6 Aeroplan Hacks Every Canadian Should Know
Aeroplan is Canada’s top airline loyalty program, but it’s not without its flaws. Finding seats can be difficult and the high fees can sometimes make you wonder if it’s even worth making a redemption or collecting miles in the first place.
But despite the complaints, Aeroplan is actually a fantastic travel program if you understand how it really works and where you can maximize your miles. These Aeroplan hacks are must-know for any Canadian traveller, and utilizing them can help you fly around the world in style, for less.
Exploit Aeroplan’s Stopover Policy
First things first: As of July 17, 2019, Aeroplan has severely restricted its stopover (where you stay in a city for more than 24 hours en route to your final destination) and open jaw (where you depart from a different city than where you landed) policies. On long haul flights between two continents, members formerly were able to book up to two stopovers or one stopover and one open jaw. Now with the updated policy changes, they can only book one stopover OR one open jaw. For travel within the same continent (except for within North America), one open jaw is allowed but stopovers are no longer permitted whatsoever.
Though these changes are a bummer, you should still make the most of the one stopover or open jaw you do get. For example, if you’re booking a flight on Aeroplan from Canada to Europe, you’re allowed to stay in one city for longer than 24 hours before you get to your final destination—so why not spend a couple of days in Bangkok on your way to Melbourne? Or take advantage of the one open jaw allowance in North America and land in New York, then take in all the best sights traveling by train within the USA, and return to your destination in Canada via LA.
It’s important to note that Aeroplan does have a Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) rule in place which, in simple terms, assigns a distance value from your origin to destination, which can’t be exceeded. The MPM isn’t normally published but you can figure it out with a little bit of work.
You can build multi-city or open jaw routes using Aeroplan’s multi-city search option (right next to the one-way option when you search flight rewards on the website). If you’re a bit intimidated to make the route yourself, you can also call the Aeroplan Contact Centre though there is a fee of $30 to book flight rewards via phone.
Reduce Your Fees
One of the most common complaints about Aeroplan is the amount you have to pay in fees, taxes and surcharges when you make a redemption. Many people assume this is just tied directly to the airport where you’re departing or landing from, but the highest fees usually come from the carriers themselves.
Aeroplan has more than 20 partner airlines in the Star Alliance network. About a third of them—including Air Canada, All Nippon Airlines (ANA), Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, and Thai Airways—have fuel surcharges. However, United Airlines, Swiss Int’l Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines, EVA Air, Copa Airlines, and EgyptAir don’t have fuel surcharges.
The amount you pay in fees can change drastically depending on which airline you choose. For example, a quick search for a roundtrip flight to Paris in April shows that Air Canada charges about $645 in taxes, whereas Brussels Airlines only charges $170. Although you need to take a stopover in Brussels, you’ll save $475 (spend it on chocolate if you like).
Earn Miles Fast with an Aeroplan Credit Card
The quickest way to earn Aeroplan Miles is with an Aeroplan credit card. Not only do you earn points on all your purchases, but you can double dip when purchasing flights through aircanada.com and Aeroplan partners. Another major advantage of an Aeroplan credit card is the periodic sign-up bonus that it might offer.
TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card
– Credit score required: Good-Excellent
– Min personal income required: $60000
– Annual fees: $120 first year free
This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.
One of the best hacks comes just from being a GreedyRates reader! If you sign up for the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite card by March 2, 2020, you can get up to 30000 Aeroplan miles as a welcome bonus and a rebate of the card’s $120 annual fee for the first year. New cardholders get 15,000 miles after a first purchase and an additional 5 points per $1 spent for the first three months; up to an extra 5,000 miles per month. 30,000 potential bonus points total.
The earn rate with the card is 1.5 Aeroplan miles for every dollar spent on grocery, gas, drugstore and aircanada.com purchases. All other purchases get 1 mile per dollar spent. You also get one annual pass to an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, but that only applies to flights that are booked via an Aeroplan redemption.
American Express Platinum Card
– Credit score required: Good-Excellent
– Min personal income required: N/A
– Annual fees: $699
The American Express Platinum Card recently made some changes to its earn rate in a way that benefits travellers. Cardholders will now earn 3 points for every dollar spent on eligible dining in Canada, 2 points for every dollar spent on eligible travel and 1 point per dollar on all other Card purchases.
The card does have an annual fee of $699, but it comes with a ton of benefits like complimentary access to more than 1200 airport lounges worldwide, a $200 annual travel credit, hotel status upgrades, comprehensive travel insurance, and more.
Best of all, the sign up bonus is 50000 points when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. Since you can transfer your American Express points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, you would have access to a minimum of 53,000 Aeroplan Miles after you reach your minimum spend.
Use a Website Other Than Aeroplan to Check for Flights
Aeroplan’s site can sometimes work against you, in that quite often it will display flights that require larger amounts of Miles to redeem and ignore similar flights that require less Miles (thus favouring Aeroplan and its partners’ profits). For example, when searching for flights to Europe, Air Canada and Lufthansa (who both have high surcharges) will always show up, but a similar route via Turkish Airlines (which doesn’t have surcharges) may not.
It’s a better idea to search flight availability via the United Airlines site, since it shows all Star Alliance routes indiscriminately. You should also look at flightconnections.com to get an idea of what airlines fly where so that you can piece together an itinerary consisting of routes that favour low surcharges. Istanbul is a hub for surcharge-free Turkish Airlines, so it’s always a good idea to check what connections are available out of there.
Upgrade Your Seat for Free…Sort Of
When booking multi-segment business class flights on Aeroplan, there will be times where you’re forced to book a seat in economy or premium economy due to availability. However, if a seat opens up on the same flight in the higher classes later on, you can upgrade for no additional charge.
Remember, Aeroplan doesn’t make every seat available on flights, but as the departure date gets closer, they may open up some seats. Generally speaking, you’ll want to check 10-14 days before you take off to see if you can get an upgrade.
Save Points and Book One-Way Redemptions
If you’re looking at a round-trip flight that only allows for business class in one direction and economy in the other, as mentioned, you could hope a seat becomes available so you can get a free upgrade. Or you could save your Miles for a rainy day and simply pay cash for the segment where there’s no business class availability. Sure, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for that flight, but you’re saving your Miles for a better redemption later.
*This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.