Flying for free, or almost free, is a really wonderful proposition and something that is definitely possible by efficiently collecting and redeeming Aeroplan miles. Some of the methods listed here are better than others, but they will all help you pad your balance so you can get that free flight much sooner than you think.
There’s no way around it, credit cards are the absolute best way to collect Aeroplan miles quickly and there are quite a few of them to choose from in Canada. There may be a better credit card out there to use as your primary everyday card, but I still think most people should sign up for one or more Aeroplan cards to take advantage of the perks and bonuses.
Sign Up Bonus
The biggest reason to apply for an Aeroplan credit card is for the sign up bonuses. The minimum sign up bonus available for an Aeroplan credit card is the 5,000 miles for the lower end cards with lesser annual fees all the way up to 50,000 miles for the top-end platinum and reserve cards. The standard bonus for a $120 annual fee card is typically between 15,000 and 25,000, which is great because a 15,000 bonus is enough to get you flying immediately on a short haul flight and the 25,000 bonus will get you on a flight anywhere in Canada & Continental USA. You usually get most or all of your bonus either after you make the first purchase on your card or after your first statement or after you've made a relatively small minimum amount of purchases within the first few months. Please click the following link for the most up to date listing of Aeroplan credit card sign up bonuses.
Unfortunately, large credit card bonuses usually do come at the cost of an annual fee, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still apply! One thing is for certain, the sign up bonus is almost always worth WAY more than than the cost of the annual fee. I have calculated the true value of Aeroplan miles in extensive detail and, using those numbers, you can quickly see that 25,000 miles is realistically worth $625. Subtract the $120 annual fee, and you are still $505 ahead as long as you have a use for a reward flight.
Cancelling Your Cards
Unless you have determined that you want to keep one of these Aeroplan cards as your primary card, then you are probably going to want to cancel it before the first year is up and your annual fee renews. You need to be careful how many cards you apply for and cancel within in a short period because this can dramatically affect your credit score, which is important if you will need to obtain credit from a bank, car financing, or even a cell phone. Applying for and cancelling a few cards a year should only have a short term impact on your score as long as you don’t cancel your oldest cards with the longest credit history.
You also don’t normally want to cancel your card right away. You want to at least keep it for a few months to make sure it gets reported properly to the credit agencies. The best strategy is usually to get the sign up bonus and then use the card for all your spending until you get exactly the amount of miles you need for your reward of choice. This is often the 25,000 mile flight to anywhere in Canada & Continental USA, so you would get the 15,000 bonus and then spend exactly the necessary amount on the card to get the additional 10,000 miles. At this point you would switch your spending back to your primary credit card and cancel the Aeroplan credit card before the year is up.
Annual Fee Refund
If you are a smooth talker, it may also be possible to get your annual fee partially or fully refunded and still keep your bonus miles. To do this, you sign up for the card, wait for the bonus to post to your Aeroplan account, and then immediately call in and state you want to cancel your card because you have a better or equivalent no fee card that offers the same benefits or better than this card. This used to be the honest truth when the MBNA Starwood Preferred Guest Mastercard was available, but now honestly making that claim might be a bit harder. You then tell them that you would be willing to keep the card if they waive the annual fee for you. If you are lucky, they will offer to give you a bill credit for the full annual fee but they may also offer something less or nothing. You can hold out for the full refund if you want and, if they don’t waiver, just continue cancelling the card or tell them you want to think it over and call them back later.
Getting the sign up bonus multiple times for the same credit card is known as churning and, although controversial, is a great way to earn a lot miles continuously over the years. To date, I personally have yet to sign up for the same credit card twice even though I’m sure I could easily do so and still get the bonus a second time. Each credit card company has different rules about this sort of behaviour and methods for checking if you will be eligible for the miles. An estimate for a good amount of time to wait before applying again would be 2-3 years and you will be almost certain to give you the bonus again because at that point they would probably consider you to be a new customer or at least not an abuser.
Some people in the USA were actually churning the same card every month and getting the sign up bonus every time until it was stopped when Citi was bailed out in 2009. By doing this they were able to take multiple first class trips all over the world costing them next to nothing! It is getting continually harder to churn cards everywhere and credit card issuers are cracking down on it much harder. Here are a few threads discussing the issue:
- Credit Card Churning For Miles @ FlyerTalk
- Citi churn withdrawal @ FlyerTalk
- Credit card churning: how much is too much? @ RedFlagDeals
Although this applies to very few people and those whom it does apply to usually already know about it, but traveling on business for your company is one of the best ways to earn Aeroplan miles and many other types of reward miles and points. If your company sends you packing multiple times a year, then you need to have a rewards card for every airline that they might put you on because you can collect miles on all of these flights for your own personal use and it won’t cost you a penny. Even better, if you are allowed to use a personal credit card for your company expenses then you can rack up even more miles or points for free by using the card and then getting reimbursed later by the company. If you are able to control how flights are booked and what hotels you stay at, make sure that you choose the ones that are the most rewarding for you as long as it doesn’t cost the company an extra fortune to do so.
One important thing to remember if you are the person earning free miles this way is that the gravy train probably won’t last forever. You don’t have an unlimited supply of these free miles and they could stop coming in at any moment, so make sure to spend them wisely by getting the most value out of them that you can. Don’t just buy that horribly valued TV in the rewards catalogue because you have lots of miles, figure out a way to get more value for your and then use the money you saved doing that to buy yourself the TV on sale. The Redeem More section will help you get the most for your miles.
In addition to the standard reward for flying with Air Canada, there is often special promotions and bonuses that are available as well that, in some cases, can turn out to be worth much more than the standard offering. Most times these bonuses aren’t automatic and you will need to register for each promotion in order to qualify so around the time you need to book a flight and shortly before you actually fly you should scour the internet for bonuses to see if your flight qualifies. It can definitely be worth the few minutes spent doing it.
Air Canada usually offers a bonus for simply booking a flight using AirCanada.com as opposed to using a travel agent or calling their own agents. The reason for this is obviously to save them money on agent fees and payroll, but if the flight is a simple one booking it yourself can be quicker, easier, and more rewarding. Previously, they used to offer a straight bonus of 500 miles for all flights booked online. However, now the standard offer is only available for flights within Canada and the USA and is awarded as follows:
|Booking Bonus||Booking Class|
|1 mile / $3 spent||Tango|
|1 mile / $2 spent||Tango Plus|
|1 mile / $1 spent||Latitude,
Another common Air Canada promotion is to offer a bonus for passengers that fly a specific number of times or a certain number of flight segments (one flight can have multiple segments) during the promotion period. These promotions require registration and can available to anyone or targeted at specific Aeroplan members. As an example, at the time of this writing the following frequency bonus was being offered for flights within Canada, Continental USA, Mexico and the Caribbean:
|Segments Flown||Bonus Reward|
|16||12,000 miles + 2 Maple Leaf Lounge Passes|
|32||25,000 miles + 2 Maple Leaf Lounge Passes|
In this case, the bonuses were cumulative so when you qualified for the next bonus level it is in addition to the bonus you already received from the previous level. This makes the top bonus amount to 40,000 Aeroplan miles and 4 Maple Leaf Lounge passes all in addition to the regular miles you would earn for those flights. A nice perk indeed!
While Frequency bonuses are often only applicable to regular travelers, route bonuses can be applicable to vacationers or occasional travelers as well. Route bonuses come as either a multiplier of the standard number of miles you would receive for the trip or fixed bonus for taking a flight on that route. Before you book your next vacation flight, it can pay to check to see if the route you are flying is applicable for any bonsues. The RewardsCanada.ca section will show you a quick and easy way to do this.
Airline Alliances & Partners
As mentioned in Earning Regular Miles, you can also earn Aeroplan miles when flying with one of the Star Alliance partners or even a non-alliance partner if they happen to have any. Alaska Airlines in particular tends to have a lot of non-alliance partners, but Air Canada mostly sticks with its official alliance partners. However, it is not uncommon for these partners to offer bonuses that apply to another rewards program than their own, which could happen to be Air Canada. If you are flying somewhere on a Air Canada partner airline, be sure to check online for any bonuses that may apply and to present your Aeroplan membership when booking with them so you will be credited in Aeroplan miles for the trip.
RewardsCanada.ca is an amazing website that has been serving Canadians collecting reward points and miles since 2001. The site essentially lists all of the travel-related earning opportunities and bonus miles available to Canadians. Almost all global airlines that offer rewards programs are covered and the number of earning opportunities are staggering. There are many ways to use the site including browsing by program or, in the case of airlines, you can even browse by route to see the available bonuses on all airlines for the particular route you will be flying. Here are some useful links relating to Aeroplan:
- Aeroplan Bonus Offers
- Aeroplan Program Information
- Includes complete partner list, redemption levels, and more great information.
- Bonus Offers By Route
Banking At CIBC
Another great way to earn a large chunk of Aeroplan miles is through the banking sign up bonuses at CIBC. Most of the banks usually have great promotions that they run during the summer months to attract new customers, especially on their premier chequing accounts. CIBC’s promotions are tied to Aeroplan miles, usually giving you 15,000 miles for opening a CIBC Unlimited Chequing Account that costs $12.95 a month and then meeting a few more conditions to qualify for the bonus. These conditions typically involve setting up a few pre-authorized debits, a payroll deposit, or something similar, which can be a hassle. But, let us not forget that 15,000 miles is worth roughly $375 in (income tax free) flights. That is probably worth a couple of hours of hassle, depending on how high your regular hourly income is. You also must keep the account open for a few months or until a certain date to receive the bonus, so signing up as late as possible is best so that you can cancel or downgrade the account quickly to avoid the fees. 3 months, which equates to less than $40 in fees, would be a typical amount of time you would need to keep the account open before downgrading or cancelling, but it can very from promotion to promotion.
At the time of this writing, CIBC is only offering 5,000 miles for signing up along with a monthly bonus of 100 miles for as long as you keep the account open. This bonus isn’t really worth the trouble unless you are planning to bank long term with CIBC anyway but it is likely that the higher bonus will reappear at some point for you to take advantage of. I took advantage of the chequing account promo a couple of years ago now and somehow they credited me twice for the bonus so I ended up with 30,000 free miles instead of 15,000. I actually contacted them about it to see if they wanted to reclaim the miles but even with my prompting, they never did and I cancelled the account 3 months later.
Retail And Business Partners
Aeroplan has many retail and business partners, and some of them even offer decent earning opportunities and bonuses. Unfortunately, unlike the Air Miles program, collecting enough miles solely using their retail partners would probably take you close to a lifetime! In some cases it may be worth your time to do so, if for nothing else than to keep your account active, but you will want to take it on a case by case basis and see what other opportunities are out there. Changing your shopping habits to visit an Aeroplan retail partner is definitely not recommended. You can visit the Aeroplan Partners Page to browse the available partners by category and region to see if anything good sticks out for you.
Car Rental & Hotels
When staying at a hotel or renting a car, you will also want to check RewardsCanada.ca for bonus miles because most car rental companies and hotel chains are affiliated with at least one airline and often several of them. Instead of collecting hotel reward points, you can collect Aeroplan or other airline reward points instead and take advantage of the airline-related bonuses they often have as well. One time, I actually managed to collect 5,000 bonus miles when renting a car on the insurance company’s dime while my car was being repaired after it was rear ended.
At first it seems strange that these companies would accept rewards cards for airlines when they already have their own rewards program. But because the hotels and car rental agencies aren’t in competition with the airlines, it is a great way for them to obtain more customers easily. In cases where multiple rewards program earning opportunities are possible, it is important to pay attention to which one offers the greatest return for your money spent. If the hotel or car rental rewards program offers a much great return, it may make sense to start collecting those points instead if you can turn them into a good reward.
Aeroplan has a few notable retail partners but good earning opportunities are few and far between. Here are a few of the most notable:
|Esso||1 mile / $3 spent|
|Home Hardware||1 mile / $2 spent|
|FTD.com||10 miles / $1 spent|
|Quaker & Tropicana||10 or 25 miles on eligible products|
|Nestle||50 miles on eligible products|
|Primus||3 miles / $1 spent + bonuses|
Similar to AirMilesShops.ca, Aeroplan launched the Aeroplan eStore in 2008 to better compete with other rewards programs and to earn more money for themselves. The concept is that you first visit Aeroplan.com/eStore before doing your online shopping, click on the online merchant you wish to shop at from the eStore’s list of stores, get transferred to online merchant to complete your purchase and earn a number of miles based on the amount of your purchase. It’s a pretty simple and easy way to earn a few extra miles, but I believe the opportunity cost of using this program is not that great. Reason being there are cash back sites out there that offer the very same service on a wider range of stores and give a better rate of return in cash (paid by Paypal or cheque) instead of miles.
The truth of the matter is that many online merchants, especially the lesser known ones, offer a small commission to other sites that link users to them who actually make purchases. The eStore and AirMilesShops.ca work under this same principle and it is almost certain that they are earning more money from the transaction than they are giving out in miles. If nothing else, the eStore is a good way to make sure your account remains active if you don’t have an Esso nearby.
One of the only times you would want to use these online stores over a straight cash back alternative is when they are running a promotion of some kind. Here are some of the promotions you can expect to see from time to time:
- Sign up bonus of a few hundred miles for creating a brand new eStore account.
- Waiting for this promotion before creating an account is a good idea.
- Mile multiplier bonus for shopping at particular stores.
- Fixed bonus for shopping at one or more stores during a promotional period.
From time to time certain rewards programs like to offer a bonus when transferring points or miles out of one program and into another one. The most famous of these promotions is the ongoing Starwood Preferred Guest promotion of transferring 20,000 starpoints to almost any airline, including Aeroplan, and receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for a total of 25,000 miles transferred into your account. This is one of the reasons why the free MBNA Starwood Preferred Guest Mastercard was so popular and why The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express is worth considering even with the $120 annual fee.
In early 2010, Aeroplan offered a complementary promotion that credited 1,500 bonus miles to your account when you transferred points from any Hotel Rewards Program into 10,000 Aeroplan miles or more. If you were to stack this with the above promotion you could get a bonus of 6,500 miles for transferring in 20,000 starpoints to miles. 1,500 bonus miles isn’t that much, but getting a bonus for transferring around points and miles you already have is a good thing. Just keep the following things in mind when transferring points and miles around:
- Transfers in both directions are not always possible.
- Transfers aren’t always free, but where these promotions are concerned they usually are.
- Each rewards program has different rules for how, where, and to whom points can be transferred.
- Never use a points transfer service like Point.com to do transfers because they steal almost everything in the process.
Mileage Runs are something reserved for the elite and slightly crazy mile collectors and can usually be applied to any airline, including Air Canada. The basic premise is that you find the cheapest flight, flying the longest distance, involving the most segments possibly allowed by a given airline. You do this because the longer the flight, the more regular miles and status miles you will earn. You would be right to wonder how this is possible because longer flights are more expensive, right? Actually, not always so! Flights are priced based primarily on demand, convenience, and time so it is perfectly possible that a long roundabout flight could actually be cheaper than a quicker flight to the same destination. In the purest form, a mileage run is done for no other purpose than earning miles. The person isn’t traveling for business, going to visit anyone, or going on vacation … they are spending days or even months of their time on a plane simply to earn miles and status. My knowledge and experience with this subject is very limited and based solely on reading, so I will only mention it here and potentially write a more in-depth blog post at a later date.
Air Canada, while typically one of the more expensive airlines, has one positive thing going for it in terms of mileage runs and that is their flight passes. When flight passes were first launched they were very flexible and cheap so you could literally fly almost non-stop for 2 straight months for much less than $10,000 and earn miles for every flight you were on. It is still possible to purchase flight passes and earn miles for the flights but they have become more restrictive and costly overall. If you ever consider doing a mileage run from Canada, it is something you should at least look into.
If you are a business traveler, then you can benefit from a modified version of the mileage run. When booking your business flights, you should shop around for different connections that involve longer flights so you can earn more miles for every trip. By using this method you can easily earn three for four times the amount of miles you normally would and obtain higher status much quicker than you otherwise would. This blog post goes into more detail about how exactly you can accomplish this.
Aeromove Real Estate Services
One final way of earning a lot of Aeroplan miles is by using the Aeromove service to find a real estate agent. There are definitely cheaper ways out there of buying and selling real estate than using an agent, but if you are like most Canadians you don’t want to put in the time and effort to go through the process of buying or selling a house without one. If you’re going to use an agent anyway, then signing up for Aeromove might be a good idea.
The program essentially works by matching you with a real estate agent in your area that has also signed up for the program, most likely at a significant cost to them, to obtain more clients. They will contact you and from that point you proceed like you normally would when dealing with a real estate agent. And your reward? For selling a house you will earn 1,500 miles for every $10,000 in house value so for a $200,000 house you would earn 30,000 miles. That’s not too bad, but considering real estate agents earn between 3% ($6,000) and 6% ($12,000) commission on each sale you can see why they can afford it.
Aeromove can also hook you up with other real estate services like home inspection, legal services, moving services, junk removal, and even staging. The amount of miles offered for each of these services varies and are small when compared to the real estate agent option