Storm at AIR MILES
The AIR MILES program has not been in great shape for the past few years and the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated its decline in the Canadian reward program landscape. However, the program has made some efforts in recent weeks to maintain its client base.
However, we learned on March 9, 2023 that the company that owns AIR MILES, Loyalty Ventures, is preparing to declare bankruptcy ! The next day, March 10, 2023, BMO announced its intention to acquire the AIR MILES program. Then, later that day, Loyalty Ventures confirmed that it was filing for bankruptcy protection.
The Scene+ effect on AIR MILES
In June 2022, the Empire Group (owner of the Sobeys/IGA grocery store banners) announced its departure from the AIR MILES program to join Scene+ along with Scotiabank and Cineplex.
That day, Loyalty Ventures Inc.’s LYLT stock (the parent company of the AIR MILES program) lost nearly half its value, dropping from $11.03 to $6.02. And since then, it has fallen below the USD 2 mark.
The market seems to have lost confidence in the AIR MILES program. Here is the action in November 2022:
And here is the LYLT share price on March 9, 2023, the day of the announcement of the preparation of its bankruptcy filing / bankruptcy:
But is Scene+ really responsible for this debacle? Since going public on November 5, 2021, LYLT stock has lost nearly 97% of its value. What should shareholders think of this stock that was worth 46.50 USD on November 5, 2021? A little over a year ago? Well before all the announcements of the departure of partners such as Sobeys/IGA, Staples or Jean Coutu.
AIR MILES was already feeling the pinch before these three departures: in recent years, LCBO, Rexall, Rona, Réno-Dépôt and Lowe’s have also left the program.
In response to these numerous announcements, AIR MILES responded by confirming its continued partnership with Shell, as well as announcing new earning opportunities with Goodfood, Natura Market and Peter & Paul’s Gifts.
To AIR MILES’ credit, the COVID-19 pandemic did not help. One of the strengths of the program was to engage its members to take out their blue (or black) loyalty card and present it at the checkout of program member merchants. Brick-and-mortar retailers were the strength of AIR MILES.
With the multiple lockdowns and health restrictions, a rift has unfortunately developed between AIR MILES and its members.
Less committed AIR MILES members
Before the pandemic, we felt a buzz among our readers – and members of the Milesopedia community – whenever an AIR MILES event was launched.
Shop the Block, Bonus Boom, Mix and Match, Christmas in July: all emblematic events of the AIR MILES program that encouraged members to earn Miles through their spending at participating merchants.
Over the years, these events have proven to be less interesting: fewer miles to earn, and more pressure to complete certain offers, which has caused many members to turn away from the program. This is despite a rebranding in 2021.
It is worth noting the efforts of AIR MILES to give its members a little excitement in October and November 2022 with the Carousel of Dreams which allowed them to easily earn more miles.
AIR MILES Members Concerned
In recent months, several readers have expressed concern about the AIR MILES program and asked us two questions:
- What to do with AIR MILES Reward Miles already collected?
- Is it always a good idea to collect AIR MILES Reward Miles?
These are legitimate questions in light of all the news surrounding the AIR MILES program (and the 60 or so mid-September 2022 departures/layoffs at AIR MILES, including senior management who have been there for over 25 years).
As well as Jean Coutu’s announcement that it will leave the program in the spring of 2023. And now, with the announcement made on March 9, 2023, that Loyalty Ventures, the parent company, is filing for bankruptcy.
What to do with AIR MILES Reward Miles?
Do you have many AIR MILES Reward Miles and are wondering how to use them? Here are a few tips based on the type of Miles in your account: Cash or Dream.
And before going into detail, a reminder: it is IMPOSSIBLE to transfer Dream Miles into Cash Miles (or vice versa).
AIR MILES Cash Miles
For AIR MILES Cash Miles, you have several choices.
First, you can simply redeem them at your local IGA grocery store before March 22, 2023, or at your local Shell gas station: 95 AIR MILES Cash Miles will give you a $10 rebate on your sales receipt.
Note that after that, you will have until the spring of 2023 to redeem your miles at Jean Coutu. Cash miles can still be used at Shell, which has confirmed its continued partnership with AIR MILES.
You can redeem only 75 to 85 miles during certain events for the same $10 rebate. For example, at the end of September 2022 at Jean Coutu:
Then, you can purchase e-vouchers directly from the AIR MILES website for the following retailers:
- Action Car and Truck
- Uber Eats
- Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, etc.
- The Ultimate Dining Card
- Timber Mart
- Hudson’s Bay
- Pizza Pizza
- The Keg
- VIA Rail Canada
Again, you’ll use 95 AIR MILES Cash Miles for a $10 electronic gift certificate.
For more ideas on how to use your AIR MILES Cash Miles, check out this article by Aline.
AIR MILES Dream Miles
If you have AIR MILES Dream Miles, there are several options available.
First, you can redeem your Dream Miles for merchandise offered on the AIR MILES site: toaster, vacuum cleaner, television, video game console, etc. Regularly, discounts are offered.
Be sure to check the cash rate to see if you’re getting a good deal (aim for a valuation of your Dream Miles above 11 cents per mile).
Next are the options for events and attractions. Outing to the Zoo, La Ronde, Golf Canada card, admission tickets for Cineplex or Guzzo theatres. Again, aim for a minimum valuation of 11 cents per Dream Mile.
Finally, you can use your Dream Miles for travel:
- Car rental with AIR MILES
- Vacation packages
- Hotel bookings
- Theme parks in the United States
Again, try to get a value of at least 11-12 cents per AIR MILES Dream Mile.
An interesting use of Dream Miles is at Theme Parks in the United States. I used my Dream Miles earlier this year for Walt Disney World tickets.
For example, as Aline pointed out to me, next weekend, the one-day ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood costs 229 USD (about 300 CAD) in the express version. On the AIR MILES website, this ticket is sold at 2,528 AIR MILES (or about 12 cents per mile).
The regular ticket cost 129 USD (about 170 CAD) compared to 1,419 AIR MILES (about 12 cents per mile).
With these types of tips, you can save money on a trip to Los Angeles or Orlando!
Is it always a good idea to collect AIR MILES Reward Miles?
It cannot be said enough: with reward programs, it is necessary to apply the Earn & Burn strategy. Before you even collect points – or in this case AIR MILES Reward Miles – you need to have a solution (or several) in mind for burning them. This is part of the strategy.
Reward programs are continually undergoing changes: devaluation, modified point usage rules, point expiration, etc. The situation that AIR MILES is in today is certainly difficult, but other programs have been through it, starting with Aeroplan.
An example of a renaissance: Aeroplan
Remember the Aeroplan saga!
This rewards program was in decline several years ago following the departure of multiple major partners. For example, Sobeys, Rexall, Uniprix Hertz. Then Esso left the program to join… PC Optimum.
Again, we thought PC Optimum was going to be the executioner for Aeroplan as Scene+ seems to be for AIR MILES today.
And yet, Aeroplan was given a second lease on life after being bought out by Air Canada (backed by CIBC, TD and Visa). And is once again a major loyalty program in Canada (and a model for many rewards programs abroad).
Regardless of where AIR MILES stands today, the 30-year-old brand (launched in 1992) remains iconic in this country with over 10 million members. A revival of the program is therefore not to be excluded.
Online and via credit cards
So? Is it always a good idea to collect AIR MILES Reward Miles?
While AIR MILES does not have many physical partners, it has hundreds of partners through its online shopping portal AIRMILESSHOPS. So if you shop online, and you are an AIR MILES member, it may be worthwhile to use this portal.
Otherwise, the easiest way to collect AIR MILES Reward Miles is through AIR MILES credit cards offered by BMO and American Express. Whether it’s through the welcome bonuses offered by these credit cards or for your everyday expenses charged to them.
For example, with our exclusive offer for the BMO® AIR MILES® World Elite®* Mastercard®* you can get 3,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles and the first-year free. As you have seen above, this can save you at least $315 on groceries or gas and even more on travel.
AIRMILESSHOPS and AIR MILES credit cards are a good way to top up an existing balance of AIR MILES Reward Miles for a solution to burn them. Remember: it is always necessary to have an (exit) strategy.
However, if you are not yet a member of the AIR MILES program, you may want to look into other reward programs.
Alternatives to AIR MILES
We are lucky in Canada: there are many choices when it comes to reward programs.
Are you a loyal IGA/Sobeys customer? With the departure of AIR MILES you will have to turn to the Scene+ program and show your Scene+ loyalty card at the cash register. You can earn up to 6 points per dollar at IGA/Sobeys with the right Scene+ credit card!
And if you want to earn more points, it’s a good idea to have a credit card affiliated with the Scene+ program:
This is what we call double-dipping. Just like you do with your AIR MILES loyalty card and your AIR MILES credit card issued by BMO or American Express.
A Scene+ debit card (with a Scotiabank banking package) is a good option if you shop regularly at Empire Group grocery stores. And most importantly, a Scene+ credit card offering a grocery gas accelerator:
- 5 points per dollar with the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card
- 2 points per dollar with the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
- 2 points per dollar with the Scotiabank American Express Card
Also, note that as of October 1, 2022, you will earn more points at Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland, FreshCo, Voilà by Sobeys, Voilà by IGA, Voilà by Safeway, Chalo! FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, IGA West, Les Marchés Tradition, Rachelle Béry and Co-Op:
- 6 points per dollar with the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card
- 3 points per dollar with the Scotiabank American Express Card
- 3 points per dollar with the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card
- 3 points per dollar with the SCENE Visa Card
How to redeem Scene+ points at grocery and drug stores
Scene+ has announced that you will be able to redeem Scene+ points at grocery, drug and liquor stores with the value of 1,000 Scene+ points = $10.
This is great news because currently the best redemption rate for Scene+ points is when they are used on travel purchases charged to a Scene+ credit card.
This way, you’ll get the same redemption rate for travel or grocery purchases! This will make life easier for those who were hesitating between Dream Miles and Cash Miles at AIR MILES.
Are you a customer of Metro, Super C, Première Moisson or Jean Coutu? With the departure of AIR MILES from Jean Coutu drugstores, you will have to turn to the MOI program and present your MOI loyalty card at the checkout.
There will even be an RBC co-branded credit card. The features of this program and credit card will be announced by spring 2023.
In the meantime, you can use an American Express credit card at Metro, Super C and Première Moisson bakeries. And you will earn 5 points per dollar with the American Express Cobalt® Card and the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card.
Do you want to travel, especially internationally? The Aeroplan program is for you. Not only do you have 3 Aeroplan credit card issuers (American Express, CIBC and TD), but you will have many options for using your points.
Are you traveling with your family – especially to Europe – and would like to get free airline tickets? Use the Air France-KLM Flying Blue program!
Other travel points programs
Do you want to travel but not be constrained by a particular company? Choose travel points that offer you flexibility:
Cash Back Programs
Finally, do you prefer simple things like cash back? Then choose one of the best cash back credit cards. You will no longer be dependent on any program and can use your cash rewards as you wish.
While the news is not good for the AIR MILES program, there are still many ways to earn and burn AIR MILES Reward Miles.
And if you think it’s time to turn to other programs, you see it: alternatives exist. While keeping in mind the golden rule of the point hunter: have a strategy of earning and burning points!
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