There are big changes coming to Air Miles, one of the most popular loyalty programs in Canada.  First, there was the recent announcement of the Air Miles Cash feature, which will take effect in March, 2012 and eventually replace the option to redeem Air Miles for gift cards and certificates.  Another change to the program is the introduction of the new Air Miles expiry policy.

Air Miles Expiry Policy

As of December 31st, 2011 all Air Miles reward miles in your account will have a date stamp of 5 years.  This means that any reward miles that have been earned before December 31st, 2011 will need to be redeemed by December 31st, 2016.

No action is required by Air Miles collectors at this time.  They want collectors to use their reward miles and are developing additional ways to make it even easier to redeem (referring to Air Miles Cash).

How to get the most out of your Air Miles rewards before they expire

The introduction of Air Miles Cash allows collectors to instantly redeem their reward miles in-store on their everyday purchases at participating sponsors, making it easier than ever before.

You can check out the over 1,200 reward options from hundreds of Rewards Brands listed on airmiles.ca.  Alternatively, you can redeem Air Miles for travel.  Air Miles is one of Canada’s largest travel agencies.

What is the difference between expiry and an inactive account?

The new Air Miles expiry policy means that effective December 31, 2011 all reward miles posted from that day forward will have a date stamp of five years.  The last day to redeem Air Miles rewards will be at the end of the quarter, five years from the date of them being posted to a collectors 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.

Why did this expiry policy get introduced?

Most loyalty programs in Canada and around the world already have an expiry policy of some kind (some expire accounts, while others expire points).

These practices are put in place to provide accounting certainty and are an accepted industry practice.

Final Thoughts on the new Air Miles Expiry Policy

There was an outcry from Aeroplan collectors when they introduced a similar expiry policy a while ago.  The policy stated that Aeroplan miles would expire 7 years from the date the were earned, and accounts would be closed after just 12 months of inactivity.

The new Air Miles expiry policy will make it tougher to accumulate the large number of Air Miles needed for a free flight or a dream vacation.  But for many, 5 years is plenty of time to cash in your Air Miles.  I also think the 2 year window to keep your account active through some sort of earning or redemption activity is quite reasonable.

This change is more of a reflection of the way the Air Miles program is moving towards instant redemption at sponsors through the Air Miles Cash balance initiative.  It won’t affect very many collectors, but the one’s who were saving up their reward miles for a huge trip should be prepared to use them sooner than later.

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