Once you get in the habit of earning and redeeming miles regularly, miles expiring due to inactivity is something that barely ever crosses your mind, but I’ve noticed that it tends to be one of the most pressing concerns among newcomers who may not touch their mileage accounts quite as much.
Indeed, I probably receive questions from people wondering if anything can be done to reinstate their recently expired Aeroplan miles about once a week or so, which is once a week too many. Take for example the following recent post by Prince of Travel Elites member Winnie L.:
Heartbreaking, isn’t it?
Well, there’s great news today for anyone who’s had to go through the misfortune of losing out on their hard-earned miles due to the expiration policy, especially for anyone who has suffered that fate sometime over the past six months.
Aeroplan has improved its mileage expiry policy in several ways, extending the timeframe for maintaining qualifying activity to 18 months, while providing more flexible options to reinstate your miles if they do expire.
Aeroplan’s New Mileage Expiry Policy
As of July 20, 2020, Aeroplan’s improved expiry policy is as follows: as long as you have earning or redeeming activity in your account within a rolling 18-month period, your miles will remain active.
This is an improvement upon the previous expiry policy of a 12-month rolling period for qualifying activity, giving you an additional six months to earn or redeem a single Aeroplan mile to keep your entire balance active.
When you’ve gone 16 months without activity, and therefore have 60 days left to earn or redeem a mile before your balance expires, Aeroplan will send a warning email to the email address on file on your account, and you’ll also see a warning notice upon logging in (note that the below email is from the old 12-month expiry policy).
While this article is geared towards Canada’s largest frequent flyer program, most of the world’s loyalty programs also operate on a similar expiration policy. Among the major programs we frequently discuss, the expiration policies are as follows:
Alaska Mileage Plan: Miles will expire after 24 months of inactivity
British Airways Avios: Miles will expire after 36 months of inactivity
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: Miles will expire after 18 months of inactivity
Marriott Bonvoy: Points will expire after 24 months of inactivity
Hilton Honors: Points will expire after 12 months of inactivity
WestJet Rewards: WestJet Dollars will not expire
Meanwhile, bank rewards or transferrable rewards (like Amex MR, RBC Avion, CIBC Aventura, or Scotia Rewards) are generally kept alive as long as you continue to hold the associated credit card, or apply for a different credit card within the same family to keep the points alive before cancelling your current one.
Aeroplan’s New Mileage Reinstatement Options
Aeroplan members who have lost their miles to expiration may feel quite hard done by (or even “fuming” in some circumstances). In the past, it was a case of “the rules are the rules”, and there was no real leeway here in reinstating the miles without paying a significant fee.
However, along with extending the 12-month expiry period to a more generous 18 months, Aeroplan has also improved its mileage reinstatement options to make them more flexible and allow members to reinstate their expired miles by re-engaging with the program after their period of inactivity.
As Aeroplan describes this policy:
This is a very generous improvement to the mileage reinstatement policy, as both of the options available to you are quite easy to achieve: either fly on any Air Canada ticket and credit the miles to Aeroplan, or if you don’t have any upcoming travel plans, you can simply apply for an Aeroplan co-branded credit card like the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite or the CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite to get your miles reinstated (and not to mention, earn a signup bonus on the credit card too).
Either way, the message is clear: even if you haven’t been active as an Aeroplan member over the past 18 months, you’re still welcome to earn your full balance back simply by engaging with the program again within a six-month grace period.
Even though this policy was introduced on July 20, 2020, it should apply retroactively, based on the fact that it’s proudly advertised on Aeroplan’s mileage expiry page. This means that if you’ve had any miles expire since January 2020, then you should have a window of opportunity to reinstate your miles simply by flying with Air Canada or getting an Aeroplan credit card.
In addition, there’s also a special allowance for anyone who had already booked an Air Canada flight since January 2020, but had to cancel the trip to COVID-19.
If you’re in this situation and your Aeroplan miles have unfortunately expired, then you may hard done by because you would’ve travelled with Air Canada and earned Aeroplan miles if it weren’t for something out of your control; Aeroplan recognizes this and would be happy to reinstate any miles that have expired since the start of 2020.
Even if you aren’t willing to fly with Air Canada or sign up for a new Aeroplan co-branded credit card within the six-month grace period, there is one last line of defence available to you. Think about whether there are any flights, hotels, or car rentals that you’ve booked over the past year or so, which would’ve otherwise been eligible for Aeroplan mileage accrual, but that you had forgotten to credit to Aeroplan at the time.
In particular, you can claim missing Aeroplan miles for:
A hotel stay with a major global hotel chain within the last six months
A car rental at Avis, Payless, or Budget within the last six months
A flight booking on Air Canada or a Star Alliance partner carrier within 11 months of the flight departure date
If you’ve completed any such travel within the stated timelines, go ahead and submit a claim for missing miles on the Aeroplan website, providing as much documentation as you can. If your claim is successful, then it will retroactively count as activity within a 18-month period, thus reinstating your entire mileage balance for another year from the date of the transaction.
You may also be able to claim Aeroplan miles on any retail transactions with affiliate partners, such as Home Hardware, which is what Winnie was referring to in her post above.
However, note that the timeframes on these claims are usually much tighter – Home Hardware locations, for example, will only apply the Aeroplan miles on a purchase up to 60 days after the transaction.
Finally, if you’re unable to fulfill the requirements within the six-month grace period nor make any valid retroactive claims for your Aeroplan miles, then you always have the option of reinstating your miles for a fee of $0.01 per mile, plus a $30 administration fee and applicable taxes. For example, if you had a balance of 100,000 Aeroplan miles at the time of expiry, you’d be given the option to “buy back” your balance for $1,030 plus taxes.
While it isn’t a terrible idea to buy back your Aeroplan miles at a price just over 1 cent per point (cpp), it’s undeniably a terrible feeling to spend that money on reinstating your miles when you could’ve easily avoided the fee if you had paid a little more attention.
It’s often the case that there are cheaper ways to reacquire the miles as well, such as signing up for a new credit card with a big signup bonus. When combined with the generosity of the new six-month grace period for reinstating your miles, it’s my feeling that very few Aeroplan members will be taking up the offer of buying back the miles for a fee.
How to Keep Your Aeroplan Miles from Expiring
If you’re approaching the 18-month inactivity mark, then earning or redeeming a single Aeroplan mile will preserve all the miles in your account. Some of the easiest methods include:
Transferring the minimum amount of 1,000 Amex MR points over to Aeroplan
Transferring the minimum amount of 3,000 Marriott Bonvoy points over to Aeroplan
Purchasing the minimum amount of 1,000 Aeroplan miles directly from the program
Making a purchase at a participating retailer via the Aeroplan eStore
Donating the minimum amount of 1,000 Aeroplan miles to a charity
Showing your Aeroplan card when shopping at an Aeroplan-affiliated retailer, like Home Hardware or UPS
Signing up for Aeroplan’s text messaging service:
Add a Canadian phone number to your Aeroplan profile
Wait 24 hours
Text “Join” to 27767, after which you’ll earn at least 100 Aeroplan miles (sometimes even 1,000 Aeroplan miles) for your troubles, which will reset your mileage expiration date for another year
On a side note, you may have noticed that TD and CIBC’s Aeroplan-branded credit cards, like the TD Aeroplan or the CIBC Aerogold, like to advertise that “your Aeroplan miles don’t expire as long as you’re a cardholder.” The wording raises an implicit concern that if one were to cancel their Aeroplan credit card, then their Aeroplan miles will expire.
In reality, though, this is a bit of a misnomer. TD and CIBC are simply playing on the fact that you’ll receive monthly statements that will post miles to your Aeroplan account once per month, thereby resetting the 18-month inactivity clock with every passing month and ensuring that your miles don’t expire.
Even if you cancel your Aeroplan-branded credit card, your miles will still remain safe as long as you continue to maintain some form of activity within a rolling 18-month period.
Aeroplan has rolled out a new-and-improved mileage expiry policy, extending the timeframe for qualifying activity from 12 to 18 months, as well as adding a six-month grace period for reinstating your miles by crediting an Air Canada flight to your account or signing up for a new Aeroplan-branded credit card.
Under these new rules, no one should be losing out on their hard-earned Aeroplan miles due to the expiry policy, as they always have the option of easily reinstating their miles by re-engaging if they happen to lose interest in the program for a while.
In general, I find that mileage expiration is one of those things in Miles & Points that you either never pay attention to at all, because you’re earning and redeeming points so frequently that it’s never a concern, or that unfortunately only comes to your attention when it’s too late and your miles have vanished into thin air.
If you find yourself in the latter position, then an Air Canada flight or a new Aeroplan credit card might come to your rescue, but it’s best to prevent your miles from expiring in the first place through one of the many simple ways to generate activity on your account – or better yet, by earning and redeeming large volumes of Aeroplan miles for travel more regularly.