Big changes coming to the AIR MILES program – find all the details here!

It didn’t take long after AIR MILES unveiled their new look last week to reveal the changes to the program they were alluding to on their updated website. Rewards Canada had the opportunity to speak with AIR MILES at the end of last week to learn about some of the exciting changes coming to the program. Some of these have already taken place, some kick off today and others will be coming over the next few months. Read on to find out what is happening with one of Canada’s largest loyalty programs.

AIR MILES started on the road to a revamp about a year and half ago and the first changes that came about happened almost a year ago. That first change to the program that has been enjoyed by many was the adjustment in pricing when redeeming AIR MILES Reward Miles for merchandise. AIR MILES dropped the mileage requirement on many items in the merchandise catalog due to popularity and that merchandise option becoming even more important to collectors during the pandemic. We said it here on Rewards Canada in Spring of 2020 when many Canadians were hit hard financially to use your loyalty program points and miles to help out during the tough times and I’m sure many did so by using their AIR MILES for merchandise that was needed instead of saving those miles for future travel. 

Podcast Episode 83 – Big changes coming to the AIR MILES program: 

AIR MILES told us that across the board the adjustments made to their merchandise catalog have provided up to 26% better value which meant a lot fewer miles for some of those items. 

The next change that already came from AIR MILES was the launch of their new website with a more robust offer section. The new site definitely made it easier to find those bonus offers to collect even more miles.

AIR MILES has made it easier to find offers on their site

That brings us to today and the announcement of some really big changes to the program. Some kick off today, namely new elite status benefits for several BMO AIR MILES cards and the promo code offer for merchandise redemptions. Then more changes will come later this fall which we highlight further below.

The changes that are live


Merchandise redemption promo code

As already mentioned the reduced pricing for merchandise has been around since October of last year but to celebrate the changes and the support AIR MILES new media campaign “It’s all gravy” they have a special promo code you can use this month to save even more. That promo code is “GRAVY” and it provides a 100 mile discount on any merchandise redemption of 1,000 miles or more. The promo code is good until October 31, 2021.

Elite Status for BMO AIR MILES credit cards

As of this month BMO AIR MILES Mastercards will have an AIR MILES Elite Status benefit added to them. All existing and new cardholder will receive elite status as follows:

BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®* cardholders will now receive automatic Onyx Status in the AIR MILES program. Previously only available to American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card cardmembers or those collectors who earned 6,000 or more miles in a calendar year, this top tier elite level is now an additional benefit for the World Elite card.

The elite status doesn’t end there however – even the no fee BMO AIR MILES®† MasterCard®*  (and I assume the IGA/Sobeys/Shell versions as well) will receive automatic Gold Status in the AIR MILES program. Up until now Gold Status was only available to collectors who earned 1,000 or miles in a calendar year.

Both of these status benefits begin immediately for cardholders and will be in place until the end of 2022.

All Onyx Members will receive Shell Go+ benefits until the end of 2022

All Onyx members will receive an upgrade to Shell Go+ until the end of 2022. Shell Go+ provides 2x miles on most fuel and in store purchases with Shell plus 5x miles when using a BMO AIR MILES credit card.

The changes that are coming soon

The next set of changes to AIR MILES program will most likely be the most exciting for Rewards Canada readers and these will kick off this November. They come in the form of redeeming for flights and a new way to earn even more AIR MILES.


AIR MILES Flights is the loyalty program’s new flight booking engine and with it comes big changes to earning and redeeming miles for flights. As it is right now you can buy tickets through AIR MILES either with cash or by redeeming miles. If you choose to pay cash you don’t earn any miles on those bookings other than what you would earn on your credit card. While mileage redemptions follow a zone chart and also are limited to where you can depart from (have to start in Canada), what fare class you can travel in (economy class) and also how many seats are available on each flight and that has been a sticking point for collectors – that limited availability. Well that all changes now.


Now if you choose to buy flights via AIR MILES Flights with cash (Well, your credit card) you will earn additional AIR MILES on those flights on top of what you earn from your credit card. This is just like how you can currently earn miles for booking hotels via AIR MILES Hotels. On top of this, since these are revenue tickets – not tickets that come out of AIR MILES redemption agreements with the airlines you’ll also earn you frequent flyer miles or points so long as the ticket is booked in an eligible fare class for earning such points or miles.


This is by far where the biggest changes happening in the AIR MILES program. Gone will be the reward charts and zones. Gone is the requirement to depart from Canada. Gone is limited availability. If you are reading this and are familiar with the road that many frequent flyer programs have gone down already you’re probably thinking dynamic pricing and you’re right. AIR MILES will be switching to an entirely dynamic redemption model for flight reward tickets. 

If you are unfamiliar with the dynamic model what this means is that the number of miles you’ll have to redeem for flights will be based on the market value of the ticket. For example if you find a super cheap seat sale fare it will cost you less miles but if you are booking the last seat at the last minute on a flight during spring break, well, you’ll be a paying a lot more miles. That is, the number of Reward Miles you will have to redeem will move dynamically with the cash value of the ticket. There are of course pros and cons to this model – the pros are that you do redeem less miles for those cheaper flights and the cons are more miles required for the expensive flights. The latter was less of an issue with AIR MILES however as they usually didn’t have access to those last seats on a last minute flight. 

The question that many of our readers and I’m sure many collectors are asking right away is what will be the value of miles in this dynamic pricing model. AIR MILES wouldn’t reveal that to Rewards Canada just yet but they did say it will vary depending on the redemption but they did stress the value will be better than the current value when redeeming for flights. Right now we value AIR MILES Reward Miles at 11 to 15 cents for flights (with many flight redemptions falling right around the 13 cent mark) so we’ll be curious to see what the new value will be. This is something we will learn in November when AIR MILES Flights launches.

The good news is, if you have the BMO AIR MILES®† World Elite®* MasterCard®*  you’ll continue to receive 15% off AIR MILES Reward Miles redemptions for flights in North America. Even those cheaper seat sale fares that will take less miles will be eligible to receive 15% off!

Next that brings us to availability, so long as a seat is available on a flight that you could pay cash for you’ll be able to redeem miles for it. This is the move we’ve seen most frequent flyer programs move to and also proprietary credit card reward programs as well who simply let you redeem points against any travel charge. This is the case with AIR MILES now – if you can buy a ticket with cash you can buy it with AIR MILES Reward Miles. No more only two seats available on this flight and four on that flight. The availability bone of contention that most frequent flyer programs did away with over the past decade will also be done at AIR MILES now. You will also be able to redeem miles for both one way or round trip flights.

Soon this sight will be a thing of the past

That brings us to next logical step in any flight, any seat, any airline type of bookings and that is the ‘any flight’ portion. You will now be able to book flights with AIR MILES Rewards Miles anywhere in the world – gone is the requirement to depart from Canada. Say you are Snowbird living in Phoenix during the winter and want to go to New York for a weekend? You’ll be able to redeem you AIR MILES Reward Miles for a flight between Phoenix and New York City.

Then you have the ‘any seat’ moniker that many programs use and that will really be the case with AIR MILES now. And by ‘any seat’ we mean economy, premium economy, business and even first class. You will be able to use your miles to book flights in any fare class! This really intrigues us here at Rewards Canada but outside of intrigue I won’t say there is excitement – at least not yet since we don’t know what the value of each mile will be for redeeming for those premium classes! 

When you log in to AIR MILES Flights this November and start searching for flights the search engine will show you both the cash price and the AIR MILES Reward Miles price (kind of like we see with American Express Travel) for you to see what is the best option for you for paying for those flights.

Those are first changes coming to the flight redemption process at AIR MILES and they told us more enhancements will be coming in January. I asked them several questions about what they may be but AIR MILES wouldn’t reveal them just yet. My hopes are that we will see a Cash+Miles redemption option. That is, if you don’t have enough miles to redeem for a flight you can pay for it partially with cash and a certain amount of miles you do have. We saw Aeroplan move this direction and of course this is one of the big selling features of proprietary credit card programs where you can redeem points against a travel charge. 

What is also up in the air right now (pardon the pun) is whether you’ll earn airline frequent flyer miles or points on flights that you do redeem your AIR MILES Reward miles on. Part of me would think you would since the redemption is now tied into the cash price of tickets and I posed that question to AIR MILES and they are going to check into that for us. As soon as we hear back we’ll be sure to let all of you know.

Card Linked Offers

Also coming this November will be card linked offers. This is a new earn method in the AIR MILES program and if you are familiar apps like Drop, Amplii etc. then you’ll know what this means. With card linked offers you’ll simply register your credit card with AIR MILES (I’m assuming on the AIR MILES website or app)  and then you will be able to earn extra miles when you use that registered card for purchases at select retailers. The great news here is that it will be open to ANY Canadian Mastercard (not just AIR MILES Mastercards) – so if you have the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, HSBC World Elite Mastercard or any of the dozens of others in Canada you’ll be able to use them earn more AIR MILES. Of course if it is a BMO AIR MILES Mastercard you’ll earn even more miles.

AIR MILES did tell us you could expect retailers like Subway, Boston Pizza and Indigo to be part of Card Linked Offers but they’re keeping the rest a secret until the launch in November.

More Promotions

AIR MILES also told us they will running more promotions including many more bonus mile opportunities that you’ll find in the offers section of the website and app. On top of that they have the new Bonus Boom promotion that just went live last week and runs until October 13 plus the following promotions coming soon:

AIR MILES Flight a day giveaway

AIR MILES is bringing back this contest that they first launched just a month or two prior to the pandemic so it needs a re-do. From October 21 to November 10 every swipe of or scan of your AIR MILES card will earn an entry to win a daily $5,000 flight vouchers or the $25,000 grand prize voucher.

Bonus Boom Boost

The next Bonus Boom will be boosted! The Bonus Boom Boost promotion will be much longer than past Bonus Boom events as it will run from November 18 to December 27.  Part of me thinks Bonus Boom Boost is the new ‘Mega Miles’ promotion that AIR MILES used to run seeing that it going to be available for over a month. Not only will collectors earn bonus miles with Bonus Boom Boost but with each offer they use they will earn an entry to win the national grand prize of  1 Million Miles or one of four 250,000 mile regional prizes.

Wrapping it up

The past five years have been tough on AIR MILES. They went through a PR nightmare in 2016 with the whole expiring miles saga, they lost some really big partners and then they have seen intense competition from mini coalition programs like Triangle and PC Optimum and of course from their biggest challenger who’s been in the spotlight for over a year now – Air Canada’s revamped Aeroplan program. Changes at AIR MILES were due – for the collectors, for investors (LoyaltyOne, AIR MILES parent company is being spun off from Alliance Data) and for AIR MILES themselves. This revamping of the program should hopefully bring excitement back to everyone as there really hasn’t been any with them for quite some time now. The big question that remains for Rewards Canada and our largely travel hungry audience is whether the new AIR MILES Flights will be more valuable, more appealing and worthy of some serious attention. We should know the answer to that in about a month’s time.

And I’ll leave you with this – I’m not sure if this is meant to be serious, I mean a lot of toasters are redeemed for with AIR MILES but maybe they are taking a jab at Aeroplan as so many Aeroplan frequent flyers in the past made jokes about only being able to get toasters and how horrible of redemption value it was. Those of you who read the Aeroplan forum on Flyer Talk will know what I’m talking about 😉