5 Aeroplan Tips You Need to Know

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With more than 180 destinations, Air Canada is Canada’s top airline. In addition, Aeroplan, Air Canada’s loyalty program, has 45+ airline partners. In total, you can access more than 1,300 destinations worldwide entirely on points. If you’re looking to travel for less, Aeroplan is the way to do it.

Admittedly, some people find Aeroplan too confusing and difficult to find value. However, with Aeroplan, any available Air Canada seat can be booked on points. That means there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to find a reward seat to help you reach your dream destination. I’ve written a more detailed Aeroplan Rewards guide, but to help you navigate the best airline loyalty program in Canada, here are five tips you need to know about Aeroplan.

Earning points is easy

Of all the travel loyalty programs in Canada, Aeroplan is the easiest one to earn points. That’s because they have multiple ways to earn points, and you can double-dip in almost every situation. Since you can earn points quickly, that means you can easily redeem for free flights, hotel stays, and more. Simply put, it’s not difficult to earn 100,000+ Aeroplan points every year.

Credit cards

The easiest way for people to earn Aeroplan points is with a co-branded credit card. Aeroplan has more than 10 credit cards in three different tiers: entry, core and premium. Those that want a minimal annual fee should look at the entry tier cards such as the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card. Core cards give you free checked bags and a higher earn rate but come with an annual fee of around $139. Premium cards have a healthy welcome bonus and tons of perks, such as free checked bags, priority check-in, priority boarding, and more, but the annual fee is $599.

I have a detailed list of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada available, but here are two cards you should consider:

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

  • $139 annual fee – Frist year free
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points after your first purchase
  • 20,000 additional Aeroplan points when you spend $5,000 in the first 180 days
  • 10,000 Aeroplan points on your anniversary when you spend $7,000 in the first 12 months
  • Earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on gas, groceries, and Air Canada purchases
  • Earn 1 Aeroplan point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • First bag checked free on Air Canada flights

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card typically has a welcome bonus of 50,000 – 70,000 Aeroplan points. Although the annual fee is $139, it can be waived if you have a TD All-Inclusive bank account. Even if you don’t bank with TD, the card often offers to rebate the annual fee for the first year. Note that since this card is so similar to the CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card, you should apply for whichever one has the better welcome offer.

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

  • $199 annual fee
  • Up to 115,000 Membership Rewards points welcome bonus when using a referral link
  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards points when spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • Earn 10,000 points when you charge $20,000 each quarter (yearly benefit)
  • Earn 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • 55 interest-free days
  • Mobile device insurance

The American Express Business Gold Rewards Card is an interesting choice for Aeroplan because the welcome bonus is typically 75,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of cardmembership. What makes this card a good pick is that you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Although this card doesn’t give you any Aeroplan benefits, it comes with a generous welcome bonus.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card

  • $599 annual fee
  • Earn 7,500 points per month when spending $2,000 each month for 6 months
  • Earn 5,000 points each when adding additional users at the time of sign up (up to 10,000 points)
  • Earn 35,000 points per month when spending $6,000 between months 13 and 16
  • Earn 3 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada, 2 points on dining and food delivery, and 1.25 points on all other purchases
  • Unlimited free access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America for you and a guest
  • Free first checked bag, priority check-in and boarding on Air Canada

Anyone looking for a bunch of Air Canada benefits should consider a premium card such as the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card. The welcome bonus is typically worth 90,000 to 120,000 points, but it’s the perks that attract a lot of people. With this card, you’ll get Maple Leaf Lounge access for you and a guest in North America, priority airport check-in, priority boarding, and access to priority lines at select Canadian airports. In addition, you can roll over some unused status qualifying miles and eUpgrade credits to the following year.

Flying

As you can imagine, you can also earn Aeroplan points by flying on Air Canada or one of its partners. Oddly enough, this is not a great way to earn points since many restrictions are in place. The number of points you’ll get is based on how far you’re flying, the type of seat you’ve chosen, and the fare class. You can see how many points you’ll earn for a specific flight by looking at the fare options. Note that you’ll only earn points on cash fares. You don’t get any points on flights that are booked with your Aeroplan points.

Aeroplan tips points earned

Retail partners / eStore

Aeroplan has a partnership with Uber. All you need to do is link your account, and you’ll earn points on every ride. When shopping at the LCBO, you’ll earn Aeroplan points if you scan your Aeroplan card. In addition, Aeroplan has an eStore with 200+ retail partners, including Amazon, Best Buy, Lego, Apple, Sephora, and more.

Once you’ve logged into your Aeroplan account, head to the eStore section. Click the merchant you want to shop with, and you’ll be taken to the website. Any eligible purchases you make at that retailer will earn you Aeroplan points. Plus, if you pay with your Aeroplan credit card, you’ll get points from your regular earn rate. This effectively allows you to double-dip your points.

Transfer from American Express

One final easy way to earn Aeroplan points is to transfer your points from American Express Membership Rewards (MR). The transfer ratio is 1:1 (1,000 points minimum). This is a highly lucrative proposition since that gives you a points currency that can be converted to Aeroplan points. American Express has four consumer credit cards that earn you MR points. If you applied for one of these cards and one Aeroplan card a year, you could easily earn 100,000 points a year from the welcome bonus alone.

Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing

Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing for its reward seats on Air Canada flights. That means the number of points it’ll cost you per flight will vary depending on the supply and demand. In addition, Aeroplan uses a flight rewards chart. That means the number of points required for a flight redemption will vary depending on where you’re flying to and the distance flown. The four major zones are as follows:

Within North America

Aeroplan within North America chart

North America to Atlantic

Aeroplan North America to Atlantic

North America to Pacific

Aeroplan North America to Pacific

North America to South America

Aeroplan North America to South America

Generally speaking, the ranges listed in the chart are accurate. There’s one exception. Business class seats will often far exceed the maximum threshold listed. This can be exceptionally annoying for Aeroplan users as there could be a 100,000+ points difference.

If you’re looking to fly in economy and want to minimize the number of points you’re using, play around with your dates and departure times. Flights departing Tuesday through Thursday often cost fewer points than those leaving from Friday to Monday. In addition, the first and last flights out for the day typically cost fewer points than the mid-day options since they’re less popular.

Even though you can pay a fixed number of points if you choose to fly with a partner airline, finding space on one of those partners can be very difficult.

The value of your points can differ

Since Aeroplan pricing fluctuates, your points’ value will also differ. Generally, 1 Aeroplan has a cost per point (CPP) value of 1.5 – 2 cents. When making redemptions, if you can get a CPP in that range, you should consider it a good deal. If the value falls below 1.5 cents, you may want to pay cash instead.

To calculate your cost per point (CPP), you would use the following formula:

(cash price – any taxes and fees) X 100 / Number of points required = CPP

Now let’s look at a practical example of a flight from Toronto to Cancun. Below is the cash price and the number of Aeroplan points required for a redemption.

If you were interested in the 8:50am flight, you’d use the following formula:

($575 – $118) X 100 / 35,200 = 1.30 CPP

That’s obviously a terrible CPP, so it’s not a good value for your points. However, you likely noticed that on the same flight, you can get a premium economy seat for 25,700 points. Using the formula again, you’d get the following:

($626 – $118) X 100 / 25,700 = 1.98 CPP

That’s a great value for premium economy, and it costs less than the economy seat, so that’s the obvious choice to go with.

But another thing to consider is that when you’re ready to confirm your ticket with Aeroplan, they give you four options. You can pay with fewer points and more cash, or all points and no cash. That said, each redemption has a different value. Take a look at the following example, which is taken from the 6:15am flight to Cancun.

From left to right, the actual value is as follows:

  • 1.59 CPP
  • 1.67 CPP (POPULAR)
  • 1.71 CPP
  • 1.42 CPP (POINTS ONLY)

Aeroplan will typically default you to the “popular” choice, but the best value is almost always the second one from the right (which is the amount you see during your initial search). Occasionally, the popular choice has a better CPP value, but that doesn’t happen often. Either way, when comparing the 6:15am and 8:50am flights, flying premium on points at 8:50am presents the best value. That said, remember that Aeroplan is dynamic. The search results above could change the next day.

You can cancel your ticket for free within 24 hours

With dynamic pricing, sometimes it makes sense to book some reward seats right away and figure out the logistics later. For many people, that’s impossible as they may need to coordinate with others or ask for time off. However, with cash and Aeroplan flights, you can cancel your ticket for a full refund as long as you do it within 24 hours of your original booking. This is essential if you ever come across a fare that offers exceptional value or is priced well below the norm.

Using the example above again, the premium economy flight to Cancun should obviously be priced more than the economy flight. You might as well book It immediately and try to sort out any details within your 24-hour window. If all things go well, you keep the ticket. If you’re unsure about your plans, cancel and rebook when ready.

In a worst-case scenario, you can change your ticket later (but a fee of about $100 applies, and you would pay the difference in points). You could also cancel for a fee of $150. The alternative is to book a higher fare class that costs more points but is fully refundable.

For example, let’s say you fund a business class flight on a partner airline to Europe would typically cost 70,000 points for a standard fare. However, a flexible fare is 85K points. Since these tickets are hard to find, you could book the flex fare first. Since the flex fare allows you to change at any time, you can take time to sort your plans. Alternatively, you can cancel the flight if you find something better or need to change your date without worrying about any fees.

To be clear, occasionally, you’ll come across a fare that costs way fewer points than it should. When you see those, book them immediately and think about the details afterward. If you wait even a day, or even a few hours, that ticket cost could increase.

You can pool your points with family

Another top Aeroplan tip is to take advantage of the Family Sharing Plan. With Family Sharing, up to eight Aeroplan members can join together. When this is done, points are earned and redeemed as a team. This is relevant because each person earns points individually.

For example, if you’re a family of four, each person would earn Aeroplan points when flying Air Canada as long as each member has an Aeroplan number. Individually, it would take quite some time for each person to earn enough points to get a good redemption. However, as a family, your points are pooled. This allows you to earn and redeem your points as a team, which means quicker redemptions.

As mentioned above, it’s not hard for someone to earn 100,000 Aeroplan points a year if they signed up for two credit cards each year that earned them Aeroplan points. That’s easily 200,000 points for a couple. 200,000 points is roughly enough points for four people to travel anywhere within North America in economy. In other words, a family of four can travel almost every year just on points.

Check out my Aeroplan Family Sharing guide for more details.

Final thoughts

Since Air Canada is Canada’s number one airline, many Canadians will naturally fly with them. As a result, it’s in your best interest to know the basics of the program. The good news is that earning points is easy and you can redeem your points for any seat available on Air Canada. If you read my Aeroplan Rewards guide, you can learn more details about the program. That said, the five tips provided above should put you on the path of travelling for less.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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