Earlier this year, Air Canada announced the end of its relationship with Aeroplan, its current rewards program. This all seems quite complex if you are not an expert, but here is why this completely changes the travel rewards landscape in Canada.
Aeroplan has long been the logical choice (if only for lack of better options) for Canadian travel hackers. But since Aeroplan miles cannot be transferred to the new Air Canada loyalty program in 2020, it is strongly recommended that you use them all up before that date.
Update: Air Canada has purchased Aeroplan, and Aeroplan Miles will transfer 1-to-1 to the new program, but that means nothing until we know what “1 point” is actually worth in the new program.
(If you don’t get that, how about we exchange dollars 1-to-1: I’ll send you my 10,000 leftover dollars from my Zimbabwe trip and you can give me 10,000 Canadian dollars—we’ll see how you feel about 1-to-1 transfers then!?)
The key takeaway, if you are new to travel rewards, is that all currencies have different valuations. And the valuation of the most valuable currencies (variable-value points like Aeroplan Miles) is entirely determined by the program rules, which we don’t know yet for the new Air Canada rewards program.
The good news is they gave plenty of advance notice. That being said, your Travel Hacking strategy should definitely change immediately, especially if you are new to this hobby. If you are, please read our introductory article Travel Hacking 101 before reading on.
The best way to be ready for this seismic change in the Canadian loyalty landscape, and to protect the valuation of your hard-earned miles, is to switch as much of your spend to American Express credit cards.
Why? You’ll collect American Express Membership Rewards Points, and they are infinitely better than Aeroplan miles.
Why American Express Points Are Better Than Aeroplan Miles
It all comes down to one thing: flexibility. American Express Membership Rewards Points can be transferred to Aeroplan 1-to-1. So Aeroplan miles literally have nothing more to offer than AMEX Points.
But the thing is, AMEX Points can also be transferred to other airline and hotel programs (British Airways Avios, Delta SkyMiles, Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles, Marriott Bonvoy, etc.) so that flexibility is amazing. You get the best of both worlds, which you simply can’t have with Aeroplan.
If you need the points to use as Aeroplan miles before 2020? No problem, they transfer within the hour and you get exactly the same thing as if you had stuck with Aeroplan as your main Travel Hacking currency.
But that way, you won’t get stuck with a de-valued balance in 2020 once Air Canada changes its rules.
Also, and this is pure speculation at this point… but it isn’t unreasonable to think that the new 2020 Air Canada loyalty program could become an American Express transfer partner, which would allow you to get points usable with Air Canada. Update: it is now confirmed that AMEX Points will transfer 1-to-1 to the new Air Canada program, just like they do now.
It isn’t a sure thing. But what is sure is that using Aeroplan after 2020 will be just a worse value proposition, in terms of return, compared to right now.
So if you keep using a Aeroplan Credit Card, you might be stuck with miles that lose half their value overnight. Avoid that by doing what I did.
What Should I Do?
Switch your main credit cards to American Express Cards and start earning that flexible points currency right away by using the AMEX cards wherever they are accepted.
Plus, you’ll get incredibly valuable sign-up bonuses for free travel if you select one of these two cards, the best on the market in our own humble opinion (that’s why we have them ourselves).
1. American Express Gold
This is the card 95% of you should get. It’s one of the best everyday cards in Canada. It gives you 25,000 points (a free roundtrip anywhere in North America) and also you get flight delay insurance.
2. American Express Platinum
This is for those of you who travel a lot. I got this one in January and can’t believe I waited that long. You get free unlimited access in over 1,000 VIP airport lounges all around the world for free with this card.
That means no more hectic gates. No more paying for food or drinks at the airport (it’s all free in the lounges). You also get free hotel Elite Status at Hilton and Marriott (think room upgrades, free breakfast, and more).
It has an annual fee, though. And it’s steep. But if you can afford to pay it up when you get your card, you will then make a profit of $300 on this card!
Earning American Express Points is much better than earning Aeroplan Miles, because you have the flexibility of transferring them to Aeroplan or using them for other programs. Most importantly, you won’t lose value in 2020 or be forced to rush into spending your Miles before the Air Canada switch.
We’re just getting started with our Travel Hacking section, so come back for more soon. We will be covering many more topics.
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