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As many changes as airlines have been making to their frequent flyer programs in the past 18 months to cope with COVID-related issues, Air Canada’s Aeroplan program has undergone one of the most dramatic transformations of all. Air Canada actually spun off Aeroplan in 2002 but repurchased it in 2019, and almost immediately set about remaking it completely.
Now that the airline is fully back in control, Aeroplan members will find new ways to earn and redeem their points. In fact, that’s one of the modifications: they’re now called points instead of miles. There’s also a brand-new way to earn Aeroplan points, as Chase added Aeroplan as an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner and recently launched the Aeroplan® Credit Card.
Read more: The new Chase Aeroplan credit card is a stunner — even if you never fly Air Canada
You can transfer points earned from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, which should open up even more options to optimize the program for folks willing to put in the effort.
With all this in mind, here’s how you can earn, redeem and maximize Aeroplan points.
How to earn Aeroplan points
Under the new scheme, Aeroplan members can earn points (not miles) in a number of ways. Here are some of the best.
Earn Aeroplan points with credit cards and points transfers
The new Aeroplan® Credit Card is the only US credit card that earns Aeroplan points directly. However, Aeroplan also partners with several major transferable credit card points programs.
Chase Aeroplan Credit Card
16.49% – 23.49% variable
Good to Excellent
two Welcome Flight Reward certificates worth up to 100,000 total points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
Chase’s new Aeroplan® Credit Card launched in December 2021, and it’s a good pick even if you don’t fly Air Canada frequently. New cardholders can earn two Welcome Flight Reward certificates worth up to 100,000 total points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The welcome bonus is awarded as two certificates worth up to 50,000 points each, which you can use to book flights on Air Canada or any of its 45 partners, including United Airlines, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines.
Read more: Chase Air Canada Aeroplan credit card review
New cardholders also receive automatic Aeroplan 25K Elite Status for the remainder of the first calendar year, plus the following calendar year — although if you apply before the end of 2021, your 25K status will be active through the end of 2023.
The card offers a free first checked bag on Air Canada flights for the primary cardholder and up to eight companions on the same reservation, the ability to re-earn (or step-up) elite status by hitting spending thresholds, and up to $100 reimbursement for the Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, or NEXUS application fee every four years.
Starting in 2022, cardholders will have the option to redeem up to 50,000 Aeroplan points per year toward any eligible travel purchase through Chase Pay Yourself Back. When you redeem points this way, they’re worth 1.25 cents each — and qualifying travel includes airfare, car rentals, hotels, rideshares, and much more.
American Express Membership Rewards
See Pay Over Time APR
100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 in your first 6 months of card membership, plus 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of card membership
Aeroplan has long been an Amex transfer partner. If you carry a card that earns Membership Rewards points, you can convert them to Aeroplan points at a 1:1 ratio. Here are some of the best American Express cards to consider.
Capital One Miles
16.99% – 23.99% Variable
100,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 6 months from account opening
If you have a card that earns Capital One Miles, you can transfer them to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio. Here are five cards that can help you along the way.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
With the addition of Air Canada as a Chase Ultimate Rewards partner, cardholders can move points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio with instant transfers.
Only some cards — like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card — have to ability to transfer points to partners. However, if you have one of these cards, you can combine points from other no-annual-fee Chase cards, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Chase Freedom Unlimited®, then transfer them to airline and hotel partners.
Marriott Bonvoy points
15.99% – 22.99% Variable
Good to Excellent
3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases and 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories
Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Aeroplan miles at a ratio of 3:1. But when you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at a time, you get a 5,000-mile airline bonus. So if you transferred 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you’d end up with 20,000 Aeroplan points, plus a 5,000-point bonus for a total of 25,000 Aeroplan points.
While that’s not the most phenomenal deal, it’s still worth taking advantage of in some cases. Both Chase and Amex issue Marriott Bonvoy credit cards.
Earn Aeroplan points flying Air Canada
The next easiest way to rack up Aeroplan points is by actually flying Air Canada, but the earning formula is going to change in 2023.
For now, passengers are awarded points based on the fare code of the ticket they purchase, the distance flown, and the region in which they are traveling. If it sounds confusing, it is. You can check this earning chart for specifics, but the gist is this:
- Basic fares within Canada earn 10% award points based on mileage flown, and no elite-qualifying points
- Basic fares between Canada and the US earn 25% award points, and no elite-qualifying points.
- Basic fares between Canada and other international destinations as well as Standard fares within Canada earn 25% of the miles flown as award and elite-qualifying points
- Standard fares between Canada and the US or other international destinations earn 50% award and elite points based on mileage flown
- Flex fares earn 100% award and elite points based on mileage flown
- Comfort fares earn 115% award and elite points based on flight mileage
- Latitude and Premium Economy fares earn 125% award and elite points
- Business class fares earn 150% award and elite points
Pay special attention to your regions of travel, flight distances, and most importantly, the fare class of your ticket to calculate just how many points you’ll earn.
But here’s the monkey wrench: Sometime in 2023 that has yet to be specified, flyers will begin to earn Aeroplan points based on spending and elite status rather than flight distance. Originally, this change was planned for late 2021, but it’s been postponed.
Qualifying spending includes airfare and carrier surcharges, but not taxes. This is sort of like how you earn miles with American, Delta, and United these days. As far as we know, it will look like this:
- Basic fares: Earn 2x points per (Canadian) dollar
- Standard fares: Earn 3x points per (Canadian) dollar
- Flex/Comfort fares: Earn 3x points per (Canadian) dollar
- Latitude fares: Earn 3x points per (Canadian) dollar
- Premium economy fares: Earn 3x points per (Canadian) dollar
- Business fares: Earn 3x points per (Canadian) dollar
Essentially, everything but basic economy fares will earn 3x per dollar.
Boost your earnings with elite status
We won’t get into the details of achieving elite status. But if you do hit one of these tiers, you’ll accumulate even more award points per (Canadian) dollar once the new system goes into effect. Here’s how many more each level will accrue.
- 25K status: 1x extra per dollar
- 35K status: 1x extra per dollar
- 50K status: 2x extra per dollar
- 75K status: 3x extra per dollar
- Super Elite status (yes, this is actually the name): 4x extra per dollar
So you can really up your earning potential depending on your tier. With 75K status, you’re basically doubling your return on spending, and Super Elites do even better.
It’s also worth noting that you’ll earn Aeroplan points for onboard food and beverage purchases. You earn 25 points for spending between CAD $10 and $19.99, and 50 Aeroplan points for purchases of CAD $20 or above.
Earn points flying Air Canada’s airline partners
Air Canada also has over 45 Star Alliance and non-alliance airline partners on whom you can earn and redeem points, including recently added partners Oman Air and Air Mauritius. Here’s the full list:
Like on Air Canada’s own flights for now, how many points you’ll earn on its partners will depend on the fare you purchase and the distance you fly. For instance, United flights earn between 25% and 150% points and elite-qualifying miles based on mileage flown, while Air New Zealand flights earn between 70% and 125%.
Before booking anything, double-check the earning rates with partners you’re considering flying and make the right choice based on your travel needs and earning capacity.
Aeroplan is one of the few airline frequent flyer programs that allow members to pool points among friends and family. With Aeroplan Family Sharing, up to eight members can link accounts, and any points earned are shared among all and can be used by all. If any of the family members have elite status or an Air Canada co-branded credit card, any associated benefits, such as discounted award flights, will also be applied to the pool of points.
Other partners: Hotels, car rentals, vacation packages
You can also earn Aeroplan points with a variety of other travel partners. For example, you can earn 250 Aeroplan points per qualifying stay with Best Western and Choice Hotels, and 500 points per stay with Coast Hotels and Shangri-La.
Additionally, you can transfer points from certain hotel loyalty programs into Aeroplan points. For example, ALL – Accor Live Limitless points convert at a 2:1 ratio, and Hilton Honors or Radisson Rewards at a 10:1 rate. You can also opt to earn 2x Aeroplan points per dollar spent with Wyndham or Marriott Bonvoy.
As for transport partners, including car rentals, you can both save money and earn bonus points with Avis, Budget, Payless, and Park ‘N Fly. Some Air Canada Vacations packages also earn bonus points – usually a fixed amount like 5,000 to 7,000 points per reservation that depends on the destination.
Through the Aeroplan eStore, members can either earn bonus points, or redeem points for purchases with nearly 200 retailers including Apple and Sephora. These tend to be modest — usually around 1x to 3x bonus points per dollar, but can still add up.
Read more: Online shopping portals are an effortless way to earn bonus cash back and travel rewards — here’s how they work
Buy or transfer points
Purchasing airline miles or points is never a great deal, so in general, try to avoid it. However, if you only need to top up your account with a few thousand for an upcoming award, it can be worth it, especially if there are any discounts or bonuses to take advantage of.
Normally, though, Aeroplan points cost CAD $0.03 apiece to purchase, and CAD $0.02 to transfer between accounts.
The best ways to redeem Aeroplan miles
Now we get to the crux of the changes to Aeroplan. Air Canada has instituted a sweeping revamp of its awards system and it’s … complicated.
Redeem Aeroplan points for flights
As with a lot of frequent flyer programs, you typically get the most value from your points or miles by redeeming them for flights, either with the airline or its partners.
Some programs, like Alaska Mileage Plan, base their award prices off of the regions of travel and partners you fly. Others, like British Airways, use distance-based formulas where the longer your flight, the more miles it will require. Still others, such as Southwest and JetBlue, peg the value of their points to (nearly) fixed values that correlate to airfare — so the more expensive the ticket you want to redeem for, the more points you need.
Aeroplan has opted for a complex hybrid award system that blends region- and distance-based charts, and will price Air Canada’s own flights dynamically according to availability, meaning there will be a range of mileage prices depending on the zone, cabin, and airfares. Here’s how it works.
There are four major regions into which the world is divided:
- North America (including the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean)
- Atlantic (including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and even India)
- Pacific (including most of Asia, Oceania, Australia, and New Zealand)
- South America (speaks for itself)
Then, within each region and between regions, the number of Aeroplan points required for a flight will depend on the distance flown and, for Air Canada’s own flights, the type of award availability there is (saver, standard, etc.). The good news is, there’s now last-seat availability on Air Canada flights — you’ll just need a lot more points to book that last seat.
All told, Aeroplan now publishes 10, yes 10, separate award charts to keep straight. If that sounds like too much work, you can simply input your origin and destination into the airline’s Points Predictor tool and price out the miles you need based on the cabin you want to fly and whether you’re going to take Air Canada or partners.
To take a quick, illustrative example without getting too granular, let’s say you’re based in the US. For flights within North America (and remember, we’re including Central America and the Caribbean here), Air Canada economy awards cost between 6,000 and 25,000 points each way based on distance, while those on partners cost 6,000 to 22,500 points.
In business class, Air Canada flights will price out between 15,000 and 70,000 points, while partner tickets will require 15,000 to 35,000 points.
Read more: The best ways to travel to Europe with points and miles
The contrasts become even starker when you start traveling between regions. From North America to destinations in the Atlantic Zone (including Europe and Africa), you could be paying 35,000 to 100,000 points for an economy ticket on Air Canada (35,000 to 70,000 on partners), or 60,000 to 220,000 in business class on Air Canada (60,000 to 100,000 on partners).
The key to using these charts effectively will be to comparison shop and know which awards will price out better according to the new system than using miles from a partner program like United MileagePlus.
Aeroplan award sweet spots
So with that in mind, here are a few specific awards that might be a good deal. This is by no means an exhaustive list. In general, you’ll want to keep your routing as short as possible so as not to be charged higher mileage prices since they are now based on distance.
Read more: The best credit card rewards sweet spots that get you the most from your hard-earned points and miles
Aeroplan will let you add one stopover on one-way award tickets, or two on round-trips, for 5,000 extra points each. However, there are some rules to be aware of, like you cannot add them in Canada or the US or “backtrack” through an airport you’ve already traveled to or transited. Still, this can be a great way to wrap two trips up in one without paying for two separate award tickets.
With that out of the way, here are a few examples of when you might want to use Aeroplan miles:
- Short flights within North America can be very expensive, but you now need just 6,000 to 10,000 points for an economy ticket on flights under 500 miles, or 10,000 to 15,000 for flights between 501 and 1,500 miles
- Fly United business class from the West Coast to Hawaii for 25,000 points each way
- Fly Seattle or Vancouver to Tokyo on All Nippon Airways for just 55,000 points each way in business class
- Fly from most of the US to Frankfurt in Lufthansa first class for 90,000 to 100,000 points each way
Points + Cash awards
Like some other frequent flyer programs, including British Airways Executive Club, Aeroplan now lets you book award tickets using a mix of points and cash. You can use points to pay the tax portion of a ticket, for instance, or to shave up to a few hundred dollars off your fare. Rather than a sliding scale that lets you select the exact amount of points you want to redeem, though, you’re stuck to the preset increments that Aeroplan presents you.
From a few sample bookings, this tends to yield a value of about CAD $0.01 to $0.014 per point. That’s decent, but you probably only want to use this option if you don’t have quite enough points in your account to book the award outright.
Upgrades and inflight Wi-Fi
Among two of the more interesting ways to redeem your points are for upgrades on Air Canada flights and inflight Wi-Fi purchases.
For upgrades, you’ll need to log into your specific reservation and bid on an upgrade offer using points, so your value may vary. For the Wi-Fi, just log into the network on your next flight and choose a plan that has points pricing to select that option instead of paying cash.
Lower fees and partner charges
One bright spot in all these changes is that Aeroplan has removed carrier-imposed surcharges from its award tickets. These would add up to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on some flights, making it pointless to … well, use your points.
What made them even more confusing was that they only applied to certain airlines. Now, however, Aeroplan is charging a flat CAD $39 partner booking fee for tickets on other airlines, and no such surcharges on Air Canada’s own flights (though you still have to pay taxes and third-party fees like airport charges).
Aeroplan has introduced a rather unique benefit for elite members called Priority Rewards. These are vouchers good for 50% off the price in points of a flight reward. Now, you have to hit some pretty high spending requirements to earn vouchers — you get one at CAD $4,000, $7,000, $10,000, and $15,000 then for every $5,000 above that up to $50,000 maximum per calendar year. (Note these are all in Canadian dollars, so the range in USD is $3,190 to $39,877 based on exchange rates at the time of post writing).
There are also some complicated limitations to how you can apply these. For example, if you have 25K or 35K status, you can only apply your Priority Rewards to economy flights within the US or Canada. If you have 75K status, you can use yours worldwide on tickets in economy and premium economy, but not higher. So it takes some strategy, but depending on how you apply these, shaving half off the points price of your ticket can amount to tens of thousands of points in savings.
Other travel and retail partners
As with earning, you can cash in your Aeroplan points with other travel and retail partners. In general, this is not the way to go since you can usually squeeze a lot more value from points when booking flights.
But if you have an Aeroplan stash and nothing to do with the points, you can now use them to book stays at over 300,000 hotels, reservations at over 11,000 car rental locations, entire Air Canada Vacations packages, directly for merchandise or gift cards via the Aeroplan eStore, and for activities and travel experiences (presumably more will come online as we begin to progress to a post-COVID travel scenario).
Read more: 7 things you can do with your points and miles besides booking travel, from making Amazon purchases to ordering food delivery
From various searches, the value you tend to get is just around CAD $0.007 to $0.012 per point with any of these options, so it might be best to avoid them.
Air Canada Aeroplan has undergone some sweeping changes, with more to come. Members will eventually begin to earn points based on spending rather than mileage flown. The airline has also instituted an entirely new system of reward pricing, both for its own flights as well as those on partners, that is sure to have many flyers scratching their heads.
The good news is, there are still some great ways to reap value from both earning and redeeming Aeroplan points. Plus, US customers have new options with the program thanks to its partnership with Chase and the launch of the Aeroplan® Credit Card.
Good to Excellent
3 free nights (each valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases and 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories
Good to Excellent
$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
Good to Excellent