Alden Hadwen
Director of Community Engagement, Aimia

Loyalty cards are now a mainstay of the shopping experience for many Canadians. Most major stores and outlets carry their own loyalty cards offering customers rewards for purchases. Yet, the traditional way of viewing loyalty cards is shifting. 

While customers have long been familiar with the variety of rewards that loyalty cards and programs offer, many are now choosing the option to donate points or miles to charity. Depending on the program involved, there are a number of options for customers from which to choose. 

For example, a customer can donate all of their points or just some. They can donate on a once-off basis; conversely, they can opt for a continuing donation at a fixed rate. Customers can choose to invest with pre-selected partners, or use a card that donates directly to a particular cause with each purchase. Recent years have seen immense growth in the sector, and there’s likely more to come.

Growing appeal

Alden Hadwen is Director of Community Engagement at Aimia Canada. Alden explains the appeal of charitable donations using rewards: “there are many reasons why customers decide to gift their miles,” says Alden. “Some do so because they don’t use them, but for many others it’s an easy and hassle-free way of making charitable donations.” 

It’s important to note that those donations have a massive impact. According to Alden, donated miles allow charities and non-profits the ability to defray massive costs: “they use it just like a regular member would. They use it for flights, for accommodation; for some organizations miles can represent a third of their budget, if they do a lot of travel.” 

The ability to send workers around the world at no cost has the knock-on effect of enabling charities to direct regular cash donations far more effectively. Taking items like travel and accommodation off the balance sheet means charities like Engineers Without Borders (or Medicine Sans Frontiers) ,  can invest saved money in life-saving equipment and supplies.

Additional benefits

Another advantage is that 100 percent of all donated miles go directly to the selected charity. Alden views this as one of the major attractions of using rewards for charitable purposes. 

“This gives the customer immense peace of mind — knowing that every last mile is going where you want it to. Also, — we’re able to help charities by offering them our expertise — by helping them with doing things like making bookings or more general advice.”

While not every customer utilizes rewards programs, many do. Surprisingly, some do not redeem their points at all.  Instead, points just accumulate over time and aren’t actually used for anything. 

Donating is simple

For those sitting on mountains of rewards points, a charitable donation could be the way to finally put them to good use. “We do this to contribute to the greater good; we don’t gain anything by it. We do it because we believe in these organizations and what they’re trying to achieve,” says Alden. 

“Donating is extremely simple. You go to the site, press ‘donate,’ and from there you can decide how much you want to give.” So for those with large accumulations of points — or for those looking to make valuable charitable contributions — consider donating your points to charity. They can go a long way.