AIR MILES Onyx Review

June 4, 2022

AIR MILES Onyx is the highest status tier available to AIR MILES collectors in Canada. Onyx members get discounts of up to 40% on AIR MILES flights, plus greater access to flights and rewards, but just achieving Onyx status requires spending hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars every single year.

Instead, we recommend you choose one of the many great credit cards that belong to Amex's Membership Rewards program like the Cobalt Card, the American Express Platinum, or the Gold Card, and exchange your MR points for other loyalty points like Aeroplan or Avios. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck.

Instead, we recommend you choose one of the many great credit cards that belong to Amex's Membership Rewards program like the Cobalt Card, the American Express Platinum, or the Gold Card, and exchange your MR points for other loyalty points like Aeroplan or Avios. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck.

#1 What Is AIR MILES Onyx?

Simply put, AIR MILES Onyx is the highest possible elite status in the AIR MILES Rewards program. It brings in the best benefits that AIR MILES Rewards has to offer, including great travel and shopping perks, as well as access to unforgettable events. It took AIR MILES a while to follow in the footsteps of other loyalty programs like Aeroplan which were already offering several levels of rewards by 2014. But in the end, everything fell into place and the Onyx Status was born.

AIR MILES Onyx Benefits: A Quick Take

To give you a spoiler of what it means to be an AIR MILES Onyx collector, here are all the perks that come with it:

Travel Benefits • Access to more flights and better seats
• Up to 40% fewer miles on select flight redemptions
• 10% discount on accompanying partner ticket paid in cash
• Special prices on some vacations packages and cruises
Shopping Benefits • Discounts of up to 20% on all merchandise rewards
• Personal Shopper service to help you purchase anything outside the catalogue (Like a shopping concierge) at no extra cost
• Buy anything you want with your Dream miles at the Cash miles exchange rate of 9,500 miles per every $1,000 ($0.105/mile)
Customer Service BenefitsSpecial dedicated service line for priority at the AIR MILES Call Center
Other Perks • Get invited to special Onyx-only events
• Access to contests for entertainment tickets as well as the chance to meet & greet your favourite artists
• Monthly giveaways, contests and movie tickets

But before we go too deep into the details behind each of these benefits, let's review the different AIR MILES statuses so that you can get a good grip on what's so special about Onyx.

#2 Elite Status Levels In The AIR MILES Program

All loyalty programs offer different levels of rewards and redemptions depending on how “loyal” you are to the brand. In other words, the more you purchase and spend within the program and earn points (in this case AIR MILES), the more benefits you’ll receive for your spending.  In this sense, the AIR MILES Rewards program is no different from other loyalty programs, and it offers three different rewards levels or statuses, depending on the number of miles you earn each calendar year (January 1st through December 31st):

  • Blue Status (from 0 to 999 annual miles)
  • Gold Status (from 1,000 to 5,999 annual miles)
  • Onyx Status (6,000 annual miles or more)

#3 AIR MILES Blue, Gold & Onyx Status

That’s the key question! It’s not about how cool the name is; it’s what it means to be in each level. Check out the following table and compare all the perks and benefits you get with each status in the AIR MILES Rewards Program. The last column is where you want to aim at, since the Onyx status has it all.

STATUS Blue Gold Onyx™
Flights, merchandise and events Standard Prime Premium
AIR MILES Stage Pass
Discounts on Flights   Up to 30% off Up to 40% off
Discounts on merchandise rewards   Up to 10% off Up to 20% off
Exclusive Events  
Top Service    
Personal Shopper Service    

Blue Status

Blue Status is the basic collector status, and you get it just for signing up to the AIR MILES program and getting your Collector’s Card. In short, being Blue doesn't mean much, and it's not elite status. To go elite, you need to spend and earn miles. While you're Blue, you get access to the standard flights, merchandise, and events redemptions, with the possibility to earn and redeem either Dream Miles or Cash Miles. AIR MILES Perks and Stage Pass give all collectors, including Blue collectors, access to special offers, discounts, redemptions and passes to popular events.

You’ll remain a Blue collector every year you earn less than 1,000 miles.

Gold Status

If you reach 1,000 or more miles, but less than 6,000 miles during the calendar year, AIR MILES will upgrade you to Gold status gold. Gold collectors immediately gain access to more flights with better schedules, and they can access better merchandise and events that aren't available to Blue collectors. They still have access to all the perks of Blue, of course, but they also get these Prime AIR MILES benefits, which can be quite valuable.

The most valuable Gold Status benefit is, without a doubt, the discounts of up to 30% on flights. This can really add up to big savings, and the 10% discounts on some consumer products and merchandise don't hurt, either.

#4 AIR MILES Onyx Benefits

Now that we’re clear on all the things that the Blue and Gold statuses include, we finally got to where you want to be: The Onyx Status.

We already gave you a heads up on the pros that come with this tier, but here we'll review the top benefits and show you what they'll be worth to you as an Onyx collector:

Travel Benefits Of The AIR MILES Onyx Status

Even though the AIR MILES program has been known to be a bit weak in the travel department, the upgrades that come with the Onyx AIR MILES status really make a difference:

Premium Flight Rewards

In terms of flights, Premium means that you gain

  • Access to more and better flights
  • Access to more seats
  • Better schedule flexibility

This can really help take the edge off finding available seats on the flight you want to book, which is something some blue and even gold collectors have been known to complain about.

Discount Of Up To 40% On Select Flight Redemptions

Compared to Gold Collectors, AIR MILES Onyx collectors enjoy an additional 10% in discounts on select flight rewards. This makes savings go up to 40%. This is a really valuable benefit, as it could increase the value of your miles by 67%, as long as you can find a flight to use it on.

10% Discount On Companion Ticket Paid In Cash

This is a benefit that is also available for Gold collectors, but it's still well worth mentioning here. Whenever you book a flight reward with your dream miles, you can buy a second ticket for a companion in cash, and you'll get a 10% discount.

Shopping Benefits Of The Onyx AIR MILES Status

Shopping and merchandise rewards are what the AIR MILES program is most famous for, but the Onyx status takes this to another level.

With these shopping benefits, you'll not only get more value from your miles, but you'll also give your dream miles the ultimate flexibility.

Premium Merchandise Rewards

As with the premium flight rewards, premium merchandise means that you'll get access to all of the products and merchandise available in the AIR MILES catalogue.

Discounts Of Up To 20% On All Merchandise Rewards

The discount that comes with the AIR MILES Onyx status in the merchandise rewards category isn't as great as the one on flight redemptions, but it's still a great way to stretch your miles even longer. Additionally, there's also the fact that these discounts are a lot easier to find than the select discounted flights, so in the end, this benefit could offer more value.

By reducing the number of miles you need by 20%, you'll effectively increase your dream miles' value by 25% (I'll explain below)

Personal Shopper Service

The Personal Shopper Service is almost like having a concierge but only for shopping, so let's call it a “Shopping Concierge”. The personal shopper service basically puts an entire team at your disposal to look for and shop for any item you might possibly want, not just the ones in the AIR MILES catalogue!

You can buy literally anything you want, from a brand new iPhone to a Mercedes, all straight out of your dream miles balance, without paying a single cent.

A Benefit With No Fineprint

You're probably thinking “There's gotta be a catch somewhere!” but there isn't:

  • Hidden fees? Not a single one. The service is completely free of charge to Onyx collectors. AIR MILES doesn't just give you access to the service, they literally give it to you. All you have to do is call, request your product and the gears will get into motion.
  • A lower value for your miles? Not even that! You can buy anything you want with your Dream Miles at the regular Cash Miles exchange rate of 9,500 miles per every $1,000 ($0.105/mile).

If you think about it, in a way, this benefit is almost like having the ability to transfer dream miles to the cash balance, and additionally dropping the $750 cap per transaction. It actually lets you save all your miles in your dream balance but without losing the ability to use them as cash miles for merchandise purchases.

Additional AIR MILES Onyx Perks

First-Class Customer Service

Onyx collectors get an independent priority customer service line so they don't have to wait for a service rep to become available. Instead of calling the regular AIR MILES phone number, Onyx collectors call 1-844-399-ONYX (6699) and receive priority service.

This is something good to have in case you need any help, especially considering that AIR MILES has tens of thousands of members all across Canada, which can sometimes saturate the regular customer service line.

Access To Exclusive Onyx Events And Attractions

Great once-in-a-lifetime experiences can be hard to find and plan out, but AIR MILES takes care of its Onyx collectors by pampering them with things like

  • Exclusive wine tastings
  • Exclusive meet & greets with celebrities like famous chefs and artists
  • Fine dining experiences, and more.

To top it off, you also get discounts of up to 20% on spa and golfing experiences.

#5 With AIR MILES Onyx Status, You Can Boost your Dream Mile’s Value By 25% To 67%

Remember that by being an Onyx collector you can get select flights for 40% fewer miles and select merchandise for 20% less. Here I'll show you that this benefit translates into an increase of 25% to 67% in the value of each mile.

A Hypothetical Case Study: A 40% Discounted Flight

Suppose you find a flight that normally costs $1,000, but it’s offered in AIR MILES for 12,500 Dream miles. That would give you a value of $1,000 / 12,500 miles = $0.08 per mile, or 8 cents.

Now suppose that you’re an Onyx Collector and that said ticket is eligible for a 40% discount. This means that it’ll cost 7,500 miles.

However, the value of the ticket is the same $1,000, because it’s the exact same flight. Now, your miles are worth more, because you’re getting the same value for fewer miles. In fact, each mile will be worth, in this hypothetical case, $1,000 / 7,500 miles = $0.1333 per mile, or 13.33 cents. This is 67% more than the original 8 cents per mile valuation.

Have a go and do your own numbers, it’ll be the same every time, no matter how much value the flight you choose will  originally give your miles:

  • If it’s an average deal that gives blue collectors 10 cents per mile, being Onyx will get you 16.67 cents per mile.
  • If the reward flight gives regular members 12 cents per mile, with your Onyx Status, you’ll get 20 cents per mile!

By the same logic, if a $100 product is worth 1,000 miles (at a valuation of 10 cents per mile), the AIR MILES Onyx 20% discount will let you have it at 800 miles, giving you a value of 12.5 cents per mile. have to pay for select merchandise will increase the value of your miles by almost 25%.

#6 How Do I Reach Onyx Status?

As I mentioned above, to reach each status you need to earn a minimum amount of miles. Let's take a closer look at the AIR MILES program.

A Different Sort Of Loyalty Program

The AIR MILES Rewards program has some differences and similarities with other loyalty programs like Aeroplan, Membership Rewards and the Marriott BonvoyTM program. The most important differences reside in the way earning rates are expressed and in the way you store and redeem the AIR MILES you earn, but there are other more subtle differences as well.

The first difference with other popular programs is that AIR MILES is an independent loyalty program, in the sense that it’s not tied to a particular brand or merchant, like Aeroplan, which is tied to Air Canada for example. AIR MILES is owned and run by LoyaltyOne Inc., a company that provides loyalty solutions to other companies in a B2B (business-to-business) model. It’s actually the partner companies who offer you reward miles through LoyaltyOne Inc., for your purchases. This basically translates into three things:

  • Each partner merchant has its own rewarding scheme, depending on the terms agreed with LoyaltyOne.
  • There are literally hundreds to thousands of merchants in Canada where you can shop and earn AIR MILES Rewards miles.
  • There are also hundreds of different ways to redeem your points.

AIR MILES members are called Collectors, and when you sign up, you receive an AIR MILES Collector’s Card, reminiscent of the Aeroplan Card you get when you join that loyalty program. Just like in the latter case, you show this card at eligible merchants to earn points on purchases, and you use this card to pay for eligible purchases with your miles.

A Different Way To Express Earning Rates

Earning rates in the AIR MILES Rewards program are expressed a bit differently from other programs. Instead of miles per every $1, they are expressed as the amount you have to spend on purchases to earn each mile.

To compare earning rates when expressed like this, you have to consider that the lower the number, the better the earning rate, because you need to spend less to earn each mile. If the amount of dollars is four times greater, the earning rate is four times lower.

Let me show you what I mean with the following example of a $140 purchase at different typical earning rates:

Earning Rate Total Purchase Miles Earned
$35 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $35 = 4 miles
$20 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $20 = 7 miles
$15 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $15 = 9.33 miles
$10 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $10 = 14 miles
$5 per 1 mile $140 $140 x 1mile / $5 = 28 miles

Comparing the first and last earning rates will clearly show what I just said: $5 per mile is seven times lower than $35, but you earn 28 miles on a $140 purchase, which is seven times greater than 4 miles.

This has some other setbacks apart from this a non-intuitive way to interpret the earning rate. The biggest problem is that you can’t add these earning rates when you earn more than one rate on the same purchase, but we’ll get back to that further down the post.

Many Ways To Earn AIR MILES

AIR MILES provides plenty of ways for you to earn miles and become an Onyx AIR MILES Collector. As a loyalty program, the first one is obvious: shopping at partner brands. However, the list doesn’t stop there, and you’ll see that the AIR MILES program has a lot more to offer.

Shopping at Partner Brands

As stated above, you can buy at any of AIR MILES Rewards’ partners or sponsors and receive points for your purchases. This includes both in-store and online purchases. To earn your miles, all you have to do is present your collector’s card to the cashier or at check-out, and you’re set.

Check out the FAQs section at the end of this post where you'll find a complete list of all the AIR MILES Sponsors, along with their respective miles earning rate offers.

Special Rewards: Booking Hotel Stays Through AIR MILES Travel Hub

As a special offer, if you book and pay for hotels through AIR MILES’ online travel booking system, Travel Hub, you could earn as much as 1,000 AIR MILES per night, depending on the property. Additionally, if you book any hotel before the end of 2019, you’ll also receive an extra 75 miles bonus.

With this method, you could get some seriously high earning rates. If you book a room at the Boston Park Plaza, for example, paying the $190 would get you, at the normal rate of $5 to a mile:  $190 x 1mile/$5 = 38 miles.

However, if you book through Travel Hub, you’ll receive 440 AIR MILES per night.

That’s over ten times what you would get, just for booking through their travel service!

Buying AIR MILES Rewards Miles

Picture this scenario:

It's December 30th and you check your annual miles earnings and see that you're only short by 100 miles to reach AIR MILES Onyx status (in other words, you're at 5,900 miles). You're so close, and you don't have too many options, given how little time you have. What are your options?

  1. Make a purchase to earn the extra miles
  2. Get those extra miles somehow, or
  3. Forget about Onyx for another year

Of course, nobody wants to have to choose the third option, but the first one implies making a $2,000 purchase at the average $20 per mile rate. You spent so much on Christmas already that putting forth an extra 2K for a random purchase seems unreasonable.

You can buy your miles, but they’re not cheap! You pay 30 cents per mile, which is quite a bit more than what those miles will be worth to you in the end, so it's something to keep as a last resort. However, in the present circumstances, spending $30 to get the extra miles so that you can enjoy all the benefits Onyx offers for an entire year seems more than reasonable.

#7 FAQs

What is the earning rate on AIR MILES sponsors?

There are many AIR MILES sponsors or partners, and each has its own rewarding scheme. In the following tables you'll find the full list of all in-store and online partners along with their respective earning rates:

In-Store Partners

• Ace ($20 per mile)
• ADI ($50 per mile)
• Alamo Rent-A-Car (5 miles per day of rental)
• Auto Plus UniSelect
• Best Western (20 miles per stay)
• Budget Car & Truck Rental ($15 per mile)
• Cedarlane Laboratories ($25 per mile)
• Co-op Atlantic ($30 per mile)
• Co-op Country Store ($30 per mile)
• Craftsman Collision ($15 per mile)
• FOODLAND ATLANTIC ($20 per mile)
• Fountain Tire ($20 per mile)
• Gerrie Electric ($30 per mile)
• Gescan ($30 per mile)
• Global Pet Foods ($20 per mile)
• Goodyear ($20 per mile)
• HearingLife Canada (N/A)
• Hudson’s Bay Rewards (N/A)
• IGA (Excludes Quebec Stores) ($20 per mile)
• IGA Express ($10 per mile)
• Intercontinental Hotel Groups (IHG)
o InterContinental Hotels and Resorts ($5 per mile)
o Crowne Plaza ($5 per mile)
o Hotel Indigo ($5 per mile)
o Holiday Inn ($5 per mile)
o Holiday Inn Express ($5 per mile)
o Staybridge Suites ($5 per mile)
o Candlewood Suites Hotel ($5 per mile)
• Irving Oil (1 mile per 20L)
• Jean Coutu ($15 per mile)
• Jiffy Lube ($20 per mile)
• Johnsons Insurance ($20 per mile)
• Kent (N/A)
• Lawtons Drugs ($20 per mile)
• LCBO ($30 per mile)
• Les Marchés Tradition ($20 per mile)
• Lowes ($20 per mile)
• Lumen ($30 per mile)
• Lumino Health (100 bonus miles)
• Macdonalds Consolidated (N/A)
• Manitoba Liquor Marts ($30 per mile)
• Manulife (N/A, earn miles for your Quote)
• Metrobus (N/A)
• Metro ($20 per mile)
• National Car Rental (10 to 40 miles per day of rental)
• Needs (N/A)
• Nettoyeurs Daoust ($10 per mile)
• NLC Liquor Stores ($25 per mile)
• NSLC (N/A)
• OSSO Electrical ($30 per mile)
• Pharmasave ($10 per mile)
• Primus ($15 per mile)
• Rachelle-Béry ($20 per mile)
• Reno Depot ($20 per mile)
• Rexall ($20 per mile)
• RONA (Excludes ACE) ($20 per mile)
• RSA ($20 per mile)
• Safeway Grocery ($20 per mile)
• Safeway Liquor ($20 per mile)
• Safeway Pharmacy (7 miles for $20, conditions apply)
• SaskEnergy ($20 per mile)
• Shell AVIATION ($25 per mile)
• Shell Bulk Fuel (1 mile per 100L)
• Shell Residential Heating Oil ($30 per mile, or 1 mile per 30L of oil)
• Shell Retail ($10 in-store purchase per mile, or 1 mile per 15L of fuel)
• Sobeys Atlantic ($20 per mile)
• Sobeys Ontario ($20 per mile)
• Sobeys Urban Fresh ($20 per mile)
• Staples Canada ($40 per mile)
• Thrifty Foods ($20 per mile)
• Thrifty Foods Liquor ($20 per mile)
• TIMBER Mart ($15 per mile)
• United Van Lines ($30 per mile)

Online Partners

When comparing the different earning rates in the tables, it’s clear that you’ll get the best deals with hotel stays and purchases.

The absolute best-earning rate is 1 mile for every $5 at any of the Intercontinental Hotels Group properties. The worst-case scenario would be ADI, where you’ll need to spend $50 to earn a single mile. The average earning rate for this category is very close to 1 mile for every $20 in purchases. In the case of online stores and retailers, most offer a rate of $20 in purchases for every mile, but a few offer each mile for $35.

Are there special rewards to earn miles?

Yes, there are. One is booking hotels through AIR MILES’ online travel booking system, Travel Hub, you could earn as much as 1,000 miles per night. There are also occasional, limited-time offers on select sponsors where you can earn a lot more miles than you would just for the purchase alone.

Can I buy AIR MILES Bonus Miles?

Yes, you can, but they’re not cheap! You pay 30 cents per mile, which is quite a bit more than those miles will be worth to you in the end, so only keep this as a last resort, and only when you’re short by a few miles. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense.

Do AIR MILES expire?

AIR MILES Bonus Miles will expire if your account is inactive for 24 consecutive months. To prevent your Bonus Miles from expiring, you just need to earn or redeem your AIR MILES at least once during every 24-month period.

AIR MILES will send you multiple emails as your miles approach their expiry date, but if those emails end up in your Junk folder, you might miss them. Our suggestion is that if you haven't used your AIR MILES Onyx card in a while, bring it out and start earning some miles to prevent those you already have from expiring!

Does my AIR MILES Onyx status expire?

Your AIR MILES Onyx status is valid from the day you achieve it until the end of the following year. For example, if you qualify for Onyx status on July 1, 2020, your Onyx status will expire on December 31, 2021. If you meet the requirements for maintaining your status during that span, it will not expire.

In Summary

AIR MILES Onyx status offers reasonable value if you're a frequent AIR MILES user, but the low value of most AIR MILES flight redemptions and the difficulty of achieving Onyx status make it a tough sell. The only viable way of reaching Onyx status is spending tens of thousands of dollars at AIR MILES partners each year.

Instead, we recommend you choose one of the many great credit cards that belong to Amex's Membership Rewards program like the Cobalt Card, the American Express Platinum, or the Gold Card, and exchange your MR points for other loyalty points like Aeroplan or Avios. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck.

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