As far as AIR MILES®* earning Credit Cards go, the American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card should be considered a top-tier choice.
With plenty of travel benefits, and increased earning and redemption rates, this Card will certainly allow you to get more out of your AIR MILES®.
If you haven’t already, check out our review on the American Express AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card. It’s a mid-range Card, and a step below in travel benefits, resulting in a lower annual fee. There we’ll take a look at a beginner’s approach to AIR MILES®, how to earn and redeem AIR MILES® for flights, and more.
In this review, we’ll take a close look at the travel benefits you’ll receive, as well as break down the value of this Card, dig into the three AIR MILES® loyalty tiers, reveal an AIR MILES® sweet spot, and of course break down the value of this Card and see how much AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles are actually worth.
Is this Card right for you? Let’s find out…
|Welcome Bonus||2,400 AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles|
|Minimum Spend||Earn 2,400 AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles when you meet the minimum spend requirement of $3,000 in the first 3 months of Cardmembership.|
|Card Type||Credit Card|
|Annual Fee (Additional Card)||$50|
|Interest Rate||19.99% (beginning February 25, 2020, the Preferred Rate for purchases will increase to 20.99%)|
|Funds Advance Rate||22.99%|
|Balance Transfer||Applicable to new Cardmembers at the time of online application only: Receive an interest rate of 1.99% in the first 6 months if you transfer your other credit card balances to American Express. There is no transfer fee for this offer.|
|You can transfer 50% of your assigned credit limit, up to a maximum of $7,500 (whichever is less). There is no balance transfer fee for this offer.|
|Category Spending Bonus:||Earn 1 Mile for every $10 in Card purchases at eligible Air Miles partners in store.|
|Earn 1 Mile for every $10 in Card purchases at eligible stand-alone grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada.|
|Base Earn Rate||Earn 1 Mile for every $15 in Card purchases everywhere else.|
|Eligibility||A Canadian resident with a Canadian credit file|
|The age of majority in the province or territory of residence.|
|Shopping Coverage||Buyer's Assurance Protection Plan|
|Purchase Protection Plan|
|Entertainment Access||Front Of The Line Advance Access|
|Front Of The Line Reserved Tickets|
|Front Of The Line E-Updates|
|Special Offers and Experiences for all Cardmembers|
|Special Access for all Cardmembers|
|American Express World Class Service||24/7 Customer Service|
|Emergency Card Replacement|
|Fraud Protection Guarantee|
|Travel Benefits||Exclusive Annual Companion Flight Benefit|
|AIR MILES® FlexFly - A Reserve Exclusive|
|Receive Automatic AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles ONYX Status|
|Redeem Air Miles for Flight Taxes, and Fees (Also a Reserve Exclusive)|
|Redeem AIR MILES® for Business Class Seats|
|Priority Pass Worldwide Airport Lounge Access|
|Waived AIR MILES® Flight Admin Fee|
|Toronto Pearson Priority Security Lane|
New American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card Cardmembers, earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,400 AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles when you charge a total of $3,000 in purchases to your Card within your first three months of Cardmembership. That’s enough for two select flights.
AIR MILES® Earning Structure
There are three different ways you’ll earn Miles when you charge your purchase to your Card:
The base earn rate is 1 Mile for every $15 in purchases.
There are also two category spending bonuses you can take advantage of.
You’ll earn 1 Mile for every $10 in Card purchases at other eligible stand-alone grocery stores, gas stations, and drugstores in Canada.
And you’ll earn 1 Mile for every $10 in Card purchases at eligible AIR MILES®* Partners (excludes purchases made at airmilesshops.ca)
You’ll be able to double dip on points here and earn Miles twice – once because the retailer is an AIR MILES® Partner, and second because you’ll earn Miles just by charging the purchase to your Card!
Cash and Dream Miles
You can earn AIR MILES® as Cash Miles, Dream Miles or a combination of both. You can login to your AIR MILES® account to adjust your earning preferences at any time, but make sure to identify the type of rewards you’ll want to redeem for in advance, because once the points have been earned in that currency, they can’t be converted.
With Cash Miles, you can redeem 95 Miles for a $10 discount in-store or online with eVouchers with AIR MILES® Partners.
Dream Rewards are travel rewards that can be redeemed for flights, hotels, cruises, and car rentals. You can also redeem them for merchandise, or tickets to events or attractions. But you’re best to avoid redeeming your Miles for anything in the rewards catalogue since most items are extremely overpriced.
Login to your AIR MILES® account and change your earning preferences between Cash and Dream Miles here.
The American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card is absolutely packed with travel benefits. Let’s take a closer look at each one, and later, we’ll break down the value to see how you can justify the annual fee on this Card.
Exclusive Annual Companion Flight Benefit
A step up from the Annual Travel Redemption Benefit on the American Express AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card, is the Annual Companion Flight Benefit that entitles your travel guest to a free plane ticket.
Once a year, when you redeem for any flight reward within the AIR MILES®* Flight program, you can receive a Companion Flight, up to a maximum of 1,700 Miles, for your companion to travel with you for the same itinerary (offer excludes service charges if applicable and taxes). If your flight requires more than 1,700 Miles, you can use Miles from your AIR MILES®* Dream Balance to pay the additional miles needed to use the Companion Flight Benefit.
AIR MILES® FlexFly™ Flight Redemptions
FlexFly™ allows you to unlock even more flight options to redeem your Dream Miles for. American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Cardmembers will receive this exclusive benefit to access additional airlines, destinations, departure times, and even allow you to redeem your Miles for business and first class seats.
This opportunity is not available to other AIR MILES® Collectors, so if you’re serious about collecting AIR MILES®, this totally makes the American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card worthwhile.
However, AIR MILES® target market is primarily economy travellers, so if you’re more interested in redeeming travel rewards for first or business class, consider one of the Amex Membership Rewards Cards (Platinum, Gold, Cobalt, Business Edge) to get the highest possible redemption by transferring your Amex points to your airline loyalty program of choice:
Receive Automatic Onyx™ Status
Onyx status is the top tier for the AIR MILES® loyalty program. Normally you would have to earn 6,000 Miles in a calendar year to reach this milestone, but with the American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card, you’ll receive this status automatically.
With Onyx status, most notably, you’ll receive up to a 40% discount when you go to redeem your Dream Miles for flights. That is a huge advantage!
You’ll also receive up to 20% off redemptions for merchandise and have access to the Personal Shopper service which allows you to redeem your Miles for merchandise outside of the rewards catalogue.
Learn more about the Personal Shopper service, consult with a rep via live chat, or use the Rewards calculator to determine the amount of Dream Miles you’ll need to redeem based on the retail price of your chosen item.
Redeem AIR MILES® for Flight Taxes and Fees
Although AIR MILES® Collectors can redeem their Dream Miles towards flights, they still have to pay out of pocket for any associated taxes and fees.
However, being an American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Cardmember allows you to save your cash and redeem your Dream Miles for the total cost of a flight including all associated taxes and fees.
Priority Pass™ Worldwide Airport Lounge Access
If you haven’t experienced relaxing in an airport lounge before your flight, you’ll now have the opportunity with the American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card. And let me tell you, there’s no going back.
With over 1,200 Priority Pass airport lounges worldwide, you can experience unlimited food, alcoholic, and non-alcoholic beverages, comfortable seating, free reliable Wi-Fi, charging stations, and in some cases, even showers before your flight! Airport lounges are a whole other experience, so even if you’re flying economy, you’ll be able to access the lounge.
You’ll receive 4 complimentary lounge passes per year to use between you and a guest.
Learn more about what Priority Pass airport lounges include.
Then find a lounge using LoungeBuddy to get details, directions, reviews, and see all the lounges you have access to.
Waived AIR MILES® Flight Administration Fee
When you redeem your Dream Miles for flights, you’re subject to an AIR MILES® admin fee just for making the redemption.
That is a great perk, but I feel the act of charging an admin fee to redeem your Miles a slap in the face to begin with. And it’s not even well advertised until you get to the checkout page. It’s certainly a cash grab, and unavoidable for the most part – unless you have the only Credit Card on the Canadian market (The American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card) that will waive that unfair admin fee for each flight you book.
Toronto Pearson Priority Security Lane
If your home airport is Toronto Pearson International, you’ll receive the added benefit of being able to fast track your way through security with access to the Pearson Priority Security Lanes in Terminals 1 and 3.
American Express Cardmember Benefits
Special Cardmember Invites and Entertainment Access
As an American Express Cardmember, through Front Of The Line® you’ll also have access to concerts, theatre and special event presales before the general public and reserved tickets to a block of great seats just for being an Amex Cardmember.
Optional Balance Transfer Offer For New Cardmembers
If you’re looking to switch Cards, you can take advantage of the balance transfer option with an interest rate of 1.99% for the first 6 months and no balance transfer fee.
And as an additional option to the American Express AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card, you can also transfer up to 50% of your credit limit to a maximum of $7,500, whichever is less.
This offer only applies to new Cardmembers at the time of application.
AIR MILES® Loyalty Tiers
Let’s take a look at the AIR MILES® loyalty tiers and see exactly what’s included at each level.
Blue AIR MILES® Status
0 to 999 miles earned in one calendar year.
Blue is the entry-level loyalty status that everyone starts out at.
Gold AIR MILES® Status
1,000 to 5,999 miles earned in one calendar year.
Once you’ve earned this many miles, you’ll see some increased loyalty benefits.
Onyx AIR MILES® Status
6,000+ miles earned in a calendar year.
Onyx is the top-tier loyalty status for the AIR MILES® reward program. Remember, as an American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Cardmember, you’ll receive automatic Onyx status without having to earn 6,000+ miles in a year, and you’ll receive the most perks at this level.
Flights, merchandise & events
Available at all levels to varying degrees.
You’ll be able to earn and redeem your Cash rewards, as well as Dream rewards for merchandise, events, and flights.
Depending on your loyalty level, you’ll have access to “Standard”, “Prime”, or “Premium” redemptions, which is a little cryptic.
My interpretation is that different rewards are shown to different users, depending on the number of points they have.
AIR MILES® calls this a “tailored experience,” however, as we talked about before, customers have shown major concern that the items they’re looking to redeem points for may not be available to them. It’s unclear if this is still the case.
AIR MILES® Perks
Available at all levels.
Just by having an AIR MILES® Card, you’ll have access to special perks and promotions. AIR MILES® perks are discounts, upgrades, and event invites just for being an AIR MILES® Cardmember. You don’t need to redeem any points to get access to these perks.
Examples of AIR MILES® perks at the time of publishing include:
- AIR MILES® Perk: $30 off the purchase of a Birks Business $250 gift card (save 12%), plus earn 30 bonus AIR MILES®, with promo code.
- Limited Time Awesome Promotion: “Limited Time Awesome” are events exclusive to AIR MILES® Collectors that are held across Canada and include VIP meet and greets, exclusive screenings and more.
- However, this is an expired promotion still being advertised for 300 free tickets available on a first come first serve basis for a meet and greet with chef Michael Smith at the PEI International Shellfish Festival.
I think it’s fair to say those perks aren’t anything to get too excited about, considering 1 out of the 2 is an expired promotion.
Bonus: Amex Invites
If you’re interested in exclusive Cardmember experiences and invites, American Express Cards offer worthwhile and exciting opportunities such as private dinners, shows, and more for their Cardmembers through a program called Amex Invites. Now these are worth getting excited for.
As an Amex Cardmember, you’ll have access to these events through American Express directly – not through your AIR MILES® account.
AIR MILES® Stage Pass
Available at all levels.
AIR MILES® Stage Pass gives its Collectors access to reserved tickets to entertainment events, VIP contests and experiences.
You can redeem your Dream AIR MILES® for these experiences, and in some cases for tickets that are sold out to the general public.
City and Colour, The Chainsmokers, Trailer Park Boys, Johnny Reid, and Miranda Lambert are a few of the notable acts you can redeem your AIR MILES® for at the time of publish.
Bonus: Amex Front of the Line Presale Access
As an Amex Cardmember, you’ll also have access to American Express Front of the Line Presale Access. Amex reserves blocks of tickets for its Cardmembers for select events, giving you the chance to buy tickets before the general public.
To access Amex Front of the Line presale tickets, just use the presale code 8003272177 and charge your purchase to your eligible American Express Card.
There are generally some pretty good seats to very popular events reserved for Amex Cardmembers, so this is definitely a worthwhile perk.
Discounts on Flights
Blue: No Discount. Gold: Up to 30% off. Onyx: Up to 40% off.
As you climb the loyalty ladder, you’ll have access to discounts on flights, allowing you to book with fewer miles.
Of course, this is subject to availability, and the keywords here are “up to”. The flights with the biggest discounts will likely be to less desirable locations, or at less desirable travel times. But if you have flexibility with your travel plans, this can be an excellent opportunity to travel for less.
Discounts on Merchandise Rewards
Blue: No discount. Gold: Up to 10% off. Onyx: Up to 20% off.
Discounts are offered at the Gold and Onyx loyalty levels when you redeem your miles for merchandise.
Keep in mind though, redeeming your miles for merchandise should not be your first choice. You’ll always get a better redemption by redeeming your miles for flights.
Merchandise in reward catalogues (for any loyalty program – not just AIR MILES®) are often extremely overpriced, so even with a perceived discount, you’re better off paying cash and saving your miles.
Invites to Exclusive Events
Blue: None. Gold: Yes. Onyx: Yes
Gold and Onyx AIR MILES® members will receive special invites to Cardmember events including fine dining experiences, meet and greets with famous chefs and artists, wine tastings, and more.
Have you been invited to an AIR MILES® Cardmember event? What was your experience?
Priority Service at the Call Centre
Blue: No. Gold: No. Onyx: Yes.
Onyx members will receive priority support at the call center. This is one of the two benefits exclusive to Onyx loyalty tier members.
Onyx Collectors can call their dedicated phone number – 1-844-399-ONYX (6699) to receive priority service.
Sure, it’s nice to receive priority support, but let’s be honest: this is not a real benefit, and Blue and Gold members should not be subject to long hold times to begin with.
Let’s see what the other benefit is for Onyx members…
Personal Shopper Service
The highlight benefit for Onyx members, aside from up to 40% discount on redeeming your Dream miles for flights is that members can redeem their Dream miles for merchandise outside of the online reward catalogue.
AIR MILES® Sweet Spot
Earn 10x Miles on AirMilesShops.ca Flash Offer
Occasionally, AIR MILES® will have Flash Sale promotions that allow you to earn 10x the miles just by shopping through the AIR MILES® eStore shopping portal. This is an excellent way to boost your earnings fast, so you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of these offers when they happen!
Of course, when you charge that purchase to your American Express AIR MILES® card, you’ll be double dipping on the points and earning even more!
My most frequently used retailer from the list would be Amazon.ca, which has a base earning rate of 1 Mile earned per $20 spent. Currently there is a 2x the miles offer. That means you’ll earn 2 miles for every $20 spent on Amazon.ca, but when you charge that purchase to your American Express AIR MILES® Card, you’ll earn 1 mile for every $10 spent.
But when there is a Flash Sale happening, those earnings get boosted to 10x the Miles for every retailer in the eStore! You’ll have to watch closely for these promotions by visiting the eStore directly. The latest Flash sale only lasted one day (November 12, 2019) and I did not receive any email notifications or see any advertising surrounding this sale. I simply visited the AIR MILES® eStore directly to see the announcement.
So let’s do the math on that $100 purchase from Amazon.ca during the Flash promotion of 10x the miles:
$100 Amazon.ca Purchase:
10x Miles for every $20 spent through the AIR MILES® eStore Flash Promotion:
$100 / $20 = 5 x 10x miles = 50
1x Miles for every $10 charged to our American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card:
$100 / $10 = 10 x 1x miles = 10
50 + 10 = 60
Holy smokes – we just earned 60 AIR MILES® on a $100 Purchase!
Wow, that’s a really easy and realistic way to earn AIR MILES® fast if you can wait for the 10x Flash Sale promotion! This offer was available at the time of publish (November 2019) and was also available back in August and September, so they do happen frequently enough that you should try to plan your purchases accordingly.
You may want to make a shortlist of items you can wait to purchase to take advantage of this amazing deal.
Keep in mind you won’t earn AIR MILES® on taxes, duty, or shipping costs, as well as Amazon Gift Cards, Amazon Prime Sign-up, Books, eBooks, Groceries, Automotive supplies, Tools & Home Improvement, books, or Kindle devices or Kindle eBooks.
This is really easy to do if you put together a shopping strategy and buy frequently used household items from Amazon.ca where you can collect AIR MILES® you may not otherwise be earning from your local store.
Try to make a habit of buying paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, cleaning supplies, health and personal care items, and other frequently used household items from Amazon so you maximize your rewards on everyday purchases.
Do AIR MILES® Expire?
Yes. AIR MILES® automatically expire after 2 years of inactivity on your account (either earning or redeeming points).
Fortunately, keeping your account active is easy. All you need to do is earn at least 1 Mile in that time, which can be done by making purchases at AIR MILES® Partners, or on everyday purchases charged to your AIR MILES®* branded Credit Card.
Card Value Breakdown
|Travel Benefit||Value (CAD)||Notes|
|Welcome Bonus of 2,400 AIR MILES®* Bonus Miles||$336.00||Calculated at a baseline value of 14 cents per Mile.|
|Exlusive Annual Companion Flight Benefit valued at up to 1,700 AIR MILES®||$238.00||Calculated at a baseline value of 14 cents per Mile.
Once a year when you redeem your Dream Miles for a flight, you’ll receive a companion pass that’s good for up to 1,700 Miles for you your travel guest to travel with you on the same itinerary. That’s enough Miles for a short haul plane ticket to a neighbouring state or province.
|4 Annual Complimentary Vouchers for Priority Pass Worldwide Airport Lounge Access||$169.56||Based on 4 airport lounge visits valued at $32 USD (42.39 CAD) per person.|
|Waived AIR MILES® Flight Admin Fee||$25.00||Valuation based on the cost of 1 admin fee.
I cannot find anywhere on airmiles.ca exactly how much the administrative fee is for redeeming Dream Miles, so this cost is speculative based on input from other collectors who have made a redemption for flights.
|Other benefits we couldn't quite put a dollar value on:|
|Receive Automatic AIR MILES® ONYX Status||-||Receive up to a 40% discount when redeeming Dream Miles for flights.|
|AIR MILES® FlexFly - A Reserve Exclusive||-||FlexFly allows you to unlock even more flight options to redeem your Dream Miles for. Air Miles Reserve Cardmembers will receive this exclusive benefit to access additional airlines, destinations, departure times, and even allow you to redeem your Miles for business and first class seats.|
|Redeem AIR MILES® for Flight Taxes, and Fees (Also a Reserve Exclusive)||-||Redeem your Dream Miles for the total cost of a flight including all associated taxes and fees.|
|Optional balanace transfer offer for new Cardmembers||-||Transfer your balance at an interest rate of 1.99% in first 6 months. There is no balance transfer fee for this offer.|
|Priority security-line during peak times at Toronto's Pearson International Airport||-||Get access to the priority security line during peak times at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.|
|Front of the Line advance access to presale concert tickets on Ticketmaster||-||Receive first access to the hottest live entertainment tickets with Front of the Line presale access on Ticketmaster|
|Special offers and experiences for all Cardmembers||-||American Express holds a variety of exclusive events throughout the year, and as a Cardmember, you're eligible for an invite. Visit amexinvites.ca to learn more.|
|Total value in Travel Benefits||$768.56|
|Annual Fee on the American Express® AIR MILES®* Platinum Card||$299.00|
|Your Savings (Or More!)||$469.56|
If you’ve followed the state of AIR MILES® for the last several years, or read our review on the American Express AIR MILES®* Platinum Credit Card, you’ll be familiar with the controversy surrounding the loyalty program.
It certainly hasn’t been all positive, so why even consider an AIR MILES®* Card then?
Well, on paper the the American Express® AIR MILES®* Reserve Credit Card still makes sense, as it comes with a lot of travel benefits which far outweigh the annual fee.
And with accelerated status you’ll have the biggest advantage over other Collectors by having access to more flight redemptions, the chance to redeem for business and first class seats, waived admin fees, and the chance to redeem your Miles for an up to 40% discount with automatic top-tier Onyx status. Plus you’ll earn enough Miles with the welcome bonus for two select flights.
If you already shop at AIR MILES® Partners, have flexible travel dates, and generally fly economy, there is a lot of value to be had here. Even with a conservative valuation, the AIR MILES® received with the welcome bonus on this Card are worth more than the annual fee alone if you redeem them for flights. So consider looking at this Card as the opportunity to buy these AIR MILES® at a “wholesale” price.
And although this Card is targeting a higher class of traveller by allowing the opportunity to redeem your Dream Miles for business and first class seats, I would save those types of redemptions for a different travel rewards Card. This Card really is best for the economy traveller who just wants a little more – like airport lounge access, comprehensive travel insurance and an annual companion travel voucher.
The American Express Platinum, Gold, Cobalt, and Business Edge Cards all allow you to transfer your points to a variety of airline and hotel loyalty programs. They’re called Membership Rewards (or Amex points for short), and are a stronger points currency than AIR MILES®. With frequent transfer bonus promotions, and less restrictions for redemptions, you’ll be able to stretch your points further.