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Thread: Airmiles best practices

  1. #1
    CaLoonie
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    7
    Updated late 2013: This thread is now obsolete. The Airmiles program has changed significantly since this post was written, and doesn't offer nearly the value it once did. You are advised to explore other loyalty points options.
    ---------------------------------------
    In the interest of giving back to the community, here's a list of my "best practices" to make optimal use of the Airmiles loyalty program. This program has declined significantly over the past year or so and is not as attractive as it once was, but these strategies might still be helpful for you. Remember: YMMV (your mileage may vary). Any of these tips are subject to change, they may not work for you in your neighbourhood or with your particular shopping patterns or family type, etc. So adapt as needed, and feel free to share your own tips.

    I took a snapshot of my current airmiles.ca webpage since it helps illustrate a number of these ideas.



    0. Maybe the most important tip of all: http://forum.smartcanucks.ca/4309378-post11.html
    1. gold status is useless - don't worry about it
    2. sears (in fact anyone besides safeway) earns you so few airmiles it's really not something you should even consider. If an airmile is worth 11cents it isn't worth your time comparison shopping to see if you can earn an extra 5 or 10 airmiles. It's only when you can start earning hundreds that it becomes worth the effort.
    3. redeem as soon as you have a decent balance, don't wait (your value will likely go down in future) - for example I redeemed for a $150 best western card as soon as I had enough airmiles (1125), bringing my balance down to almost zero, then started accumulating again
    4. redeem for the highest value possible, for something you are likely to use and that doesn't expire (eg: Best Western cards, gas cards) - for example these 1125 airmiles gave me a $150 BW card which makes the airmiles worth just over 13c each, better than any other reward I might use
    5. Safeway's customer appreciation day (CAD) isn't as good as it used to be (not as many discounts or airmiles offers) plus other stores are more competitive (eg: Extra Foods in my neighbourhood offers a 15% discount coupon which beats Safeway's 10% on CAD) so only buy items with a decent discount or airmiles bonus on CAD to get your 10% off; then do your other shopping at a competitor if they are cheaper.
    6. later in the month Safeway will run their "spend $100 get 100 airmiles" deals -- do more of your shopping then
    7. use ALL safeway Spend$100Get100 coupons - you can find one version in the flyer, another by signing up to airmiles.ca email alerts -- they have different PLU codes so although technically you shouldn't be able to use both at the same time, the computer will accept them (ask nicely for your cashier to scan both for you)
    8. try to buy items that you will actually use (or donate) in a reasonable timeframe - many items can be stored for a while but try to avoid over-buying and spoilage (consider the time-value of money and the cost of waste)
    9. try to buy the healthiest items (many of the airmiles bonus offers are for very processed foods - yes you'll see some of those less healthy items on my list but I try not to make them a very big part of our overall diet)
    10. stick with the old airmiles (what they now call "dream rewards") until their new "cash rewards" becomes more compelling, if ever

    Other best practices for REDEEMING airmiles:

    • Airmiles.ca recently cut back significantly on the variety of gift cards they offered. However many grocery and drug stores offer a huge assortment of giftcards for restaurants, coffee shops, electronics stores, etc. Some people have had success with redeeming their airmiles for a gift card for their grocery store (eg: Metro) and then using that card at their local Metro to purchase the gift card they really want. Obviously this only works for stores that offer gift cards on airmiles.ca (eg: Safeway doesn't) and apparently the gift cards state that they are not to be used to purchase other gift cards, so this may not work for you. Buyer beware.


    Other best practices for COLLECTING airmiles:

    • Leverage the knowledge of other shoppers (eg operabob's safeway sweet airmiles thread: http://forum.smartcanucks.ca/23424-s...-deals-canada/)
    • Always make a shopping list (use the online features of the flyer websites to tag items you want to buy) – merge all the stores into one main list so you can compare
    • Create a coupon pile (or wallet, or some means of keeping them together) – bring this with you everytime you go shopping along with your shopping list
    • value your time - there are many online coupon sites (save.ca, websaver.ca, etc.) but don't get carried away and spend a lot of time to save 50c here and there - focus on the big savings (bonus airmiles, big coupons, etc.), and just because you printed a coupon doesn't mean you have to actually use it (only buy products you need -- do you really need to try all those disposable household cleaner products for eg?)
    • If you buy items that have a coupon attached (eg: coupons on jar lids, etc.) – remove these as soon as you get home and add them to your coupon pile; redeem offers (eg: cereal boxes) immediately to avoid missing deadline
    • Just because it says “Extreme Value” or “Caselot Savings” doesn’t mean it is – always check the net prices, don’t focus on the discount amount or %.
    • Just because an item is on sale or has a good discount doesn’t mean you should buy it. First ask yourself if it is something you and your family will consume. Then ask if it’s something you SHOULD consume (ie is it healthy) – often it’s the packaged foods that are discounted. EG: premade boxed hamburgers, even when discounted, are still more expensive than buying extra lean ground beef and making your own patties. This takes only a few minutes, you choose what you put in them (try an egg, oatmeal, worchestershire, ketchup, mustard, pepper) and you will save money and be healthier. God only knows what cuts of meat (eg: ground up bones, skin, fatty offcuts, etc.) go into making these pre-made patties.
    • Similar to the health issue, it is often cheaper to be more environmental as well. Extra packaging is not only bad ecologically but it typically adds cost to you as a consumer as well. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking if a little convenience is good then a whole lot of convenience is even better. Does it really save you much time to have your dishwasher detergent packaged into individual portions for you? Do you really need disposable floor mopping pads? Do you really need air freshener (try opening a window instead)?
    • Similar to the health and environmental issues are ethical shopping options. Get informed (not easy with all the conflicting info out there, but at least try) about where your food and other consumables come from. How are they produced and how do they get to you in your local store? You may find you are willing to pay a little more to buy bananas from sources that don’t spray pesticides on their workers. You may just cut down on chocolate treats and when you do indulge you make it a fair trade item. You may find you will just have to do without tomatoes during the winter if they come from sources (*cough* Florida) that use slave labour. Yes, it’s the 21st century but slave labour is still prevalent and not just in far away lands. It can be overwhelming to try to learn the entire life cycle of every product you buy, so start with one thing. Make a small effort in one area, that’s better than doing nothing.
    • Just because a store seems to have great deals this month doesn’t mean it will always – store policies, pricing and promotion change over time, at times they are hungrier or are deliberately trying to gain market share so are more aggressive on pricing, but this will change and suddenly the prices aren’t as good anymore. Shop around.
    • Finally, chillax a little. Doing your weekly shopping shouldn't feel like planning the D-Day invasion. Get back to basics - choose fresh ingredients, get reacquainted with your kitchen, reconnect with the joy of preparing good food and sitting down to a nice meal with the people you love.


    LOTS MORE TIPS BELOW - KEEP READING
    This thread is currently associated with: Air Miles, Extra Foods, Safeway, Save.ca Coupons, Sears, Shoppers Drug Mart, Websaver, Metro
    Last edited by emax; Wed, Dec 11th, 2013 at 07:31 PM.


  2. #2
    CaToonie
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    Unfortunately we don't have a Safeway in our area but these are great tips! I try to apply the same concepts at Rexall, which we have here and they are quite generous with airmile points.

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    CaLoonie
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    Quote Originally Posted by newbiesaver View Post
    Unfortunately we don't have a Safeway in our area but these are great tips! I try to apply the same concepts at Rexall, which we have here and they are quite generous with airmile points.
    Good point - this applies mostly to Western Canada where we have Safeways that hand out buckets of airmiles, but hopefully many of the general concepts still work for others.

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    Canadian Genius operabob's Avatar
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    e,

    You can add this to your BP list.

    Special promo items with lots of attached AirMiles often get used up and aren't replenished quickly on the shelves.

    Get a "rain check" for these items at Customer Service good for 90 days. You can save these up to make it easier to get to $100 when they have the Buy $100 Get 100 bonus AirMiles offer on.

    For those of you more sneaky people, if there are only a few items left you could move them elsewhere on the shelves before showing the CS person the shelf is empty.

    Hint on the rain check: You can ask for multiple items. So if the offer is a Buy 5 Get 50 Airmiles ask for 10 multiples so you can Buy 50 Get 500 AMs.
    OB

    Who Says Men Can't Shop!


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    Smart Canuck Miss Molly's Avatar
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    Those of you that have Safeway are lucky, we have Metro and the points are laughable. I get the bulk of my points from my Mastercard and Amex. I also took advantage of Best Western's promo last year where if you spent $100+ you received the equivalent number of air miles (thanks Opera Bob!). Also, one thing I just thought of today, since the bulk of my air miles are obtained through my credit card, I'm going to start buying $100 gift cards a month at No Frills or Loblaws. I do most of my shopping at NF so at least I'll get 5 air miles a month by buying the gift card since I get 1 AM for every $20 on my credit cards. Then I'll just use the GCs for my groceries.

    My Tangerine Key is:39626323S1

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    Smart Canuck
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    Very nicely put together information.
    Thanks for your time and effort!

  7. #7
    2y uterine cancer free Mia001's Avatar
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    PJC has 20x Airmiles WYS $30+ on cosmetics saturday and sunday jan 14-15
    and at PJC it is 1 airmile per $15 purchase

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    thanks for the tips. I don't really shop at safeway that much.. just seems too expensive; however, we bank at bank of montreal where we get a ton of airmiles. (currently I have about 3600) and most of that is from banking..
    whats your advice on choosing the best rewards for the money? I have no clue! I thought about flights, but that seems expensive too???
    LF: kashi from websaver and 50 cents any cereal printout
    FT: Mann's veg and more! Check out my tradelist/wishlist

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    Canadian Genius Giving-Small's Avatar
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    So you can get rainchecks that will give you "airmiles" too when it comes in? Or just the sale price?


    Quote Originally Posted by operabob View Post
    e,

    You can add this to your BP list.

    Special promo items with lots of attached AirMiles often get used up and aren't replenished quickly on the shelves.

    Get a "rain check" for these items at Customer Service good for 90 days. You can save these up to make it easier to get to $100 when they have the Buy $100 Get 100 bonus AirMiles offer on.

    For those of you more sneaky people, if there are only a few items left you could move them elsewhere on the shelves before showing the CS person the shelf is empty.

    Hint on the rain check: You can ask for multiple items. So if the offer is a Buy 5 Get 50 Airmiles ask for 10 multiples so you can Buy 50 Get 500 AMs.
    Extra cash here - earn by searching/watching videos/doing offers on swagbucks - it's a legit site and pays reliably.

    Already do swagbucks?try Instagc or pm me for invite codes for Gifthulk.

  10. #10
    Canadian Genius operabob's Avatar
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    Also, one thing I just thought of today, since the bulk of my air miles are obtained through my credit card, I'm going to start buying $100 gift cards a month at No Frills or Loblaws. I do most of my shopping at NF so at least I'll get 5 air miles a month by buying the gift card since I get 1 AM for every $20 on my credit cards. Then I'll just use the GCs for my groceries.
    I tend to do similarly like loading up my Tim Card with $60 to get 4 AMs.


    So you can get rainchecks that will give you "airmiles" too when it comes in? Or just the sale price?
    You betcha. There's a spot on the rain check for AM promos. Make sure the CS fills it in.

    whats your advice on choosing the best rewards for the money? I have no clue! I thought about flights, but that seems expensive too???
    I discuss flights at the bottom of the first post here:

    http://forum.smartcanucks.ca/23424-s...-deals-canada/
    OB

    Who Says Men Can't Shop!


  11. #11
    CaLoonie
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    I forgot what is probably the most important tip:

    Don't get seduced by airmiles as a rewards plan. In fact, I advise not to think of airmiles in terms of rewards at all. Their merchandise rewards are not competitive, even the gold "specials". You can do better paying full price at future shop or canadian tire, let alone waiting for a sale on those products. Flight rewards used to be good but have become much less attractive, with fewer seats available, all kinds of hidden fees, restrictions, etc. If you're looking for a single seat and your schedule is flexible then flight rewards might still be a good value, but if you are saving to fly your family of five down to Disneyland you should rethink, especially with Airmiles downgrading their service every year.

    Personally I look for rewards that give me the best dollar value (ie: divide the dollar value of the reward by the number of airmiles required -- higher is better). As long as it's something you can actually use and that doesn't expire. Like they say "cash is king" so the best reward (assuming the dollar values are comparable) is the one that is closest to cash -- eg: gift cards, travel cards, gas cards. There used to be a much wider selection of good gift cards with decent dollar value but Airmiles has severely cut those back. We usually do an annual family vacation where we stay at Best Western hotels (cheap, easy to find) so for me the Best Western travel card (at 13.3cents per airmile) is the best reward. As soon as I have enough I cash out for another card and add it to my stash. Better for me to have the $150 card than to keep the airmiles in my account. Not that I don't trust Airmiles, but I just don't trust Airmiles.

    (Edit: shortly after this post Airmiles increased the cost of these BW cards -- as of Apr 2012 it now takes 950 airmiles to purchase a $100 card instead of $750. Glad I redeemed regularly, at least I have a stash of BW cards where the value is locked in).

    (Edit several months later: Airmiles no longer offers BW cards at all. As of the end of 2013 Airmiles had only three gift card rewards, down from dozens a couple of years ago. They also started imposing extra fees to redeem airmiles for hotel room bookings).

    But back to the main point: rewards should be secondary. You should think of this primarily as a discount program, not a rewards program. Do what operabob recommends -- attach a dollar value to each airmile and subtract this from the price being charged to get the NET price. Use whatever dollar value makes sense for you - 11c is probably a good bet right now based on the gift card values; since I redeem for BW cards that are worth a little over 13c I use that value. Either way, compare this NET price with purchasing the product or service directly elsewhere. If you can buy the thing for net cheaper somewhere else, then DON'T BUY IT JUST BECAUSE IT HAS AIRMILES! The best reward is keeping my cash in my pocket, not waiting to get cash (or some reward) at some distant time in the future. Here's an example:

    Safeway sells a 2lb package of Melitta coffee beans for $18 regularly. Extra Foods has the same coffee at $16 regular price. So if I need coffee right now I'll buy it at Extra Foods. But you should never buy coffee at regular price. You know it comes up for sale with coupons or airmiles every so often, and coffee can be stored for a while. So just keep track of how much coffee you have on hand and approximately how quickly you consume it. When you start running low keep on the lookout for deals.

    Today for example Safeway has the Melitta coffee on sale for $15 plus a "Concord Event" B6G50 bonus (buy 6 get 50 airmiles) which is worth about $6.50 to me (50 x .13). We were running low on coffee so today I bought five coffees plus a Berio olive oil (30% off - we are running low there as well). That makes up the six products I needed for my B6G50 airmiles deal. I also bought two milks (have three kids, go thru lots of that) and two signature cafe pizzas (on sale for 4.99, normally 6.79) with a B2G50 airmiles coupon that came in thru email, making it about $3.50 per pizza. Receipt total was $101.10 which allowed me to use the "spend $100 get 100 airmiles" coupon in the flyer (making the total just barely over $100 wasn't by accident). Total airmiles today was 205, worth $26.65.

    The 100Am coupon is good for another couple of days and we also need a few other items (running low on TP and the purex deal looks good), maybe get some Dads or Lifestyles cookies for a treat for the kids lunches, etc. -- will aim for another $100 purchase on Sunday to get another $26.50 worth of airmiles. You get the picture. Notice I didn't buy anything else at Safeway today. I did buy some salmon, fruits and veg on sale at another store while I was out because their prices are lower (and better quality stuff) than Safeway.

    Bottom line -- don't buy just to get airmiles. Calculate the airmiles as a discount and if it makes it cheaper and it's a product you need anyway, then buy it. If the price with the airmiles discount comes to about the same as the competitor's price, buy from the competitor and save yourself the stress of waiting for the airmiles to be credited and hoping you can still redeem them for the same value two or three months later.
    Last edited by emax; Wed, Dec 11th, 2013 at 07:44 PM.

  12. #12
    CaNewbie
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    This may sound like a lot of work but I found there are a couple of other shopper reward clubs that can be moved into airmiles. For example Club Sobeys points can be converted into Esso Extras. Esso Extras can be converted into HBC Rewards. HBC Rewards can be converted into airmiles. It may seem like a bit of work and some of these have autoconversion options available. At least you have a few new shopping choices besides the typical stores like Metro and Safeway for grocery or Shell for gas.

  13. #13
    CaLoonie
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Molly View Post
    Those of you that have Safeway are lucky, we have Metro and the points are laughable. I get the bulk of my points from my Mastercard and Amex.
    See my fuller response above, but having a Safeway nearby isn't automatically luckier. If you can buy the same product at Metro for cheaper than I can buy it at Safeway, taking into account the airmiles value as a discount, then you are the one who is lucky. Again, don't fall into the trap thinking getting an airmiles bonus is better than not getting the airmiles. That would be true if the products had the same starting price but they usually don't. Think of airmiles as a discount coupon, nothing more.

    As far as getting airmiles from a credit card, again that makes sense if you know the value of the airmiles and the extra cost (if any) of having that card. We ended up going with an MBNA cash-back mastercard for all our regular purchases, not an Airmiles-affiliated credit card. The MBNA card (I think it is called a SmartCash card) gave us 5% cashback on groceries and gas for the first six months, then it went to 3%, and 1% on everything else. No annual fee. That ended up being the best value for us. Again the principle is cash (or cashback) is the best reward.
    Last edited by emax; Fri, Jan 13th, 2012 at 10:32 PM.

  14. #14
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    WOW cant believe how many BP safeway gives out! when i see 10 BP i think that is huge!! Always wondered how people accumulated so many. 1 pt/$20 spent at metro isnt getting me anywhere quickly. 380 pts over 7 years. Ill stick to SDM points.

  15. #15
    Smart Canuck Miss Molly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by emax View Post
    See my fuller response above, but having a Safeway nearby isn't automatically luckier. If you can buy the same product at Metro for cheaper than I can buy it at Safeway, taking into account the airmiles value as a discount, then you are the one who is lucky. Again, don't fall into the trap thinking getting an airmiles bonus is better than not getting the airmiles. That would be true if the products had the same starting price but they usually don't. Think of airmiles as a discount coupon, nothing more.

    As far as getting airmiles from a credit card, again that makes sense if you know the value of the airmiles and the extra cost (if any) of having that card. We ended up going with an MBNA cash-back mastercard for all our regular purchases, not an Airmiles-affiliated credit card. The MBNA card (I think it is called a SmartCash card) gave us 5% cashback on groceries and gas for the first six months, then it went to 3%, and 1% on everything else. No annual fee. That ended up being the best value for us. Again the principle is cash (or cashback) is the best reward.
    I only used Safeway and Metro as comparisons because their prices are comparable. I only shop at Metro when they have things I need that NF and FreshCo don't carry.

    As far as a cashback card, that's something I'll be looking at since AirMiles is getting worse and worse.

    My Tangerine Key is:39626323S1

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