Ultimate Guide to Using Aeroplan Miles for Max Value
Air Canada Aeroplan is one of my favorite Star Alliance programs for several reasons. From excellent business class award prices to Europe, to the option to add stopovers to an award itinerary, to the ability to earn lots of miles through bank partners, the program is a solid option for frequent flyers. In this guide I was to thoroughly explain every aspect of the program, from earning to using Aeroplan miles, to award fees, to sweet spots and the best awards you can book. Hopefully you’ll then be able to make your own fantastic awards happen.
Basics of Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan is the loyalty program for Air Canada, the flag carrier of our neighbors to the north (or south, if you live in Detroit). Aeroplan used to be a spun-off loyalty program, separate from their primary airline. However, Air Canada finalized the purchase of their loyalty program in early 2019, so Aeroplan’s future is secure.
When it wasn’t known what would happen, I’d warned against stockpiling miles in the programs. But we’re past that. You can earn and burn Aeroplan miles with the confidence that the program is here for the long haul.
As with most loyalty programs, you don’t need to necessarily fly with Air Canada at all to earn or redeem their miles. I’ve flown with Air Canada on only two occasions, and both time it was an award ticket. I’ve never actually accrued their miles by flying.
We’ll jump into all the ways to earn miles, but first let’s walk through setting up an Aeroplan account.
Creating an Aeroplan Account
Creating an Aeroplan account is simple. Just head to the Aeroplan website, sign up, and note down your Aeroplan number. Preferably, you can add your account to be tracked in Award Wallet, if you use that service. I find a lot of value in their Pro membership.
I suggest setting up an account right away, as you actually must be logged into the Aeroplan website to search for award flights. This is something I find mildly annoying. As I can never remember my Aeroplan number, it’s easiest to store the login with Award Wallet and log into your account that way each time.
Your account will remain open in perpetuity, but you must have activity every 12 months to avoid forfeiting your miles. This in on the shorter side among airline loyalty programs. Luckily, just about any sort of activity resets the clock, from points transfers, to using Aeroplan miles to book an award ticket, to earning from partners.
Earning Aeroplan Miles
You can earn Aeroplan miles in a number of ways, including:
- Flying Air Canada, crediting to Aeroplan
- Flying and crediting partner flights to Aeroplan
- Earning miles using an Aeroplan co-branded credit card
- Transferring points to miles from bank partner programs
- Converting hotel points to Aeroplan miles
- Earning with hotel and car rental partners
- Shopping online through the Aeroplan e-store
It used to be that earning miles actually required flying, but those days are long past. I’ve earned thousands of Aeroplan miles without crediting a single flight to the program. Still, if you want to credit flights to Aeroplan, always check wheretocredit.com to know how many miles you’ll earn.
The primary way to rack up lots of Aeroplan miles is by transferring them from their bank programs, which include American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Barclay Arrival Premier Miles. You can earn lots of Aeroplan miles through credit card welcome offers and ongoing spend.
Best Credit Cards For Earning Aeroplan Miles
There are a number of great credit cards you can use to earn both Membership Rewards and Capital One miles. I’m going to skip over the Barclay Arrival Premier, as I don’t consider it a competitive product. Aeroplan also has their own co-branded Visa card as well.
Premium Bank Partner Cards
- Business Platinum Card from American Express – Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $10,000 within the first 3 months. Earn an additional 25,000 points after spending and additional $10,000 within the first three months. The card comes with a $595 annual fee and an array of travel and business perks.
- American Express Gold Card – Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months. The card has a $250 annual fee. The Amex Gold earns 4x at US supermarkets and restaurants worldwide plus offers dining and airline credits.
- Capital One® Spark® Business Miles Card – Earn up to 200,000 miles! 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of account opening and an additional 150,000 after spending $50,000 within the first 6 months. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year and the card earns 2x miles on all purchases. Miles can be transferred to Aeroplan miles at a 2:1.5 ratio. (Learn More)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Card – Earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year. Earns 2x miles on all purchases. Miles can be transferred to Aeroplan miles at a 2:1.5 ratio. (Learn More)
No-Annual Fee Bank Partner Cards
- American Express Everyday Card – 10,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months. No annual fee, and earns 2x at US supermarkets and a 20% boost if you make 20 or more purchases in a statement period.
- American Express Blue Business Plus Card – No public welcome offer, but you can earn 10,000 Membership Rewards points after $5,000 in spend within 3 months by using refer-a-friend bonuses. The card earns 2x Membership Rewards on all purchases, up to $50,000 per year. This is one of my favorite no-fee credit cards.
TD Aeroplan Visa Signature Card –Earn 25,000 Aeroplan miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 billing cycles with a $0 introductory annual fee ($95 thereafter).
Edit: It appears this card has been discontinued. New applications are not possible, and existing card are being product changed in February 2020.
Bank programs sometimes offer transfer bonuses. We saw an Aeroplan transfer bonus from Membership Rewards of 10-20% a matter of months ago. I personally took advantage of the 20% bonus offered me to transfer some Membership Rewards to Aeroplan.
Other Ways to Earn Aeroplan Miles
You can also transfer hotel points to Aeroplan, although this usually isn’t a good value. The only exception might be transferring Marriott Bonvoy points, either on their own or part of a travel package.
However, when Aeroplan is offering 4x miles for hotel stays credited to Aeroplan, I sometimes credit a cheap stay to the program. This is only if I’m going to get a decent number of miles and if there isn’t another, better promotion.
Depending on the other offers available and the car rental agency, I might consider crediting rentals to Aeroplan. With Hertz and Enterprise, I generally prefer to earn points with them, unless you’re earning at least a couple thousand miles for your rental.
Using Aeroplan Miles – Award Chart, Searching, and Redemption
Air Canada currently has a region-based award chart for redeeming miles, although this could be subject to change in the near future. They may move to a more dynamic award system for their own flights, keeping a fixed chart for partners.
In general, Air Canada awards are reasonably priced. Their full award chart can be found here. There are some sweet spots I’ll highlight later. But in general, their award chart is pretty average.
Aeroplan has a fairly robust search engine that allows you to book their awards online. The majority of partner award inventory is available through their website. As mentioned before, you must log in to search. You can either select to just search awards, or compare to cash Air Canada prices.
Most partner inventory in economy and premium cabins is easily searchable, although I find that you aren’t typically presented with as many options as with United’s website. You can either search economy/premium economy awards or business/first awards.
There are a few instances, however, where you’ll need to call. These include:
- If the search does not bring up an anticipated award (that you cross-checked with another search engine)
- If you need to book one of their Canadian domestic partners
- When you’re trying to add a stopover at the award fails to show online
In any of these cases, call Aeroplan at 1-800-361-5373.
I’ve generally found Aeroplan hold times to be fairly long (20+ minutes), so I really dislike calling them. The agents I have spoken with have generally been cheerful and helpful, even the one I made search four different awards before thanking him and telling him I didn’t plan to book anything.
Cancelling or changing an Aeroplan award costs the following per ticket:
- $100 CAD for changes
- $150 CAD for cancellation ($125 CAD at Aeroplan.com)
While these aren’t the highest fees in the industry, they still hurt. This is one of the reasons I shy away from Aeroplan for domestic United awards, as they offer the worst fees among similar options.
Those Pesky Fuel Surcharges
One of my few gripes about using Aeroplan miles for their own awards is that they levy awful fuel surcharges, even for economy. You might find an award for 25,000 miles round-trip, but then they’ll hit you with $180 in fees.
With some partners, the fuel surcharges are astronomical. Partners like Lufthansa and Austrian, especially if you’re looking to fly premium cabin,
Carriers where Aeroplan levies hefty fuel surcharges include:
- Air Canada
- All Nippon Airways
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- LOT Polish (moderate)
- Thai Airlines (moderate)
However, there are also a number of carriers on which Aeroplan does not levy any fuel surcharges. It’s mostly an all or none situation, which I find odd. But you can use it to your advantage.
Carriers where Aeroplan does not levy fuel surcharges include:
- Air China
- Air India
- Brussels Airlines
- Ethiopian Airlines (I think)
- EVA Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Turkish Airlines
In most cases, you’re better off targeting the airlines where fuel surcharges are not passed on. The oddest ones of the bunch are SWISS and Brussels. Considering that the other Lufthansa Group airlines levy massive charges, it’s odd that theirs are zero. I’m not complaining, though.
Best Uses of Aeroplan Miles
Aeroplan has some great sweet spots on their award chart that offer good value for both economy and premium cabin flights. But first, a comment on Aeroplan’s…odd…routing rules.
Many award search engines price awards based on the regions you touch, not necessarily your starting and ending region. Or they have restrictions on which regions you may start in, end in, and pass through.
With Aeroplan, things are pretty free. You can come up with some unique routing options, such as Washington D.C. to Athens visa Cairo. This touches the Middle East zone, yet since you end in Europe 2, it prices at the Europe 2 price. Pretty cool.
Another common example is being able to fly to the Europe 1 zone (i.e. Western and Northern Europe) via Europe 2 partners, such as Turkish and LOT. These awards are both longer flights, but they price at the Europe 1 price. In this case, the difference is minimal.
Here are my top picks from the award chart for using Aeroplan miles:
- U.S./Canada to Europe 1 in business class for 55,000 miles one-way
- U.S./Canada to Europe 2 in business class for 57,500 miles one-way
- Flights to either Africa or India in business class from U.S./Canada for 75,000 miles one-way
- U.S./Canada to Australia/New Zealand in business class with an Asia stopover for 160,000 miles round-trip
- Last-minute domestic economy awards on United for just 12,500 miles one-way
- Round-trip U.S./Canada awards with a free stopover (yes, you can still do this!)
- Select U.S./Canada short-haul awards for 7,500 miles one-way
- Transcontinental United premium service business class for 25,000 miles one-way
The final option is a good price among award programs, as United charges 35,000-38,000 at the cheapest for the same award.
However, you can actually book the same lie-flat transcontinental business class for just 12,500 Turkish Miles & Smiles!
The Great White North: An Excellent Sweet Spot
Aeroplan is the only program that partners with Canadian domestic airlines, which should come as no surprise. This partnership is not only unique, it is extremely lucrative for the award traveler looking to visit the Arctic.
Considering that flights on Air Canada and Arctic partners to places such as Churchill, Manitoba and Pangnirtung, Nunavut typically cost well over $1,000, booking an award to one of these places for just 25,000 Aeroplan miles (or 7,500 miles if nonstop short-haul) os a steal.
I’d like to visit the Canadian Arctic at least once some day, and I will absolutely be using Aeroplan miles to do so.
Stopovers, Stopovers, Stopovers
Another excellent feature of the Aeroplan program is the ability to book stopovers on award tickets. Tickets within continental North America and intercontinental travel both allow one stopover on a round-trip award, which is not fantastic, but much better than what most programs offer.
What’s cool about Aeroplan stopovers is that you’re pretty free when it comes to the regions you can use them in. Stopover in Europe on your way to Africa, India, or Southeast Asia? No problem. Stopover in Asia on your way to Australia? Also possible.
If you’re keen on maximizing your awards to see multiple cities or countries, using Aeroplan miles with a stopover is an excellent choice. They used to allow two stopovers, which you had to book by phone, but that is no longer the case. I’m hoping they bring that feature back.
Final Thoughts On Using Aeroplan Miles
Aeroplan isn’t in my top 5 airline loyalty programs, but I’m more than happy with the value they offer. I’ve only booked a few awards through them; however, given the potential and specific excellent sweet spots, using Aeroplan miles more often is certainly part of my future.
Plus, I’m sitting on 55,000 Aeroplan miles, just itching to use for a business class ticket to Europe!