If you’re an avid Air Miles collector you’re likely aware of the difference between Cash miles and Dream miles. For some people it’s very easy to decide which kind of miles you’d like to earn. Until recently, I was firmly in one camp, but I’ve since reconsidered my Air Miles strategy and shifted my preference accordingly. Here is some info on the respective categories along with a few thoughts on the subject in case anyone out there is facing a similar dilemma.
Earning Preference – Dream or Cash
A few years ago Air Miles made a big change when they created two separate categories. Previously, all miles were in the category now referred to as Dream miles. These are what you need for booking flights, hotels, rental cars, tickets or merchandise redemptions online. If you’re looking for travel rewards, Dream miles are what you want to be collecting.
Cash miles, however, are redeemable for immediate savings on a purchase. They have a fixed value of $10 when you redeem 95 miles. You can redeem in-store at certain participating Air Miles partners or online for eVouchers. If you want to use your miles to save money on regular expenses like groceries or gas, this is the best category to use.
If your goal is to obtain the highest dollar value reward, then Dream miles are the obvious choice. For example, some of the best redemption options have been short-haul flights within Canada or to the United States. Occasionally having Gold or Onyx status helps with a discount on the miles required. Therefore, as long as you’re able to redeem at around the base level of miles needed for that route, it’s not too difficult to exceed the value you would have received if your miles were in the Cash category and redeemed at the 95 = $10 rate. But, if you find that your chosen Dream mile redemptions are not producing outsized value for your miles, you might want to rethink your strategy,
Although the value of Cash miles is static, one could argue that the flexibility of turning your miles into instant savings compensates for any loss in value. And if you still want to put those miles toward travel, you can choose to earmark the money saved from the Cash mile redemptions as travel funds to be used on a future trip. That approach avoids the potential headaches of finding reward availability with miles at an acceptable value. If you also collect PC Optimum points, you can further boost your travel fund with savings from redeeming those as well.
Earn Both Types of Miles
If you’d like to have one foot in each camp, you can set your Air Miles account to put a certain percentage of your points in each category:
Remember that any miles you’ve already collected will remain in the category in which it was earned. You cannot transfer miles from Cash to Dream or vice versa. Note that any change you make to your preference is not instant – it takes effect the following day.
Cash Miles For Promotions
If you’ve zeroed in on a specific Dream reward and have no interest in Cash miles, it’s still a good idea to keep a few hundred on hand in case you need them for one of the major Air Miles promotions. When you need to complete a certain number of offers to trigger a large bonus, any that just require you to redeem some Cash miles are easy to knock off.
Sobeys and Foodland Flyers (October 15 – 21, 2020)
Speaking of promotions, the current flyers for Sobeys and Foodland each include an offer to earn 25 bonus miles when you redeem 95 Cash miles, plus an additional 25 miles if you’ve opted in to Air Miles emails. During the recent Bonus Boom promotion there was a similar opportunity to get a bonus for redeeming Cash miles at Sobeys and Foodland.
Terms and Conditions:
1. Offer valid October 15 to October 21, 2020 at Sobeys in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Offer applies to qualifying uses of 95 Cash Miles or more made in a single transaction. Limit of one (1) offer per Collector Number. Please allow up to 4–6 weeks for Bonus Miles to appear in eligible Collector Accounts. Use the Cash Miles in your AIR MILES Cash Account in-store in increments of 95 Cash Miles for every $10 towards your purchases at participating AIR MILES Partner locations. Gift cards and near-cash products are excluded, and other exclusions may also apply. Standard AIR MILES Cash limits and Terms and Conditions apply. All Rewards offered are subject to the Terms and Conditions of the AIR MILES Reward Program, are subject to change and may be withdrawn without notice. For complete details, visit airmiles.ca.
The Cash or Dream Decision
Until now I’ve been primarily focused on earning Dream miles for travel while collecting some Cash miles on the side. My immediate family have all been in that earning mode as well. We’ve redeemed Air Miles for many flights, hotel stays, and event and theme park tickets over the years. I know travelling will resume at some point but COVID-19 remains a major impediment and I don’t foresee any Dream mile redemptions in the relative near future.
Unfortunately, my mini iPad has been doing some crazy stuff lately. I believe it’s a first generation model and I have fond memories of standing in line at a Wal-Mart near Washington’s Dulles airport on a Black Friday to buy it. Anyway, the plan now is to collect Cash miles to redeem for everyday purchases and put the money saved towards a new one. This method will give me the freedom to buy it from any retailer so I won’t be limited to Air Miles partners if a good deal pops up elsewhere.
As time goes on and the pandemic hopefully begins to subside, I may revert to my previous strategy. I like the goal of using points and miles to make trips happen. But at the moment I think the best way to use my Air Miles is for a reward that can be realized in 2020. The 1000 miles from the Mega Miles promotion will be landing in our accounts some time in the next few weeks, so those will be added to my Cash balance.
I don’t advocate liquidating points and miles at a sub-par redemption value (unless absolutely necessary) because things will eventually improve, and with a good stockpile of different types of points we’ll be able to take that trip we’ve been waiting for. However, making this change to Cash with our Air Miles accounts allows us to benefit from our points collecting in the short term without really shortchanging ourselves on value.
I suspect I am not the only one reevaluating their points and miles habits these days – especially here in the Atlantic bubble. Because so many of the earning opportunities with Air Miles are through everyday spending and since promotions have been pretty good as of late, we’re still adding to our accounts. If you see your Dream balance increasing without any plans, then maybe start accumulating Cash miles with a specific redemption in mind. You can always change it back later when the travel situation improves.