The Air Miles rewards program underwent major changes back in 2011. First, the popular loyalty program phased out the ability to redeem Air Miles for gift certificates and instead introduced a new feature called Air Miles Cash as a way for its members to redeem their rewards instantly online or at participating retailers. The second and more controversial announcement was of a new expiry policy for Air Miles rewards.

The policy stated that as of December 31st, 2011 all Air Miles reward miles in your account will have a date stamp of five years, which means that any reward miles that have been earned before December 31st, 2011 will need to be redeemed by December 31st, 2016.

With that date quickly approaching many Air Miles collectors – especially those with large balances – are wondering if their Air Miles are going to expire and become worthless. More importantly, since for many people that answer is yes, Air Miles collectors want to know what to do with their rewards miles between now and the end of the year.

I reached out to a spokesperson from Air Miles to get those answers and more. Here’s what she had to say:

What the Air Miles expiry policy means to collectors who have a substantial amount of unused miles:

Air Miles’ expiry policy was first announced in 2011. The policy states that beginning December 31, 2016, reward miles older than five years will begin to expire on a quarterly basis. Quarters are set up as the following:

  • March 31
  • June 30
  • September 30
  • December 31

For example, a mile you got in January 2014 would expire, if unused, after March 30, 2019. Collectors who engage, get and use miles regularly, will be least affected by expiry.

To make sure your miles don’t expire before you use them, you can request a personalized expiry statement to show you how many miles are due to expire each quarter, for the next 12 months. To request an expiry statement, sign into www.airmiles.ca using your collector number and PIN.

Once you’re signed in, click on Your Profile on the top right corner of the screen, from there you can click on Request Expiry Statement, which you’ll receive in an email within 24 hours. For a shortcut to the page, visit: https://www.airmiles.ca/expiry

What is the difference between an expiry and an inactive account?

An inactive account is one that has had no transactional activity for 24 consecutive months or longer – in other words, no reward miles have been earned, redeemed, donated or transferred in that time. Air Miles accounts that have not earned, redeemed, donated or transferred at least one reward mile for 24 consecutive months will be closed.

Can collectors transfer their Dream Miles to Air Miles Cash in order to use them up faster?

Unfortunately, collectors are not able to transfer their Dream Miles to Air Miles Cash. However, there are a lot of options for collectors to use their reward miles before they expire.

What else can Air Miles be used for?

Chances are, if you’ve been hoarding Air Miles for many years, you’ve been saving them up for a dream vacation.

This Flight Reward Map shows the standard zone mileage table for Air Miles flights, including the corresponding seasonality dates. The chart indicates the minimum number of miles required:

Air Miles Flight Rewards Chart

In addition to flights, Air Miles rewards can be used for everyday purchases like groceries, gas and movie tickets as well as merchandise.

Final thoughts

When I found out about the Air Miles expiry policy back in 2011 I immediately switched my account preferences to start collecting Air Miles Cash rewards instead of Air Miles Dream Rewards. That way, every time I reached 95 Air Miles, I could redeem them instantly for $10 off at a grocery store, restaurant, or movie theatre.

It’s tough to argue that Air Miles didn’t give its collectors sufficient warning that their rewards miles would eventually expire. But recently I’ve been flooded with emails and comments from readers who were stunned to find out that any Air Miles collected five years ago or more might become worthless by this time next year.

Air Miles’ expiry policy makes it more difficult to accumulate the large number of Air Miles rewards needed for a free flight or a dream vacation. But for many collectors, five years is plenty of time to cash in your rewards. Plus, a two-year window to keep your Air Miles account active through some sort of earning or redemption activity is quite reasonable – twice as long as Aeroplan’s active account policy.

This change is a reflection of the way the Air Miles program is moving towards instant redemption at sponsors through the Air Miles Cash initiative. The expiry policy won’t affect every Air Miles collector, but the ones who are saving up for a big vacation should start mapping out their itinerary now and plan to use their reward miles sooner than later.

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48 Comments

  1. Jeanette on March 18, 2016 at 5:18 am

    Thank you for this post. I was unaware that my points were going to expire.

    • suzan on September 10, 2016 at 6:16 am

      If you are persistent you can get a schedule from air miles showing month by month when your points expire

  2. Karen on March 18, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I did not now this and now that I do I will start to use my airmiles cash up as it accumulates.

    • suzan on September 10, 2016 at 6:18 am

      Try contacting this email with your concerns too. I am not interested in converting to cash I want to see the expiry eliminated.

      Officeofthepresident@loyalty.com

  3. Jennifer on March 18, 2016 at 6:29 am

    When I went to confirm my air miles expiry dates, I found out that ONYX status members aren’t affected by the expiry rules, as long as their account remains in ONYX status.

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:37 am

      Thanks Jennifer! Just to let readers know, to achieve ONYX status you would need to collect 6,000 miles within one calendar year.

      “To recognize top Collectors who are Onyx, we are offering them Miles Protection, so long as they remain Onyx each year.”

    • suzan on September 10, 2016 at 6:20 am

      This only make expiry for us common folks even more of a slap in the face. Royalty get to keep what they earn ans we lose what we work for.

  4. Cmtchuck on March 18, 2016 at 7:14 am

    FYI, it is easiest to request travel rewards online. With all the news on expiry, telephone wait times are usually at least 2 hours, and if you request a call back, the messages says “within 4 hours”…..usually 2-3…..good luck!

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:38 am

      Thanks for the tip!

  5. Roy Murray on March 18, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Thanks for the story. I checked my last few years of collecting and the rewards seem to be not worth the bother. Plus trying to find something to buy from my pitiful number (<800) of points is an exercise in frustration as Air Miles seems to want you to pay cash as well as redeem points.

    • Beth on March 19, 2016 at 5:46 am

      I’m in the same boat. I switched to the cash option but had these AirMiles left over…

      I’ve been redeeming them for a magazine subscription to Money Sense. I got that idea from a comment on a PF blog somewhere so now I’m paying it forward 🙂

    • Cmtchuck on March 19, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      It may be worthwhile to sign up for a new credit card with sign up bonus miles that will get you to your required level….BMO & AX are worth looking into

    • Denis on March 31, 2016 at 7:07 am

      Very true.
      Also, the value of points has decreased tremendously over years.
      8 years ago, I flew to France from Montreal and came back from Madrid for about 4000 miles and little fees. Today, it demands many more points.

      It is the same problem with value of Aeroplan points, although the Aimia stock skyrockets !

  6. F on March 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I started to collect Air Miles for flights and used them for just that. However, before the change in policy in 2011 I found it harder and harder to redeem for flights. Even when planning trips about a year in advance. I fly at least once every year and have not been able to redeem any points in the last 4 years as Air Miles doesn’t have the flights I want available for redemption. So yes I was aware. Yes I planned. But no I was not given the opportunity to use them as I wanted. Now I am left to find away to use them for something I don’t want … for something that was not the intent when I first started collecting them over 20 years ago. I also now only collect Cash … there is no Dream. Cancelled my BMO Gold card a few years back also. There was no point in it anymore.

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:43 am

      @F – That’s unfortunate that you haven’t been able to find a flight reward that’s suitable for you. It’s frustrating to feel like you’re forced to use miles that you worked so hard to collect over the years on something that won’t bring you joy.

  7. Jim on March 18, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Above you wrote “It’s tough to argue that Air Miles didn’t give its collectors sufficient warning that their rewards miles would eventually expire. ” and I wonder why? I cannot recollect having received any explicit communication from AirMiles about this or indeed any other changes to their program. The only reason I know about the upcoming changes are because of your good work as well as some other comments I’ve read online and in the print media.

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:45 am

      Hi Jim, maybe you’re right and I’m looking at it from the perspective of someone who was “in-the-know” back when they announced the changes. I remember writing about it and it seemed to be reported on quite extensively in the media, but perhaps the Air Miles company didn’t communicate the changes very well with its collectors – I can’t recall either.

      Thanks for your comment.

      • T. Rawsthorne on July 29, 2016 at 12:54 pm

        Doesn’t anyone remember the fiasco with Air Canada’s Areoplan Miles and the inadequate communication to customers who collected Aeroplan Miles only to find that they were about to lose them. They launched a lawsuit (http://bc.ctvnews.ca/angry-customers-launch-class-action-lawsuit-against-aeroplan-1.1104441). I am surprised that their is such a passive response to this change. Air Miles must think that as collectors we spent every day thinking about their 2011 announcement of the expiration of the rewards – Not. After they did that, it became harder to find a flight to where I needed to go through Air Miles Program. So much for loyalty.

  8. Carlee on March 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for this good information – I just ordered my expiry statement. I have been a collector for over 20 years and am one of those saving up for the something “big” – so far just one redemption a few years ago for a rental car when visiting Arizona. Looks like I will be redeeming again soon!

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:47 am

      Thanks Carlee – good luck and I hope you’re able to use your remaining balance for something special.

  9. Maria on March 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve been collecting airmiles for ages, but have never redeemed them. Is it possible to donate them to a charity? If so do you know what charities accept airmiles?

    Thank you.

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Hi Maria, unfortunately you can’t donate miles from your Air Miles Dream account – only from your Air Miles Cash account – https://changeit.airmiles.ca/browse

      You can combine an Air Miles Card with your spouse, family, or friend for a fee of $0.15 per Mile, plus a $10 service fee per transaction; taxes are additional and determined by the province listed on the profile.

      You can also transfer Dream Miles to another Dream Account – details are not given on the Air Miles website but instead they want you to contact Air Miles directly.

      • Maria on March 19, 2016 at 5:31 pm

        Thank you for the information Echo!

        • the.weight on March 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm

          At a transfer fee of $0.15 a mile it would cost $14.25 to transfer $10 worth of miles (95 miles). Not worth it.

  10. Beth on March 19, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Thank you for this article! I didn’t know about the expiration either — I guess I haven’t been paying enough attention. That short cut you provided was really helpful – I had expected it to be in the “your profile” drop down and it wasn’t.

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Thanks Beth, I’m glad you found this helpful. Enjoy your MoneySense subscription!

  11. Bryan on March 19, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Thanks for the reminder. I just looked at their online redemption store and I am struggling to find anything useful with my 950 dream miles. You wrote “In addition to flights, Air Miles rewards can be used for everyday purchases like groceries, gas and movie tickets as well as merchandise.” For the everyday purchases, is that solely in reference to Cash Miles?
    Also, I find their “Dream Rewards” section extremely difficult to navigate. With 8 main tabs and then multiple sub-sections within those tabs, they make it impossible to search all items and also sort them from low to high redemption cost. Am I missing something? Any insight on actually “shopping” with my miles would be greatly appreciated too!

    • Echo on March 19, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Hi Bryan, yes the everyday purchases is for Air Miles Cash reward miles. I too find the Dream Rewards section difficult to navigate (or to find anything of value to redeem, for that matter).

      Perhaps someone can share their tips here in the comments section.

  12. Cmtchuck on March 19, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    For clarity, to get “expiry statement”, go to 1- “Your profile” 2-“view transactions” 3-“request expiry statement”….quick service….

  13. PC on March 29, 2016 at 8:04 am

    I just found out that onyx status will protect my miles and so they do not expire as long as I have onyx status. Could I be clarified if I have the miles protection as soon as I achieve onyx status? I have lots of miles expiring Dec 31, 2016. Technically, I am collecting miles to become ” onyx” in 2017 and I am “gold” now. Thanks.

    • Echo on March 31, 2016 at 8:07 am

      Hi PC, I asked a spokesperson from Air Miles to clarify the exemption for ONYX members and this is what they said:

      “The Air Miles ONYX program was designed to reward collectors who get at least 6,000 miles within one calendar year (January to December).

      To recognize top Collectors who are ONYX, we are offering them Miles Protection, so long as they remain Onyx each year.”

      My understanding is that your miles will not expire as long as you have ONYX status. So if you had miles set to expire in 2017, your ONYX status will protect them.

      • Ger on July 17, 2016 at 1:26 am

        Do you know if your points total has to reach 6,000 points earned at least once during the year to become Onyx? Or is it the actual number earned during the year, i.e. Reach 4,000 then use 2,000 partway thru the year then earn another 2,000 total cumulative is still 6,000. Also how tinged info on points for all points not just 24 months? Any info appreciated.

  14. Cmtchuck on March 30, 2016 at 8:30 am

    One more thought….if you can book your “miles” ticket, especially in “low” months, the value is much more than the airmiles cash. A ticket to BC @ 3800 airmiles was worth about $700 if booked same days/same flights on Air Canada but the cash value @95 miles/$10 would be only $400

  15. Andre on March 31, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Could someone clarify for me please.

    If I have 90 miles expiring on 31/12/16 and I now redeem 95 miles out of the cash rewards part, will it save my expiring “dream” miles?
    In other words are the 2 accounts linked when expiring miles are determined by Air Miles.

  16. Dai Lo on April 10, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Actually they did give sufficient warning but since 2011 they have been rapidly phasing out redemption rewards (flights, gift cards, travel vouchers) such that you are only able to redeem it on low value items that are not their worth in miles.

    Ergo, sufficient warning or not, they will not be able to used which is actually worse than not giving warning but keeping all redemption options open which would have caused a run on the bank but at least it would have been better for the consumer.

  17. lesley taylor on April 14, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Frustrating that Air Miles is not being more proactive in communicating this change. So many people will be caught off guard and lose their miles. Who paid attention to what was announced Five years ago? thanks for reminding people. Air Miles could easily put this measure on their main web page.

  18. Joyce N on August 7, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    One question that I have not seen answered anywhere, can you use expiring Air Miles to book travel that occurs after the expiry, eg booking travel for, say, February 2017 on August 15, 2016 , with air miles that will expire on December 31, 2016?

    • Marie Normore on August 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      I am wondering the same thing
      If I book the flight ( for 2017) before dec 31st … Is that considered redeeming the miles that are due to expire

      • Echo on August 9, 2016 at 9:01 am

        Hi Joyce & Marie, you can book your flight now for travel in 2017. Just be aware of fees for cancellation or changes to your itinerary.

        • Joyce N on August 9, 2016 at 1:49 pm

          Yes, thanks. Was FINALLY able to get thru to Air Miles just before you replied. Appreciate your help.

          • David on September 16, 2016 at 12:55 pm

            I was wondering if anyone had written confirmation from Air Miles stating a trip can be booked in 2016 for 2017 using Air Miles that would expire December 31st 2016? I would really appreciate an email confirmation.



  19. Elaine on August 14, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Here’s something all Google chrome browser users should know.
    If you go to book ‘travel’ & then ‘flights’ with your air miles and get a message that their website is unable to handle flight booking at this time etc etc..
    After that EVERY time you go to airmiles website flight booking page the same message will be there & you won’t be able to book.
    I had to switch to firefox to get an air miles webpage where I could search & book flights. VERY frustrating, as by the time I figured out the problem was the browser & not the air miles website, my flight dates were no longer available with airmiles!!
    I tried to phone them in the middle of my problem searching and it was a 2 hr wait or a call back but then they said the call back system wasn’t available.

  20. Edward Gonsalves on September 5, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    They should allow members to transfer miles between Dream and Cash, the only reason they refuse to allow transfers is because they know that most Dream miles will expire before being used which is exactly what they want.

  21. suzan on September 10, 2016 at 6:24 am

    I want miles protection for the common member not just for the elite! This is even worse offering something to some members but not others.

    Try contacting Officeofthepresident@loyalty.com

  22. Susan on September 26, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Food for thought. BMO / Master Card, Safeway and ESSO gas are big promotors of Air Miles. Why aren’t they speaking up for us? I have 16,000 points that took 10 years to save for a big trip. I was on hold for 4 hours and at 4:50 a machine said “Sorry we are closing for the day” I for one will not be dealing with Master Card or Safeway after this. I think that they have the power to make change. Just a thought!

    • Bill on September 27, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      Yes. I am in the same boat with 19, 000 about to expire points. My latest MasterCard Bill showed the charges for our two cards, but where is the Bank of Montreal in defending its cardholders. The expense of using the cards has been passed on to the Merchants. What to do?

  23. Joe on October 29, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I have been a number of times on Airmiles web page since 2011, but have never noticed any expiry warning. Perhaps they sent me an email 5 years ago which went to junk mail.

    It also obvious that they made it impossible to book anything or find anything useful.
    Flights to most destinations in Europe cannot longer be booked.
    Merchandise you can still buy is mostly a collection of useless items which otherwise vendors cannot sell. Anything of value is priced in $ + miles, but $ portion being much larger.
    Car rental seems to be still possible but value of $/mile is not very good.
    What a waste of time for over 20 years. Once I redeem my 15,000 miles for some remaining junk, I will cancel my membership.

    • Susan on October 29, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      It took me a week between being on hold and waiting for call backs. @ 4:45 the machine would come on saying we are now closing and they would either say call back or leave a number, day and time and they would call back. They didn’t. I did finally book the cruise but no flights left on their Airmiles selection. Had 8000 miles left but I had to buy my own . The only way that I could complete everything on time was to go through their Facebook and their Live Chat on line.

      The next week the emailed me notice that as a reward I was bumped up to Onyx which gives you more seats and more prizes to buy. Well I decided to use up all of my remaining Dream points and fly to New Orleans for Christmas. All of the Gold card Seats at around 7000 points were gone. Onyx had some available (the same seat not business or first class) at 9000+. I did buy it paid the tax and the extra miles that I needed.

      Like you I have now cancelled Airmiles. I got BMO Airpoints. I have the basic AirMiles card for use at Safeway I just now need to trade it in for a cash one. There are 45 Airmiles left. It was a terrible experience. You never get to talk to management. Loyalty One does not care and the telephone people are just doing their job.

      BMO, Safeway, Lowe’s and ESSO are big supporters of Airmiles they should have been up front supporting us.

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