Jan 09

REVIEW Air Miles Rewards Program – Getting too Greedy

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Air Miles has really taken a turn for the worse.  This rewards program may be about to face a serious backlash from long-term members (such as myself).   In addition to arbitrarily removing sponsors and increasing point “costs” on a regular basis, Air Miles points now have an expiry date (read more details here)

How it works

Air Miles is a customer loyalty reward program.  You shop at affiliated sponsors and you earn “Air Miles” which can be redeemed for flights, merchandise, and/or gift cards.

Are You Getting Anything For Free?

No.  You sell a record of your personal shopping profile (age, address, items purchased, etc.) to get these ‘free’ rewards.  Like with Facebook, this information and the lucrative (for retailers) consumption patterns contained therein are sold at a price by Air Miles.  The old adage ‘nothing is free’ is very a propo here.  You are selling a piece of your privacy.

The Benefits

The initial Air Miles program (at least in Canada) was launched over a decade ago.  They had a few core sponsors and the rewards were actually worthwhile (at least it seemed so at the time).  I reasoned that since I shop at these places anyways, why shouldn’t I get something for doing so (especially with things like groceries).  The Air Miles program made sense.

Lately?  Air Miles has gone from Less Good to Bad

In short, the AIr Miles program seems to have gotten greedy over the past year or so.  I had been saving Air Miles for about two years so as to redeem my points for Roots gift certificates.  I wanted to buy a cool Roots watch that I had had my eye on for quite a while.  Then, all of a sudden, Roots gift certificates were removed from the rewards.

I have no intention to tell Air Miles how to run their business, but there seemed something a bit sneaky and backhanded about simply removing a sponsor without any warning or advance notice.  If I had been given a ‘heads up’, I would have redeemed my points before Roots was removed.  It just seemed very secretive and arbitrary to me.  Two years of (what could have been private purchase information) thrown away.  The item that I wanted was removed with no prior notice.  This just seems to be bad business to me.  Customers deserve to be informed and treated with respect.

Adding insult to injury, Air Miles has raised the amount of ‘Miles” needed to receive many of its rewards.  The best deal still seems to be the Metro gift card (175 miles for a $20.00 gift certificate).   I just don’t like the arbitrariness of the whole thing.

I don’t like earning points that can lose their value with no warning.  I don’t like not being able to spend my ‘currency’ at any Air Miles sponsor that suddenly is no longer a sponsor.  It seems rather arrogant to me, and has turned me off this program that I have been a member of for over ten years.  In my view, this is not a good way to run a business.  Pissing off long-term customers is never a good idea.    If you can’t keep those who have been with you for a decade, how do you hope to entice new customers to join?

Your greed, Air Miles, I think is patently obvious and it is not pretty.  You are in danger of facing a wholesale abandonment by your loyal and long-term customers.

I warned about the fact that Air Miles was flying lowere in a previous post.  Read my previous review  here for more details.  The writing has been on the wall for a while now.

Alternatives

There are many.  I love something that gives me cash.  The beauty of cash is that I can spend it (or not spend it) on anything that I want.  Many crediat cards offer cash back on your yearly purchases.  Some offer up to 1% of your purchases in cash (paid once yearly).  Yes, that’s right!  Spend money on your card and get what amounts to a 1% (or more discount) on everything that you buy.  You do not need to shop at sponsors and you do not need to redeem at sponsors.  You can use your cash rewards anywhere.

Where Can I Get Cash Rewards?

Here is one sponsor (one that I do business with):  The  CIBC Dividend VISA Card.  The beauty of this card is that there is no annual fee and that you get an annual cash reward based upon your yearly purchases.  Use this with your Air Miles card and you’re sitting pretty.  You will get cash and the increasingly-useless Air Miles at the same time.  You can’t go wrong here.  Just remember to pay off your credit card bill each and every month – otherwise you are only making banks even richer than they already are and your benefit will be reduced to nothing.

Thanks for dropping by.  Please check back again soon for more ideas for getting more for less at froogalism.com

What do you think of the Air Miles program? Leave a comment below.

Author: Jason Milburn Google

Frugal dad – focusing my money and energy towards happiness and the things that matter most since around 1985.

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