Air Miles – easily Canada’s largest coalition loyalty program with over 10 million active collectors – underwent major structural changes in 2011 and one effect of those changes will be felt at the end of 2016 so warrants attention now to ensure banked miles don’t disappear.

In 2011 Air Miles unveiled a new feature called Air Miles Cash which enabled collectors to redeem miles instantly at select merchants but also informed its collectors that every mile they earned would come with a five-year expiry date, meaning that all the miles earned until then would need to be used by 31st December, 2016 or would expire while new miles would expire on a rolling five-year calendar. Think of it as a time stamp for each mile that adds a ‘best before’ date forcing members to use them or lose them as unspent miles represent a liability on the books for Air Miles owner Loyalty One. Note that this five-year mile expiry is different than the two-year expiry for accounts with no activity.

While the looming expiry deadline is unlikely to effect the majority of collectors who stands to lose the most is the minority carrying large ‘Dream Miles’ balances and have not redeemed for any awards since 2011 who may be saving up for that big trip as it’s these miles that are at risk.

To check whether your miles are at risk of expiring, sign on with your collector number and PIN to Air Miles website and on your main account page there’s a tab ‘Request Expiry Statement’ which I’ve highlighted in yellow in the screenshot below which once clicked will send an email within 24 hours highlighting mile expiry dates.

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In my case thanks to a few major redemptions in recent years that took my balance almost down to zero my expiry statement showed no miles at risk.

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A few things to remember about Air Miles

  • Dream Miles may not be transferred into Cash Miles
  • Dream Miles may be transferred into another Dream Miles account and Cash Miles into another Cash Miles account of a spouse, family member or friend for a fee of $0.15 per mile plus a $10 service fee per transaction to avoid expiry as transfers extend the validity for another five years from transfer date
  • Redemptions use the oldest Air Miles first
  • Once miles have expired from either a Dream Miles or Cash Miles account they cannot be reinstated

While the ability to transfer miles to a family member or friend as a gift might appear attractive to a collector with a large balance the gifting of miles comes with a fairly unattractive fee so the better avenue would be, for example, to redeem for air tickets in that person’s name from your account.

The choices for Dream Miles redemptions is diverse from merchandise to premium ‘experience’ reward packages called Stage Pass with tickets and VIP perks to major concert events and big ticket cruises, car rentals, hotels, air tickets so if a collector has hoarded their Air Miles for more than five years there are plenty of ways to  reward themselves with merchandise or travel they might not otherwise consider paying for out-of-pocket.

As with anything of value investing some time to ensure your miles won’t expire on New Year’s Day is time well spent but note that because of increased demand you may have to spend more time trying to get through to Air Miles as reports have surfaced about lengthy hold times including in this CBC article. An Air Miles email recently acknowledged member frustration at long hold times.

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The email goes on to admit that while “everything you need to know about the AIR MILES Reward Program is on airmiles.ca” that “there have been intermittent website availability issues due to high activity” and that website stability is a top priority. As demand for redemptions is only likely to increase ensuring your account is squared away well ahead of the New Year’s Day deadline should be a member top priority.