Save Money Using Rewards Programs

In the past ten years, reward programs have sprouted up everywhere like a bad weed. At first there were only a few but once the idea caught on in business marketing circles, they grew like wildfire. Programs are available for everything from retail stores, restaurants, and gas bars to airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies. Some of these programs are actually worthwhile while others are nothing more than marketing gimmicks that offer very little in real value to loyal customers.

When participating in a rewards program, always remember that these programs would not exist if they weren’t benefitting the companies who made them more than they are costing them. It still makes sense to participate in them most of the time as long as you don’t let rewards program influence your spending habits such that you will forgo a better price, or not even look for one, because you want to collect points or miles at your favourite store.

How To Benefit From Rewards Programs

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Get The Most Value From Your Aeroplan Miles

Now that you’ve earned a ton of Aeroplan miles, you need to know how to effectively spend them so all of your hard work earning them isn’t wasted.  You want to get the absolute best value for your miles possible while still redeeming them for an award you actually want and can use.  The information found here will help you to squeeze every possible penny out of your Aeroplan miles!

Choosing The Right Reward

When it comes to choosing the right reward with Aeroplan, there is no discussion necessary.  There is only one viable option, flights!  All the other reward options will give at most 50% of the value you could obtain by booking a flight.  You can still look into the other reward options if they interest you, but just know that 99.9% of the time you will be throwing many more miles away than you should be.  If you are considering redeeming your miles for something other than flights you should consider the following options instead:

  • If you ever will need to fly in the future, save the miles for then and buy the item you really want with the money saved.
  • Redeem a ticket for a family member who is flying anyway and have them pay you back the cost of the ticket as a favour to you.
  • Use your miles to gift a ticket or trip to a family member and again use the money saved how you wish.

Where To Fly

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How To Earn Aeroplan Miles Really Fast

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.

Credit Cards

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. Keep reading » about How To Earn Aeroplan Miles Really Fast

Aeroplan Miles: A Complete Guide

Aeroplan, for better or worse, it is undoubtedly the most important and relevant airline rewards program to Canadians. The reasons for that are plentiful:

  • Air Canada is the largest Canadian airline owning nearly 4 times the number of planes as its closest rival, WestJet.
  • Air Canada was the only large Canadian airline to offer a rewards program for years, until WestJet recently introduced one as well.
  • Due to Canadian laws, only Canadian airlines can operate flights that both originate and terminate in Canada. All other airlines can only offer flights with one point of entry into Canada.
  • The number of partners, credit cards, and other earning opportunities available through Aeroplan is only exceeded by Air Miles and it is actually a retail rewards program, not an airline rewards program.

Related: All Aeroplan Credit Cards Compared

That being said, Aeroplan is not without its problems and many people are quick to complain about the program and often abandon it after having a frustrating experience. Fortunately, understanding the program better combined with a little planning can make most of these frustrations go away. Before I get into the good stuff of teaching you how to earn Aeroplan miles faster as well as get the most value out of your Aeroplan redemption, I'm going to give you a quick overview of how Aeroplan works and explain roughly how to calculate how much Aeroplan miles are worth in terms of dollars.

Nobody wants to waste their time earning 10 miles here and 20 miles there while taking a lifetime to achieve any sort of reward and after reading this guide you won't have to anymore! Keep reading » about Aeroplan Miles: A Complete Guide

Redeem Shoppers Optimum Points For More

One of the most easy and consistent ways to increase the overall value of a rewards program is to pay careful attention to how you redeem your rewards points or miles.  The Optimum program complements its generous earning opportunities with several great ways to get more value for your points.

Bonus Redemption Days

Less frequently than the 20x Points Days, no more than four times a year, Shoppers Drug Mart has bonus redemption days that apply to every item in the store. They also have cosmetics bonus redemption days, but those are useful to a lot less people. These events used to be secret and advertised via snail mail, but for a long time now they have been advertised as public events in the weekly flyer. On these special days the points that you earned on 20x the points day, when redeemed at the top 2 levels, effectively become worth more as follows:

Points Redeemed Cash Value Rate of Return
50,000 $100 40.00%
95,000 $200 42.10%
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How To Earn Air Miles Really Fast

Although the Air Miles program doesn't have as many ways to earn a truckload of points as the Shoppers Optimum program, there are still plenty of ways you can pad your balance and use the program to effectively save money.  That said, incredible offers do occasionally come along, particularly at Safeway, where you can actually earn money by taking a product off of a store shelf.  Here are some of the best ways to get more miles for your money.

Mile Multiplier Days

Similar to the Shoppers Optimum program, the Air Miles program has multiplier days. The basic premise is that a particular Air Miles partner will run a promotion where instead of earning the typical amount of Air Miles on your purchase you will earn several times more. This can range anywhere from 2x to 20x the usual number of miles on your purchases. The only problem is that these multiplier days aren't nearly as regular, consistent, or lucrative as they are with the Optimum program. Keep reading » about How To Earn Air Miles Really Fast

A Complete Guide To Air Miles Reward Miles

Companies Using See list
Bonuses Yes
Expiration None
Fee None
Rewards Travel, gift cards, gift certs, products, etc.
Rate Of Return ~2.5% but varies widely
Transferability Very restricted
Official Site Air Miles

The Air Miles rewards program is, in my opinion, one of the most highly overrated rewards programs in Canada. But, due to its widespread use and popularity, it still deserves ample coverage on this site. Even with all of its many pitfalls, I must admit that it does have the occasional silver lining and because of that I do participate in the program myself from time to time. It also must win the award for the rewards program with the most confusing name. I mean, seriously, who calls a retail rewards program 'Air Miles' anyway? I'm a reasonably intelligent person, but before I knew much of anything about rewards programs I naturally assumed that Air Miles had something to do with an airline. From that point on, whenever someone talked about earning reward miles for flying, earning Aeroplan miles, or anything else of the sort, I became utterly confused. Upon further investigation and questioning, I sorted it all out, but I can't say that the name is very intuitive and I still run into people who are as equally confused about the whole thing as I was. Keep reading » about A Complete Guide To Air Miles Reward Miles

Shoppers Optimum Tips And Tricks

The Earn More and Redeem More sections have a lot of information that could be considered either tips or tricks and a small portion of that may be repeated here for emphasis.  However, there are also many aspects to the Shoppers Drug Mart shopping experience that aren’t directly related to earning or redeeming points, but that will help you get even greater value and prevent unneeded frustration.

Points Pointers

Dealing with points systems can be a headache so here is a list of quick points that will make sure you are in the know and hopefully help minimize the numbers of problems you run into.

The True Value of Points

It is easy to get overly enthusiastic once you start to understand the Optimum program and see all the potential points you can earn, which can cloud your judgement. One common mistake, or misconception, is that if you were to buy a single item valued $200 and through various promotions and points stacking techniques you earned a total of 50,000 points on that single item. First, people will tend to automatically assign a value of $100 to those 50,000 points because that is their value on a bonus redemption day but you have to keep in mind that is the best case scenario. Keep reading » about Shoppers Optimum Tips And Tricks