Cash Miles vs. Dream Miles: Understanding Your Air Miles Rewards

Air Miles is Canada’s largest loyalty program with more than 10 million active collector accounts across the country. There are two ways to collect Air Miles: Cash Miles and Dream Miles. Before we explain the difference let’s quickly recap how the Air Miles program has evolved to get to this point.

Several years ago Air Miles faced severe backlash from its members when it tried to introduce an expiry policy on reward miles older than five years. The policy would have come into effect at the end of 2016 and many Air Miles collectors were outraged at the thought of losing their miles. The good news is that Air Miles cancelled its plans for an expiry policy amid heavy pressure from members, as well as legislative changes that would prevent companies from putting expiry dates on earned rewards.

Introducing Cash Miles

At the same time Air Miles announced its expiry policy the loyalty giant also introduced a feature called Cash Miles as a way for collectors to redeem points instantly at participating sponsors.

Traditional rewards for flights and hotels can be found using something called Dream Miles, while collectors looking to instantly redeem miles at grocery stores, gas stations, and at the movies should opt for Cash Miles. It’s important to note that Dream Miles is the default setting, so if you want to start earning and redeeming Cash Miles you need to adjust your settings within your Air Miles account. You cannot transfer between Dream Miles and Cash Miles.

Cash Miles vs. Dream Miles: How to use Air MIles

Air Miles Dream Miles

What is it? Dream Miles is basically the Air Miles rewards program that existed before Cash Miles were introduced in 2012. Here you’ll find options for travel rewards, merchandise, plus tickets for events and attractions.

Types of Dream rewards: Flights, hotels, car rentals, package vacations, and cruises can be booked with your Dream Miles online or through customer care. There are options to book tickets for concerts, plays, sporting events, as well as golf or spa getaways. The merchandise catalogue includes electronics and household items.

How much are your miles worth? A flight from Toronto to Orlando during high season starts at 3,500 reward miles. One night at the Westin Bristol Place Toronto Airport starts at 1,065 reward miles. Car rentals start from 500 reward miles.

A Broil King Regal 420 propane grill costs 9,100 reward miles.

Air Miles Cash Miles

What is it? Air Miles introduced its Cash feature in December 2011 and collectors were given the option to allocate a portion or all of their future reward miles earnings into their Cash Miles account. Cash Miles allow collectors to redeem instantly at participating sponsors in smaller increments starting at $10.

Types of Cash rewards: There are three types of cash rewards; redeem in-store for rewards such as groceries, gas, and home renovations; redeem online and get an eVoucher for items such as pizza, movies, and Starbucks coffee; or donate your reward miles to one of over 86,000 charities.

How much are your miles worth? Cash Miles come in a standardized format so that 95 reward miles = $10. That means one reward mile is worth approximately 10.5 cents.

For a full list of participating Air Miles Cash sponsors click here –

Cash Miles vs. Dream Miles: The verdict

One of the more insidious features of this two-tier rewards structure is that there is no way to transfer Dream Miles to Cash Miles, or vice-versa. Collectors must choose their earnings preference – 100 percent Cash Miles, 100 percent Dream Miles, or anything in-between.

Set your preference here –

Dream Miles are more valuable than Cash Miles, however collectors must be wary of saving too long as reward miles expire if unused after five years. The best value for Dream Miles is on hotels, flights, and rental cars. Skip the merchandise and contests.

Air Miles Cash is a decent program that gives collectors a quick and easy way to save $10 each time they’ve earned 95 reward miles. The number of sponsors is broad enough that collectors can redeem their miles for useful rewards such as groceries, gas, movies, coffee, and even iTunes.


  1. Chris Saunders on August 8, 2016 at 12:46 am

    My big complaint is that when they made the switch, items such as the Marlin Travel vouchers can no longer be purchased with my dream miles. If I was ever informed of that change, I do not remember it.

  2. donna mclean on August 8, 2016 at 12:50 am

    i find this so stupid……i should be able to use my dream miles when i want to use them

  3. Floyd on August 8, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    This is nothing more than a cash grab by Air Miles. The billions of air miles that will expire on Dec 31 will directly effect Air Miles financially. The contingent liability will disappear and the balance sheet will improve overnight for the company on the back of those members who have saved their points for a “real dream” for their retirement etc.

  4. Bin Johnsoned on August 8, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Rip off of the first magnitude sprung on unsuspecting customers.

  5. Jean on August 9, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    What they are doing should be illegal. How about a class action ?

Join 3,500 Canadian Subscribers!

Sign up today to learn all about the best cash back and travel rewards credit cards, plus how to maximize your rewards and loyalty programs.