I’ve been collecting Air Miles rewards for many years now.  To be honest, it’s not because I have done a bunch of research and determined it to be the best reward program.  It’s simply out of complacency.  I have not felt the need to make a change and have not had time to do the proper research.

Well, this has all changed and the primary cause for my analysis is happening because I am in the process of redeeming a bunch of  Air Miles points to go on a family holiday later this year.  I’ve redeemed points for flights in the past but this is probably the biggest redemption I have done which has motivated me to go into a little more detail

A family trip to Ottawa

The plan is to go to Ottawa for a family vacation to partake in the Canada Day festivities.  My wife’s family is all based in Ottawa and it’s been a few years since we have been there for a visit.  The real reason we have not visited Ottawa is because we have 4 kids and flights for 6 is not a small ticket item for a frugal guy like me.  It’s been easier to take driving holidays to the Okanagan or even down South to the US than to fly 6 people to Ottawa.

Calculating the Air Miles rewards

To fly 6 people to Ottawa for Canada day is going to cost 19,800 miles plus $1334.16 in taxes.  At first glance I thought this is not a good deal.

To make things a little better, I have the BMO Air Miles World Mastercard which reduces the number of Air Miles to 14,850 (The taxes on the flights still stays the same).

I then went to Westjet.com to look up the cost of the flight without using Air Miles.  When I book the exact same flights the total cost of 6 flights from Edmonton to Ottawa was $3810.06 ($2988 for flight and $822.06 for taxes).

If I take the $3810.06 and subtract the $1334.16 which Air Miles will charge me for taxes (not sure why it’s higher than the taxes Westjet charges but I may tackle that in another post), I figure the 14,850 air miles is saving me $2475.90.  In my mind that means each Air Miles I collected is worth 16.7 cents ($2475.90 divided by 14,850 Air Miles).  If I did not have the BMO Air Miles World Mastercard, then each Air Mile would only get me 12.5 cents.

Comparing travel to merchandise

Another one of my blogging friends Robb Engen at Boomer and Echo is also an Air Miles collector and he posted an article on how he likes to redeem Air Miles for gift cards.  A $20 gas certificate uses up 175 Air Miles.  Based on the same calculation above, that means each Air Mile is worth 11.4 cents.  Here’s a list of other items and the worth of the Air Miles based on the cost of the item:

  • $50 Boston Pizza card = 475 Air Miles (10.5 cents per Air Mile)
  • $250 Bose Sound Dock = 2250 Air Miles (11.1 cents per Air Mile)
  • $399 Delongi Coffee/latte machine = 3240 Air Miles (12.3 cents per Air Mile)
  • $10 Shell card = 95 miles (10.5 cents per Air Mile)
  • $170 Olympus Waterproof Camera = 1650 Air Miles (10.3 cents per Air Mile)

When I compare these items to my flight to Ottawa, I am getting good bang for my Air Miles at 16.7 cents compared to 10 to 12 cents.

Flying in low season

If I take the family to Ottawa in low season as opposed to high season, I would only have to use 11,250 Air Miles for the 6 tickets (Again, the taxes would cost the same).  Flying in low season, my Air Miles are actually worth 27.4 cents each.

After doing this analysis, I am feeling pretty good about using my Air Miles rewards for our family vacation this year.  When I explained this to my wife, her first instinct was to ask “How much money did we have to spend to get 14,850 Air Miles?”

It’s a great question so here's the answer . . . How to get more AIR MILES rewards?

I've been collecting Air Miles rewards for quite some time but recently I took some time to analyze the benefits to see if Air Miles are really a good deal.


About Jim Yih

Jim Yih is a Fee Only Advisor, Best Selling Author, and Financial Speaker on wealth, retirement and personal finance. Currently, Jim specializes in putting Financial Education programs into the workplace.

For more information you can follow him on Twitter @JimYih or visit his website, Retire Happy.