After a disastrous 2016 that saw the Air Miles coalition suffer a crippling PR debacle over a failed points expiry change, and Air Miles parent company LoyaltyOne forced to take a $180 million dollar hit to revenue as a result, many analysts wondered if LoyaltyOne’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year would lead to a partner exodus. A year later, Air Miles finally receives some good news: longtime credit card partner Bank of Montreal (BMO) is returning to the fold.
By Rick Ferguson
LoyaltyOne parent company, Plano, Texas-based Alliance Data Systems Corporation (ADS), made the announcement: Air Miles operator LoyaltyOne signed a multi-year renewal agreement with Bank of Montreal (BMO), a founding partner of Air Miles that joined the coalition loyalty program in 1992. BMO will continue to issue Air Miles reward miles to consumer and business customers through its various BMO Mastercard products and debit spend within the BMO Air Miles Banking Plan. Money quote from LoyaltyOne president and CEO Bryan Pearson:
"We're proud of our long-standing partnership with BMO, our largest AIR MILES partner, and will work closely with the bank to drive and deliver exceptional value for our Collectors, build on our solid foundation and explore new opportunities for issuance growth in Canada's dynamic banking and credit card loyalty marketplace.”
That’s good news indeed for a program that had generated such bad publicity that many longtime partners were openly speculating in the press about whether or not to continue their Air Miles participation. Typical was this January 2017 quote from Quebec-based grocer Metro CEO Eric La Fleche, courtesy of BNN:
“The Quebec-based supermarket says negative reaction to an Air Miles reward points expiry policy, which was later abandoned, is a factor in whether the chain will renew its contract. ‘It has been rocky this fall with Air Miles, no doubt about that,’ [La Fleche] told reporters Tuesday following Metro's annual meeting. The Quebec-based supermarket says negative reaction to an Air Miles reward points expiry policy, which was later abandoned, is a factor in whether the chain will renew its contract. While switching is a big decision given that some loyal Air Miles members are also loyal Metro shoppers, he said the company felt pressure from its customers over the handling of the expiry controversy, which would have seen all reward miles collected before 2012 disappear at the end of last year. ‘For sure it makes us think,’ he said. ‘It's one more element that will go into the decision when the time comes.’”
La Fleche was but one of a half-dozen executives at Air Miles partner companies who gave similar negative quotes at the time. Given BMO’s long history with Air Miles, it was unlikely that the bank would abandon the coalition; other partners may not be so forgiving. Still, it’s heartening to see Air Miles continue to right its ship. We’ll look forward to more positive partner news in the coming year.
Rick Ferguson is Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).