Air Miles Cash – Deal or No Deal?

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Well, after two weeks of learning WordPress and tinkering with the site’s layout, I think its finally in pretty good shape and I can now start focusing on producing some amazing content!

First up, I got notice the other day in the mail about a change to the Air Miles program. As of March 5th, 2012, Air Miles is splitting their system up into two programs – ‘miles for cash’ and ‘miles for dreams’ (because I constantly dream about all the amazing things I’ll be able to do with my Air Miles rewards – its what gets me through the day). By default, all users will continue to earn ‘miles for dreams’, which is equivalent to the old system where you can exchange miles for everything from gift cards to flights. And all current miles can only be used for ‘dreams’ rewards. They are not allowing users to transfer existing miles into the ‘miles for cash’ program.

Going forward, if you choose to activate the new system, you will be asked how you want to partition all your accumulated miles – say 40% to cash and 60% to dreams, or send all your miles to cash. Under the miles for cash program, a user will be able exchange Air Miles for cash right at the till. To start, the retailers participating in this include Metro, Shell, Rona and Rexall/Pharma Plus among a few other regional specific stores. Air Miles will be exchangeable at a rate of 95 miles for $10.

So is this a good deal? How do the ‘dreams’ stack up to the ‘cash’? Will this new program end my recurring dreams of rolling around in cash? I did a little digging to find out. Under the cash program, 95 miles for $10 amounts to a value of 10.5 cents per mile. So how much are my dreams worth?

  • A 64 GB Blackberry Playbook will cost 3750 miles and costs $300 at last check, which amounts to a value of 8 cents per mile.
  • A Canon T3i DSLR camera runs 7400 miles and costs $750, for a value of 10.1 cents per mile.
  • A peak season round-trip ticket from Toronto to Vancouver booked 3 months ahead of time, and departing and returning on a Friday, costs 4225 miles and, as of this posting, costs $458 before tax, for a value of 10.8 cents per mile.
  • A $25 gift card for Rexall runs 225 miles, which amounts to a value of 11.1 cents per mile.
  • A $20 gift card for Metro runs 175 miles, which amounts to a value of 11.4 cents per mile.
  • A ticket to a Toronto Raptors game runs 385 miles for a ticket valued at about $60 after all the ticketmaster fees, which amounts to a value of 15.5 cents per mile.
  • A Cineplex Night Out at the Movies (two tickets, two drinks and a popcorn) will set you back 190 miles and costs at least $40 (at least here in Toronto), which amounts to a value of 21.1 cents per mile.
  • A 1 year subscription to Maclean’s will set you back 275 miles and costs about $64, which amounts to a value of 23.3 cents per mile.

Clearly, ‘miles for cash’ is on the lower end of the spectrum. I’ve actually used my miles for movie tickets and Maclean’s subscriptions on a number of occasions in the past because they are such a great deal. But in the case of a store like Metro or Rona, you actually get better value for your miles by collecting the ‘miles for dreams’ and exchanging them for gift cards that you can then use in store. I’d knock it down to paying for the convenience of not having to go online, order the gift card, wait for it to come in the mail and then remember to bring it to the store. That said, I’m a pretty frugal guy – the idea of getting an extra $20 every 10 times I have enough miles for a gift card appeals to me.

Yet at the same time, my environmental spidey senses are tingling. Every gift card means unnecessary plastic for the card, packaging to send it to me in, fossil fuels consumed to have it delivered, and the list of unnecessary waste so I can maybe collect an extra $30 every year or two goes on and on. The environmentally responsible thing to do is suck it up and collect the cash. Why must my ‘dreams’ always turn into nightmares? Why can’t Air Miles do the environmentally responsible thing and give us the full value of our miles right at the cash?

If you’re reading this, how do you struggle with the dilemma of frugality versus environmental stewardship? Will you be throwing your dreams away for a chance at the cash? Do you know of any more great Air Miles deals? Please leave a comment, I would love to hear all about it!

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