With all the news this year surrounding the impending AIR MILES expiry (see our Guide to AIR MILES expiry here) we thought it best to compile the rules that most Canadian loyalty programs have regarding this issue. First off you have to know that there are two different types of 'expiry' rules employed by loyalty programs. Those two rules are Inactivity Account Expiration and Mile/Point Expiry. The definitions of each are as such:
Inactivity expiration happens when you have not been active with a loyalty program for a set amount of time. If you are not active with a program you stand to lose all your miles and points and have your account closed. In terms of being active it typically means earning or redeeming at least one mile or point in your account in that set amount of time as outlined by your program. You can see in the chart below that almost every program has an inactivity rule and the set time period ranges from 12 months to 24 months of inactivity. Some key points to consider however are that Sears Club inactivity is based on earn only. Sears Club redemptions do not count as activity. With myHusky Rewards your account is suspended after 18 months and if you don't re-activate and use your account within 60 days after that date you will lose all your points.
Mile/Point Expiry differs from the inactivity rule in that it affects the points and miles in your account even if your active with that program. Effectively Mile/Point expiry is a date stamp on those you have earned and they will expire after the time set out by the program if you don't redeem them. This is the rule where all the news surrounding AIR MILES has been trumpeted from. Back at the end of 2011 AIR MILES announced that miles will begin expiring 5 years from when they are earned. Aeroplan had set a similar rule prior to AIR MILES of 7 years but then removed that rule before it came into effect. As you can see from the chart below there are only a few of the major Canadian loyalty programs that actually have an expiry rule. Of note, all programs run first in first out, so when you redeem from a program that has an expiry rule the oldest miles count toward that redemption. Also if you tend to collect miles in certain European and Asian frequent flyer programs check the terms for them as many of them have expiry rules as well.
The Programs and their rules:
Tips to keep your miles and points from Expiring
Keep track of expiry/inactivity dates
The first step in keeping on top of expiry and/or inactivity dates is to track your loyalty programs. We here at Rewards Canada like to use a site called Award Wallet. Not only does it let you track the balances of most of your reward programs they will tell when those points or miles are set to expire (and send you reminders!). Of course you can just set up your own spreadsheet at home to keep track of your programs as well. If you don't use Award Wallet you can sign up here
Make sure you earn and/or redeem frequently
Be aware of the rules of the programs you use and make sure you have at least one qualifying activity in the set time period as outlined in the chart above. If you haven't earned points or miles and stand to lose some in a program look for a very low redemption option like donating points to a charity. For most programs that will count as an activity. For others it can be as simple as buying a couple of chocolate bars (ie Spend $3 at Esso to earn 1 Aeroplan Mile)
Use a credit card tied into the loyalty program
When a loyalty program has a co-brand credit card attached to it you can almost guarantee that you won't be subject to the inactivity rule, if you use the credit card that is! So long as you utilize your co-branded credit with programs then you have no worries at all unless that program is AIR MILES, myHusky Rewards or WestJet Rewards since they have actual expiry rules. You really shouldn't let WestJet Rewards dollars expire since they can be used just like cash and you don't have to wait until lots of dollars to redeem.
Use programs that don't have expiry/inactivity rules