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Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 ways to keep your AIR MILES Reward Miles from expiring

With this next piece in our Guide to AIR MILES expiry we look at how you can keep your miles that are 5 or more years old from expiring at the end of this year. Tips 1 and 2 essentially come to the same result but take two different paths to get there while 3 seems like an obvious choice.

1. Earn 6,000 miles before the end of the year

When you earn 6,000 miles in a calendar year you will be granted Onyx status. Onyx elite members are not subject to the expiry rule. Start planning now to see if you can hit that 6,000 mark. If you might be a few hundred miles short or even a couple thousand you can take advantage of some credit card sign up offers to push you to the Onyx level.

Few hundred miles short? You have the BMO No Fee Air Miles MasterCard that nets you 500 miles on your first purchase or the American Express Air Miles Credit card that also comes with a 500 mile bonus and of course since there is no annual fee on either card so those miles don't really cost you anything. If you are 1 to 2 thousand miles short you could grab the American Express Platinum Air Miles card with its 2,000 mile sign up bonus when you spend $500 within three months. Good news is that there is no annual fee in the first year so those miles also come for free. You can then reassess if you want to keep the card after the first year.

Another way to earn a lot of miles in a short time is to take advantage of shopping bonus offers. Safeway and Sobeys are running promotions almost every week for bonus miles when you shop, those bonuses usually range from 95 - 195 miles or more when your purchase is over a certain amount. If it is getting closer to the end of the year we usually see bonuses for buying gift cards at Safeway. We have taken advantage of this in the past and in reality you can get those miles for purchases you may be planning anyways. Know you'll be shopping at a certain store? Buy the gift card for that store with a bonus at Safeway. See our post from last November as an example of this bonus

Take note that you must maintain Onyx status to not lose your miles. If you drop to Gold or Blue status your miles that are 5 years or older will expire at the end of the first quarter in the year after that you are no longer Onyx. So think of the credit card methods above as an extension of your miles to give you more time to redeem for the right award for you. Keep Onyx status and you have nothing to worry about.

2. Get yourself the American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card

The American Express AIR MILES Reserve Credit Card comes with automatic Onyx status. Easy as that. Get the card and you save your miles. Now the card does carry a $299 annual fee that isn't waived in the first year so you need to find your breakage level. Look at how many miles you have that are set to expire. Are they worth more than the $299 fee and you want to keep them to redeem for that ultimate flight award or specific travel that you want? Then get the card. If you were to ask me at what level of miles set to expire would I get the card? I personally would get it if I had 2,500 or miles set to fly away at the end of the year. Taking an average value of 13 cents per mile that puts those 2,500 miles at $325. Now, you don't just have to look at your miles expiring to find value in the card, if you get it you gets tons, we mean tons, of benefits with the card! If you spend $3,000 in the first three months you get 2,400 miles, when you go to redeem miles for flights you can take a companion for free for redemptions of up to 1,700 miles (essentially a free short haul companion flight), you get the AIR MILES flight booking fee waived, you get Priority Pass airport lounge access, you get priority security access at Toronto's Pearson airport, and you can redeem AIR MILES towards the taxes and fees on flight awards. Those are only some of the benefits the card gets you. So not only can it save your miles it can make using them a lot more fun. If you take these benefits into account for what the card costs you can even consider lowering the expiring miles threshold that we mention above. Find out more or apply for the card here.

3. Redeem your expiring miles! 

As silly as it sounds, use up your miles that are set to expire (see here on how to request your mileage expiry statement) This is the third and final way to keep them from expiring. No matter what if you don't use methods 1 or 2 you have to go this route or you'll lose those miles. Will you get much value out your miles? Depends on what you redeem for and how many you need to use. Only have 100 miles expiring? Enter some of the AIR MILES Dream Sweepstakes. Have lots but can't find travel you want or need? Redeem for attractions, merchandise or whatever. Pundits will say never redeem for merchandise but if that is your only option then do it, otherwise you get nothing for those miles. I'd rather get a blender than a big fat zero. Heck even grab stuff and then sell it on eBay or Kijiji. Get some cash back for those miles. Doesn't really matter just get something for them.

Related: The True Value in Reward Redemptions

I also advise to start looking now at what rewards interest you and redeem before the Christmas break as I'm guessing this will be big news right after Christmas and the website and call in center will be inundated with people wanting to redeem before midnight on December 31st.

Remember if you do want to redeem for travel it doesn't have to be for this year, you simply have to book a trip with your miles by December 31st meaning that travel can be taken well into 2017. Plan your trip well in advance and you may actually be able to use those expiring miles for something with more value!

What do you plan on doing with the miles you have that are set to expire? Will try methods 1 or 2 to save them or will go with number 3 and use them up before the end of the year?

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