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The aurora borialis in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

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By Rob Carrick

I've been a member of the Air Miles customer loyalty program for 23 years, nearly as long as I've been married. My wife and I are happy together. Air Miles and me? It's complicated. Unless I use my points by year's end, they'll start expiring.

Air Miles informed members back in 2011 that points older than five years would begin to expire on Dec. 31, 2016. Now, it's use them or lose them time for people like me who have been collectors for ages but never redeemed them. Frankly, I'd rather let the points continue to accumulate to a more meaningful level. Already, I've struck out trying to get a flight because I didn't have enough points to fly when I wanted.

Aeroplan, which competes with Air Miles, has a policy where you must earn or redeem at least one mile in a 12-month period to keep your account active. Read here about what happened last year to one guy who didn't do this.

If you're trying to burn some Air Miles points, check out this list of five domestic travel destinations that are trending with Canadians.

Rob's top web links

2008 revisited? No
> Nouriel Roubini, the economist who saw the global financial crisis coming, says his answer is "a straightforward no" when he's asked if today's troubles in financial markets are like 2008. However, he does believe there are some serious risks facing investors.

If you're looking to change online brokers
> Online brokerage firms are cutting back on the promotions they're offering to attract new clients. Here's a review of what's still out there.

Why we're still paying fuel surcharges
> Oil prices have crashed. Read here why we're still paying surcharges for high fuel costs.

Tax relief for your car
> Globe and Mail tax specialist Tim Cestnick on the various tax breaks related to owning a car.

The Kijiji economy
> The second-hand marketplace is booming in Canada. Read here about the kinds of people who use services like Kijiji and Craigslist.

This will shake your trust in financial advisers
> A U.S. study finds that 7 per cent of advisers have been disciplined for various reasons. Here's a rundown on how to run a background check on an adviser in Canada. One of the knocks on advisers is that they sometimes provide advice meant primarily to generate commissions for themselves. Here's an example involving a young woman and a TFSA.

Today's featured investment tool is a website that will help you find out what government benefits you're eligible for. Give it a try when you're ready to file your tax return.

Ask Rob

The question: "Could you please explain negative interest rates, and what I should expect as a consumer. How will this affect my banking, pension etc. Also, how is this even possible?"

My reply: Negative rates mean that savers pay to have their money held safely by a bank. The point is to drive investment in the economy. Why keep money safety tucked away if you have to pay to do it? Negative rates are being used by several European countries, but Canada is a long way from having to resort to this desperate measure. If rates did go negative in Canada, I doubt that banks would actually charge clients to have savings accounts. But you can forget any sort of an incentive to save. Sounds perverse and it is. Let's hope our economy stabilizes so we don't have to experience this first-hand.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured Video

How do you get the best deal on exchange rates when travelling? Answers here.

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