Aeroplan vs AIR MILES: Which Should You Choose?

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Aeroplan vs Air Miles Credit card details are up to date as of June 3rd, 2019. For the most accurate and up to date information, visit the issuer's website.

The Aeroplan vs. AIR MILES debate has been raging for years, leaving many Canadians wondering: which should you choose?

AIR MILES and Aeroplan are two of Canada’s most recognized travel rewards programs, but they couldn’t be more different from each other. Sure, both programs allow you to use your miles for free travel, but what credit card you use to earn those miles and how you decide to redeem your miles can vary quite a bit between the two programs.

To help you decide between Aeroplan and AIR MILES, we’ve come up with this guide that will show you how each program works, what the best credit cards are to earn miles, and what you can redeem your miles for.

Which is the Best Travel Rewards Program in Canada?

Generally speaking, most people prefer Aeroplan since it’s the loyalty program of Air Canada, Canada’s number one airline. Since Air Canada is part of Star Alliance, you can use your Aeroplan points on any of their partner airlines which is also appealing.

That being said, AIR MILES can be attractive too, since you can use your miles for flights, merchandise and even cash. If you happen to shop a lot at AIR MILES partner merchants, then this loyalty program may be best for you but it’s still worth looking at both of them to see what they offer before you decide on which miles to collect.

AIR MILES Reward Program

AIR MILES is one of the most popular loyalty programs in Canada. With an AIR MILES Collector Card, you can turn everyday purchases – like gas and groceries – into free flights, car rentals, event tickets, hotel stays, electronics, and so much more. Here’s how it works: when shopping at participating partner stores, flash your AIR MILES card at the check-out counter and automatically earn AIR MILES for your purchases. If you pay using an AIR MILES credit card, you can supercharge your points earnings.

With AIR MILES, you have the option to earn AIR MILES Cash Rewards or AIR MILES Dream Rewards. You select what you want within your account and it can be split up in any way you want e.g. 50/50, 80/20, 100/0. Once you’ve earned the miles in your selected category, you can’t transfer them. However, you can modify how you earn your miles at any time.

Like Aeroplan, AIR MILES has an online shop (AirMilesShops.ca) where you can earn points through purchases, but their retail partner list isn’t as extensive. While it’s fairly easy to collect Miles, it can take much longer to accumulate enough points to redeem them. However, what’s unique about AIR MILES is that you can directly pay with AIR MILES at some partner retailers, which is handy for everyday purchases like groceries. Another pro: AIR MILES never expire.

Aeroplan Rewards Program

The Aeroplan Miles program is a rewards system with a focus on travel with Air Canada, a leading Canadian airline. Your accumulated miles can be redeemed for travel rewards, such as flights on Air Canada and their partner airlines, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, event tickets, and merchandise. With over 150 partner brands and over 150 online retailers, it’s super easy to earn Aeroplan miles when shopping for everyday items, especially if you have an Aeroplan credit card.

When it comes to Aeroplan, people like to collect miles since they can be used on flights on Air Canada and their partners. Aeroplan is pretty straightforward and easy to understand but many people can get frustrated by the high taxes you may have to pay when making a redemption. That said, when you are able to redeem a flight or other travel rewards, you can get some great value.

Another annoyance is that Aeroplan miles expire if you haven't earned, redeemed, donated or transferred any miles in 12 consecutive months. But you can easily avoid losing your hard-earned miles simply by using an Aeroplan-affiliated credit card to make purchases.

Another consideration: Air Canada purchased Aeroplan from Aimia with the handover happening in the summer of 2020, there will likely be changes to the program at that time. Right now, we don't know how that will affect the rewards system so it may be a factor if you're applying for an Aeroplan credit card.

Best Aeroplan Credit Card vs. Best AIR MILES Credit Card

Both Aeroplan and AIR MILES have multiple co-branded credit cards where you can earn miles. Each card has a different signup bonus, earn rate, and benefits but there are two cards that stand out.

 BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*
Annual fee$120 $120
First year free?YesYes
Welcome bonus3,000 Miles (after $3,000 spend in first 3 months)25,000 Miles (equivalent of 1 long-haul round-trip flight reward)
Earn rate1 Mile per $10 on all purchases1.5:$1 on groceries, gas, drugstore and AirCanada.com
1:$1 on everything else
Other perks15% off AIR MILES flights within North America booked using AIR MILES, travel insurance which includes travel medical for up to 15 days per tripTravel and rental car insurance, 24/hour concierge service, priority boarding/check in, one first free checked bag
Unique benefitsMastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey with two free annual passesOne annual one-time guest pass to Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
Income Eligibility$80,000 personal or $150,000 household annual income$60,000 personal or $100,000 household annual income
More InfoLearn MoreLearn More

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*: *This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*

td aeroplan visa infiniteCredit score required: Good to excellent
Minimum personal income required: $60,000 (individual) or $100,000 (household)
Annual fees: $120 (first year free, limited time offer)

*This offer is not available for residents of Quebec. For Quebec residents, please click here.

The TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Credit Card has a welcome bonus that makes this card very attractive. You’ll get 15,000 Aeroplan Miles after your first purchase and another 10,000 Aeroplan miles when you charge $2,000 to your card within 90 days of opening your account. That’s a total of 25,000 Aeroplan Miles you can earn pretty easily. This card does come with an annual fee of $120, but it’s waived for the first year as part of the current promotion. With this card, you’ll get 1.5 miles for every $1 spent on eligible grocery, gas, drugstore and AirCanada.com purchases. All other purchases earn you 1 mile for every dollar spent, and you can earn double the miles on purchases at participating partner brands and online retailers via the Aeroplan eStore. If you want to take advantage of the welcome bonus and annual fee rebate, you must apply online by September 3, 2019. It's a time-limited offer.

Click here for more details about the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite.


BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®

bmo air miles world elite mastercardCredit score required: Excellent
Minimum personal income required: $80,000 (individual) or $150,000 (household)
Annual fees: $120 (free – waived for the first year)

With the BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®, you get 3,000 AIR MILES as a welcome bonus when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. The earn rate of 1 Mile for every $10 in credit card purchases is good and you can double dip your points at AIR MILES partner merchants by showing your loyalty card first and then paying with your BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®.

One huge benefit with this card is that you get a 15% discount on all flights in North America when booked with your AIR MILES – which is a great way to stretch out your miles. Best of all, right now, the annual fee of $120 is waived for the first year, so it’s a great time to test out the card for free.

Click here for more details about the BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®.

Note that with the BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®, you need a personal income of $80,000 or a household income of $150,000 to qualify the card. TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* requires an annual income personal income of $60,000 or a household income of $100,000 for applicants to be considered. If your income falls below that threshold, you could apply for one of the other best AIR MILES credit cards in Canada or one of the best Aeroplan credit cards in Canada instead.

Aeroplan Miles vs. Airmiles

This is where things get tricky. AIR MILES and Aeroplan are two very different programs and it’s not fair to just look at the earn rates below to declare a winner. At face value, Aeroplan comes out ahead but for some people, AIR MILES could give them better value if they shop on a regular basis at AIR MILES partners. It’s also worth noting that AIR MILES frequently runs promotions where you can earn additional miles which may be a valuable opportunity for some people. With Aeroplan, you could earn more miles depending on the class fare you book on Star Alliance airlines. The below chart is just a quick look that compares AIR MILES and Aeroplan earn rates but you should also factor in the types of redemptions you like to make when choosing a program.

How to Earn PointsAIR MILESAeroplan
With participating merchants1 mile per $20 spent1 mile per $1 spent
Earn rate from featured credit cards1 mile per $10 spentUp to 1.5 mile per mile spent
On flightsNo miles earned on flightsUp to 150% of actual miles flown

Airmiles vs. Aeroplan Reward Redemption

As you can imagine, how you make a redemption through AIR MILES and Aeroplan is very different. Both programs allow you to redeem for various types of travel and merchandise but the miles required to make a redemption vary quite a bit.

With AIR MILES Cash, it’ll cost you 95 cash miles to claim $10 at participating stores. Many people find this to be of good value since you can easily make a redemption at any time as long as you have enough points. With AIR MILES Dream miles, most people try to save their points for flights. The number of points it takes to redeem a flight depends on where you’re flying to and what season it is. Generally speaking, flights offer good value for your points but using your points for events such as concert tickets can give you even more value. Most of the time using your Dream Miles for merchandise is of low value so try to stick to travel or event redemptions.

In contrast, Aeroplan has two options when redeeming your miles for flights: fixed mileage and market fare. With the fixed mileage program, your flight would cost a set amount of miles depending on where you’re flying to and what seat class you’re looking for. This is the most popular option for Aeroplan collectors but note that not every flight and seat is available to make a redemption.

Market fare redemptions are based on supply and demand. You get access to any seat available, but you’ll likely end up spending many more points compared to the fixed mileage program. On occasion, the miles it takes to redeem a market fare flight is lower than fixed mileage flights, but that’s rare. Aeroplan also allows you to use your miles to redeem other types of travel such as hotels, car rentals, and vacation packages.

With both programs, you still need to pay any taxes, fees, and surcharges when making a redemption.

Which Program Is Right for You?

If you prefer to use your miles for travel, then Aeroplan typically comes out on top. The program has a few sweet spots, such as economy class tickets within North America and business class to Asia, where your miles can be worth a fair amount. That being said, AIR MILES is great for travellers who fly within their province on a regular basis.

For those who regularly shop at AIR MILES merchants and prefer cash-back, then AIR MILES is a good choice. Keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with collecting miles from both programs, but when choosing a credit card, go with the program that benefits you more.

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Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert at MoneyWeHave.com. He has been quoted by media in Canada and the United States, including The Financial Post, The Toronto Star, Business Insider, The Globe and Mail, and has appeared on HuffPost Live.

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