Air Miles Travel: Redeeming For Flights

Lately I’ve been looking into the Air Miles travel program to see if redeeming for flights was a better option.  Since we have a goal to travel to Ireland in the next few years, we might be better off hoarding Air Miles to save for our dream vacation.

Over the past three years I’ve collected close to 8,000 Air Miles and cashed them in for $900 worth of free gas certificates.  I found that with a young family there wasn’t really much time for travel, so my goal was to redeem Air Miles for something useful that would help lower our monthly expenses.

Air Miles Travel

The Air Miles travel program has developed a solid online booking tool that allows users to redeem their Air Miles for flights or purchase a flight using cash.  The website has a handy flight rewards map detailing the total number of reward miles needed for flight redemption, depending on the time of year, and arrival and departure zones.

Related: http://www.boomerandecho.com/air-miles-cash-vs-air-miles-dream/

Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • 1,000 Air Miles = One short haul flight (Calgary to Vancouver)
  • 2,500 Air Miles = One medium haul flight (Calgary to Toronto)
  • 5,000 Air Miles = One long range flight (Calgary to Mexico)
  • 7,500 – 12,000 Air Miles = Dream vacation, any season

Redeeming For Flights

It makes sense to take advantage of the discount for flying during low season.  Peak season flight prices are inflated by up to 35 percent.  We would need 6,300 Air Miles for one free flight from Calgary to Dublin, Ireland during low season, compared with 8,200 Air Miles to book during high season.

According to the Air Miles travel site, in most cases their prices for flights are the same as other websites.  In some cases an airline may have web-only special fares that must be booked directly through their website.

I went through the booking process with both Air Miles travel and WestJet and for the exact same flight the Air Miles travel site was only $15 more expensive.

How To Reduce Reward Miles Cost

Air Miles collectors who carry the BMO Gold Air Miles MasterCard are able to enjoy an exclusive 25% discount on all Air Miles travel, with no blackout periods.  The 25% reduction in reward miles cost is significant.  The Calgary-to-Dublin flight would only cost us 4,725 Air Miles during low season, which is a savings of about $180.

If you earn 1,000 Air Miles in a calendar year with at least 5 different Air Miles sponsors you will automatically become an Air Miles Gold collector.  Gold collectors can receive up to 40% off the reward miles for selected flights, and also enjoy exclusive savings on cruises and vacation packages.

Final Thoughts on Redeeming Air Miles for Flights

I know that I’m not getting the absolute best value by cashing in my rewards for gas certificates, but I still like the fact that I’m subsidizing a necessary monthly expense.

But after seeing the huge discounts you can receive on flights as an Air Miles Gold collector, and because we’ve made this trip to Ireland one of our top priorities, I’m going to start saving up my reward miles to help pay for our dream vacation.


9 Responses to Air Miles Travel: Redeeming For Flights

  1. Robb,

    Have you considered any alternative cards?

    My wife and I use Alaska Airmiles cards and using the bonus miles we are able to travel on their companion airlines at lower mileage rates.

    i.e. 40,000 low season mile to Europe.

    Acquiring the miles is easier (1 mile per $1 spent).

    How much does it cost for the Air Miles to acquire 4,725 miles?

    Thanks.

    • Hi Steve, thanks for the suggestion on Alaska Airmiles. I’ll check it out.

      Acquiring 4,725 Air Miles at a rate of 1 per $15 would require just over $70,000 in spending. However there are plenty of bonus Air Miles opportunities when shopping at Safeway, for example. It’s tough to say exactly what the cost per mile would be.

      Also, with the Gold Air Miles program you can get certain flights at a 40% discount.

      It’s hard to decipher the value between different travel programs. Perhaps I’d be better off with a Capital One Aspire Card.

  2. I personally am not convinced that Air Miles for flight is the way to go.

    I think it’s too hard :) How long did it take you to get 8000 points?

    I don’t really like shopping at safeway because of their higher prices, but for me, that’s the only place I can get consistent Air Miles.

  3. I’ve never redeemed for more than a short haul flight, but I’ve paid for many flights to the coast (I’m in Edmonton) using Air Miles. I have a BMO Gold Mosaik Mastercard as well as a Platinum AmEx and I find it’s easy to accumulate miles (I also gave my partner an extra card). There are things I would never buy with Air Miles, like a monthly bus pass on Edmonton Transit (745 Air Miles vs. 900 for a flight from Edmonton to Vancouver), but I think as long as you use them wisely they’re very useful.

  4. I think it all boils down to knowing what you want. That 8,000 air miles definitely took you a while to accumulate, right? Why don’t you still use it for the gas certificates or the necessary items you need and then as you go along, you can still accumulate Miles. It may take a while longer for the dream vacation but it certainly eases your wallet and your mind knowing you save money by redeeming your miles.

  5. Hello: Just booked two round trip tickets via airmiles to Chicago. Taxes and fees had to paid up front, but still this was a reasonable way to travel and did everything online. to travel overseas, the taxes could be upwards of $600+. I think short hauls are the best, but it does take a long long time to earn airmiles.

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