Five cards for every purchase, a vision board of their next “free” vacation destinations--these are the hallmarks of the rewards points lifestyle, one that requires as much dedication to shopping as it does saving.
Matthew Irwin is not about that life. As a self-proclaimed “casual collector,” he has spent eight years collecting Air Miles from purchases at Metro, Shell and the LCBO in the hopes of collecting a well-deserved reward for himself.
“It was mainly out of convenience,” he says. “They would ask if I wanted the card every purchase and finally I said ‘why not?’”
Matthew got his answer late last year, when Air Miles announced they would be expiring the points of many longtime users starting in early 2017.
“It was very surprising,” says Matthew of the announcement. “They say they’ve been mentioning it for years, but most of us weren’t aware until recently.”
Since the announcement, he says the frustration has only grown. There is no option online to check his expiring balance, and when he called the company he was told they could only tell him how many points would expire in the next three months. After that he will have to call again--and every three months--to know how many points he is losing. Rewards Canada note: Collectors can submit an online request form asking about expiring miles. The collector should then get an email within about 24 hours with the amount of miles expiring over the next few quarters. Admittedly it should be automatically displayed when one logs in.
Matthew says he stands to lose 300 of his approximately 2000 points at the end of December, and has no reason to believe the subsequent expiries will be any different. His balance just reached the bottom threshold for cashing in; he’d had his eye on a concert deal or a new blender in the coming months.
It doesn’t take much math to see that Matthew stands to lose points far quicker than he is earning them. To him, it’s a pretty clear message Air Miles is sending to customers: buy in or get out.
“The people affected by (the expiry) aren’t paying the premium for credit cards,” he says. “(Air Miles) want you to pay for the credit card and get hooked into the program.”
While such a move may make sense from a business standpoint, Matthew is skeptical that it will help Air Miles or the rewards industry in general.
“I'm so turned off at this point, I'm not going to bother with another program like this for a while,” he says. “I'll just decide where and when I shop for myself.”
Matthew also has a message to other customers who may feel tempted to double down on Air Miles or other programs now that there’s a deadline: the rewards lifestyle is a slippery slope that blurs the line between saving and spending.
“If you really want to (join a rewards program), do your research and pick one card that works for your current lifestyle,” he advises. “Don’t jump in on a whole new credit card just because they offer 5000 points for signing up.”