The Aeroplan rewards program is by far the best for Canadian travelers. That’s partly because it’s so easy to earn tens of thousands of points, but also because it was completely revamped in 2020 and really offers a lot of value… thanks in part to the many partners you can use your points with.
Aeroplan is already the rewards program with the most airline partners worldwide… and they just added another one! And there’s a rumored addition coming next week, one that might seem way out of left field.
So you have 40+ airline options to use your points and go just about anywhere on the planet.
Here are the details of the rumored addition and of the now-official addition of Mexican regional airline Aeromar.
But most importantly, I added 6 essential concepts about the Aeroplan program in general at the end!
Potential addition to be announced next week (rumors)
Late yesterday, rumors started swirling that Star Alliance, the airline alliance Air Canada belongs to and the world’s largest, would soon be announcing a very unusual new member: a train operator!
Yes, apparently Deutsche Bahn (DB) will be joining Star Alliance soon. This is the German national railway operator, the one with the €9 month-long passes we talked to you about recently.
Needless to say, this would be the first-ever non-airline member of any of the 3 global airline alliances.
The concept of alliances from a rewards perspective is that you can earn Aeroplan points on all alliance partners and use Aeroplan points on all alliance partners.
The earning part is pretty straightforward and it’s not hard to imagine earning points on train rides, as it’s easy to earn points in plenty of places and in many ways — but none of these ways actually allow you to earn fast compared to with welcome bonuses.
But what remains to be seen is how redeeming points for trains would actually work if DB really does join Star Alliance (and therefore really does become an Aeroplan partner). It might be a terrible use of Aeroplan points, like all current non-air redemptions are already.
To be continued.
Addition of Aeromar
Aeromar is a fairly small Mexican airline, based in Mexico City (MEX).
It’s honestly a really minor addition and it won’t be useful for most people, but it can be interesting for those who want to discover Mexico (and the real Mexico; as for any country, that obviously won’t be found at the pool and buffet of an artificial resort or with overpriced tourist “excursions”!)
Mexico has been very popular in recent years as one of the very few countries to never have COVID-19 related travel restrictions (now there are 53 countries without COVID-19 restrictions for all travelers).
No, Mexico never asked for proof of vaccination, proof of testing, or quarantine; never! The “experts” loved to criticize them… until the World Health Organization itself said in January 2022 that travel restrictions were unnecessary and ineffective, and should all be removed…
Anyway, in addition to providing access to lots of new destinations in Mexico, Aeromar also serves 2 cities in Texas and Havana, Cuba. Before the pandemic, they also served 2 cities in Guatemala (a country I loved to visit in January), so maybe that will come back.
Here’s a map of all destinations Aeromar serves.
In short, Aeromar joins United Airlines (via the US) and, to a lesser extent, Copa and Avianca (via Central America) as partners in the region for Aeroplan.
6 important concepts: examples with Aeromar reservations
Once again, Aeromar is far from being the best Aeroplan partner. But since it’s the newest one, I’ll take the opportunity to illustrate 6 important concepts about Aeroplan in a concrete way.
Our new ultimate guide to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program coming this weekend will have a lot more explanations if you’re interested.
Concept 1: The choice between simplicity and value
One of the most basic aspects of travel rewards has to be explained: the 2 types of points out there.
There are fixed value rewards and variable value rewards.
With travel — as with everything in life — the simpler it is, the less value you get. If you want simple points that apply to any trip and are always worth the same, there are plenty of those!
But you’re going to get a LOT less free travel than with points like Aeroplan. It’s still free travel, so it’s better than nothing. But it’s nearly not as much savings.
Because such uses save you less money, but also because welcome bonuses — the most important thing in the world of travel rewards — are lower for this type of rewards.
Aeroplan points are obviously variable value rewards.
So with Aeromar, as with all Aeroplan partner airlines, you have to understand that not all uses are good!
It always depends on the cash price! It varies!
The value of a point is how much it saves you. And how much you save with variable value rewards like Aeroplan necessarily depends on the cash price (the next concept touches on how prices are determined).
If the Aeromar flight is expensive with cash (and other carriers offering the same flight are expensive too), that’s a good use of Aeroplan points.
If the Aeromar flight (and those of other carriers as well) is not expensive with cash, it’s not a good use of Aeroplan points.
It’s really that simple, but 90% of people have a really hard time understanding this principle.
Most people don’t understand the difference between variable value rewards and fixed value rewards. They are just used to bad fixed value rewards and they don’t bother to do the math!
Concept 2: Aeroplan’s 2 separate pricing systems
Another thing many travelers don’t know is that how to get the most value from your Aeroplan points is often NOT to fly with Air Canada, but rather with the many partner airlines.
Why is this? Because the new Aeroplan program is very unique and has 2 completely separate pricing systems:
- Flights on partners
- the price in points is guaranteed and fixed regardless of the price in cash
- available seats are necessarily limited
- Flights on Air Canada
- the price in points is dynamic and varies according to the price in cash
- so seats are obviously all available
So an Aeromar flight is always going to be a fixed price decided by the Aeroplan award charts. But not all seats on Aeromar flights are available of course.
That’s why the addition of new airline partners by Aeroplan is great! It gives us more availability and options; it makes finding seats easier!
Concept 3: The flexibility required to maximize points
If you don’t want the hassle or don’t want to be flexible, you can still earn Aeroplan points and use them on the hundreds of Air Canada routes where all the seats are available… but it’ll cost you more points in most cases.
(But not always, sometimes it’s the same price too; it’s just not guaranteed that you’ll get the lower fixed price like with partners!)
To really maximize travel rewards, there’s no secret and it’s as simple as what you have to do to save money when you pay with cash instead of points: it’s best to be flexible.
To find available seats on Aeromar, as on all Aeroplan partners, it’s simple: book as far in advance as possible and/or have at least a little wiggle room on dates!
It’s not necessarily easy for everyone to be able to do that, but the concept itself is really simple to understand to find available seats.
The fact that the airline partners limit the number of available seats is precisely what allows them to offer fixed prices in points, regardless of their price in cash…
So that’s what makes it possible to get outsized value and unlimited value with your points.
Concept 4: Outsized value and unlimited value
Cash back or fixed value rewards (like bank points that are less valuable) are always worth the same. You can’t get outsized value and the value is 100% limited.
It’s worth what it’s worth and that’s it. You can’t get a good deal with them.
(Again, it’s still free travel… it’s better than those who still pay by debit and throw money out the window. But still!)
Variable value rewards, on the other hand, can earn you a lot! No limit!
Let’s look at a flight to a small town in Mexico, Puerto Escondido, for example. It’s very niched, but this extreme example of a destination will more easily show the difference!
It’s worth $1,010 when paid in cash!!! (and even $1,047 to have just one stop like the points option).
That’s crazy, and I hope no one pays $1,010 to go to Mexico when we often spot those for $300 roundtrip on our cheap flight deals page.
But that’s just to show you the outsized value and unlimited value that are only possible with variable value rewards.
With Aeroplan points, this flight (on both Air Canada and Aeromar) costs only 25,000 points and $189.
That gives you a value of ≈ 3.3¢ per point!
The value calculation is always the same and is very simple, you don’t need to be a math genius: the dollar amount you save divided by the number of points you use.
So here we save $821 ($1010 – $189) and we use 25,000 points.
Instead of being worth ≈ 1.5¢ like our conservative Flytrippers Valuation of Aeroplan points, or a fixed value of 1¢ like most bank points that can’t ever be worth more… we just doubled or tripled the value!
Doubling or tripling the amount of free travel earned, with exactly the same number of points!
And there are thousands of examples where you can get outsized value and unlimited value with your Aeroplan points.
Think about it, that means the current American Express Cobalt Card welcome bonus, worth ≈ $744 according to our Flytrippers Valuation, could easily be worth $1,500! The American Express Gold Rewards Card one that is worth ≈ $518 could easily actually be worth $1,000!
Best credit cards for Aeroplan points
Bonus: spend $7.5k in 12 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1080
Card fee: $139
Aeroplan points: 66,250 pts + free bag on AC
$5k spend option also available
American Express® Aeroplan®* Reserve Card
Bonus: spend $6k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1126
Card fee: $599
Aeroplan points: 75,000 pts + unlimited AC lounges
& other AC benefits
TD® Aeroplan® Visa* Infinite Privilege* Card
Bonus: spend $12k in 12 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1374
Card fee: $599
Aeroplan points: 131,501 pts + unlimited AC lounges
6 DP lounges & AC benefits
American Express Cobalt® Card
Bonus: spend $500/mo for 12 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $900
Card fee: $156
Aeroplan points: 60,000 pts + 5X the points
best card in Canada
American Express® Aeroplan®* Card
Bonus: spend $3k in 6 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $795
Card fee: $120
Aeroplan points: 53,000 pts + a free bag
on Air Canada
American Express® Gold Rewards Card
Bonus: spend $1k/mo for 12 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1180
Card fee: $250
Aeroplan points: 72,000 pts + 4 lounges
and $100 travel credit
Platinum Card® from American Express
Bonus: spend $7.5k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $1513
Card fee: $699
Aeroplan points: 87,500 pts + unlimited PP lounges
and $200 travel credit
TD® Aeroplan® Visa* Platinum Card
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
Rewards: ≈ $315
Card fee: $0 $89
Aeroplan points: 21,000 pts + low min. spend
& lower fee
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In short, that’s the beauty of Aeroplan points and why they’re the best in Canada.
Concept 5: Finding availability
As with all Aeroplan partner airlines, you can find available flights directly on the Air Canada website or their app.
I repeat: to have the most choice of partner airlines (like Aeromar), and therefore guaranteed lower prices, you have to book in advance and/or be flexible on your dates.
Even for flights on Air Canada, those same 2 tips are also useful: they’ll allow you to find the seats that cost the lowest amount of Aeroplan points too!
Concept 6: Understanding “sweet spots”
Each rewards program has different rules of course, so each program has “sweet spots” that are different.
As a general rule, for almost all variable value rewards programs, the best uses of points are for flights that are expensive with cash (because of everything I just explained).
That means, among other things:
- Flights where there’s less competition
- Flights to smaller destinations
- Flights to less popular destinations
- Flights during peak periods
- Flights with very specific dates
- Flights with multiple destinations (multi-city)
- Flights in premium cabins (business class)
That’s why the example of Puerto Escondido on Aeromar is so striking. It’s not a particularly popular destination, so it’s very expensive with cash.
With Aeroplan specifically, there are 3 major “sweet spots”:
- Short distance flights
- Flights with a stopover
- Business class flights
Short distance flights
First, short distance flights are often expensive, at least in many countries.
Since the Aeroplan program determines prices according to the distance traveled, very often, short distance flights will be an excellent use of Aeroplan points (but obviously not all the time: you always have to do the math, it’s simple!)
All Aeromar flights are located in the North America region of the Aeroplan award charts, so a short distance flight costs just 6,000 points one-way!
This is a good example of one of the great uses of Aeroplan in general: buy a really affordable deal on our cheap flights page and then move around thanks to Aeroplan’ short-haul flights “sweet spots”, in many regions!
Let’s say you take advantage of one of our cheap flight deals to Mexico, which we frequently spot at about $300 roundtrip.
Then you can add a short-haul flight on Aeromar for just 6,000 points one-way! Not a bad deal!
Taxes are a bit higher than in other countries, but it’s still pretty reasonable at $116 roundtrip.
That said, many flights in Mexico are cheap too. Not as cheap as the $10 flights that are common in Europe, but still… sometimes it’s just $24.
So even though 6,000 points is not a lot, if the flight costs just $24, obviously you’re better off paying with cash and keeping your Aeroplan points for a better use.
It’s really simple: not all uses are good! It depends on the cash price, always.
Some Aeroplan uses are absolutely great, some are terribly bad.
Whereas with simple points, all uses are always very average. That’s better for those who want it simple… but not for those who want to maximize!
Flights with a stopover
With the Aeroplan program, you can add a stopover for just 5,000 points! This is great for those who really love to travel, because the definition of travel is visiting new places. This program benefit allows you to visit one more place for cheap!
So you could visit 2 Mexican destinations for just 11,000 Aeroplan points. It’s a lot more interesting in other regions (I used it to visit 2 countries instead of just 1 in Central America this winter), but it can still be great in Mexico, a vast country that has plenty of variety!
And flights with a stopover paid with cash are more expensive usually, making it a good use of Aeroplan.
Business class flights
At Flytrippers, we want to help you travel more often; not necessarily travel in luxury at the expense of frequency.
But still, business class flights are the best use of Aeroplan points for those who want luxury. And by far.
I’ll be putting out more content on this subject in future updates, including a post about my 1st long-distance flight in a lie-flat seat last year.
In the meantime, know that you can easily double our Flytrippers Valuation of Aeroplan points by using them for business class flights. Just not with Aeromar, since it’s a small regional airline.
Other recent Aeroplan partner additions
Aeroplan is really on a roll and has added many very cool and unique partners outside Star Alliance.
In recent months, they’ve added:
- Oman Air (Oman)
- Air Mauritius (Mauritius)
- Etihad (United Arab Emirates)
- Azul (Brazil)
- Vistara (India)
- Air Serbia (Serbia)
- Air Dolomiti (Italy)
- Virgin Australia (Australia)
- Gulf Air (Bahrain)
And as Mark Nasr, Air Canada’s senior vice president, told me at Aeroplan’s July 2020 launch event, we can expect even more additions because they really want to stand out with their rewards program.
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Aeroplan’s rewards program is the best for Canadian travelers, thanks in part to its many partners (no other program in the world has as many). And they’ve just added another one. More options for your points!
What would you like to know about Aeroplan’s airline partners? Tell us in the comments below.
See the deals we spot: Cheap flights
Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration
Learn pro tricks: Travel tips
Discover free travel: Travel rewards
Featured image: An Aeromar ATR-72 (photo credit: Antonio Velasco Cruz/Wikimedia Commons)
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