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Cash Miles vs. Dream Miles

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Do you remember the day that you started collecting Air Miles? For many young adults in Canada, applying for an Air Miles card is a rite of passage, a sign that you are finally old enough to get excited by the idea of turning grocery and pharmacy purchases into rewards.

Even if you have been collecting Air Miles for a long time—the program has existed since 1988, after all—there have been changes to the program over the years that you may not be aware of that might mean you’re not using the program to its full potential. It has since partnered with many Canadian travel credit cards and rewards credit cards.

In this article, we will take a look at a commonly misunderstood facet of the program, the pros, and cons of Cash Miles vs. Dream Miles.

Read on to make an informed decision about how to spend your hard-earned Air Miles.

Air Miles Cash Miles: Overview

Cash miles make up half of the Air Miles rewards program. Learn more about what cash miles are, how they work, and how they can benefit you below.

What are Air Miles Cash Miles?

If you are an Air Miles collector, you may or may not be aware that there are two categories of Air Miles: Cash Miles and Dream Miles. Both earning categories are unique and earners cannot transfer their rewards between the two categories.

Cash Miles, as their name would suggest, is designed for redemption at retail locations, such as movie theatres, gas stations, and grocery stores. They cannot be used for travel-related rewards.

While Air Miles was initially intended as a travel reward program, changes were made in 2011 that gave customers the option to customize their Air Miles program to include cash rewards instead of or in addition to travel rewards.

How do Cash Mile Rewards Work?

Air Miles members can start earning cash miles as soon as they sign up for the program. Cardholders can choose whether or not to collect Cash Miles, Dream Miles, or a mixture of Cash Miles and Dream Miles.

The exact ratio is up to the individual and can either be determined at the time of sign-up or changed online at any time.

The points cannot retroactively be changed, though—i.e. if you earn Cash Miles, you cannot request them to be turned into dream miles at a later date.

What Can I Use Cash Miles For?

Air Miles Cash Miles can be redeemed in one of three ways: online, in-store, or via donation. Cash Mile rewards are standardized, where every 95 reward miles amounts to $10 in rewards. If you are shopping in-person at an Air Miles-sponsored retailer (popular ones include Metro, Rona, and Shell), then you can simply request to redeem your Air Miles at the checkout.

To use Air Miles online, you have to request something called an eVoucher, which can then be used to shop online at participating retailers, or in-person at a later date. You can also share your eVouchers with friends or family members.

The donation option can easily be selected online as well. It allows Air Miles earners to make donations to their favourite charities in $10 segments.

Air Miles Cash Miles Pros & Cons

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  • It is easy to redeem Cash Miles in-person at retailers

  • Retailers will often hold promotions that offer bonus miles to customers

  • Collecting Cash Miles is easy and it doesn’t take long to reach the $10 redemption threshold of 95 points

  • No annual fee for collecting Air Miles (Cash Miles or Dream Miles)


  • Many credit cards in Canada now offer rewards programs that are stronger than traditional Air Miles programs, in both cashback and travel reward formats

  • Air Miles Cash Miles cannot cover taxes or service fees

  • You can’t change Cash Miles into Dream Miles once they are collected, or vice versa

Air Miles Dream Miles: Overview

Dream Miles, the other half of the Air Miles rewards program, provides points towards all things travel. Learn more about how they work and how you can start using Air Miles towards your next adventure below.

What are Dream Miles?

If you have been a longtime collector of Air Miles, then what is now known as “Dream Miles” is likely the concept that you most closely associate with the Air Miles program.

As stated earlier, it’s up to each Air Miles collector to determine what their ratio will be in terms of Cash Miles to Dream Miles.

How do Dream Miles Work?

Air Miles Dream Miles are collected the same way as Cash Miles—by spending at select online and retail locations—but the way that you redeem your rewards is different.

Instead of in-store purchases and online vouchers, Dream Miles must be redeemed online through the Air Miles portal.

What Can I Use Dream Miles For?

Dream Miles can be redeemed online through the Air Miles travel portal for travel expenses such as hotels, car rentals, and of course, flights.

Another popular redemption option for Dream Miles is vacation packages, where companies will often offer Air Miles earners a discount or earning bonus as an incentive. A minimum of 1,250 Air Miles is required to redeem a short-haul flight within North America.

Dream Miles can also be redeemed for bigger-ticket merchandise and experiences such as live music concerts and other events.

Air Miles Dream Miles Pros & Cons


  • Dream Miles offer bang for your buck—you get the best value when you redeem your Air Miles for events or flights

  • Collecting Dream Miles is easy and can add up quickly


  • Understanding where you can redeem earned Air Miles can be confusing because of the differences between Dream Miles vs. Cash Miles

  • Some longtime Air Miles cardholders find that the travel-related earning potential of Air Miles has lessened since the introduction of Dream Miles vs. Cash Miles

Our Final Thoughts

It’s worthwhile for many people to keep a standard Air Miles reward card in their wallets. This is especially true if you frequently shop at stores where Air Miles are accepted, which is probably more common for Canadians in the east compared with Canadians in the west. That’s because that’s where many of the stores that accept Air Miles (like Sobeys and Jean Coutu) are more popular.

If you shop at these stores regularly and are strategic about following Air Miles promotions, you will find that you can redeem a considerable about of Cash Miles or Dream Miles every year.

However, if you want to maximize your Air Miles collecting, you are better off getting an Air Miles-affiliated credit card, or joining BMO’s Air Miles banking plan that allows debit card users to earn points as they spend.

Air Miles is no longer just a travel reward program, and while this has not been without controversy there is a little something for everyone with this Canadian rewards program that has stood the test of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

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