Cash Miles vs. Dream Miles 2021
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.
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.
Table of Contents
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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Pros: The Good Stuff
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)
Cons: The Not So Good Stuff
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
Pros: The Good Stuff
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
Cons: The Not So Good Stuff
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
Yes, the Air Miles rewards program is absolutely free. There are no hidden costs required to join the program. Many Air Miles credit cards also come without annual fees, making them free to use as well.
However, it is best that you pay attention to your particular credit card’s terms and services because some premium credit cards such as the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard or the American Express Air Miles platinum do come with annual fees, though these may be waived for the first year.
If you would like to become an Air Miles member, you can simply sign up online. It may also be possible to pick up an Air Miles application at participating stores—in some cases, stores may have Air Miles representatives visiting their store that can help you sign up in person.
Once you are given an Air Miles number, you can download the app and add your Air Miles card to your digital wallet. That way you’ll be able to collect even if you forget your Air Miles card at home!
No, you do not need an Air Miles credit card to be an Air Miles member.
While there are several different Air Miles credit cards on the market that offer unique rewards, you can be a regular Air Miles cardholder if you so choose.
This is not a regular credit card but is instead a basic collector’s card, and is available in both physical or electronic formats. Just don’t forget to show your Air Miles card when you begin to checkout at any of the participating stores.