Air Miles Cash Vs. Air Miles Dream: What You Need To Know

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.

14 Responses to Air Miles Cash Vs. Air Miles Dream: What You Need To Know

  1. I cashed in a bunch of AirMiles awhile back for $60 worth of gas. That was 8 years of accumulated points! I have not been a very successful AirMiles collector. :) Therefore the changes have not affected me too drastically…

  2. Prior to reading this, I was also in favour of stockpiling the AirMiles and AeroPlan points for trips and vacations. It was awesome to sock it all away and then be pleasantly surprised whenever I checked the balance online.

    I guess I should now look into everyday point redemption. I guess it could help with groceries!

  3. It is incredible the return of AirMiles when you shop at Safeway – this is where we cquire most of our Air Miles.

    I dislike that this program removes the gift cards (eventually). That is how we usually spend our redemptions or our favorite magazines.

    • I used to shop at safeway, but their prices are almost twice that of superstore or no frills and I can get almost twice as much groceries for the same price as shopping at Safeway. At safeway you are not getting free airmiles, you are buying them.

  4. @Marianne – yeah, the changes only really affect the serious Air Miles collectors.

    @SavingfromScratch – Since Air Miles set a five year time stamp on your rewards, it makes sense to go for the instant redemptions at check-out. Too bad they had to increase the number of Air Miles you need to redeem for products.

    @Steve – I feel the same way. We earn most of our Air Miles from shopping at Safeway. The best deal is for the Nature’s Blend bagels what go on sale, plus 25 bonus Air Miles for every two packages. We buy 6 packages to last us the month, and collect 75 bonus Air Miles.

    @Modest Money – We started redeeming Air Miles for products after we had our first child and my wife stayed home full time. We were looking for ways to save money, and redeeming Air Miles for $20 gift certificates from Shell helped supplement our fuel budget.

  5. Shame on Air Miles for dramatically increasing the number of airmiles required to take trips compared to the number of air miles required in 1994. Air Miles has reneged on their original promise to redeem a certain number of airmiles when consumers signed up for their cards. Plus, West Jet no longer offers Air Miles. If you’re going to offer a sales promotion make it worthwhile.

  6. We used air miles for gas as we are retired one does not need as much when on a fixed income.Have tried cash back with other cards did not like so only used air we have to cash in our miles as soon as we can because rewards are dropped without notice. We are looking at other cards after 15 years of loyalty to air miles.We are not pleased with this new program

  7. It seems I pasted one too many times. Sorry about that!

    On 29 Jun 2012 all the 18,600 airmiles in my account defaulted to Dream Rewards and apparently cannot be transferred to Cash Rewards. On 28 Jun I could purchase approximately $2,000 of Shell Gas. On 29 Jun I couldn’t even redeem 1 cent towards Shell Gas certificates. Shell gas can only be purchased with Cash Rewards earned from 29 Jun 2012 forward. Shell gas is the only reward I am interested in redeeming after ’20 years’ of airmile accumulation. So all the airmiles earned by purchasing gas at Shell prior to 29 Jun 2012 cannot be redeemed to acquire Shell gas!! When and by what media were we given warning that Airmiles earned would default to Dream Rewards; that we would NOT be able to transfer from Dream to Cash Rewards and in particular that Shell gas certificates can only be acquired from Airmiles using Cash Rewards collected from 29 Jun 2012 forward?

    • I don’t have as many AirMiles as you do but I’m in the same situation.
      What to do with all my “previous” AirMiles that were in my account before the changes?
      The airlines tickets redemption is a joke. The only thing AirMiles was useful for was getting gift certificates, but they cannot be ordered with my balance…
      AirMiles is a kind of scam that just increases the price of all items we buy at the stores participating in the programme.

  8. Presumably, you were given the option last June as I and everyone else was.
    If you did not act, they became Dream miles!

  9. Mee too, I’m very disappointed. The AirMiles itself is BS. It takes years to accumulate AirMiles. I only use an Amex AirMiles for Costco, because Costco does not take Visa or MasterCard.

    Cash back Credit Cards are far better as some of them provide 2% on groceries and gas.

    • Hi linda, you have to make the designation in your Air Miles profile. You should be able to do it from this link –

      The disappointing thing is that you can’t retroactively set your miles to dream or cash, or transfer existing miles between dream or cash. Set your preferences now and any miles you earn going forward will go towards that allocation.

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