Aeroplan Rewards Guide

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Are you looking for an Aeroplan rewards guide? Aeroplan is Canada’s largest airline loyalty program and one of the best in the world. What you may not realize is that the program went through significant changes at the end of 2020. Many people haven’t used their points since the pandemic, so it’s time to get reacquainted with Aeroplan.

From dynamic flight pricing to earning more points, there’s a lot to be said about Air Canada’s loyalty program. Admittedly, some of the features can be quite confusing, so many people don’t end up maximizing their points. That’s why I wrote this Aeroplan rewards guide. It’s meant to be a basic introduction to the program, so you get more value from your points.

How to earn Aeroplan points

The obvious appeal of Aeroplan is that it’s the loyalty program of Canada’s top airline, Air Canada. As you can imagine, there are multiple ways to earn points in Canada. Air Canada has even added more partners in the last year, so it’s never been easier to rack up those points. As long as you’re using every opportunity available to you, it’s really not that hard to earn enough points for free flights every year.

Here’s how to earn Aeroplan points. 

Flying

As weird as it sounds, many people forget that Aeroplan is first and foremost an airline loyalty program. You earn Aeroplan points when flying on Air Canada on paid tickets. All you need to do is add your Aeroplan number to your flight booking.

The number of points you’ll earn is based on fare option, class, destination and distance flown. Points earned vary greatly with these variables, that’s why you should check out the official details.

You can also earn points for in-flight purchases like food or duty free. Note that Aeroplan will change the earn rate from the current distance-based to points earned based on dollars spent. This change is supposed to happen later in 2022. Some people will consider this a devaluation, but Aeroplan already announced this change back in 2020, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

In addition, you earn Aeroplan points on paid flights with over 35 partners including United, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Eva Air, and Egyptair. The number of points earned is different for each partner, so check for more details here.

Aeroplan co-branded credit cards

Unless you fly a lot, the easiest way to earn Aeroplan points is with one of the best Aeroplan credit cards. All of these cards will earn you Aeroplan points on every purchase you make. This is a great and easy way to earn points since you’d make these purchases anyways.

Some cards give bonus earnings on top of base earn rate on Air Canada purchases, dining, gas, and grocery purchases. The high-end cards also come with great travel perks when flying on Air Canada, such as Maple Leaf Lounge access, priority check-in and boarding, and free checked bags.

Aeroplan co-branded credit cards also come with travel insurance. Most credit card travel insurance won’t cover a trip paid by points since that trip is not fully charged on the credit card. However, if you book flights using Aeroplan points, and pay with a co-branded Aeroplan credit card, your insurance would apply.

The following are some of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada.

American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card

  • $599 annual fee
  • Up to 90,000 Aeroplan points welcome offer
  • 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

American Express Aeroplan Card

  • $120 annual fee
  • Earn up to 40,000 Aeroplan points + a Buddy Pass as your welcome bonus
  • Earn 2 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on Air Canada purchases
  • Earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent on dining and food purchases
  • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • First bag checked free on Air Canada flights

Aeroplan eStore

Similar to Rakuten or GreatCanadianRebates, Aeroplan has a shopping portal that will allows you to earn points while you do your regular online shopping. All you need to do is go to the Aeroplan eStore and click the link to the partner merchants. The list of available retailers includes most of the popular merchants including Amazon, Apple, Lululemon or The Bay to name a few.

At the minimum, you’ll earn 1 Aeroplan point per $1 spent when going through the eStore. However, the store often has promotions where you can earn as much as 10 points per $1 spent. These promos can be quite lucrative, so it’s worth checking to see what’s currently available.

Hotels and car rentals

You can earn Aeroplan points by booking hotels and car rentals via the Aeroplan dedicated booking portal. You will earn anywhere from 1 to 5 points per $1 spent (and potentially more during promotions). While the points can be appealing, be sure to compare the price on the Aeroplan portal vs. booking directly with hotel. Keep in mind that bookings through Aeroplan will be considered as a 3rd party booking, so your status with that hotel chain won’t likely be tied to the reservation.

You can also opt to earn Aeroplan points instead of hotel points with many chains including Marriott and Best Western. Note that earning rates are better with the hotel programs so I would consider opting for Aeroplan points only in chains I don’t stay often. 

Retail partners

Aeroplan has also started adding more physical retail partners. You can link your Aeroplan account with your Starbucks and UberEats accounts. Once linked, you’ll automatically earn Aeroplan points when you use the app to make purchases. What’s nice is that you’ll still earn Starbucks Stars on all your purchases, so you’re effectively earning double the rewards.

LCBO and Home Hardware are also Aeroplan partners. Just show your Aeroplan card/number when you make your in-store purchases

Transferring points

Another way of earning Aeroplan points is by transferring points from other programs. For example, you can convert American Express Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan points at a 1:1 ratio. This is one of the best ways to earn Aeroplan points since American Express has so many cards.

You can also convert hotel loyalty points from 10 different chains into Aeroplan points. You can see all details on this page, but you need to make sure it’s worth it. As a general rule, transferring your hotel points to Aeroplan isn’t the best use of your points. That said, if you just need a few more Aeroplan points for a specific redemption, then it’s worth taking the hit.  

Purchasing points

There’s one more way to earn points in this Aeroplan rewards guide. You can always buy Aeroplan points. I usually don’t recommend buying travel points since the cost is usually expensive. That said, there are a few specific situations when it can be worth it. Check out this article about buying loyalty points for more details.

How to redeem Aeroplan points

Knowing how to redeem your Aeroplan rewards points is just as important as earning them. As you’ll quickly learn, there are multiple ways to redeem Aeroplan points. That said, redeeming your Aeroplan rewards points for flights is how to extract the most value out of these points.

Sure, you can use your points for hotels, and merchandise, but the value is so low, it’s not even worth a mention. That’s why I’ve decided to leave those options out of this Aeroplan rewards guide.

Here’s everything you need to know about booking flights with Aeroplan points. 

Air Canada and its partners

You can use Aeroplan points to redeem flights on Air Canada and its partners. Their partners include United, Lufthansa, Air China, Air New Zealand, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad, EVA Air, GOL, LOT Polish, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Australia.

No other airline program in the world has more redemption partners. That’s why you’ll want to study this Aeroplan rewards guide.

What’s great about Aeroplan is that you can now redeem your Aeroplan points for any seat available on Air Canada flights.

For partner airlines, availability is subject to seats that the airlines make available for partner award redemptions. Some airlines are more generous than others and you will find more seats if you search well in advance and outside peak periods for popular routes. Some airlines may also open more seats a few days before the flight if they don’t think they’ll sell all seats.

How many points are needed to redeem for flights?

The Aeroplan redemption chart is zone and distance based. The number of points required for a flight will vary depending to/from which zone you are flying and what the physical distance is between the two airports.

Redemptions on partner airlines have a fixed cost. However, redemptions on Air Canada flights are dynamic and the cost is based on both the redemption chart and the cash fare. For both Air Canada and its partners, redemption costs will also depend on the class booked and fare option.   

Aeroplan divided the planet into 4 zones:

New Aeroplan rewards chart Travel Zones

Here are the award charts for the most common routes. You can see all the charts here. Note that the number of points required for a redemption is listed as a one-way ticket in the charts. That means a round-trip would cost double number of points.

Within North America

New Aeroplan rewards chart within North America

Between North America and Atlantic zones

New Aeroplan rewards chart between North America and Atlantic Zones

Between North America and Pacific zones

New Aeroplan rewards chart Between North America and Pacific

Between North America and South America zones

New Aeroplan rewards chart Between North America and South America

Aeroplan Sweet spots

Since Aeroplan uses an award chart that has fixed pricing based on zones and distances, it creates some sweet spots. These sweet spots offer you maximum value for your points. Note that these sweet spots are for flights on partner airlines since Air Canada uses dynamic pricing for its own flights. To find great value on Air Canada flights, you need to manually search for flights.

Here’s a list of some of the best sweet spots:

  • Within North America, 6,000 points for under 500 miles routes is quite lucrative. Some routes include Toronto-Chicago, Toronto-New York, Montreal-New York, Montreal-Washington, and Vancouver-Portland.
  • Hawaii, Caribbean and Mexico being part of the North America zone creates some nice sweet spots. Vancouver to Hawaii route falls into the 1,501-2,750 miles range, so it would price at only 12,500 points. The same applies for Toronto or Montreal to most of Mexico and Caribbean destinations. Nassau, Bahamas even falls in the 501-1,500 miles range from Toronto and Montreal, so you could find tickets for 10,000 points.
  • From Canada to the Atlantic zone, one of the best routes is arguably Montreal-Casablanca that falls under 4,000 miles and can be booked for 35,000 Aeroplan points. Also, Egypt is just below the 6,000mi range from Montreal and Toronto so it can be booked for 40,000 points on partner airlines like EgyptAir. For Europe, many will find the best value to book in business or first class on partner airlines like Swiss, Turkish or Lufthansa.
  • People living in Vancouver can take advantage of the Pacific zone. The best redemption is easily Vancouver-Tokyo. The distance is just below under 5,000 miles so it would cost 35,000 points in economy or 55,000 points in business.

How dynamic pricing works

One significant change to Aeroplan is that Air Canada flights now use dynamic pricing for redemptions. This can’t be avoided unless you use partner airlines. That said, if you study this Aeroplan rewards guide, you can understand what’s a good value.

Dynamic pricing means you’ll pay more points when cash fares cost more. For example, popular and remote destinations will typically cost you more points. It would also cost you more points during peak seasons.

Let’s take a look at some flights between Toronto to Orlando to compare pricing.

Aeroplan Rewards dynamic pricing

For the first option, I used January 2nd as the date. Clearly, this is a popular time since it’s priced at 40,200 points. However, if you were to travel in May when Arizona sees fewer visitors, it’ll only cost you 17,600 points. That’s half the price in Aeroplan points.

More desirable flights will also affect dynamic pricing. Direct flights will always cost more points than flights with a connection. For the exact same date in May, you can find flights for 12,800 points if you’re willing to add a 3-hour wait in Calgary. You just need to decide if the points saved are worth the extra time.

There is no strict formula to determine dynamic pricing. From experience, I find that most dynamic pricing redemptions range from 1.3 to 2.5 cents per point in economy when compared to the cash fare. The redemption value for business and first class flights vs. cash fares can be much higher. 

The formula to figure out your value is the cash far price (minus taxes) X 100 / points required for redemption. This will give you your value per point.

Here are the per point redemption values for the 3 examples above:

  • The cash fare for the January flight was $572 for a 1.4 cents per point value.
  • The cash fare for the May direct flight was $300 for a 1.7 cents per point value.
  • The cash fare for the May flight with a connection was also priced $300 but was only 12,800pts for a redemption value of 2.3 cents per point.

I personally value Aeroplan points at 2 cents per point. I would only use my points if I’m getting at least that value. That means if I were to book this flight to Phoenix, I’d pay cash for the first two options, and use my points for the third.

Aeroplan credit card cardholders and Air Canada members with status also benefit from better point prices on Air Canada flights. You can see the lower point prices after you log in to your account while searching for redemptions if you are a cardholder or have status.

Adding a stopover to Aeroplan rewards

Aeroplan allows you to add a stopover of up to 45 days for 5,000 points on international itineraries. You currently can’t book stopovers online, so you need to call and have an Aeroplan book it for you. Note that no stopovers can be booked in Canada or in the USA, each stop will be considered a full segment and be priced accordingly. You can add one stopover per one-way, so you could book 2 stopovers on an international round-trip itinerary. 

This feature can be quite valuable as you can add a second destination at a very low cost. For example, you could book Toronto to New Delhi and add a weeklong stopover in Munich for only 5,000 points more.

Are there additional fees when booking Aeroplan rewards?

Another great improvement when Aeroplan redesigned its program in 2020 was the removal of aircraft surcharges when booking with points. Previously, a round-trip flight to Europe would cost you $700 on top of your points. You could fly to Europe on cash fares for less than that.

Now,  the only additional fees are the airport fees and local government taxes. These vary a lot between countries and airports, but typically you would have to pay around $55 to fly from major Canadian cities. 

How much are Aeroplan points worth?

With so many possible ways to redeem Aeroplan points, there is no definitive answer to how much are Aeroplan points worth. I personally value Aeroplan at 2 cents per point since I only redeem them for flights and that’s a good average value I get when using them.

That said, I wouldn’t disregard using them for a flight I need to book if the redemption value is at least 1.5 cents per point since that’s still decent. Don’t bother redeeming your points for merchandise of other low value redemptions since it’s not worth it.

Aeroplan Family Sharing

Aeroplan guide family sharing

One new feature of Aeroplan that many people will likely find appealing is the new family sharing plans. This will allow groups of up to 8 to merge their points and create one giant pool to make redemptions quicker.

The term family is loose as you can really add anyone you want. They don’t need to live at the same address, nor do they need to be actual family. You can add whoever you want to the group.

Some other rewards programs only allow points to be shared when joining a family group, but not with Aeroplan. People entering the group bring their current points with them, and they can be shared immediately. 

When it comes to redeeming points, things are done on a percentage basis. Let’s say a family of 4 creates a group, and the points being brought in are 40,000, 30,000, 25,000, and 5,000. That represents a split of 40%, 30%, 25%, and 5% respectively. Now let’s say someone in the group needs to make a redemption of 10,000 points, the points taken would be based on the percentage split so it would work out to be 4,000, 3,000, 2,500, and 500 points.

Another advantage of groups is that if someone has status or an Aeroplan credit card that gives them preferred redemption pricing, other members of the group also get those benefits. I have a detailed guide of Aeroplan Family Sharing plans here.

Since there are clearly some opportunities for fraud with these groups, Aeroplan has a few rules. Once you join a group, you can’t leave for 3 months. Once you’re out of a group, you can’t join a new one for 6 months.

How Aeroplan Elite Status works

One final thing I’ll go over in this Aeroplan rewards guide is Elite Status. Air transportation is very competitive, and Air Canada wants to make sure to keep its best customers. Air Canada rewards its most loyal customers and with additional status benefits. The more you fly and spend with Air Canada, the more perks you get thanks to the different levels of Elite status.

Qualification for status

To reach different levels of elite status, you need to earn SQM (Status Qualifying Miles) or SQS (Status Qualifying Segments) in addition to SQD (Status Qualifying Dollars). This means there is a minimum amount of dollars to spend with Air Canada and a minimum amount of flights to take.

Here is the chart for the different levels and requirements:

Aeroplan Rewards guide status

If you don’t qualify by these standards, stay alert to Aeroplan promotions. Aeroplan ran many promotions to reach elite status recently based on credit card spending, e-store purchases or points transfer.

Aeroplan Elite Status benefits

Each level of Elite status gives different benefits, you can see all the details here.

The most important benefits are:

  • Priority airport check-in
  • Priority boarding
  • Seat selection (discounted for low levels up to free preferred seats for higher levels)
  • Complimentary Checked Baggage and Sports Equipment Handling
  • Maple Leaf Lounge and Star Alliance Gold lounge complimentary access (50K and higher)
  • Annual passes for Maple Leaf Lounges (2 for lower levels up to 4 for higher levels
  • Annual e-upgrades (from 20 e-ups to 70 e-ups depending on levels)
  • Extra Aeroplan points on flights (+25% for lowest up to +100% for Super Elite)
  • 2 bonus points per dollar spent on Aeroplan estore.

Do Aeroplan points expire?

Aeroplan points don’t expire, but your account will be entirely closed if you don’t have at least one activity for an 18 months period.

To stay active, you need to earn points (flying, e-store, hotel, etc.), or redeem points (flights, gift cards, hotels, donations etc.). Alternatively, you could convert points from another program like Marriott Bonvoy, Best Western Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards.

Final thoughts

My Aeroplan review is positive. Aeroplan is one of the best airline loyalty programs in the world and the recent redesign got rid of the biggest pain points (seat availability and surcharges) while adding interesting features like family sharing.

There are so many ways to earn Aeroplan points in Canada, so everyone should at least create an account. You can even do some lazy travel hacking such as signing up for an Aeroplan credit card and routinely going through the e-store to make purchases. You could easily earn enough points for a free flight every year.

Aeroplan Rewards Guide

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

12 Comments

  1. Glen S on August 11, 2020 at 10:28 AM

    Thanks Barry, great summary. What’s the difference in yearly fees for the silver, slate and black credit cards? Would you recommend paying the additional fee for the black card?

    • Barry.Choi on August 11, 2020 at 10:33 AM

      Glen,

      TD released the new fees and features. I’m guessing CIBC and Amex will be similar – https://www.moneywehave.com/td-aeroplan-credit-cards/

      • Rick Theberge on August 11, 2020 at 5:23 PM

        Great column thx. If you spend $1000 does that translate to 1000 miles or I guess now 1000 points?
        Thanks for the response in advance

        • Barry.Choi on August 11, 2020 at 5:57 PM

          Rick,

          Yes, you’ll earn points instead of miles moving forward. Note that with tickets, the points earned don’t apply to taxes and surcharges. The best way to earn points moving forward is with a co-branded credit card

  2. Tawcan on August 11, 2020 at 7:49 PM

    The no fuel surcharge is a great change for sure. Dynamic pricing can be a pain but if you’re travelling in the offseason it might be beneficial for you.

    I thought United have fuel surcharge or maybe I’m mistaken. 🙂

    • Barry.Choi on August 11, 2020 at 8:19 PM

      Tawcan,

      It’s a pain, but it’s fair.

  3. Paul on August 11, 2020 at 11:08 PM

    Hi Barry,

    This was super helpful and informative.

    To confirm, will existing Aeroplan points be converted over? And if so, at what ratio? And will there be any expiry on the historical program points?

    Thanks so much.

    Ps – sorry if I missed this within the summary above, just wanted to confirm.

    • Barry.Choi on August 12, 2020 at 5:38 AM

      Paul,

      There’s no conversion. What you have now in miles will simply become points. I guess you could say it’s a 1:1 conversion. Your points expiry date will be based on the current rules which aren’t changing. That’s 18 months (recently changed from 12).

      • Paul on August 12, 2020 at 7:27 AM

        Hi Barry,

        Thanks for the response. I do have one follow up question….:

        I have been accumulating points for years and was not under the impression there was an expiry or that you would loose aeroplan points, however you mentioned 18 months. Are you able to add some more context / guidance on this?

        Thanks again

        • Barry.Choi on August 12, 2020 at 7:34 AM

          Paul,

          If there’s no account activity for 18 months, you’d lose your points. All you need is any type of activity and that would reset the clock. So as long as you earn, spend, donate etc. your points, your points won’t expire.

  4. Sailesh Patry on October 15, 2020 at 11:28 AM

    Does this mean previous benefits like Marriot Gold status is gone with the new Amex?

    • Barry Choi on October 15, 2020 at 11:30 AM

      Sailesh,

      Marriott Gold status is not tied to any Aeroplan credit cards. You might be thinking of the American Express Platinum Card that gives you Marriott Bonvoy Gold status. Nothing is changing with that card.

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