The Canadian loyalty program, AIR MILES, has added a date stamp to its currency. AIR MILES members will now have five years to spend their miles. Miles that were earned prior to Dec. 31, 2011 will expire on Dec. 31, 2016. Miles earned after Dec. 31 will expire in five years at the end of the quarter. For example, miles earned on Feb. 7, 2012 will expire on March 31, 2017. The expiration date is in addition to the inactivity rule, which states that accounts without any activity for 24 consecutive months will be closed. Activity includes earning, redeeming, donating and transferring miles.
AIR MILES is also adding a new redemption option where members can redeem miles instantly at checkout with AIR MILES Cash when making purchases at participating retailers. You must have a balance of at least 95 miles in your AIR MILES Cash balance to redeem instantly and 95 miles is the equivalent of $10 towards your purchase. You can redeem in $10 increments up to $200 per day, including taxes.
Your AIR MILES Cash balance will be separate from your Dream account and you must opt in to start accruing AIR MILES Cash. You can set your balance preference and choose where you want to earn rewards. For example, if you set a balance preference of 60 percent Dream and 40 percent AIR MILES Cash, you’ll earn six Dream miles, which can be used for travel and other types of awards, and four AIR MILES Cash miles for every 10 miles earned. You cannot transfer miles between your Cash and Dream accounts.
Bottom line: AIR MILES has a Rewards Catalog where members can redeem smaller balances for merchandise, including movie tickets or iTunes songs for less than 200 miles, or you can combine cash and miles for awards. If your miles are going to expire before you have enough saved up for your dream trip, you can at least redeem them for something. And if you like the flexibility of redeeming for cash, you can now use your miles as currency at participating retailers. But once you designate to earn a portion of your miles as cash rewards, you won’t be able to use those miles for other types of awards. This new policy also adds complexity to the program, which is usually not popular with members.
No matter how you look at this though, this is bad news for many AIR MILES members who earn their miles through small-dollar purchases. As one member said on Facebook, “I guess the dream of flying to Europe with my wife using AIR MILES is just a dream.” Sad indeed.