AIR MILES vs Avion

Compare two of Canada’s most popular frequent flyer programs to find the best fit for your unique financial situation.

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Are you looking to earn travel miles whenever you shop? You can start by comparing two of Canada’s most frequent flyer programs – AIR MILES and Avion. These programs offer a mix of perks and benefits, and they come with a number of program-affiliated credit cards.

To help you find the best option for you, we’ve compared some of the key features on offer for both programs. This should help you understand your choices so that you can figure out which program is the best fit for your unique set of needs, lifestyle and budget.

What’s the main difference between AIR MILES vs Avion?

The main difference between AIR MILES and Avion has to do with how you earn miles or points.

  • AIR MILES. AIR MILES is an independent travel rewards program that works with a series of partners to let you earn miles when you shop for daily purchases. These partners include several major grocery stores, hardware stores, pharmacies and gas stations. In addition to your membership, you may also qualify for an AIR MILES credit card to earn extra miles whenever you spend money.
  • Avion. Avion works a bit differently than AIR MILES because it’s owned and operated by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). You won’t be able to earn points with partners using a membership card with this program. Instead, you can only earn points when you spend money on your RBC Avion credit card.

Compare AIR MILES credit cards

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Benefits with this card Description
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at eligible AIR MILES partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent elsewhere.
Earn 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles. Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
$80,000
Get 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on eligible purchases.
Earn a bonus of up to 2,000 AIR MILES. Terms apply. Plus, get the annual fee of $120 waived in the first year.
Shell AIR MILES World Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$99
$60,000
Earn 1.25 AIR MILES reward miles at Shell stations in Canada and 1 mile per $15 spent for all other purchases.
Earn 1.25x Miles on card purchases at participating Shell stations in Canada and 1 mile per $15 spent for all other purchases.
BMO IGA AIR MILES Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent on eligible purchases at IGA stores and at participating AIR MILES partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent elsewhere.
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles.
Shell AIR MILES Mastercard from BMO
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at participating AIR MILES Partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere.
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles.
BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
$15,000
Get 2 AIR MILES for every $20 spent at Sobeys, Foodland and eligible AIR MILES partners, and get 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent elsewhere.
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles.
American Express AIR MILES Gold Business Card
19.99%
21.99%
$0
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $15 spent on eligible purchases at AIR MILES Sponsors, and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $20 spent on eligible purchases elsewhere
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 150 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months
American Express AIR MILES for Business Card
N/A
N/A
$180
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent at eligible AIR MILES Sponsors and 1 AIR MILE for every $15 spent elsewhere
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
20.99%
21.99%
$120
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $5 spent on eligible food, drink, gas and transit purchases (up to an annual spend of $30,000), and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on all other eligible purchases (and after the $30,000 annual spend)
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,500 in eligible purchases within the first three months.
American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card
20.99%
21.99%
$299
N/A
Earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 spent on purchases at eligible stand-alone grocery stores, gas stations and drugs stores in Canada, as well as eligible AIR MILES partners, and earn 1 AIR MILE for every $15 spent on all other eligible purchases elsewhere
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,400 AIR MILES when you spend at least $3,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months.
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How to compare AIR MILES vs Avion

Before you choose a frequent flyer program, you should compare a number of features for AIR MILES and Avion to ensure you make the best choice. These include the following:

  • Earn rate. Think about how many miles or points you’ll earn for every dollar you spend (with both your membership and credit card).
  • Value of miles. Consider how much every mile is worth and multiply that by the number of miles you earn to figure out what type of rewards you can qualify for.
  • Partner companies. Think about the companies you shop with most often and see if any of these are listed as partners of the frequent flyer program you’re interested in.
  • Types of rewards. Look at each program’s “rewards store” to find out what you can use your miles to purchase.
  • Available credit cards. Think about the earn rates and benefits on offer from credit cards affiliated with each program.
  • Customer service. Check out customer reviews for each program to figure out which one offers the highest level of customer service.

How many miles can I earn with each program?

The number of miles you’ll earn with AIR MILES and Avion depends on how much you spend on your credit card as well as on whether you shop with program partners (for AIR MILES).

  • AIR MILES. The base rate of AIR MILES fluctuates based on the partner you’re shopping with. Some partners will give you a return of 1 mile for every $15 you spend while others will give you 1 mile for every $5 you spend. You’ll also earn a different number of miles for every dollar you spend on your credit card (usually 1 per $20).
  • Avion. Avion offers 3 credit cards in total, which will let you earn between 1 and 1.25 points for every dollar you spend. You won’t be able to earn any extra points by shopping at specific stores because Avion doesn’t work with a network of partners.

What’s the value of each mile?

The value of AIR MILES vs Avion Points will fluctuate according to what rewards you’re redeeming them for. This makes it difficult to discern how much each point or mile is worth independent of what you’re cashing them in for. That said, many sites agree that each individual Avion Mile is worth around 1 cent. The value of each individual AIR MILE, on the other hand, is said to range between 10 and 15 cents.

This means that your AIR MILES are worth more in general terms, though it’s important to remember that you’ll typically earn fewer AIR MILES for every dollar you spend with your AIR MILES membership or credit card. For example, you might only earn 1 AIR MILE for every $10 you spend at a specific retailer, and another AIR MILE for every $20 you spend on your credit card.

Can I recover points or miles if I was forced to cancel my trip?

Infobox: Calculating the worth of each mile

Let’s say you spend $20 on your frequent flyer credit card with both AIR MILES and Avion. While Avion will give you a return of 20 Avion Points for $20, AIR MILES might give you a return of 1 AIR MILE per $10 (which means you’ll earn 2 AIR MILES in total).

If the average Avion Point is worth 1 cent, then your reward will be worth 20 cents. If the average worth of your AIR MILES is 10 cents per point, your reward will also be worth 20 cents. This means that in this scenario, both programs offer similar value for miles, even though you’ll have the chance to earn more rewards with AIR MILES if you shop with its network of partners.

What types of rewards can I get with each program?

You’ll be able to cash your points or miles in for a number of different rewards with AIR MILES and Avion. Just remember that you’ll usually get the best value for your miles if you exchange them for flights and other travel.

  • Travel. If you want to redeem your miles for travel, both AIR MILES and Avion are a good fit. Both offer travel rewards and special discounts on travel when you make your booking online using your miles.
  • Merchandise. Avion and AIR MILES offer similar types of merchandise and rewards. If you want to redeem your miles for a specific purchase, you might like to take a look at what’s available in the rewards catalogue for each program before you sign up.
  • Gift cards. Both Avion and AIR MILES will let you redeem your miles for gift cards to some of your favourite stores. AIR MILES also gives you the chance to earn Cash Miles, which you can redeem for discounts at partner stores when you check out.
  • Entertainment. AIR MILES is the better choice if you want to redeem your miles for entertainment like Broadway shows, movie tickets or concert seats since Avion doesn’t offer this type of reward.
  • Banking products. Avion will be the best choice for you if you’d prefer to use your points to put cash down on your credit card and loans or to invest in banking products. That’s because AIR MILES isn’t affiliated with a bank, so it can’t offer this feature.
  • Charitable donations. Both programs will let you transfer your miles into a cash donation for the charity of your choice. The only difference between AIR MILES and Avion for this type of redemption is which charities you can choose.

What credit cards does each program offer?

Both AIR MILES and Avion offer affiliated or bank-specific credit cards to help you earn miles. The number of miles you can earn will usually depend on whether you have a basic or premium card.

  • AIR MILES. AIR MILES partners exclusively with BMO (Bank of Montreal) and American Express to offer its range of credit cards. Most basic AIR MILES credit cards will give you an earn rate of one mile for every $20 you spend. Premium cards tend to offer one mile for every $10. Welcome offers range between 800 and 4,000 AIR MILES.
  • Avion. Avion only offers three credit cards, all sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada. Depending on which card you pick, you’ll usually earn between 1 and 1.25 Avion Points for every dollar you spend. Welcome offers range from 15,000 to 25,000 points.

What is the quality of customer service for each program?

Both Avion and AIR MILES claim to offer a high level of customer service to help you deal with account issues. That said, many AIR MILES customers have indicated that it’s difficult to get in touch with an agent through phone or email.

Since Avion’s customer service is linked to RBC, most customers seem pleased with the level of care they receive with the program. This could be because they can visit an agent in-branch to discuss their issues in addition to emailing or calling in.

Bottom line

When you’re deciding between AIR MILES and Avion, the best frequent flyer program for you will often depend on your unique set of needs, shopping habits and budget. That said, you can read this post to find out which are the most important features you should try to compare before settling on a program (or a program-affiliated credit card).

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