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Using loyalty points is one way Canadians can offset the rising costs of food.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The cost of food has risen sharply and Canadians are feeling the pinch. Grocery store chief executives have been grilled about their record profits by members of Parliament, but that won’t bring consumers any relief.

Using loyalty points is one way to offset rising costs, but with the recent announcement that Bank of Montreal will acquire Air Miles, many people are wondering what to do with their points. The good news is that the loyalty space in Canada has never been livelier, so if you don’t think you’re getting value out of your points, it’s time to shop around.

PC Optimum

Participating grocery stores: Loblaws, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Fortinos, Independent, Valu-Mart and Zehrs

Other merchants that offer and redeem points: Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharmaprix, PC Travel, Esso and Mobil stations and Joe Fresh

PC Optimum is arguably the most valuable grocery loyalty program, since you can earn and redeem points at some of the most popular grocery stores, drugstores and gas stations in Canada. At participating grocery stores, you earn PC Optimum points on in-store and targeted offers. At Shoppers Drug Mart, you earn 15 points per dollar spent on purchases.

To really increase your value, you could get a co-branded credit card. For example, the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard earns you 30 points per dollar spent at grocery stores owned by Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Esso and Mobil stations and PC Travel. Purchases at Shoppers Drug Mart earn you 45 points per dollar spent when factoring in the regular earn rate of 15 points per dollar. That works out to a 3-per-cent and 4.5-per-cent return in points, respectively.

To really maximize your value, you’ll want to take advantage of any weekly or targeted offers, as you can get a huge haul of points. There are even Facebook groups filled with members who are happy to share their points information.

Alternatively, Shoppers Drug Mart holds bonus points events about four times a year, at which you can get increased value. For example, a recent offer got you $300 off if you redeemed 200,000 PC Optimum points. That’s an extra $100 compared to the regular redemption rate, or a 50-per-cent increase.


Participating grocery stores: Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, IGA and Rachelle Béry

Other merchants that offer and redeem points: Cineplex, Rakuten, Apple, Best Buy, Swiss Chalet, Montana’s, Kelseys, East Side Mario’s and The Rec Room

Scene+ is the loyalty program for grocery stores owned by Empire Co. Ltd. Similar to PC Optimum, you’ll earn points on targeted and weekly in-store offers. The real value is if you have the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card, since you’ll earn six points per dollar spent at Empire-owned grocery stores. That’s the highest earn rate you’ll get at grocery stores with a credit card.

What also makes Scene+ stand out from other grocery loyalty programs is that it has a variety of partners. You can earn and redeem points at Cineplex movie theatres and participating restaurants. Scene+ also allows you to redeem your points for any travel purchase charged to your eligible Scotiabank credit card.

Air Miles

Participating grocery stores: Metro (Ontario)

Other merchants that offer and redeem points: Shell and Budget Car Rental

Air Miles filed for bankruptcy protection last week, but it was thrown a lifeline when BMO said it will buy the program. There’s no real rush any more to cash out your points, but the loyalty program is still on shaky ground due to a lack of partners. For the time being, you can still earn one Air Mile for every $20 spent at Metro. You can also take advantage of some weekly in-store offers. The other major retailer at which you can earn Air Miles is Shell gas stations.

To complicate things, Air Miles allows you to collect two types of miles: cash and dream. Cash miles can be used for gift cards (95 Air Miles gets you $10), whereas dream miles can be redeemed for travel and merchandise. The issue is that you can’t transfer your miles between the two. If you have a co-branded Air Miles credit card, you can earn Air Miles on every purchase. That said, with the future of Air Miles being cloudy, it might be a good time to reassess how loyal you are.


Participating grocery stores: Metro (Quebec) and Super C

Other merchants that offer and redeem points: Jean Coutu and Première Moisson

The metro&moi program was launched back in 2010 in Metro stores in Quebec, but the chain just announced it will rebrand the program to MOI in the spring of 2023. This is a welcome announcement, as it will now include Metro, Jean Coutu, Super C and Première Moisson as partner merchants.

Right now, you’ll earn one point for every dollar spent. You’ll also get targeted offers in the app that allow you to earn more points. For example, earn 75 points when you spend $5 on fruit. Once you’ve earned 500 points, you can redeem $4 in rewards.

What’s interesting about MOI is there’s an opportunity to double dip. You’ll earn your m points as long as you scan your app or card when checking out. You can earn additional points with your form of payment. For example, the American Express Cobalt Card gives you five points per dollar spent at grocery stores. That’s a 5-per-cent return on top of the m points you’ve earned.

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at He was previously affiliated with PC Optimum, but currently has no relationship with any of the brands mentioned.

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