I would first like to apologize for the lack of posts this week … it’s just been a very hectic week but I’ll try to do better next week.
Today we are going to take a look at Aeroplan because it is the most ubiquitous loyalty program for Canadians and is most likely the program that most of you hold points in. We will look at the pros and cons of the program and touch on the famous “mini-round-the-world” redemption which will lead into a new series where I detail how to find and book these mini-RTW trips.
Aeroplan was a program that was launched by Air Canada back in 1984 in order to build brand loyalty and to stay competitive in the ever-present trend of rewarding loyal airline customers. In 2008, the program was completely spun off from Air Canada and is now owned and operated by Aimia, a Montreal-based company that specializes in loyalty programs. While the Aeroplan program allows you to redeem points on Air Canada, it should be noted that Air Canada does not have direct control of Aeroplan nor the points that are issued.
In Canada, Aeroplan miles are probably the most common form of loyalty currency out there based on the sheer number of retailers that provide points for shopping at their stores. I won’t list all of retailers as they can change but some of the key ones include Esso, the Brick, Costco, FTD, Home Hardware, Uniprix and Primus. For a full list of retailers please refer to the official list here.
As a Canadian, it’s easy to earn points with Aeroplan. Simply shop with one of Aeroplan’s retail partners or pick up a co-branded credit card from CIBC or TD. With these cards, every dollar you spend will accumulate Aeroplan miles. With the higher end cards, you can accumulate 1.25 miles per dollar spent but the cards come with a higher annual fee.
Aeroplan points expire after one year of inactivity. If your points expire and you want to reinstate them, apparently you can for a fee of $50 and $0.01 per point to be reinstated. This is a horrible deal and not one I would ever recommend so keep on top of your points and when they expire.
I wrote a piece about AwardWallet and how easy it is to use to keep track of your balances and expiry of your points. Use it. It’s free unless you want the premium version, which I use, in which case it is $30 USD per year.
The easiest way to keep your points from expiring is to fill up at an Esso once a year or use another retailer. At Esso, a $3 fill earns 1 Aeroplan Mile, which is enough to extend your points for another year.
If you are really bad at keeping track of your points and don’t frequent Aeroplan retailers, you could always accumulate your points in your child’s account as those points don’t expire until a year after they turn 18.
A few years ago, Aeroplan introduced “status” to their program. You earn status by accumulating points in the program. There are three tier levels: Silver (25,000 Aeroplan), Black (50,000 Aeroplan) and Diamond (100,000 Aeroplan). The benefit vary in each tier level but to be very honest, I don’t see much value in it unless you get to Diamond.
To me, the only real benefit of achieving status with Aeroplan is access to their priority line. If you have ever called Aeroplan before, you know that waits can be up to an hour long. With priority access, you get placed at the front of the queue so your wait is rarely longer than 5 minutes, however, this benefit really only matters to people that call the call centre a lot, like people that book a lot of complex awards. If you can book your Aeroplan awards using the site, this benefit doesn’t move the dial for you at all.
All the other benefits are not of much value to me but you might find some value there.
It should be noted that sign up bonuses for Aeroplan-branded credit cards do not count towards Aeroplan Status.
Redeeming Aeroplan Miles
Redemptions on Aeroplan are based on a redemption chart that is published by Aeroplan. The current chart is below:
In terms of what countries are included in each area, you’ll have to refer to the chart below.
Unfortunately, the people at Aeroplan have a firm grasp on geography so there are no obvious sweet spots for redemptions, unlike some programs that have Israel as part of Europe. If you’re desperate for a “deal” some countries that are in Europe 1 like Spain, Portugal, and Italy are a bit further than some Europe 2 countries such as Poland and Finland, however, this difference is marginal and not really worth writing home about.
Short Haul Flights
Aeroplan offers short haul flight redemptions for flights between neighboring provinces and states. This tends to benefit those in the Eastern Canada more than those in the West and Prairie Provinces. Below is the list of short haul eligible routes:
As you can see, if you live in Ontario or Quebec, short haul redemptions might be of great benefit to you. If you live in Calgary like I do, the chances you are redeeming for short haul flights are fairly low.
Star Alliance Partners
As Aeroplan is the official rewards program for Air Canada, you have the right to redeem on all Star Alliance Partners. Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance in the world so you have access to 27 airlines that service most of the world.
Fuel Surcharges on Partners
Now just because you can redeem on partner airlines for awards, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be cheap. In fact, there are a few partners in the Star Alliance that charge exorbitant fuel/carrier surcharges including Air Canada, and Lufthansa. We are always trying to eliminate as much cost as possible so I would recommend flying with an airline that does not charge fuel/carrier surcharge like United, Swiss, and Turkish. For a full overview of fuel/carrier surcharge, please refer to my post about it here.
Mini Round-the-World Redemptions
For those that don’t know the program well, the mini-RTW redemption provides the best value for your award travel full stop.
I will be covering this topic more in depth in the next week or so (time permitting) but the general gist of the mini-RTW redemption is that in addition to your destination, you are allowed two additional stopovers on an international flight.
For example in the last mini-RTW I redeemed, I flew to Istanbul, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro on the same ticket. We flew business class and redeemed 150,000 Aeroplan Miles per ticket.
These redemptions can be very complicated but trust me, it’s worth fully understanding if you really want to take that “once in a lifetime” trip for very little money and very few Aeroplan points (relatively speaking).
I intend on covering the rules associated with the mini-RTW as well as tips for finding availability on low/no fuel/carrier surcharge (YQ) airlines.
Hopefully, I have given you a high level understanding of Aeroplan, which really just sets you up for my upcoming series on min-RTW redemptions. Stay tuned.