With BMO stepping up to take over the business, the Air Miles program is here to stay — for now.
On March 10, 2023, the Bank of Montreal announced its plans to acquire LoyaltyOne’s Air Miles Reward Program. The announcement took place on the same day that LoyaltyOne’s parent company, Loyalty Ventures Inc., filed for Chapter 11 protection in Houston, Texas.
BMO to acquire Air Miles Reward Program
Air Miles was launched in 1992 and has nearly 10 million members. As one of its founding partners, BMO is well-positioned to take the reins of the Air Miles program, though it’ll cost BMO a tidy $160 million USD to acquire.
The deal between BMO and LoyaltyOne isn’t set in stone. The companies need court and regulatory approval before moving forward with the acquisition. If LoyaltyOne receives a more favourable offer from another business, it wouldn’t be obligated to proceed with BMO. But given LoyaltyOne’s longstanding relationship with the bank (and LoyaltyOne’s present state of affairs), BMO’s offer may be tough to top.
Details of the acquisition are still up in the air. Until things are finalized, it’s hard to know what to expect in the coming months for Air Miles collectors. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and update this page as developments arise.
LoyaltyOne’s bankruptcy filing
Loyalty Ventures, which is LoyaltyOne’s US-headquartered parent company, filed for bankruptcy in Houston, Texas. The company’s stock — on a downward trajectory for several years — will be delisted from the Nasdaq, likely by the end of March.
According to a press release from Loyalty Ventures Inc, the decision to file for bankruptcy was determined to be the best course of action for the company and its stakeholders after evaluating the company’s financial situation.
Air Miles tailspin timeline
Loyalty’s bankruptcy filing may be less of a surprise to those following the trajectory of the Air Miles Reward Program. In recent years, the program has experienced some significant turbulence:
- Air Miles announces any points older than five years will expire as of January 1, 2017.
- Months after its point expiry announcement, Air Miles reverses its decision in response to public backlash.
- Air Miles sends an apology letter to members and promises a list of planned improvements in the coming year, including shorter wait times for customer service and rewards improvements for collectors.
- Air Miles collectors notice that they need more points to redeem rewards. News outlets suggest Air Miles has devalued its points.
- Rexall leaves Air Miles to launch its loyalty program, Be Well.
- Lowe’s exits the Air Miles program. Lowe’s later announces a partnership with RBC to offer Avion Rewards to its customers.
- LCBO drops out of the Air Miles program and announces a new loyalty partnership between LCBO and Air Canada’s Aeroplan.
- Empire Company Ltd leaves the Air Miles program and announces it will offer Scotiabank’s Scene+ points instead later in the year. Major brands under the Empire umbrella include Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland, IGA and FreshCo.
- Staples Canada exits the program and stops offering Air Miles rewards.
- LoyaltyOne’s parent company, Loyalty Ventures Inc., files for Chapter 11 protection in Houston, Texas.
- BMO announces its plans to acquire LoyaltyOne’s Air Miles Reward Program for $160 million USD.
As of March 16, 2023, Air Miles made no public statement about devaluing its points, so it’s difficult to say whether its points are worth less today than they were in years past. Plus, calculating the exact value of a point or mile is challenging. Many factors impact loyalty program reward redemptions, especially if you use points to redeem travel rewards.
Is Air Miles coming to an end?
BMO has not announced any significant changes to the Air Miles program. In a March 10, 2023 statement from BMO, Shawn Stewart, President of the Air Miles Reward Program, said that the BMO agreement will not impact existing Air Miles balances or the ability to collect and redeem rewards.
At present, there’s no reason to panic. In fact, the BMO acquisition may help revitalize the Air Miles program. And the program still has some heavyweight partners in its corner, including Budget Car Rental, Global Pet Foods, IHG Hotels and Resorts, Metro, Samsung, and Shell.
That said, no one can predict the future, and there may be less favourable outcomes for Air Miles collectors in the coming months.
One possibility is program consolidation. The point marketplace is competitive, and BMO already has a loyalty program: BMO Rewards points. It may choose to combine Air Miles with its existing rewards program.
If BMO decides to run the loyalty programs separately, it may devalue Air Miles points in an attempt to rehabilitate the program’s value. Point devaluation would be a major bummer for collectors but isn’t all that uncommon in the loyalty rewards landscape.
Questions we’re asking about the BMO Air Miles acquisition
Air Miles and BMO intend to take their relationship to the next level. And like any major step in a relationship, decisions must be made. As acquisition details unfold, here are two important questions Air Miles enthusiasts should keep on their radar.
1. What will happen (if anything) to American Express Air Miles credit cards?
Only two providers offer co-branded Air Miles credit cards: BMO and American Express. With BMO taking over the Air Miles business, what will happen to Amex Air Miles cards? Concerns that business may not continue as usual may seem well-justified, but American Express Air Miles cardholders will have to wait and see where the chips fall in the coming months.
2. If the BMO Rewards program remains separate from Air Miles, will it be possible to transfer points between programs?
Right now, neither Air Miles nor BMO Rewards has any transfer partners, which is a major point against both programs. If BMO decides to run the programs separately, will point transfers open up between the programs? If so, Air Miles and BMO Rewards point collectors will gain more flexibility in their redemption options.
Think twice before you liquidate your Air Miles
If you collect Air Miles, you may want to wait until the dust settles around the deal before making any major moves. Liquidating your hard-earned rewards because you’re in a panic to empty your account or leave the program may not be the best use of your Miles. Especially if you’ve been diligently collecting for a specific reward.
A lot could change for the Air Miles program in the coming months. BMO may add new partners to the program. There may be new redemption offers and rewards to consider.
Plus, if you commit to a panic-fuelled redemption and change your mind, you have a tight cancellation window to renege. Under current terms and conditions, Dream Reward orders must be cancelled within 24 hours of booking if you change your mind.
How to get the most from your Air Miles
If you decide to redeem your Air Miles, here’s how to get the most bang for your buck (er — Mile):
- Merchandise: Get about 7 cents per Dream Mile when you redeem for merchandise rewards.
- Economy class flights: Get about 10.1 cents per Dream Mile when you redeem for economy class flight rewards.
- Cash: Get 10.5 cents per Cash Mile when redeeming cash or cash vouchers.
- Business class flights: Get about 12.6 cents per Dream Mile when you redeem for business class flight rewards.
Only Cash Miles are redeemable for cash or cash vouchers. Dream Miles can be redeemed for non-cash rewards like flights, car rentals, travel packages, merchandise and more.
How and when you spend your points is up to you. If you decide you’d like to jump ship, there are plenty of other rewards programs out there. But with BMO’s long history as a partner of the Air Miles program, there may be favourable changes on the horizon for Air Miles collectors. As more information about the acquisition unfolds, collectors will be better equipped to make informed decisions about what to do with their Air Miles.
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