Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Air Miles adds expiry rule and instant redemption option

It was inevitable, one of the longest hold outs from the expiring miles/points camp has joined the party. Canada's largest loyalty program, Air Miles, has enacted an expiry rule of 5 years on their Reward Miles loyalty currency. Much like Aeroplan's expiry rule of 7 years, Air Miles members will have 5 years from the month they earn a Reward Mile to redeem it otherwise it will expire. This expiry rule is different than inactivity rules where you don't use your account at all (earn or burn miles) which is 24 months with Air Miles.

This change is really unfortunate as this was a key strength of the program but according to Air Miles, the majority of Reward Miles earned by its members are redeemed within that 5 year limit. The ones who may lose out here are the collectors looking to earn enough miles so their family can take a dream trip. Ultimately the landscape has changed for loyalty programs in Canada (and the world) and that has necessitated or accelerated the need for expiring miles. Loyalty programs need to show worth and profitability to their shareholders and carrying unused miles is a liability for the program. The term for having these miles removed without them being redeemed is called breakage and all programs count on a certain percentage of breakage. Knowing this, a loyalty program like Air Miles wants to create a healthy balance of breakage and keeping their customers engaged and happy. How can expiring miles keep a customer engaged? By having them redeem for rewards to use up miles that might otherwise expire. So while the member may not be getting the reward they initially wanted to get out of the program they are getting something. Typically these redemptions will be on merchandise or gift cards instead of travel and those catalog items tend to be have higher profit margins than travel so it is a win-win for the Loyalty company by keeping the customer engaged and making a healthy profit.

One question that does need an answer as I see it as a bit of a contradiction is that if the majority of miles that are earned are burned within the 5 year period than the amount of miles left on the books can't be worth that much. Is the value of writing off those miles more than the potential loss of profit  from collectors who are aspiring for a dream vacation that may switch to a program like Aeroplan because they will have 2 more years to earn miles? There will be other questions as well from our readers as I can guarantee most of you will not be happy with this rule based on the experiences with Aeroplan's announcement of their expiry rules back in 2006.

For more on Air Miles Expiry please see here

Also in today's announcement from Air Miles on the changes of their program is the new Instant Redemption option called Cash Rewards. This option will effectively create a second account or an account within an account for Air Miles members to redeem instantly at Air Miles sponsors. This is key, you will only be able to instantly redeem at Air Miles sponsors and its makes total sense. Up to now, Air Miles members could collect at many sponsors but than redeem for items like Gift Cards for stores, restaurants etc that were not sponsors, so basically the non-sponsoring companies earned money from miles paid for by Air Miles sponsors and this practice had to be curbed by Air Miles to keep its sponsors happy (it may also explain the shrinking of the gift card rewards you can redeem for) Anyways, enough on that and more on how it works:

Essentially when the program launches, Air Miles members will have the option to run a 'cash account' in conjunction with their Air Miles Reward Miles account. When they open up this 'cash account' they will be able to choose what percentage of the Reward Miles earned will go into their 'Mileage Account' and what percentage will go into to their 'Cash Account'. The 'Mileage Account' will be the legacy account that is used to redeem for travel, merchandise, gift cards and more via the Air Miles program while the 'Cash Account' will allow the Air Miles members to instantly redeem against a charge at a participating Air Miles sponsor. So if you have $10 in your Air Miles cash account you can redeem that against any purchase of $10 or more at the participating sponsor.

Some things to note, you will not be able to transfer miles between the 'Mileage Account' and the 'Cash Account' nor will you be able to initially fund your 'Cash Account' with your existing miles. Instant redemption will not be available until March of 2012 but the accounts can be set up right away so that you can start building up a cash balance to use when participating sponsors begin accepting the instant redemption. You will be able to modify your percentages as you go along and learn what amounts to each account work for you and of course you have the choice of only sticking with one. Personally, I don't earn very many Air Miles to redeem for many things so I may move all my future earning to a 'cash account' for the instant redemption savings even though my rate of return will be lower than redeeming for travel, but like I said I don't earn very many Reward Miles so I would rather get something than nothing.

For more on Air Miles Cash Rewards please see here.

Please comment below to tell us what you think of today's announcement of the expiry rules and instant redemption options in the Air Miles program.

Comparison of Canada's Three Main Travel Loyalty Programs Expiry & Inactivity Rules
Air Miles:
5 Years Expiry
2 Years Inactivity

7 Years Expiry
1 Year Inactivity

5 Years Expiry
No Inactivity rule (although WestJet does state that it can be 12 months at their discretion)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Air Canada 2013 Top Tier Program Announced

Just a few days after the release of the changes/benefit packages for the people who qualified for 2012 Top Tier Status, Air Canada has announced the 2013 Top Tier Program, primarily the qualifying criteria and key benefits for each tier. Speaking of tiers, Air Canada is moving to a 5 tier model from the everlasting 3 tier model (Prestige, Elite, Super Elite) and the qualifying criteria for the 5 levels are as follows:
25,000 Status Miles or 25 Segments
35,000 Status Miles or 35 Segments
50,000 Status Miles or 50 Segments
75,000 Status Miles or 75 Segments
100,000 Status Miles or 95 Segments

Some other key changes include the loss of Star Alliance Gold Status at 35,000 Status Miles, that now requires 50,000 Status Miles. Instead you will receive Star Alliance Silver Status at 35,000.

For complete details on the 2013 Top Tier Program  please visit this page on Air Canada

They have also set up an FAQ for the new program

Clarification on earning rewards with the WestJet Frequent Guest program

Recently one of our readers commented on the WestJet Frequent Guest Program as follows:
"WestJet rewards stops when you reach the $ 7,500 milestone. No more rewards! I reached this in 6 months and I need to wait until my membership year is over to start over again!"
So I went to the WestJet website to check this out for myself, and the site does not state this nor does it state the opposite. The lead me to send an email to one of my contacts at WestJet to clarify what I believed was the case in that the bonuses stop at $7,500 but you will continue to earn your 2.5% WestJet dollars on each dollar spent no matter how much you spend with them. He confirmed this is the case, so to reiterate, the spend level bonuses and JetAway bonuses stop at $7,500 but your base earning does not.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Air Canada 2012 Top Tier Program

Air Canada recently announced the 2012 Top Tier program for those who have or will qualify for it.  The following is taken from the Air Canada site:

Enhanced Select Privilege: 2012 Top Tier Bonus

New this year, Top Tier members who choose the Top Tier Bonus as one of their Select Privileges will enjoy a 25% Aeroplan Mile Bonus on eligible flights operated by TAM. This complements the current range of airlines participating in the Top Tier Bonus, including Air Canada, Air Canada Express, Austrian Airlines, bmi, Continental Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS and United. Unlike in previous years, note that this year ANA will no longer participate in the Top Tier Bonus.

Super Elite Threshold Gift

New this year, Air Canada Super Elite members who achieve the 150,000 Air Canada Status Mile threshold before December 31 will be rewarded automatically with 15,000 Bonus Aeroplan Miles. Members achieving the 200,000, 250,000, 300,000 or 350,000 Air Canada Status Mile threshold will continue to be able to choose from a range of exclusive gifts, including Bonus Aeroplan Miles, gift certificates and electronics.

Expanded upgrade eligibility for Prestige members

Air Canada Prestige members will now enjoy access to upgrades from all Tango Plus fares on flights within North America, including Sun destinations. This change will be effective for upgrade requests made as of January 1, 2012.

eUpgrades for the 2012 Air Canada Top Tier Program

eUpgrade Credits earned as part of the 2012 Air Canada Top Tier Program will be valid until February 28, 2013. Additionally, note that this year, an Aeroplan Member, regardless of their Air Canada Top Tier status, can only be identified as an eUpgrade Nominee by one Air Canada Top Tier member.

Not in the notice of change but on Air Canada's upgrade page:
Change to the ability for sharing eUpgrade Credits
Additionally, note that this year, an Aeroplan Member, regardless of their Air Canada Top Tier status, can only be identified as an eUpgrade Nominee by one Air Canada Top Tier member.

To view all  the details on the  2012 Top Tier program visit Air Canada

To learn even more on the 2012 program and some insight into some changes not listed above I recommend reading this FlyerTalk post

My first year with the American Express Gold Rewards Card

This is the fifth and final installment in my series on the American Express Gold Rewards Card. In this post, I will look at my experience with the Card over the past year.

Years ago, I got my first American Express Card (Blue Sky) simply because I wanted to be rewarded for my spending at Costco. Now with my new Gold Rewards Card, my usage of American Express has expanded greatly partly due to the double points per dollar earned on eligible gas, grocery, drug store and travel purchases. I do not pull out any other card when I am at these locations as I want to ensure I earn the most points on every purchase I make. The card also makes its way out for other purchases as I see fit. In the first year of having the card, I earned nearly 90,000 Membership Rewards points (including the sign up bonus). As of late, my use of the card has expanded due to a bonus offer I received from American Express.

Bonus Offer
In September, I received a mail out from American Express that offered me 5,000 bonus Membership Rewards points if I spent $5,000 on my card by January 15th, 2012. Well, suffice to say I hit that $5,000 mark by the beginning of November, so I should see that nice little bonus in the new year. A nice perk from American Express I must say! I would love to hear if anyone else received this or some other targeted bonus for using their American Express Gold Rewards card. If you did not receive this bonus, don't fret as I am sure this was not the last targeted offer American Express will offer on this card.

In the first year of cardmembership, I made one redemption with the Membership Rewards points I had earned on the Gold Rewards Card. That redemption utilized the TripFlex option of Membership Rewards (see this post for a detailed account of TripFlex) and I must say that it was totally painless. Essentially I had booked flights to Maui for my family using an existing credit I had with Air Canada, but the value of the tickets exceeded the credit by just over $600.00 and I paid that difference with my American Express Gold Rewards Card. As soon as I saw the amount from Air Canada on my online statement, I called up Membership Rewards and within two minutes had them redeem a little over 60,000 points against that charge. Now they say it can take up to one billing cycle to see that credit on your account, but it showed up on my online statement within three days. This is a feature I will definitely make use of again. In fact, in the New Year I will be paying for my hotel for my next trip to Maui on the card and redeeming the points against that charge once it shows up on my account.

In addition to an accelerated earn rate and flexible redemption options, a great perk offered on the Gold Rewards Card is Front of the Line, which grants Cardmembers early access to concerts and events across Canada. I utilized this feature to get four tickets to the Selena Gomez show in Toronto this past August and was able to treat my daughters to their first ever concert. When we got to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, we discovered another perk of being an American Express Cardmember - an exclusive entrance for that allowed us to bypass the much longer general admission line!

All in all, my first year with this card has been wonderful, it came free (all new approvals have the first year free) and I have happily paid the annual fee for the next year as I will continue to use this card frequently.

Click here to learn more about the American Express Gold Rewards Card

Friday, December 16, 2011

IHG Priority Club Stay X Get Y Targeted promos are back!

Noticeably absent for the last quarter of 2011, the ever popular Stay X Get Y bonus promos have made a return for Q1 2012. Although these are supposed to be targeted it seems that most if not everyone can qualify for at least one version of these offers.

Earn up to 15,000 Bonus Priority Club Points for a certain amount of nights at participating InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza®, Hotel Indigo™, Holiday Inn®, Express by Holiday Inn™ and Holiday Inn Express® hotels worldwide, Do not sign up until the previous quarter is over. Use the following codes to Register Online (use the smallest amount first or the promo that best matches your anticipated stays and then go on to the next if you do not qualify, however once you do qualify for one you cannot sign up for any others):
Stay 3, Get 5,000 - Code 2174
Stay 4, Get 5,000 - Code 2183
Stay 7, Get 10,000 - Code 3164
Stay 8, Get 10,000 - Code 3190
Stay 10, Get 10,000 - Code 5148
Stay 12, Get 10,000 - Code 5157
Stay 15, Get 15,000 - Code 2190
Stay 18, Get 15,000 - Code 3182

Be sure to check out our Priority Club Bonus Point Opportunities page for even more bonus point offers that can be stacked up with this promo.

Earn Double A|Club Points for stays in Thailand that will help rebuild homes

Accor Hotels has taken the Double Points offer to a new level (a good one at that) with this new promo. Until the end of January when you stay at any participating Accor Hotel or Resort in Thailand you will earn double A|Club points but that is where this promo stops at being the same as all other promos. How so? Well only earn the base points for your stay will be credited to your account, the double points or the bonus as they call it will be converted into cash and donated to a special flood relief fund established by the Yim Kids Thailand Foundation. I think this is a great initiative by Accor and makes good use of their loyalty program for a good cause and those who have stays or are planning stays in Thailand can feel good knowing they helped out during this time of need in Thailand. For the complete offer details please visit

Friday, December 9, 2011

LifeMiles: 100% Bonus on buying miles (translates to $1800 for Business Class to Europe)

Avianca TACA LifeMiles seems to be following in the footsteps of US Airways and Delta in offering 100% Bonuses on buying miles multiple times a year. The last time we saw this offer was back in September.

LifeMiles is the FFP of Latin America's joint venture airline Avianca TACA and until December 30th they are offering double miles (ie 100% bonus) on miles purchased in the program. The program allows you to purchase up to 75,000 miles for a total of 150,000 miles if you include the bonus. Now, here is where we get to the business class for $1,800: LifeMiles is partnered with Lufthansa and to redeem for a business class from North America to Europe on LH you need 120,000 LifeMiles, which means you need to buy 60,000 (+60,000 bonus) at $30 per 1,000 plus tax or $1,800+tax for the total amount.

For complete details or to partake in this offer please visit LifeMiles (Use promo code LMAZ03 if they ask for it)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Discounted Aeroplan Business & First Class Rewards - Limited Time Offer

Late last week news starting breaking in the Frequent Flyer Blogosphere that there were mistakes in the pricing some of Business Class and First Class award tickets from Aeroplan. Learning from previous potential mistake fares and reward tickets many people starting jumping on the bandwagon and booking this lower priced tickets. A day or so after this broke Aeroplan confirmed to one of the bloggers that this was not a mistake, rather an unadvertised reward sale that could end at anytime. I have to apologize to my readers for not posting this sooner as it seems no one has really covered this in Canada for a Canadian loyalty program! All the bloggers who covered it were from the U.S. with predominantly U.S. audiences. Well, fret no more here is my post for the Canadian market.

Essentially the sale sees Business Class award tickets going for the price of Economy Class Award tickets and First Class tickets going for the price of Business Class tickets. For example some select routes to Asia in business class are 75,000 Miles instead of the usual 100,000, to Europe it is 60,000 instead of 90,000 and Australia is 80,000 instead of 100,000. For fun I checked Calgary to Hong Kong in mid January and there it was 75,000 Miles for business class.

If you were planning on booking any Business Class or First Class rewards your best bet is to do it sooner then later so that you can save yourself some miles (kind of makes up for the increased fees due to the fuel surcharges now charged Star Alliance rewards)

Hat tip to Lucky @ One Mile at a time

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Get free Gold status with Accor A|Club and Best Western Rewards

So while last weeks free Platinum offer has come and gone there is another from European based Accor Hotels for free Gold Status with their A|Club program. I have to thank one of our Twitter followers @Forest412 for alerting me to this offer. Unlike the Platinum offer, this one has a known deadline date of January 31, 2012 and is meant for new members, so if you are already an A|Club member you may have to join with a different email address (assuming you don't already have some status or points with A|Club).

To join via this offer please visit this page on the A|Club website.

And taking a hint from my platinum post last week you can leverage your Accor status to get the equivalent status with Best Western Rewards. For more details on the Best Western status offer please see Best Western Status Match No Catch

Friday, December 2, 2011

Making the most of your American Express Gold Rewards Card this holiday season

Making the most of your American Express Gold Rewards Card this holiday season This is the 4th installment of my series on the American Express Gold Rewards Card, and with the holiday shopping season in full swing, we look at how to maximize the use of your Gold Rewards Card. Whether it is maximized on the earn or on the burn, using this card for your Christmas shopping can be very advantageous.

For those of you who have not followed my series on this card, I'll revisit the earning basics of the American Express Gold Rewards Card. The card earns 1 Membership Rewards point for every eligible dollar spent on the card, but where the card shines is on eligible gas, grocery, drugstore and travel purchases as Cardmembers earn 2 points per dollar spent at these locations. It is the strategic use of this point multiplier that will ensure you maximize your earning potential this festive season.

Speaking of festive, what is one of the first things that come to mind for the holidays? Food. And lots of it! Since the card earns double points on grocery purchases all the food for your festivities should be bought on the card. Of course, if you need other items for your holiday celebrations, put all of your spend on the card, as you will still earn 1 point per dollar for all of your purchases outside of gas, grocery, drugstore and travel outlets.

It wouldn't be Christmas without all the shopping for gifts. By putting all your gift purchases on your American Express Gold Rewards Card, you will see your points balance grow by leaps and bounds. But the question to ask here is: How can I earn even more points on those gifts? While it can't be done on all purchases, here are two tips on how to bring in the point multiplier on some of your non gas, grocery, drugstore or travel purchases:

1) Some people (like me) are hard to buy for, so gift cards make a great present. If you want to buy a gift card to give to someone as a gift, buy it at your local grocery store and earn 2 points per dollar versus 1.

2) If you have your gifts (and the stores they come from) planned out, go buy gift cards for your purchases at the grocery store first and then use them to purchase the gifts. For example, say you want to buy a shirt at The Gap as a gift. If you went to The Gap to buy it, you would earn only 1 point per dollar, but if you bought a gift card at Sobeys or Safeway for The Gap, you would earn 2 points per dollar. Then you could simply use the gift card for the actual purchase of the shirt.

By following these tips, you can ensure that you're maximizing your points earning for the Christmas season.

Another way you can maximize the use of your American Express Gold Rewards Card this winter is to look at how you can use the points you have already earned to help you in your gift shopping. How do you do this? Via the Membership Rewards catalogue! With an option to redeem online or by phone, the catalogue is quite extensive - with items ranging from $25 Keg Gift Cards to 46" Toshiba LED TVs and hundreds of items in between. There are even some online-only discounted redemptions that include such items as a Canon Pixma printer for only 13,500 points (regular 29,000) until December 8. But your points don't have to be used only on merchandise or gift cards. How about concert tickets for your significant other or even utilizing TripFlex (see our TripFlex post here) to get your family a vacation to somewhere warm?

No matter how you look at it, there are many ways you can maximize your earn and burn potential this holiday season with the American Express Gold Rewards Card. I know I have and I would love to hear from our readers who also have the card on how they have used it to its fullest for their Christmas shopping and gift giving.

Click here to learn more about the American Express Gold Rewards Card

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Get Free Platinum status with Accor A|Club and Best Western Rewards

December 2nd Update:  Almost as fast as I put this offer up it died, hopefully some of you were able to take advantage of it!

There is time limited offer from Accor Hotels A|Club that gives members of Air France KLM's Flying Blue program instant Platinum status in the A|Club program. Normally, it takes 60 nights or accumulating 25,000 A|Club points in a calendar year to earn Platinum status, so as you can see this is quite the fast track to this elite level. Now, that being said this promo is meant for Flying Blue members, (which is free to join, just visit or but the actual registration form does not ask for your Flying Blue number, just A|Club membership # and email address. I did so and within 15 minutes had emails from Accor confirming my Platinum status without inputting my Flying Blue number or as the registration page suggests selecting the auto-convert option to Flying Blue. So there you have, that is how you can get free Platinum Status with Accor Hotels.

The next question may be what can I do with this status (which could be combined with "Who the heck is Accor Hotels) as here in Canada there are only a few Accor Hotel locations in Toronto and Montreal and they are not called Accor, as that is the parent company's name. The locations in those two cities are Novotel and Sofitels. Worldwide the Accor family has 10 hotel brands with most locations being in Europe and Asia. So you can definitely take advantage of this status for stays in those two Canadian cities and many more outside of Canada. But for those of you who primarily have stays in Canada and not in Toronto or Montreal may want to consider the next option:

Free Platinum status with Best Western! How do you get this? Best Western offers a promotion called "Status Match. No Catch" which means they will match your status in any other hotel loyalty program. So your first step will be to get your platinum status with Accor A|Club (don't worry, I have all the links at the end of this post) and once it is confirmed, complete the Best Western Status Match form and provide proof of your platinum status (just print off your online Accor Statement showing your Platinum Status) and send them off. I already took advantage of this status match offer not with Accor but used my Hyatt Platinum status to get the platinum status with Best Western. Within a couple of days of sending in the form I had my Best Western status.

There you have it, this is how you can free elite Platinum status in two major hotel chains! Here's a tip, don't wait to do this as Accor can pull this fast track offer for Flying Blue members at anytime.

Accor A|Club Platinum Status Fast Track
Best Western Status Match No Catch