We know that amazing welcome bonus offers will be available when the new Aeroplan program launches on November 8th. To get you excited about this upcoming important opportunity to easily earn a lot of free travel, let’s take a first look at the new Aeroplan credit card lineup—one that includes a whopping 11 different cards!
We’ll have an even more concrete post with a detailed comparison to help you decide which card (or cards) are ideal for you come November once the specific welcome bonus offers are made public (welcome bonuses are the key in the world of travel rewards, as you know if you’ve read our 25 myths post that serves as a great introduction—or even a great refresher).
But everything else about the cards except the welcome bonuses can already be shared, so this post will give you an idea of the Aeroplan credit cards that will be available and how the new Aeroplan credit card program has been designed. A good overview.
You can read the first section in the initial presentation of the new Aeroplan program to know what travelers need to know about planning a card acquisition strategy, but in that lengthy post, the credit card specifics is the only thing we had left out of since there was already a lot to cover.
So let’s get into it now.
New Aeroplan credit cards overview
First, all 3 current card issuers remain with the new program:
- American Express
These financial partners have contributed nearly half a billion dollars to secure the Aeroplan credit card portfolio, so to say that they are invested in making it a success is an understatement. This bodes very well for the upcoming welcome offers in November, as the banks are definitely motivated to acquire new customers (that’s what the $1,000 a year I get in welcome bonuses is: simply banks’ marketing expenses).
That said, Air Canada really wanted the products to be differentiated by their market positioning first and foremost, not by card issuer. That’s why all “core” cards are in an identical shade of grey.
In other words, the “core” card will offer key features that are pretty similar whether you choose AMEX, TD, or CIBC. Of course, there are still some important distinctions… but the point is: you have to first understand that card type hierarchy, since that’s by far the most significant element to make sense of these products.
There are 3 card “levels” or market positionings:
- basic card
- core card
- premium card
What does that mean? Very briefly:
- basic cards are those geared towards non-travel rewards experts, cards that aren’t that compelling at all
- core cards are the main ones and the most interesting, cards that are the best ones for 95% or so of travelers
- premium cards are those for luxury travelers or those who fly Air Canada very often
Then, within each segment, there are up to 3 different products… one issued by each of the 3 financial partners.
Finally, in the world of rewards credit cards, there are 2 types of cards, and Aeroplan is no exception:
- personal credit cards
- business credit cards
It’s worth mentioning that business cards are not just for those with incorporated businesses as we’ve briefly explained already, but even so, for now we’ll concentrate on the personal cards.
So that’s how the Aeroplan credit card program ended up with 11 different products. These are what we call co-branded cards.
Let’s take a look at each level.
Core Aeroplan credit cards (Aeroplan grey credit cards) – personal
I’m starting in the middle here, since this is the most important segment as I said. It’s where us leisure travelers who aren’t big spenders can maximize travel rewards.
All 3 issuers will be competing with core Aeroplan credit card products, which is great for us travelers as it means we’ll have an easy opportunity to eventually get many welcome bonuses.
The products’ names are:
- American Express Aeroplan Card
- TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite
- CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite
Here are the main features and Air Canada benefits common to all 3 core cards:
- free first checked bag
- preferred pricing on Aeroplan bookings
- shared benefits with secondary cardholders
- qualification boost for those with Elite Status
I’ll analyze those at the end of the post.
Now, here is how core Aeroplan cards from each issuer differentiate from one another:
- TD and CIBC have a better earn rate on groceries and gas
- AMEX has a better earn rate on Air Canada purchases and dining/food delivery
- TD and CIBC have emergency medical and trip cancelation/interruption insurance
- TD’s medical travel insurance covers longer trips, while CIBC has a higher coverage
- TD and CIBC have mobile device insurance
- TD offers a $100 NEXUS credit
- AMEX and CIBC offer supplementary cards for $50, while TD charges $75
- AMEX offers a free supplementary card to earn more points, with no benefits
- AMEX has no minimum income requirement, while TD and CIBC require $60k (or $100k for the household)
- AMEX’s annual fee will be $120, while TD and CIBC are at $139
A friendly reminder that annual fees alone are mostly irrelevant, which is one thing that travel rewards beginners have the hardest time understanding.
What matters is the net value (always!!!) as explained in myth #10. Do you prefer a card that gives you $540 with a $140 fee or a card that gives you $0 with a $0 fee? Hopefully, that’s an easy answer for you!
With the upcoming welcome bonuses, we’re probably looking at $400 in free travel (a welcome bonus that is worth $400 more than the card fee), or even more. So don’t worry about the card fee for now; it’s a normal reflex, but one to avoid here.
That’s really the missing element in this analysis: how different the welcome bonuses will be for each product. That’s what will make or break this; what should be the deciding factor for most travelers. As I just said, we’ve seen Aeroplan welcome bonuses worth $400 net in the past on core cards, and the offers are supposed to be better for the launch…
So again, we’ll go into a lot more details on the cards as November 8th approaches and help you choose the best one for you with a useful guide.
But now you get an idea of what the core Aeroplan cards look like.
Premium Aeroplan credit cards (Aeroplan black credit cards) – personal
These cards are not so much for the monetary value you’ll get, unlike with the core cards (and frankly unlike the vast majority of rewards cards you should consider).
The premium cards are really about making your travel experience better, it’s a totally different target market.
It’s one that is popular nonetheless, so again: all 3 issuers will be competing here.
The products’ names are:
- American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card
- TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege
- CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege
First of all, it’s worth mentioning that these premium Aeroplan cards are arguably not even the best option even if you do want to enhance your travel experience: don’t miss our upcoming thorough comparison of these cards and the excellent American Express Platinum Card, which is the current go-to card for Canadians who travel often and want luxury.
Premium Aeroplan cards have a steep annual fee ($599) and it’s far from certain that the welcome bonus on this card segment will make these cards free for the first year, unlike the core cards (and unlike even the AMEX Platinum Card for that matter, at least once its pandemic-related lower welcome bonus ends).
That’s not all: for TD and CIBC, you need to have $200,000 in household income to even be eligible (AMEX, as always, has no minimum income requirement).
So it can actually make sense if you are a luxury traveler or especially if you have Air Canada Elite Status… but it most likely doesn’t.
In case it does, here are the additional main features and Air Canada benefits common to all 3 premium cards (the 4 benefits the core cards offer are also included obviously):
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge access
- priority airport services / standby
- annual worldwide companion pass after $25k in spend
- many benefits for travelers with elite status
- priority airport upgrades
- qualification boost (SQMs and SQSs)
- rollover SQMs
- rollover eUpgrade credits
Again, they’ll be explained at the end of the post.
I won’t do the list of all differences between all 3 cards just yet as I’m sure most of you aren’t even considering these cards, but for those who are, the main differences are:
- AMEX has no minimum income requirement
- TD and CIBC have 6 non-AC lounge passes in addition to the Maple Leaf Lounge benefit
- AMEX has a 3X earn rate on Air Canada purchases
- TD and CIBC have a $100 NEXUS credit
More to come in a separate post for frequent travelers and luxury travelers.
Entry-level Aeroplan credit cards (Aeroplan silver credit cards) – personal
I won’t spend too much time on these right now (although we will analyze them more thoroughly in order to help you make the right decision), because there simply aren’t many good reasons to consider these.
At least certainly not at the beginning of this journey with the new Aeroplan, since the core cards will offer great welcome bonuses (and the AMEX version has no minimum income requirement).
Only TD and CIBC will issue entry-level cards, as AMEX is sitting this one out.
The products’ names are:
- TD Aeroplan Visa Platinum
- CIBC Aeroplan Visa Card
Apart from preferred pricing on Aeroplan bookings (and it is less preferred than on the core cards), there is no other real benefit. Except that like any Aeroplan credit card, it means your points will not expire (but absolutely no one should have an issue with expiration anyway).
And with likely no welcome bonus on these cards, the appeal is limited, and rightfully so.
The CIBC version will be a no-annual fee card, the only such card that earns Aeroplan points. So if one day you get tired of taking advantage of the welcome bonuses on core cards or no longer want to put much effort intro travel rewards, maybe then this card will be interesting.
The TD version will have a $89 annual fee that comes with very limited travel insurance, but then again, that’s not even the best card option for travel insurance. We’ll cover that in more detail soon.
Aeroplan credit cards – business
We’ll have more soon about Aeroplan business credit cards, but in short, each of the 3 issuers will have one business card.
TD and CIBC will have core-level business cards (and the cards will be in the banks’ own colors) and AMEX will have a premium-level business card.
New Aeroplan credit card features
Now here’s a bit more info on the various Aeroplan credit card benefits mentioned.
It would have been nice to see a bit more benefits for leisure travelers, given how much of the new Aeroplan program overall is geared towards us, but there aren’t really that many useful benefits in our opinion.
Let’s look at each feature of the core cards.
Free first checked bag
The free bag will surely offer value for those who love to overpack—which I am well aware is the majority of travelers of course—so it’s a very nice perk. But for those who are in team carry-on only like us, it’s completely useless.
The free bag applies to any Air Canada flight, whether it’s paid with points or cash. It also applies to you and up to 8 people on the same reservation.
Checked bags do cost about $30 on Air Canada normally, so it is a significant saving. In fact, if you pay for 4 bags a year, this alone cancels out the core card fee starting in year 2, when the welcome bonus is out of the equation.
Preferred pricing is the most mysterious aspect of the program left. It is supposed to give you access to lower prices than non-cardholders when booking with Aeroplan on Air Canada flights (those ones—just on Air Canada, not on partner airlines—will now be priced dynamically as we’ve explained).
Exactly how the dynamic prices algorithm will work in the new program is one of the only things that still isn’t public (and won’t be until the program goes live and we can see the actual prices).
So how valuable the discounts are with preferred pricing remains to be seen. But Air Canada executives did insist on how valuable these would be, so we can be optimistic. That said, if you plan on maximizing the value of your Aeroplan points, pending the dynamic pricing details, it’s still unclear that using them on Air Canada flights can be as appealing as the likely best use, which is with partner airlines.
Anyway, in short, the preferred pricing means that for Air Canada flights, cardholders are more likely to find prices on the lower end of the pricing range provided.
Premium cardholders will get more/better discounts that core cardholders, and core cardholders will get more/better discounts that entry-level cardholders. Also, the preferred pricing benefit from credit cards will be “stacked” with the preferred pricing benefit of Aeroplan Elite Status, so in other words, if you are an Elite member and a cardholder, you should get twice the quantity/quality of discounts.
Shared benefits with secondary cardholders
If you request a supplementary card, every benefit will also extend to the secondary cardholder. This is mostly useful if someone in your family travels a lot separately, so you can both get the free bag. And that’s pretty much the only benefit, so…
Elite Status qualification boost
To be clear, unlike the Marriott Bonvoy Card that gives you elite status straight-up simply by having the card, this is not something that airlines do.
It’s a benefit for those who already have elite status, to make requalifying easier. We haven’t talked much about Aeroplan elite status (whether it’s the current one or the new one) since unless you travel for work, I sincerely hope you don’t spend $3,000 per year on Air Canada flights.
Kidding aside, with the recent promo we shared that gave us Aeroplan elite status for free, many of you now have status (myself included).
So we’ll cover that in a specific post. It’s actually my first time ever having elite status (on an airline). In fact, after not having status for all my life, in 2020 I earned not one, not two… but three airline elite statuses. Of course, it had to be the year of a global pandemic, the year I’ll certainly not come even remotely close to my 70+ flights per year average of the 3 previous years.
Earn rates & more
As I said in the new Aeroplan program pros and cons article, this is one of the few underwhelming spots in the new program: earn rates haven’t really improved.
Of course, welcome bonuses are always the key and the most important part for us travelers who want to earn free travel, and those should be great. But still.
I’ll likely not use the cards much (like most of my cards) and put more spend on a card that gives me 2.5X Aeroplan points per dollar, even if it isn’t an Aeroplan card, thanks to a pro tip. Stay tuned for that!
Finally, we’ll obviously give a lot more details about every single thing related to these Aeroplan cards, but since it’s not until November, let’s end this already long article!
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This is your first taste of the new Aeroplan credit cards program, we’ll have a lot more to help you choose the right one when the final details are known, more specifically the welcome bonuses.
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