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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.
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.
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.
Aeroplan Miles vs. Airmiles
Comparing Aeroplan vs. Air Miles, 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. So this is where things get tricky as these are two very different programs and it’s not fair to just look at the earn rates below to declare a winner. With Aeroplan, you could earn more miles depending on the class fare you book on Star Alliance airlines. 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. The below chart is just a quick look that compares Aeroplan and Air Miles earn rates but you should also factor in the types of redemptions you like to make when choosing a program.
|How to Earn Points||AIR MILES||Aeroplan|
|With participating merchants||1 mile per $20 spent||1 mile per $1 spent|
|Earn rate from featured credit cards||1 mile per $10 spent||Up to 1.5 mile per mile spent|
|On flights||No miles earned on flights||Up to 150% of actual miles flown|
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.
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 at some partner retailers, which is handy for everyday purchases like groceries. Another pro: Air Miles never expire.
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 sign-up bonus, earn rate, and benefits but there are two cards that stand out.
TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*
Annual Fee: $120 (first year annual fee rebate if you apply online by March 2, 2020)
Credit score required: Good to excellent
Income Eligibility: $60,000 individual or $100,000 household annual income
Limited-time online-only offer: Apply online by March 2, 2020, to get an annual fee rebate for the first year and the welcome bonus of up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles (the equivalent of 2 economy short-haul roundtrip flight rewards!).
*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 with your card. Then get up to another 15,000 Miles by earning 5 additional Aeroplan Miles on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to a total spend of $1000 per month). That’s a total of up to 30,000 Aeroplan Miles you can earn pretty easily — the equivalent of 2 economy short-haul roundtrip flight rewards. This card does come with an annual fee of $120, but it's waived for the first year as part of the current promotion. To take advantage of this limited-time, online-only offer, you must apply online by March 2, 2020.
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 $1 spent, and you can earn double the miles on purchases at participating partner brands and online retailers via the Aeroplan eStore.
Other card details: Purchase APR: 19.99% | Cash Advance APR: 22.99%
BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®
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.
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.
|BMO® AIR MILES®† World Elite®* Mastercard®||TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite*|
|Annual fee||$120 |
First year FREE
|$120 (Waived for first year if you apply online by March 2, 2020)|
|Welcome bonus||3,000 Miles (after $3,000 spend in first 3 months)||Up to 30,000 Miles (Conditions apply. Must apply online by March 2, 2020)|
|Earn rate||1 Mile per $10 on all purchases||1.5:$1 on groceries, gas, drugstore and AirCanada.com |
1:$1 on everything else
|Other perks||15% off AIR MILES flights within North America booked using AIR MILES, travel insurance which includes travel medical for up to 15 days per trip||Travel and rental car insurance, 24/hour concierge service, priority boarding/check in, one first free checked bag|
|Unique benefits||Mastercard Airport Experiences provided by LoungeKey with two free annual passes||One 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 Info||Learn More||Learn More|
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.