49 comments

Air Miles Rewards: Tricks to Earning Massive AirMiles Fast

Canadian Deals & Coupons, Tips & Tricks

Thank you jadedragoninbc for writing this article and emailing it to me. This article was originally published by her at eHow.

Air Miles Rewards Miles Canada

If you look carefully and arrange your life the correct way you can actually turn a profit from shopping using the AIR MILES Reward Program in Canada. AIR MILES are redeemable for many travel, merchandise and gift certificate rewards. Depending on how you use the rewards points they are worth between 10 cents and 15 cents each for gift certificates, more or less on items that are harder to price like flights and merchandise.

Sure, follow the advice to always carry your AIR MILES card and shop at AIR MILES sponsors, but if you want to take it to the next level, here is exactly how.

Your goal is to earn a combination of AIR MILES Reward Miles and Tax Deductible Donation Receipts that together have a value above what you spent.

Air Miles – Step 1

Identify which grocery stores in your area are part of the AIR MILES program. The AIR MILES program offers exclusivity to each sponsor in each region so this part is easy. In Western Canada the grocery sponsor is Safeway Canada and this article will use Safeway as the example. Same principles apply at other stores in other regions of Canada.

Air Miles – Step 2

In order to get the best sale prices at Safeway you will need a Safeway Client Card, available free from Safeway customer service. Once you have the card issued you can just quote your phone number to get the discounts.

Air Miles – Step 3

Collect AIR MILES coupons and watch for promotions for bonus miles. These can be found online, in the paper, on the shelf tags and in the in-store fliers. You should also sign up for e-flyers from the Safeway website.

These promotions come in three main categories:

  1. Dollar Amount Spent for Bonus Air Miles Deals – Safeway regularly runs coupons for 100 or 250 bonus AIR MILES with a $100 or $200 purchase.
  2. Bonus AIR MILES coupons for specific products.
  3. Buy X get Y Bonus AIR MILES type promotions found in flyers and on the shelf tags. (hint read the fine print on the shelf tags because not all eligible products get the shelf tag.

Air Miles – Step 4

When the store is running one of the Dollar Amount Spent for Bonus AIR MILES deals, go to the store with your coupons and look carefully at all products offering bonus AIR MILES. Especially look at products that generally have some or all of these characteristics

  1. low priced/low ticket items
  2. ON SALE and
  3. Offering Bonus AIR MILES
  4. Maybe something you can find a coupon for online or in print

Bonus AIR MILES are just like all other AIR MILES, you just earn them in addition to or as a bonus to the regular AIR MILES awarded for shopping

Air Miles – Step 5

Calculate how many Regular and Bonus AIR MILES you would earn by buying each product meeting the Step 4 criteria. For ease of calculation you might want to calculate based on buying 10 or 100 of the item.

Here is the Math for a 10 units of a can of soup sale priced at $2.00 each:

  1. Cost of product 10 units X $2.00 = $20. There are no taxes.
  2. # of bonus AIR MILES from buying the product (say 20 miles X 10 units = 200 miles)
  3. # of AIR MILES from Safeway regular program = 1 per $20 spent, so 1 mile.
  4. # of AIR MILES from your participating BMO MasterCard or AMEX Card = 1 per $20 spent so 1 mile.
  5. Spend $200 and get 250 Bonus miles promotion = 1.25 miles per $1 X $20 = 25 miles.

Total AIR MILES = 227 Miles
Times 12 cents each Mile = $27.24 of value in miles on a $20 purchase.

You just found that select product that is worth more in AIR MILES than it costs you.

Air Miles – Step 6

Purchase a large quantity of the product or products you have identified. You may be able to get the manager to order in more of an item (maybe a pallet full!).

Use your AIR MILES credit card, you grocery store loyalty card, and your AIR MILES collector card plus the appropriate coupons.

If you are using a spend $100 get a 100 miles coupon you will want to maximize your bonuses, so run the purchases through in separate transactions of $100 each, making sure that each purchase includes an appropriate multiple of items to get the full bonus on the item.

You do not have to worry about the credit card and base miles from the store as they accumulate across multiple transactions anyway.

Keep the receipts for the next step or buy one product at the regular price to establish fair market value. (edited for clarity)

Air Miles – Step 7

Call an appropriate local charity, set an appointment and pay them a visit. The Salvation Army or local food bank are your best bets for food donations. The animal shelter will love your pet food donations.

Ask the charity for an “in kind” charitable gift receipt or receipts (if they have dollar limits on individual in kind donation receipts). You will need to establish the fair market value of the product you are donating, which is where having a receipt showing the fair market retail value comes in handy.

Air Miles – Step 8

Reap the Rewards of your Efforts:

-Enjoy the thought you just helped feed hundreds of people or animals

-File your donation receipts with your income taxes for a approximately 40% credit on your income taxes (exact value varies by Province)

-Enjoy a nice trip (where my honeymoon came from), give great gifts from your miles, or use the miles to get that riding lawn mower you always wanted (seriously this is exactly where the writer’s John Deere mower came from).

49 comments

  1. Worker

    OR spend the time you would waste clipping coupons, checking flyers, driving to exclusive stores and calculating per unit price ON working to make monet to pay for a trip.

    Come on, I’m all for deals but you need to calculate your time and effort spent in this also.

    Reply
  2. Worker

    OR spend the time you would waste clipping coupons, checking flyers, driving to exclusive stores and calculating per unit price ON working to make money to pay for a trip.

    Come on, I’m all for deals but you need to calculate your time and effort spent in this also.

    Reply
  3. Larry Gauthier

    Safeway is a great place to shop. Great customer service and the air miles program is by far the best deal you can get.

    Reply
  4. Melody113

    I made it up to step 7 and Worker if you can multiply by .14 cents as thats what I get per airmile you can do this in a snap as someone here usually tells you what to buy. My friends would kill me though as I usually just give it away or support the school familys. So I will have to forgo 7 and 8 but awesome article.

    Reply
  5. Justine

    The problem with air miles is that only couple places actually participate in the air miles program, or me anyway the only place around me that do are pharma plus and the lcbo. So all my air miles basically come from pharma plus.

    I check the flyers and try and purchase stuff when there are bonus points available for certain purchases, ie right now there is spend $15 on prestige make up and get 75 air miles, or buy two nyc products and get 20 air miles, that can add up quickly. So I’d rather buy those products at pharma plus instead of say zellers or walmart because I do get something extra for it.

    Another thing I do is install the air miles toolbar and get 30 air miles a month for basically searching the internet. And yes I use a separate browser (firefox) for only this and use another browser (Safari) for my regular internet activity.

    Although I must say, air miles takes forever to collect. I recently redeemed for a 50$ gap gift card and that was after 8 years of collecting!!! But I have become wiser in how to collect the points, you will NOT get enough points to do anything if you just collect the regular way that most people do, ie spend $10 at pharma plus and get 1 air mile! You need to be crafty.

    Reply
  6. Olena

    Great article, thank you.
    Worker, not everyone can work even if they really really want to. Clipping coupons, collecting points, saving – is my job at the moment and I take it as seriously as any other paid job.

    Reply
  7. Catherine

    I’m sure this works great for many people. However, where I live there are very few places that accept Air Miles cards. Sobeys and Lawton’s Drug Store are the main places. Unfortunately for us we live in a small apartment and don’t usually buy several hundred dollars worth of groceries at a time due to limited storage. We buy it as we need it. This is a great option for anyone who would do these things anyway.

    A hint for anyone who doesn’t know – HBC (Zellers/The Bay) rewards points can be switched over to Air Miles too. Every 2000 HBC points = 1 Air Mile. When you use a HBC credit card/HBC Master Card you double this amount and often can take advantage of extra points for a certain amount spent on the HBC credit/MC. (Can make the payment on the credit card right at the checkout so you do not have to carry a balance on the card. Again, not for everybody, but I know many people who do it this way.

    Reply
  8. Miles vs Savings

    Won’t it be better to shop at places like Superstore, where the prices are usually better than Safeway? Cash is definitely more flexible than Airmiles, and you can still donate the cash you saved.

    Reply
  9. Justine

    Ya you do lose converting your hbc points, but the amount of time/money that I spent at hbc stores (zellers, the bay) it won’t matter anyway.

    Reply
  10. operabob

    Miles,

    Won’t it be better to shop at places like Superstore, where the prices are usually better than Safeway? Cash is definitely more flexible than Airmiles, and you can still donate the cash you saved.

    If you follow our thread you’ll often find after accounting for the value of the airmiles Safeway kicks RCCS’s @$$.

    For example, last week Safeway had 1 liter bottles of Coca-Cola products on for $1.25 each, but when you adjusted for the value of the AirMiles they worked out to $0.08.

    I’ve never seen RCSS anywhere near $0.08/liter.

    Each week (usually Friday) on the thread I work out all of Safeway’s AirMiles offers. Below is an example from last week. The first price is the sale price, second price is after adjusting for the AMs. The average value of an AM is $0.14 when exchanging for gift cards/products on the AirMiles site. Flight can actually have a value above $0.20/AM.:

    Coca-Cola Event B6G50 ($7):

    1 Litre Bottles $1.25/0.08

    Power-Ade $1.33/$0.16

    Minute Maid 12 tin 5.99/4.82

    Monster Ener. Drink 3.79/2.62

    Mini-tins (6s) & NOs Ener. Drink $2.50/1.33

    Reply
  11. Kitty

    I’m glad this works for some people…
    Unfortunately, since the grocery store that offers AirMiles in Quebec is the IGA & it’s pretty much the most expensive chain store around, I don’t shop there. I used to buy my bus pass at Pharmaprix, because they do AirMiles, but they’ve changed their policies & you can no longer get AirMiles for purchasing buss passes of gift cards. So, now? most of my AirMiles just come from my AirMiles Amex.

    Reply
  12. bdidol

    Airmile reward program is completely useless and bogus (comparing to Aeroplan). With 140 airmile points (and you have to spent 20×140$=2,800$ in general for that, you can probably minimize it for couple of bonus points) you will get 20$ sobeys gift certificate. If you travel (and oh yeah I did) the point accumulation is still pretty poor.

    An example: Westjet travel from Halifax to Toronto To Ottowa and vice versa, I got 30 airmile point, cash value? you calculate.

    Same flight in AirCanada, I got enough point to buy a 1 yr costco membership and still some points left.

    Reply
  13. Jessica

    Justine,

    I too have installed the airmiles toolbar but have yet to earn any from searching. Do you know how many searches it takes to earn a mile?

    Reply
  14. Ivan

    I can’t believe an Air Miles article neglected to mention by far the easiest way to get Air Miles – by simply using your BMO debit or credit card!! Check out http://www4.bmo.com/airmiles/site/en/how.html
    You can basically use this to double dip on Air Miles sponsors, and also earn Air Miles on everyday transactions at any other places. Why pay cash for your daily coffee when you can collect Air Miles by paying debit?

    Reply
  15. lalita1985

    I wish we had something like this down east. There are ALOT of places where you can use your airmiles card (Jean Coutu, Sobeys, Lawtons, Pharmasave, Global Pets…I’m sure I’m forgetting some!) but the best deals I’ve found are when Sobeys have the 5X’s event or using bonus coupons.

    Reply
  16. Jenn

    I get Airmiles from my (car) insurance company. Johnson Insurance. 1 AM for every $20. Something I need to pay for monthly… so why not earn airmiles?!

    Reply
  17. Chi of Steel

    Step 5 is completely bogus! Buying $20 will get you 227 air miles?!

    Let’s review:

    2) No way do they ever offer 20 miles for a $2.00 item. More likely to happen is buy 5 of them and get 10 miles or something like that. Subtract 190.

    5) Even though the avg promotion may net 1.25 miles per dollar, you’d still have to spend over $200 for this to happen. The most I’ve spent for groceries at one time is a little over $100. Subtract 25.

    Basically, you would get 1 mile for shopping at a sponsor, 1 mile for using your AMEX card, and 10 miles for the bonus offer = 12 miles. Decent for spending $20, but that’s rather expensive soup if you ask me.

    Reply
  18. operabob

    b,

    Airmile reward program is completely useless and bogus (comparing to Aeroplan). With 140 airmile points (and you have to spent 20×140$=2,800$ in general for that, you can probably minimize it for couple of bonus points) you will get 20$ sobeys gift certificate. If you travel (and oh yeah I did) the point accumulation is still pretty poor.

    If all you do is compare credit cards you’re probably right, however, when you tie in with product sponsors no way.

    It only took me about $22 in purchases this week to pick up 140 AirMiles not $2,800.

    In fact I spent a lot more donating about half to a food bank for the 44% tax credit. For Every $50 I spent I created something like $72 value elsewhere. When the Eggos special comes up again I’ll get about $92 for every $50 worth donated.

    Rather than dismiss out of hand take the time to look into it. You might be surprised.

    Reply
  19. Heather

    I recently talked to the son of a lady who purchased A LOT of cat food to get the extra miles which in turned earned their entire family – 7 or 8 people I think a trip down south alll on air miles. Totally worth the time I would say :)

    Reply
  20. Tammy

    Since starting to collect AM the smart way about 4 years ago, I have taken several flights. AB to ON, AB to California, AB to Vegas a few times, etc. They really do add up if you are smart about it. After taking all those trips, I’m currently sitting on slightly under 8,000 AM in my account.

    What is described in this article would not work for me as I simply could not be bothered to figure all that out.

    Reply
  21. smartmama

    Interesting article! Only one thing wrong: most charities will not give you a gift in kind tax receipt nor, frankly, should they. I am a senior fundraiser for a charitable organization and CRA guidelines prevail for tax receipts. Please also know that charitable organizations are obligated to disburse funds based on tax receipts issued so they require cash to make the disbursement.
    This may sound a little complicated but please visit the CRA website for details.

    Reply
  22. operabob

    mama,

    I regularly donate to the food bank for a tax receipt.

    As long as I can give them the receipt for the purchase.

    Many food banks and animal shelters do this although it’s best to ask first before buying for them.

    I have 3 food banks now collecting.

    Reply
  23. smartmama

    Operabob, you are lucky that they do this. Nonetheless, they should not. They are obligated under CRA guidelines to disburse 80% of their receipted gifts and if they do not have the corresponding cash to do this, it is a problem.

    In my years of fundraising, I have discovered that many organizations are not receipting properly. It may come back to haunt them down the road and I do not think that any of us want to contribute to this problem.

    Reply
  24. smartmama

    Operabob, just one more note: why not just give the foodbankds and the shelters the cash as a donation. They are able to buy in bulk and it is so much more beneficial for them than an in-kind donation.

    It is wonderful that you donate but why not make it the best benefit for the charity?

    Reply
  25. Jeff

    Yeah, it’s an interesting article for sure. You can definitely collect airmiles quickly by shopping at Safeway. If you can get a tax receipt for the food then this can quickly work out to a good way to cash in AND travel.

    Either way it points out two great points

    1) Collecting airmiles doesn’t have to be 1 for every $20!!!!

    2) Donate to your food banks, animal shelters, etc… they need our support.

    Reply
  26. couponmom

    Collecting airmiles is not easy for me as I live in Ontario. I do not spend much at Pharma Plus as I think their prices are higher.

    Reply
  27. sniperc151

    In the past year I have earned over 10000 (yes ten thousand) airmiles from Safeway… I have not paid for Gas for nearly 2 years because I convert most of my airmiles into Shell gas coupons for my car.

    Reply
  28. Doug

    Sorry but the stores that offer airmiles are much more expensive to shop at. I lived out west last year, Safeway is the most expensive place to shop at and around ontario Dominion and other places that offer air miles are significantly higher than price choppers and no frills. It’s kinda pointless to get a few hundred airmiles every month which is worth less than $50 I believe when you end up spendimg $200 more on your monthly groceries…..

    Reply
  29. operabob

    mama,

    Operabob, just one more note: why not just give the foodbankds and the shelters the cash as a donation.

    If I did that I wouldn’t get the AirMiles.

    Doing it the other way round is a win-win for both the food bank & me.

    Yes, Safeway can be expensive unless you cherry pick and buy in bulk which is what I do. However, I often find their prices cheaper than most other stores if you’re careful.

    BTW: In Ontario the liquor stores give AMs but not here in BC.

    Reply
  30. Louise W

    check out the deals of the week every monday at AM to get great value when redeeming miles. Especially for toys at this time of year

    Reply
  31. JadeDragon

    I wrote the article posted here. It should have been snipped and not posted in full. However, I hope it helps people and I hope the blogger removes most of it and links to my whole article at http://www.ehow.com/how_5658961_earn-air-miles-rewards-fast.html

    I can tell you this is not theoretical but real. This system is how I paid for my wedding venue, reception and guest rooms (Best Western gift cards), honeymoon cruise for 12 days (travel reward) lots of gas, lots of merchandise including baby crib, riding lawnmower, exercise equipment, more travel etc.

    The Salvation Army food bank, my church (for food bank) and the BC SPCA have happily given me charitable receipts for goods donated. They use/distribute the product normally.

    The 80% distribution rule is for charities that pass the cash on to other organizations – it effectively limits overhead.

    I can and do make cash donations too, but why not get my rewards AND give stuff away AND get a donation receipt.

    BTW this system does take some work and patience. It only works during certain sales and dates. I however find the challenge of “beating the system” to be fun, rewarding (pun intended) and profitable.

    Reply
  32. AJ

    My favourite beer frequently gets 1 airmile per bottle at the LCBO. The more I drink, the more I get :P

    Reply
  33. Doug

    Even if the time/effort isn’t worth it (I don’t think I’d do it just for a few bucks), the fact that you can get a significant amount of merchandise for a charitable cause is absolutely fantastic!

    Reply
  34. Matt

    Don’t shop at safeway.

    Don’t look for special ‘coupon’ deals.

    Operate a business and put all my expenses on the gold credit card. Heck, I don’t even bother with the expensive gas deal at shell.

    I do about 6K a year in air miles.

    Great deal for me — I have a record of ‘most’ of my business transactions for book keepping purposes.

    I’m dig movies, i dig eating out, i dig chapters. Spending those miles and getting myself free entertainment while I save for a mortgage.

    Sweet :-p

    Reply
  35. Matty's Mom

    Matt-
    I am with you there- the Gold credit card, a new house with extensive renovations, and a new (well, 7 mos) baby all mean one thing- Our trip out east to family is fully paid for thanks to Air Miles.
    BTW- Shell gas promos add up quickly- and even better when you have the gold card that brings you additional promo AM’s as well.

    Reply
  36. mhk

    I hate Safeway – period. They gouge people. I know people like Opera Bob are prudent shoppers and make the most of it. However, I have seen people who don’t know much about saving, people who HAVE to shop at Safeway because going elsewhere would involve cab fare etc getting gouged, gouged, gouged. In my opinion, RCSS, Walmart, and what the hey – even Sobeys and Save-On Foods have better deals than Safeway, and care more about their customers. The customer service in most Edmonton Safeways is getting from bad to worse, they treat anyone who returns anything like they are criminals. (yes, even outdated food that they have sold to you at FULL price, and you have unwittingly bought it, taken it home and are returning it). And oh! the poor customer service people have to actually WORK then!

    Airmiles or no airmiles – I ain’t shopping at Safeway any more.

    MOREOVER THEY TREAT THEIR STAFF VERY POORLY, AND THAT POOR STANDARD AND FRUSTRATIONS ARE PASSED ON TO THE CUSTOMERS.

    Sorry, but that’s my rant for today!

    Reply
  37. logan

    i think air miles is good but it takes too long for the item to come in the mail or somethin….

    Reply
  38. haneylaw

    Matt- be careful there, those airmiles belong to your business. If anyone bothers to check on you, the rewards you reap better belong to the business as well! Use them wisely.

    Reply
  39. LNP

    I have earned over 900 air miles in about 5 months. It is easily done. The grocery store that offers air miles in my area in Metro. Although their prices are higher then other stores such as No Frills or Food Basic, I only buy items that offer bonus air miles, or that are on sale. Metro also offers bonuses such as spend $80 get 50 bonus miles. I also shop at Rona and purchase my gas from Shell, instead of shopping at Homedepot or getting fuel from Sunoco. I participate in online studies for bonus miles and do the tool bar searches. Apply for an Amex card with air miles and purchase everything on it (just make sure you pay your balance in full each month!). It may seem like hard work but I think i’ve done quite well in the last 5 months. I’m saving up for a flight to NYC! At the rate i’m going I should be able to purchase 2 airline tickets by next year. Good luck everyone!

    Reply
  40. Alain Audet

    Do you know that you can now earn AIR MILES for salon, esthetics and spa services and retail…go to http://www.mirrorlounge.com and find out a participating salon, spa or esthetic studio near you. Just imagine, you go for a facial, or get a dermabrasion, or a laser hair removal, or your hair color done and you can collect AIR MILES…They also have bonus reward miles on certain products or services….Top salons and spa, with top brands such as Matis, Dermalogica, Sothys, Yonka, Dr. Renaud, Kerastase, Oribe, Kevin Murphy, Goldwell, AG, KMS, L’Oreal, Matrix, Pureology…There are members in St-John NFL, 10 in Quebec, a dozen in Ontario, Winnipeg, Lethbridge, Port Moody, Victoria…Ask your salon and spa why they don’t offer AIR MILES…

    Reply
  41. Japesnake

    I have a gold mastercard which I use for all purchases and which also discounts all flights by 25%. I shop at Safeway which I would say is my third greatest airmiles source. My biggest source of airmiles is actually the Safeway Pharmacy. I am fully covered by my medical insurance but I recently collected 1090 airmiles for a free 4 week prescription. Yes you need a disease that requires medication totalling $3000.00/month, but if you’re in that boat, it may be worth switching pharmacies. In western Canada, until recently, you could collect large amounts on both the private and provincial insurance covered portions of the cost. Now you can only collect on the private insurance which means it only applies for the first few months of the year until your limit is reached and the provincial insurance coverage kicks in. It’s still a great value.

    Reply
  42. Mandolinatou

    I think what the negative nelly’s are missing here is that for some people saving money is a hobby. You may crochet or play hockey, while they spend their free time finding ways to save money or donate. Personally I don’t do the whole airmiles or couponing thing. However when I get a fabulous dress for 10 dollars I get a little thrill for doing it. I spend more time shopping than other people. I don’t mind digging through bargain bins though because it is a hobby. I imagine its the same thing with these genuis “airmilers”. If you can make money giving to charities why the heck not? Cudos to you for being able to do it.

    Reply

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