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