Air Miles expiring? Here’s what you should do now

Hotels, car rentals, and flights have the most value

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The time left to use those old Air Miles is ticking down.

The loyalty reward program brought in a five-year expiry on reward miles at the end of 2011. That means your reward miles from before 2012 will begin expiring after December 31, 2016 and every five years after you earn them. If you’ve been hoarding your miles, waiting for the perfect reward, well, it might be time to let ’em go and cash ’em in before they’re totally worthless.

Problem is that plenty of people are complaining that there are extremely limited reward options. What’s more, if your Air Miles are expiring in December, you’ll only be able to use them in the Dream Rewards category, which allows you to just redeem merchandise and travel packages. That’s because back in 2012, when Air Miles announced the Cash Rewards category, they made it so that you could only start collecting Air Miles Cash from that point forward, and only if you specified by changing your preferences on the Air Miles website. Unfortunately, there’s no way to transfer reward miles between the Dream and Cash Rewards categories to get around this.

Many are upset at the options they’re being left with but there are a few things you can do to render the situation a little less frustrating. So what’re some strategies to make the most of your miles? We talk to an expert to find out.

1. Check how many of your miles are really expiring

Thankfully, Air Miles can provide a breakdown detailing how many of your points are expiring come December. When you sign in at airmiles.ca, you’ll see a banner at the top of the website that you can click to request your expiry statement. Air Miles promises that you’ll receive an email detailing the status of your reward miles within 12 to 24 hours.

 2. Don’t delay

As CBC News recently reported, Air Mile’s service centre is jammed with calls and its website has been facing some—shall we say—turbulence. Patrick Sojka, a rewards expert and founder of RewardsCanada.ca, predicts things should calm down as the beginning of the school year approaches. However, he advises against any delay, pointing out that while redeeming may be hard now, it’ll be worse at year’s end.

“Don’t leave this to the last minute,” says Sojka. “Come December, especially after Christmas, their website and call centre is going to be insane.”

3. Race to save your miles

According to Sojka, you can save your reward miles by achieving Onyx status. To do that, you have to earn 6,000 miles within a calendar year. If you’re already close to earning 6,000 points, this year, you may be able to push yourself past that mark in time to save them. Of course, if you’re nowhere near the 6,000-mark, it’s probably best just to redeem the ones that are expiring.

Another way to save your reward miles is to transfer them to another Air Miles account. When you do, it resets the expiry date back to five years. Of course, there’s a heavy cost of doing so, at 15 cents per mile. A calculator on the Air Miles site puts the cost of transferring 100 Dream Miles at a whooping $25, not including taxes.

 4. Pick rewards that’ll give you the most bang for your buck

Sojka says hotels, car rentals, and flights have the most value to them, at around 13 cents per Air Mile. Most merchandise averages between seven to 10 cents per Air Mile. If you do pick a flight, you’ll be relieved to know it doesn’t have to depart before the expiry date, it just has to be booked before December 31. One thing to note is that the rewards displayed could vary based on who’s looking at it. At MoneySense, we found that one staffer with a much higher number of reward miles saw two to three times more merchandise than a staffer with fewer reward miles. While this could be a one-off, don’t be surprised if you and your friends or family see different selections.

He thinks some of the merchandise, like recreation passes, have decent value too. But the most important thing to him is that Air Miles holders don’t just let their points go to waste.

21 comments on “Air Miles expiring? Here’s what you should do now

  1. “one staffer with a much higher number of reward miles saw two to three times more merchandise than a staffer with fewer reward miles” – I think you’ve got this backwards.. According to the CBC article, the more reward miles you have the less merchandise appears available.

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    • Hi there, this is simply what we observed when comparing two different accounts. As stated, it could be a one-off as it appears that the rewards offerings listed are quite personalized depending on the user!
      Prajakta

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    • I don’t know why you ppl are all complaining. Its a company that gives you free stuff. Plus they didn’t charged you a thing for joining. They don’t charged you for the air miles that you get from the stores that you shop at all of the time. (IT’S ALL FREE.) I think they have the right to tell you that you have to spend your miles within 5 yrs. If you are saving up for a big trip get a credit card that gives you air miles. I don’t see ppl complaining about c. cards company that charge a stupid amount for having their cards. Why not go after them company for charging you for their card. I JUST LIKE TO SAY ONE MORE THING. “IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT THEY ARE DOING DON’T JOIN.”

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  2. I am not in danger of miles expiring myself but feel that the policy is very unfair to members of the program. Aeroplan reversed a planned expiry policy a few years back – I understand there may have been a class action suit. I would like to see that approach tried here as well. Another approach might be to pressure sponsors of airmiles letting them know the loyalty program has less value now and will result in less loyalty. Switch to aeroplan.

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  3. I think the worst part is that people used to be able to cash in their miles for things like Shell gift cards, so at least they could put some fuel in their car once in a while if they are a little lower on the income scale and didn’t have any use for traveling around the world or buying some massive bbq. For people who have money, there is little consequence as they were going to travel anyway, but the “little guy” is losing out here. I think the dream miles accumulated before they split the program into cash and dream streams should still be eligible for buying useful gift cards (like shell gas cards), and only the miles accumulated after creating cash rewards should be assigned to either cash or dream. But of course they wouldn’t do that, because that means more people would end up getting to use their miles, which would cost them money.

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  4. This article was helpful – thank you. I was wondering why I couldn’t buy even one $10 gift certificate with my 2700 air miles. Turned out I didn’t opt in…way back in 2012. I found this whole process to be a giant, misleading charade. I’ve redeemed all my points now, on the principle that something now is better than nothing later, and will be opting out of the air miles program going forward.

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  5. The Airmiles redemption scam is real! My friend wants a Bose Bluetooth speaker worth 3200 miles. He has 4000 miles and can’t see it. Me, I have only 1600 miles and I can see it but I can’t buy it because I don’t have enough points. CBC has shown how this scam works:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/air-miles-hiding-merchandise-1.3697143
    My question is are they allowed to do this or is this fraud?

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  6. You can search through the FAQ section for the link or just click here to request a statement of your miles that will expire in the next 12 months. Once you get your tally, naturally you’ll want to start shopping. But first you need to determine what type of points you possess.

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  7. We are now boycotting the organizations that offer Air Miles. Perhaps a Class Action lawsuit would force Air Miles to do the right thing?
    http://buykrisflyermiles.com/

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  8. It’s been over a week I requested for An Expiry Miles Statement from Airmiles and I still haven’t received anything from them. #2 Annoyance… I’ve been trying to use my Dream Miles for Flights/Hotel in the past 6 months it constantly says there is nothing available. I drove to Vancouver to see a Specialist I end up sleeping in my car, the website kept asking me to book & earn more miles!!? What for? When I have all these Miles I’ve been trying to redeem since back in Chinese New Years gives me nothing but grief!! Thank goodness to “Airbnb” #3 Annoyance Live Chat is No Help at All…Talking to Live Chat person feels like the 5Ws? My 4yr old niece knows how to answer a Question unlike Live chat Answer a Question w/” I don’t z Know” or please check the “FAQ” and tell me “She has many Chats waiting for her if I don’t have a huge concern look on the website for answers”. Don’t get me started in Aeroplan, they didn’t even send me a letter about my 8000pts expiring I wanted to redeem a $25 GC. All of a sudden its all gone. SPG Rewards with Starwood Hotels I had a Corporate Gold Account w/ 65000 pts, I was planning to redeem points in NYC for Bible Study trip. During my Vancouver trip I found out SPG cancelled my membership, deleted my account without email notifications or mail notice. So much for Loyalty Rewards programs and being loyal to Sheraton/Westin Hotel Chain, they cleaned me out.
    #1 Loyalty … The only Loyalty I have ATM is WESTJET. They kept me updated with my Westjet dollars since I last flew in Oct 2015, there are constant reminders of sales and their new merge with Delta airlines. So far, WJ has treated me very well during a tough ordeal unlike Air Canada. Many thanks to Westjet-ters.

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  9. ABOUT A WEEK AGO: Couldn’t book flight online. Was able to book options for the flight out but the return trip options did not show despite the fact that I had checked the box for a return flight. Tried calling several times – no possible way to get through. Tried the chat with an online agent. Spent about 1.5 hours trouble shooting every possible thing that could be preventing me from seeing the return flight options – nothing worked. I’m pretty tech-savvy, so I was able to do everything they asked. I asked that since I’d spent so much time and got zero results, could an agent call me? Was told no because they’re all busy serving other customers and I’d have to call in. I kept the chat log so anyone who needs it for the class action suit can see how hard I worked to be able to book a return flight online.

    TODAY, SEPT. 17, 2016: Tried to get online – now the website doesn’t even recognize my member number and password, although I haven’t changed it recently. A red OOPS button pops up with no explanation. Tried to change my password – wouldn’t allow it, but cheerily suggested I should not worry because I can call in. Tried calling – after 10 minutes of waiting, a message says they will not be able to answer my call today. Press 1 to have an agent call me the next business day. OK that’s an improvement, but I’ll have to try again next week since I won’t be available on the next business day to receive a call.

    Could they make it any harder to redeem points?

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  10. Your article provided valuable information. I have a considerable number of Airmiles expiring Dec. 31 and find myself looking to redeem for items I don’t really want in order to avoid loosing them. I was going to transfer miles to my daughter for a trip for her but when I saw the cost applicable, it made the idea totally ridiculous and I feel Airmiles are taking advantage of the situation. Why would you pay .15 cents plus tax to transfer miles that would only have a maximum value of approximately .13 cents to the new holder? ……and then the new holder has to pay tax again on whatever they might acquire. Another overlooked point is that if you transfer GOLD Airmiles, the Gold miles are only valued as BASIC miles for the new holder; a real ripoff in my opinion. Overall, Airmiles have done an extremely poor job on the communication front and while I recall seeing the notice of expiry back in 2011, I have not received any type notice since and these things have a tendency to get lost in a busy world. At a minimum, I feel Airmiles should announce a further grace period before expiration to allow people more time to redeem their miles, especially in light of the significant problem people are having trying to contact Airmiles and the problems with their website. I have to think their major sponsors like BMO, AMEX, etc. must be concerned about a potential backlash and would urge them to use their influence to have Airmiles rethink their position on the current expiry rules.

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  11. Like everyone else I wanted to use my Air Miles before they expired. I checked their web site and discovered that Marlin Travel was a sponsor. I called to book a trip and a recording advised me an agent would assist me 1-2 minutes and was put on hold for 2 1/2 hrs before I decided to use the automated system to book an appointment with an agent. The appointment was booked with times between 4pm and 6pm Two days later at 5:15 I received a recorded message saying an agent will be with me shortly. Well, shortly was 90 minutes later. The person that took my call was a supervisor who was trying to help other agents. After all of this I was unable to use my Air Miles for travel packages and could not deal directly with Marlin Travel. She suggested that I view their web site and choose a product from the various sponsors. For a person who wants to downsize, this option is not in my interests. I hope the class action lawsuit is successful as I believe that Air Miles customers deserve better service and a fair system for polnts redemption.

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  12. Monumental scam

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  13. I felt pressured to use my airmiles. I was saving for so long to take a trip to Europe. Something I could not do without airmiles. I was very near but received notice that 6000 airmiles had to be used by the end of the year. I was going to use them on a camera I had seen another time, but when I looked it was no longer available. I finally paid for a hotel for my daughter and grandchildren to use. Not that I was unhappy doing that, just that I was forced to use them. Now, they will expire every 5 years? Why bother even getting them. Already stopped me from shopping at Safeway. I used to use them all the time but now go to the store closer to me.

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  14. Impossible to book flights for various dates on airmiles.ca – I believe this is deliberate
    Can you put up some information about the proposed CLASS ACTION SUIT against Airmiles? This and They need to be sorted out !

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  15. Interesting how one week to another you can pick your air destination, now I can not make air to destination I saved up to go “be rewarded”, been a airmiles collector since 96. As for product still need to shell out money as well as low air miles, Walmart just as well…. so much for saving 8000 air miles for nothing….. Hope they consider people who shopped just to gain rewards..$$$$$$$ thanks alot

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  16. I used to work at a airmiles company century 21. it cost us a lot of money to supply air miles for every sale and purchas. on average700 that cost us as agents around 400 dollars we were under the impression that they would only accumulate not expire.im an airmiles member as well and think that this is criminal what they have done .they could at least let you transfer your dream miles to cash miles otherwise I think it is just plain robbery.

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  17. I was enticed into collecting at the start of the air miles reward program, recently graduated and thrilled to get my first credit card, American Express, and saving towards rewarding my parents and me with a vacation in Hawaii. I was thinking 5 years to get the required air miles. Boy was I dreaming! Almost every year the requirements changed. With the result that after 25 years of collecting I didn’t even have enough for a return flight even for 2. Then life happened both parents fell ill and died, and there was no motivation to to continue with the dream vacation. When I reviewed merchandise offers I was shocked because the selection was so crappy, products were so out of date, useless for my needs, or so expensive that I felt totally ripped off. This was my reward for shopping at some of the most expensive sponsors just to get air miles for something that I now feel the program people knew would never happen. I have now got rid of the Amex.card and don’t even bother with air miles. The 12000 miles that was built up for 25 years will now expire at the end of this year.

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