Air Miles is the leading loyalty marketing program in Canada. This article will explain how the program works, its history, how customers can benefit, and possible disadvantages of the program.
Air Miles is one of the most popular rewards programs in Canada. Very basically speaking, consumers can sign up for the program with participating credit cards and merchants. When the cardholder makes a purchase at a qualifying store, the rewards program adds points to the cardholder’s account. Later, these points can be redeemed as air miles with a participating airline. Clients can receive lucrative discounts and cheaper prices on plane tickets with the rewards program. Cash back options are also available.
The current Air Miles Reward Program operating in Canada is similar to other programs operating in Spain, Netherlands, Middle East, and formerly in the United Kingdom. It is currently overseen and managed by LoyaltyOne, Inc., a private entity owned by Alliance Data Systems Corporation, which is a loyalty marketing specialist in retail, travel, hospitality, and other similar sectors.
The Air Miles Reward Program first launched in Canada in 1992. The program was based on a concept developed by three young Canadian entrepreneurs named Craig Underwood, Sam Duboc, and Rob Gierkink. They came up with the basic idea for Air Miles in a Toronto hotel room.
The founders of the concept designed Air Miles as essentially a marketing venture that would reward opportunities for consumers to travel in return for brand loyalty. Loyalty programs were not a new concept at the time. However, it was unique because it brought together a coalition of sponsors, instead of being tied to just one company. Air Miles is also one of the earliest ventures that sought to gather data with regards to consumer buying habits in order to make advertising more effective.
Upon launch, the program had only 13 sponsors, including Canada Safeway and Bank of Montreal. The program attracted nearly two million customers in the first six months of operation alone. Soon, the original group of sponsors expanded to include giants in retail, pharmacy, grocery and fuel industries. They also partnered with credit cards offered by American Express and Bank of Montreal.
Air Miles enjoyed tremendous growth during the first six years of operation. In 1998, the business was acquired by Texas-based financial services provider Alliance Data. Subsequently, several other companies, such as COLLOQUY and Epsilon, were aligned with Air Miles.
Air Miles is recognized as one of the leading businesses in Canada, and a venture that helped shape loyalty marketing across North America. Today, millions of Canadians have signed up for the rewards program, and it remains as popular as ever.
How It Works
Customers are offered miles on a point-based system depending on how much they spend at a participating store. How many miles a customer can earn will depend on the participating merchant or credit card. For example, a customer can earn a single air mile for $50 spent at ADI, or for $15 spent at Primus. In general, 1 air mile is rewarded per $20 spent at a sponsor.
There are three ways a customer can earn it: shopping with a sponsor either in store or online, using a participating credit card, obtaining an Air Miles bonus card as a gift, or directly purchasing from the official website. Customers can also benefit from various offers and promotions provided by sponsors, especially during special times like Christmas holidays.
Air miles are not offered indefinitely. The miles do expire after some time, usually a year. Therefore, once customers have stacked up a considerable amount of points, these points should be redeemed. The easiest way to redeem points is to go to the official Air Miles website and type in the Collector Number. Customers can also redeem miles by calling the toll-free 1-888-AIR-MILES (1-888-247-6453) number. However, this option is less preferred as it is time consuming and inconvenient.
Customers can also transfer miles from one account to another. For example, a customer can gift air miles to a friend or a family member by transferring points from his or her own account.
Customers can earn points for a number of airlines with the Air Miles loyalty program. Traditionally, customers had to sign up for the program with a single airline. With the Air Miles Reward Program however, customers can redeem points they earn with a number of different carriers.
The Reward Program offers access to hundreds of sponsors. Customers can earn miles by using a certain credit card, buying a blender, filling up the gas tank, or subscribing to a service. The options are nearly unlimited. Because the Reward Program spans a number of industries, customers have a higher chance of stacking up points simply by making everyday purchases.
On average, customers can earn an air mile per 20 cents spent with a participating sponsor. The rate of return is higher with bonus points. For example, a customer who purchases a $10 product with 20 Air Mile bonus points can receive close to a 20 percent discount on the product.
The rate of return can vary because different sponsors offer varying air mile points for products. For example, a customer can earn the same number of points for $20 or $60 spent at different sponsors. In this situation, the customer who spent less gets a bargain, while the customer that spent more is not enjoying a positive rate of return.
Customers could spend more than they should on products in order to earn points. For example, a customer could end up spending $50 at a participating store for a $10 product just to earn Air Miles points.
Is Air Miles Better than Other Similar Rewards Programs?
Air Miles is the largest loyalty rewards program currently operating in Canada. No other program comes close to the number of sponsors and offers they have for its customers.
Most loyalty programs in Canada are still confined to a single company. For example, customers can sign up for a loyalty program with United Airlines and shop at a limited number of retail outlets. With Air Miles, customers are offered a wider range of options, which makes this particular program truly outstanding among its peers.
Official Website and Companies Involved in the Program
The official website of the Air Miles Rewards Program is www.airmiles.ca. The official site has the complete rewards catalogue for the program. Customers can also access a gift guide, payment services, a flight calculator, and the latest offers and promotions.
Here is a list of prominent companies involved with the Air Miles Rewards Program as sponsors: