Changes to Aeroplan: What they mean for program members, credit cardholders and Elite flyers


One of Canada’s largest loyalty programs, Aeroplan announced changes rolling out in November 2020 that will affect Aeroplan-affiliated credit cardholders, everyday program members and Elite status flyers, while adding new features that aim to reinvigorate loyalty as Air Canada rebuilds Aeroplan from the ground up. 

The new Aeroplan, launching November 8, 2020, will see every member’s existing miles convert one-to-one to the new Aeroplan points, and refreshed Aeroplan credit cards from issuers TD, CIBC and American Express will light a fire in an already competitive credit card market heading into 2021.

What the Aeroplan relaunch means for credit card holders

The notable changes for mid-range and premium cards include one free checked bag on flights booked on points or purchased outright on the card, as well as reward tickets (extended to the primary user, linked authorized users and up to eight travel companions on the same reservation); Status Qualifying Miles on everyday spends; and for the Elite flyers with premium cards, the ability to roll over status miles and eUpgrade credits into the following year if unused. These changes make having the credit card and Aeroplan status beneficial, as opposed to only rewarding on Aeroplan redemption travel bookings. 

Part of the program refresh includes reimagining the credit card suite to work with the new Aeroplan Elite statuses. Existing users of all Aeroplan credit cards will be sent the new cards, while most annual fees will increase ($120 will go up to $139, and $399 to $599). Those interested in the new cards may see benefit in applying for the current card before the Nov. 8 launch to get in on the existing lower annual fee. 

Overview of new benefits on refreshed Aeroplan credit cards

Entry-level cards: TD Aeroplan Platium Visa, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Mid-level cards: TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite, American Express Aeroplan Card Premium cards: TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege, American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card 
Preferred pricing when redeeming Aeroplan points 1 checked bag free on a revenue or reward ticket (for primary user, authorized user, and up to 8 travel companions) 1 checked bag free on a revenue or reward ticket (for primary user, authorized user, and up to 8 travel companions)
1,000 Status Qualifying Miles + 1 Status Qualifying Segment per $10,000 eligible spend 1,000 Status Qualifying Miles + 1 Status Qualifying Segment per $5,000 eligible spend
Preferred pricing when redeeming Aeroplan points Maple Leaf Lounge access (for primary and authorized user)
Preferred pricing when redeeming Aeroplan points
Priority airport services like priority check-in, security, boarding (for primary and authorized user)
Annual companion fare ($99 in North America, offered when you spend a minimum of $25,000 annually)
Rollover elite miles/eUpgrade credits
Priority upgrades

3 new features for Aeroplan members

1. No more cash surcharges on redemptions

Air Canada is removing cash surcharges on reward redemptions. This will significantly reduce the fee added on top of the points redemptions when booking a flight with Aeroplan. In turn, redeeming will be much more attractive, combined with the added ability to redeem for virtually any seat on an Air Canada flight. The result is increased accessibility and added value.

2. Family Sharing

The new Aeroplan Family Sharing feature makes it easy for family members (or trusted friends!) to combine separate pools of Aeroplan points into one family pool. The individual totals are still tallied, but points are shared by family members for future redemptions. Miles are redeemed proportionately by each family member for that reward (so you can’t redeem for just one person from their pool). You can only be in one family at a time, and you are bound to that group for three months upon joining. Once you exit, you must remain as an individual for six months before associating to another family. 

3. Points + Cash

Points + Cash takes a page out of the Marriott Bonvoy program book in redeeming points, and it introduces the ability to redeem rewards for a combination of points with cash. Options of combinations will be made available to users to make the choice that enables better flexibility—ideal for when you might want to bank points for a future more valuable redemption. 

Things to watch out for

Peak pricing

While Aeroplan previously used a fixed-award chart, the new program will introduce peak pricing for flights within North America, and between North American and outside regions operated by Air Canada. On a traditional economy class fare, what would have been 15,000 miles return (plus taxes and fees) would fall into the 6,000- to 10,000-point range, per direction, meaning it could cost 12,000 to 20,000 points round trip (plus taxes and reduced surcharges) in the new charts. Variables would include flight capacity, demand and times, and passengers can see price jumps on high-demand flights, even while seeing potential savings on earlier flights or low-demand periods. Partner flights remain on a fixed chart, as will flights within regions outside of North America.

Revenue-based earn coming next year

In late 2021, Air Canada will be transitioning to revenue-based earn (points based on the amount spent), marking an official end to distance-based earn. With that, Economy Basic fares will become eligible to earn points, while they are ineligible towards Status Qualifying Miles (SQMs) and Status Qualifying Dollars (SQDs). Simpler calculation of points means greater transparency, with basic fares earning 2x base pre-tax fares, and all fares above earning 3x. Elite members earn more with additional multipliers, and 25/35K, 50K, 75K, and Super Elite will earn +1x, +2x, +3x, and +4x, respectively. In some cases, especially with sale fares, earn rates may see a decrease in the new revenue-based earn calculations compared to what’s currently in place.

Changes coming for Elite users

Redesigned tiers

Members will see the unification of Air Canada Altitude and Aeroplan Distinction statuses, with the new currency being “points.” Points will be collected through spend and travel, while AQMs and AQDs will become SQMs and SQDs—Status Qualifying Miles and Status Qualifying Dollars, respectively. SQMs and SQDs will still primarily come from air travel to be counted towards Elite status; however, spend accelerators will be made available through co-branded credit cards.

For everyday spenders, 100,000 Aeroplan points will qualify for 25K Aeroplan status. Elite tiers will become 25K, 35K, 50K, 75K, and Super Elite (100K), and status qualification will be instant and valid through next calendar year with digital lounge passes deposited into the member’s Aeroplan account for use. 

Rollover SQM and eUpgrade credits

Premium Aeroplan credit cards will now include a unique feature that gives elite members the ability to roll over SQMs and eUpgrade credits for the following year. So, if you have unused SQMs from the previous tier you reached or unused eUpgrade credits, the difference in SQMs and eUpgrade credits will be moved to next year.

Final thoughts: Apply now or wait until November?

Air Canada’s decision to bring Aeroplan back in-house has many benefits for Aeroplan members. A tighter integration with their reservation systems and inventory means travellers can save on certain aspects like surcharges, while allowing Air Canada to open up inventory so redeeming is less restrictive. There are some sweet spots where travellers can find value on redeeming the new points, but there are also gaps where flyers will find less value in the new program. 

Finally, credit cards will see an overhaul with new benefits for both primary and secondary users on revenue and redemption bookings, plus added benefits for Elite members. The annual fee does go up across most cards, but users can find tremendous value if you’re a frequent flyer or travel with a family. 

If these new cards interest you, you may want to apply for the card before the program relaunches to take advantage of the lower annual fees. You will, though, need to weigh the pros and cons of whether the yet-to-be-announced welcome bonuses will outweigh the fee savings. Chances are, the welcome bonuses will be quite hefty given the increased competition in the marketplace today. 


The post Changes to Aeroplan: What they mean for program members, credit cardholders and Elite flyers appeared first on MoneySense.


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