Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Travel Hacking 102 - Earn up to 3,300+ AIR MILES Rewards Miles for FREE with a potential value of over $1,000 in travel (Updated Sep 19, 16)

Updated on September 19, 2016 - The BMO no fee AIR MILES 800 mile sign up offer is back!
Updated on May 2, 2016 - The BMO no fee AIR MILES 800 mile sign up offer has been removed.

This is the second 'Travel Hacking' specific post here on Rewards Canada, the first Travel Hacking 101 looks at how you can earn tens of thousands of Aeroplan Miles or Avios for free. While much of what we do helps you with your loyalty programs on a daily basis and could be considered travel hacking in many ways, these Travel Hacking posts really delve into the topic.

Many people seem to shove AIR MILES aside and don't bother with the program, especially frequent travellers, however we wanted to show you that even this program can be 'hacked' to save you several hundred dollars if not even up to a thousand dollars on travel. True it isn't the potential thousands of dollars with hacking Aeroplan or Avios but still this one more method for Canadians to save money on their travels.

* I state free in the title as I assume you would be spending this money anyways on these credit cards so you might as well be rewarded for it with free AIR MILES!

American Express Air Miles Platinum Credit Card
This card offers a whopping 2,000 AIR MILES Reward Miles as welcome bonus if you spend $500 on the card within the first three months of having it. The annual fee is $65 but this is waived in the first year and you can decide before you first year is up whether you want to keep the card. You can apply for the card here.

American Express Air Miles Credit Card
This card is always fee free and offers 500 bonus AIR MILES Rewards Miles upon first use. This is good option to move to if you chose not to keep the Platinum Card or get both to get the full 2,500 miles. You can apply for the card here.

Also a card which carries no annual fees the BMO AIR MILES MasterCard is currently offering an 800 AIR MILES Rewards Miles sign up bonus. At a minimum the best combination of cards would be this one combined with the Amex Air Miles Platinum but of course adding in the other Amex card would be ideal. You can apply for the card here.

Thanks to Hyacinthe for the info on  3 more cards to add to your list for an extra 1200 Free Air Miles:
- BMO Shell Air Miles Mastercard; 400 AM after 1st purchase, no annual fee. Apply for the card here.
- BMO Sobeys Air Miles Mastercard; 400 AM after 1st purchase, no annual fee. Apply for the card here
- BMO IGA Air Miles Mastercard; 400 AM after 1st purchase, no annual fee, automatic Air Miles GOLD cardholder status for the first year you have the card. Apply for the card here.
- And we also forgot about the BMO SPC® AIR MILES MasterCard which has no annual fee and a 500 AIR MILES sign bonus.  Technically designed for students you could have one of your post-secondary children apply for the card and put your AIR MILES number on the account. Apply for the card here.

With the three main cards above you will have earned 3,300 AIR MILES Reward Miles for virtually nothing. You just have move some of your regular spending to the Air Miles Platinum to cover the $500 required to get the bonus. We typically value AIR MILES Reward Miles between 11 and 15 cents a piece which means those 3,300 AIR MILES are worth anywhere from $319 to $435 depending on your redemption. But if you continue on reading you can see that can be pushed to over $1,000! If you add in all the other cards you are looking at 5,000 AIR MILES however BMO may have issues with you grabbing 5 of their AIR MILES cards! However the option exists to get three cards with 3,300 AIR MILES.

What can those 3,300 AIR MILES get you? Here are just some flight examples we found searching:

Toronto - Ft. McMurray 2,900 Miles (with a special Gold member discount when we looked) bringing it to 2,610 miles +  $144.78 in taxes and fees

 and the same flights on Air Canada:

With this example the 2610 AIR MILES Reward Miles are worth $367.25  providing a $0.14 value per mile.

Here is shorter flight example, Calgary to Yellowknife with a 30% Gold Member discount:
and the same flights on WestJet:
With this example the 1120 AIR MILES Reward Miles are worth $215.25 providing a $0.19 value per mile! This is higher than usual but that's because it is taking advantage of the 30% Gold member discount.

If you look at the AIR MILES flights options, all of Eastern Canada and the Eastern U.S. including Florida are available for 3,000 miles or less in the low season from Ontario. Out west it is Western and central U.S.. See the following as examples:

Even better than this however seems to be an exceptional value for redeeming for car rentals via AIR MILES.

Here 605 AIR MILES Rewards Miles covers $191.81 of the car rental for a value of 31.7 cents per mile! If you use all 3,300 AIR MILES from the credit cards for car rentals you could potentially push the value of those miles to over $1,000!

As with most frequent flyer programs, AIR MILES has taxes and fees that you have to pay when you redeem for a flight. The great news is that you can use a card that allows you redeem points against travel charges to cover those fees. So with those examples above you could easily cover the taxes and fees with a card like the American Express Gold Rewards Card (again free in the first year!) and hence you have truly hacked your travel as it is 100% free.

American Express Gold Rewards Card
The number one hybrid credit card in Canada since 2011 this card  comes with a 25,000 Membership Rewards point bonus worth $250 in travel after hitting a spend of $
500.  The card has a $150 annual fee tied into it but this fee is waived in the first year. You can apply for this card here.

Related: American Express Gold Rewards Card review

Have you 'hacked' the AIR MILES program? Or now will you take a closer look at doing so seeing that you can actually pull out some value from the program? We'd love to hear your stories of successfully using AIR MILES fee free cards for your travel rewards!

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