes” even air flights.  The trick here is that you are being offered something “almost” for free just by shopping at selected retailers and service providers.  I say “almost” free because as all of you know, nothing is “truly” free.  They collect user data every time you buy something.  This data is a virtual goldmine for anyone who has or buys access to it.  You are selling your privacy.  This is not inherently bad as long as you are aware of it and this does not bother you.

The problem here is that you do not get cash, you get “Air Miles” whose value is determined by Air Miles themselves (great business idea!).  In essence, they can pay as little or as much as they want in exchange for this little piece of your privacy and change their payment at any time.  A twenty dollar gift card at Roots, for example, used to cost you 120 Air Miles, now it costs you 175.  This is one heck of a decrease in value of my Air Miles!

I prefer to use a credit card that gives me cash back.  Money does devalue at the rate of inflation, but I can spend it wherever I want,  on whatever I want, at any time that I want.  I currently use the CITI Bank Enrich Mastercard (recently bought by CIBC) and the CIBC Dividend VISA card.  Each of these cards has no annual fee (of course) and they offer me cash once per year based upon how much I spend.  The CITI Bank Enrich Mastercard offers me 1% cash back on everything that I buy (not sure how, if at all,  it will change after moving to CIBC).  I’ll update you later.

Air Miles is an okay option if you combine it with using one of these credit cards at one of their participating outlets (this way you get Air Miles and cash).  I just think that the Air Miles program is overrated.  I especially dislike the fact that the value of my hard earned Air Miles can be decimated overnight by some unannounced decision at Air Miles head office that will make them more money (gee, that must be a tough decision for them!).  I just don’t like this idea.  I prefer cash (as any frugal minded person would).

I’m not saying not to use the Air Miles reward program, just be aware that you are surrendering a certain level of your privacy for a reward whose value seems to be continuously diminishing.  Look for bonus events and extra reward being offered at participating retailer if you really want to make the most of it.  Again, use it as an adjunct to your credit card purchase which gives you cash back.   This way, the inflation of your Air Miles points don’t matter as much (collect enough cash back and you could even BUY the Air Miles company).

READ my Air Miles UPDATE!

Thanks for visiting.  Please check back soon for lots of other ideas.


Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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    • Linda on August 1, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Hello …I’ve just stumbled across your website and it’s very nice how you have such a simple but balanced approach to your articles. I’d love if you were to provide an article about credit cards… I too have the Citi enrich and it is going away. What I know of CIBC is that they aren’t very generous card providers, so would like a reco on what other cards there are out there. Perhaps and article based on different tiers of spending?


    • Jason on August 1, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Thanks for your kind words and your terrific suggestion. I really appreciate it (and I was just thinking about what to write about next).
    Regarding credit cards, there are so many to choose from that it is bewildering for an average consumer like me. There are just sooo many options. With that being said, I only write about what I know about first-hand.
    I use two credit cards; one VISA and one Mastercard. I could write about why I chose them and hopefully this will start a discussion and people could write about their own suggestions. I am always up for something better. I’ll review them separately.
    I hope you check back soon. I’ll try my best.
    Kind regards, froogalist

    • Rohit Birdi on February 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Guys,
    don’t ever think of getting this card. you will get the worst possible service on the earth not even joking. i am trying to reach their customer support for over a month now, cant find anybody lollz.. they will send you an email of what you want and your comcern and that’s it and good luck if you don’t have a computer. i forgot my pin and now i am struck with how to reset. i am their customer from 2008 and still dont know how many points do i have..coz my account is locked..i am on the phone while writng this email but i know it will sing songs for hours and finally you will call it off.thx for reading..

    • Jason on June 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I guess the old adage, “Nothing is free”, aptly applies here. You sell your privacy for a few crumbs. I still have the card, but have wondered many times, why I still have it. Any other comments would be most welcome (and could sway me either way).

    Cheers, froogalist

    • mel on July 22, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Air Miles screwed me over with their cash rewards and dream rewards. I used to always redeem for $20 certificates for use at Shell or Rona. After painstakingly amassing 1200 airmiles to use at Rona, I can’t because they have my air miles in the ‘dream rewards’ account. Absolute scam. Can only use those air miles to buy overpriced crap they have on their site. Suggest you find another ‘reward’ card.

    • Jason on July 22, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Mel.

    I share your sentiments exactly. The very fact that Air Miles can just change the way points are collected, their sponsors, and the point costs for rewards without any warning is frustrating and not a good way to treat customers in my view. You must be very frustrated after saving so many points. I am sorry to hear about your experience. I have moved all of my buying to a credit card that pays cash back. There’s nothing quite like cold hard cash that can be spent anywhere at any time. Let us know if you find a good alternative ‘reward’ card.

    Once again, thank you for taking the time to share your comment.


    • M.G.G. on March 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I am absolutely fed up the Air Miles Program! Just now I went on-line to find out if others feel the same way as I do and found this site. It was reassuring to learn that others are disillusioned with the program too, even if their reasons are not the same as mine.

    My husband and I are seniors and have been collecting Air Miles for years and years so that we could go on a dream vacation. We have an Air Miles Gold card and a BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard. We didn’t want to buy products and refused to switch any of our hard-earned points out of our dream rewards account, even though Air Miles tried all sorts of tactics to get us to do so.

    Early in December, we realized that we had enough Air Miles for our trip. In the past, we had come close, but found, when we went on-line, that the number of points needed for our trip had gone way up. I went to Marlin Travel that advertises Air Miles thinking that the agent could give me any help I needed to plan our trip and maximize my use of those miles. I quickly learned some of the realities about the program. First of all, I could only use a limited number of my Air Miles booking with Marlin … as I recall, about 400 … and I could only use those miles by booking one of the pre-arranged trips that included many things we were not interested in doing. Secondly, although the travel agent as a favour attempted to book our Air Miles flights to and from our destination (nothing for the agent to gain by doing so other than commissions for arranging our hotels and excursions), the agent found that we could only get one way flights with Air Miles and that, although there were seats available on the return flights, none were available for Air Miles collectors. Bescause we could not go at another time since my husband had booked time off work, the only way we could go was to pay more than $1000.00 for our return flights.

    After we returned home, I decided to complain to the company, especially after, to add insult to injury, I discovered that I had been charged a couple of thousand extra Air Miles because our flights were one way… flights that the company could not supply!!!. An agent on the Collector Relations team told me that I should have called Air Miles … that, because I was a good collector, Air Miles would have tried to get return flights for us. How was I to know that? How was the travel agent to know that? The Air Miles agent on the phone told me that I could do that next time. Of course, I told the agent there won’t be one! The agent offered me … a very upset, long-time collector, absolutely NOTHING. I was shocked.

    I felt that the very least that should have been done for me was for the company to return the extra Air Miles for the one way flights to me. I waited a couple of days to make a second call to Air Miles since I wanted to calm down enough to have a rational conversation. I again explained my position and asked that the extra Air Miles be returned to my account. The agent merely spouted the same message I received from the first one … and he admitted that he read it in my records with the company. Both agents were obviously spouting company policy and so, rather than shoot the messenger, I hung up.

    Once we have spent the points we have left on two short flights, I will cancel my BMO Gold MasterCard and I will stop making any effort to collect Air Miles. I may even cut up our Air Miles Gold card too. I could cancel the MasterCard now, but I would have to have 25% more Air Miles for our last flights if I do.

    I firmly believe that the Air Miles company doesn’t want any one to use Air Miles for travel. They want people to buy their over priced products and, to ensure that they do so, they changed their policy so that the Air Miles now have an expiry date. This company needs to come up with a new name. How about “Product Miles”?

    I am done with the program. It needs a major overhaul or I suspect that, in time, it will go the way of the dinosaur. I have already replaced my BMO Master Card with what appears to be a better, more flexible travel Visa. At least for now, this company advertises any flight that is available at any time. Hopefully, I will be much happier with this card.

    Thanks for setting up this blog, Jason. It gave me a golden opportunity to vent my frustrations! Like someone else who wrote, I would welcome your input about what you consider to be the best travel credit card in Canada.

    • Jason on July 10, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Dear M.G.G.,

    I want to thank you so very profoundly for posting such an intelligent and thorough response regarding Air Miles. I feel very negligent about not responding to you sooner. I want to extend my most heartfelt apologies.

    Your terrific post really underlines many of the most prescient problems with Air Miles; namely, that the reward levels seem to be arbitrarily changed with no notice or seeming rationale whatsoever, and that ‘banked’ points can be ‘devalued’ by increasing point ‘costs’ or decreasing the points ‘earned’ with no notice or rationale. Your must be extremely frustrated with your personal experience. I can not even imagine.

    Getting charged ‘extra’ points here and extra ‘points’ there really does seem to add insult to injury (as you so eloquently state). In short, it appears that we can ‘earn points’ but that the very ‘value’ of these points can be changed with little or ‘no’ prior notice and we can also be charged ‘extra’ points with no warning as well. In short, Air Miles is a reward program that offers uncertainty. The ‘points’ that you are earning ‘today’ may or not be worth the same ‘value’ of ‘points’ in the future.

    I prefer cash rewards. My current main credit card offers me 1% cash back on everything that I buy. I like cash. You can’t change the rules or arbitrarily change the value of cash. As such, I do 98% of all of my purchases using my cash back credit card. Cash is cash, not points.

    Again M.G.G., that you so much for taking the time to express you experience with Air Miles here. It is very similar to my own, and I would guess, very similar to the experiences of many others. Has anyone else experienced something similar with Air Miles? Please post, so that we can extend our excellent discussion.

    Kindly yours,

    Jason @

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