Last updated: February 15, 2019
Aeroplan, for better or worse, is one of the most important and relevant airline reward programs for Canadians. The reasons for this are plentiful.
- Air Canada is the largest Canadian airline, owning more than double as many planes as its closest rival, WestJet.
- Due to Canadian laws, only Canadian airlines can operate flights that both start and end in Canada. All other airlines can only offer flights to or from Canada.
- The number of partners and earning opportunities available through Aeroplan is only exceeded by Air Miles.
That being said, Aeroplan isn't without its problems. Many people are quick to complain about the program and often abandon it after a frustrating experience.
But getting a better understanding of Aeroplan, combined with a little planning, can make most of these frustrations go away.
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.
Want to get the best value for your Aeroplan miles? Find out what an Aeroplan mile is REALLY worth here.
Let's look at:
- measuring the value of an Aeroplan mile,
- how you can earn Aeroplan miles quickly,
- the best ways to redeem your Aeroplan miles,
- the perks of achieving Aeroplan status,
- some criticisms about the program, and
- some general tips to help you get more out of Aeroplan.
Measuring the value of an Aeroplan mile
When approaching any rewards program, it's important to understand 2 factors:
This lets you better compare different programs, as well as different redemption and earning options within a program itself.
You can calculate CPM by dividing the cash value of a reward by the number of Aeroplan miles required to purchase it. Then times that number by 100 to get cents per mile, not dollar per mile.
Say you redeemed 25,000 miles for a $700 flight (not including taxes and fees). Your calculation would look like this:
$700 / 25,000 = 0.028 * 100 = 2.8 CPM
Across all redemption options we factored, the average value for Aeroplan is 1.04 CPM.
Keep in mind that the numbers fluctuate depending on what you redeem your miles for. Read ahead and find out how to double your CPM here.
Calculating rate of return
Even more important than knowing the value of a single mile is the rate of return you get when earning Aeroplan miles.
This is calculated by determining how much money you spend earning miles in relation to the overall value you get for those miles.
The rate of return lets you easily compare different earning opportunities and decide if it's worth your while. You can also see if a particular Aeroplan credit card will give you a better return than another competing card.
The basic formula is as follows:
Amount of points earned * Average CPM = X
X / Money spent = Rate of return
For example, if you were to use the
(2 points * $30) * 1.04 CPM = 0.624
0.624 / $30 = 0.0208 * 100 = 2.08% return
3 ways to earn Aeroplan miles
The main ways to earn Aeroplan miles are:
Let's look at each option in a bit more detail.
1. Earning Aeroplan miles on travel
The normal way to earn Aeroplan miles is, not surprisingly, by flying on an Air Canada flight. You can also earn miles on a number of other airlines that are Star Alliance partners.
The amount of miles you earn varies depending on:
- the length of the flight,
- the class of ticket, and
- the airline you're flying with.
The miles are calculated based on the actual miles, not kilometres, flown with a 250-mile minimum payout for shorter flights.
You can consult the following table to get an idea of exactly how many miles you'll earn for an Air Canada flight, with 100% being the exact number of miles flown.
|Ticket class||Percent earned|
|Economy Basic (Canada, U.S.)||0%|
|Standard (Canada) Economy Basic (International)||25%|
|Standard (U.S., Sun, International)||50%|
|Flex (All regions)||100%|
|Comfort (Canada, U.S., Sun)||115%|
|Latitude (All regions)
Premium Economy (All regions)
|Business class (All regions)||150%|
The earn rates can look a bit different if you're flying with a Star Alliance partner that's not Air Canada. You can look at the rates for a specific partner here.
2. Shopping at Aeroplan partners
A way of earning a couple extra miles when you're not flying is to present your Aeroplan loyalty card at one of their partners.
Here's the list of their current in-store partners and their earn rates:
|Home Hardware||1 per $2|
|Primus||1 per $1|
|The UPS Store||1 per $1|
|Nutrilawn||1 per $2|
|Various fashion retailers||1 per $2|
|Novus||1 per $2|
|Atlas Van Lines||500 to 3,500 on moves|
|Amerispec||500 per inspection|
You can also earn miles on the Aeroplan eStore. Some of their online partners and earn rates are as follows:
|Costco.ca||1 per $1 (select products)|
|Apple Store Canada||1 per $1|
|Chapters Indigo||2 per $1|
|The Shopping Channel||1 per $1|
|Hudson's Bay||3 per $1|
|Gap Canada||4 per $1|
|Old Navy||4 per $1|
|Well.ca||1 per $1|
|Banana Republic||4 per $1|
|Sephora||2 per $1|
|Dell Canada||1 per $1|
|Microsoft Store||1 per $1|
|Club Monaco||3 per $1|
|Clearly||2 per $1|
Find more information on earning Aeroplan miles on retail purchases here.
It’s a pretty simple way to earn a few extra miles, but the selection of available stores isn't great.
3. Using an Aeroplan credit card
There’s no way around it...Aeroplan credit cards are the best way to collect Aeroplan miles quickly. And lucky for us, there are quite a few to choose from in Canada – 21 cards, to be exact.
There may be a better travel credit card out there to use as your primary everyday card, but I still think it's a good idea to sign up for one (or more) Aeroplan cards to take advantage of the perks and bonuses.
Best Aeroplan credit card
The best Aeroplan card right now is the
Though it's not specifically Aeroplan branded, you can transfer your Membership Rewards point to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio – making the card far more flexible than any Aeroplan-specific card.
The Gold Rewards card will earn you:
- 3 points per dollar spent on travel at americanexpress.ca/travel,
- 2 points per dollar spent on gas, groceries, drugstores, and other travel purchases, and
- 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
The only downside is the relatively steep annual fee of $150. But if you spend enough on the card, it'll pay for the fee on its own – and then some.
Best Aeroplan-branded credit card
Rather not have to transfer your points?
Don't worry, there are some good Aeroplan-specific cards out there too. Take the
With this card you'll get a welcome bonus of up to 30,000 miles – 15,000 miles when you make your first purchase and 15,000 when you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days – plus:
- 1.5 miles per $1 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases and
- 1 mile per $1 everywhere else.
Plus this card comes with some Air Canada benefits for when you're flying on an Aeroplan Rewards ticket:
- first checked bag free,
- priority check in,
- priority boarding, and
- Maple Leaf Lounge access (once per year).
They're great benefits to get some more savings and have a better flying experience.
As if that wasn't enough, for a limited time TD is waiving the annual fee for new primary cardholders, so now is the perfect time to try out this card.
Find out more details here:
Aeroplan credit card with no annual fee
If you don't think you'll spend enough to justify the annual fee, don't worry. There's a no fee Aeroplan card as well – the
Again, this isn't an Aeroplan-branded card, but you can transfer your points at a 5:1 ratio.
You earn Best Western points at the following rates:
- 5 points per dollar spent on eligible Best Western purchases and
- 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
Plus, if you sign up now, you'll get a 20,000 point welcome bonus once you make your first purchase. That's 4,000 Aeroplan points after you transfer.
Aeroplan sign up bonuses
One of the biggest reasons 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 5,000 miles for the lower-end cards all the way up to 50,000 miles for the high-end ones.
The standard bonus for a $120 annual fee card is 15,000 points, which can get you on a short-haul flight.
There's usually a small criteria before you can get your bonus. You have to either:
- make a purchase on your card,
- receive your first statement, or
- make a minimum amount of purchases (within the first few months)
...before you receive your bonus.
The best welcome bonus currently available is with
Find out more here:
6 ways to redeem your Aeroplan miles
Once you have your points, you have to figure out what you want to use them on.
You have a few options when it comes to redeeming:
- flights (2.5 CPM),
- vacation packages (0.83 CPM),
- merchandise (0.83 CPM),
- hotels (0.73 CPM),
- gift cards (0.71 CPM), and
- car rentals (0.64 CPM).
1. Redeeming for Aeroplan flights
When redeeming for flights with Aeroplan, you have 2 options:
- Fixed Mileage Flight Rewards, or
- Market Fare Flight Rewards.
Essentially, the first option lets you book on any Star Alliance airline and the second is limited to Air Canada.
But let's look at the differences more in detail.
Aeroplan Fixed Mileage Flight Rewards
By far the best way to redeem Aeroplan miles, within North America, is for Fixed Mileage flights – they give you an average value of 2.9 CPM.
Short-haul flights to nearby provinces and states start at 15,000 miles. If you're aiming to travel a bit further, 25,000 miles will get you a flight anywhere in the United States or Canada.
The full chart is available on their website, but here's an abbreviated version of flights leaving from Canada and the Continental United States:
|Canada & Continental USA||25,000||40,000||50,000||70,000|
|Caribbean & Central America||40,000||50,000||60,000||85,000|
|Northern South America||50,000||65,000||75,000||105,000|
|Southern South America||60,000||80,000||110,000||140,000|
|Middle East & North Africa||80,000||135,000||165,000||230,000|
|East, South, West Africa||100,000||130,000||150,000||210,000|
|Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific||90,000||135,000||160,000||220,000|
Keep in mind that Aeroplan only releases a limited number of seats available for Fixed Mileage reward purchases, so you'll have to book several months in advance in order to get your seats. Even then, you could be subjected to extended travel time, long layovers, and odd hours.
If you need some more options, you have another way of booking flights with Aeroplan:
Market Fare Flight Rewards
Unlike the Fixed Mileage option, you can book any seat on any Air Canada flight with Market Fare rewards. But the amount of miles required isn't fixed – it varies based on several factors, most notably how the seats are selling. Some other factors are:
- time of booking,
- time of travel, and
- conversion of fares into miles.
This option generally provided much lower value than the Fixed Mileage option, averaging at around 1.5 CPM for long haul flights in North America.
But what's nice about this option, besides the increased flexibility, is that the fuel surcharge fee is waived for flights in North America. This came to an average of $113 in savings per ticket.
What kind of flights give you the best value?
Here's the average CPM for each destination region we tested:
|Type of flight||Economy (Fixed Mileage)||Business/First class (Fixed Mileage)||Economy (Market Fare)|
|Short-haul||1.6 CPM||3.37 CPM||1.23 CPM|
|Long-haul||2.1 CPM||4.01 CPM||1.52 CPM|
|Europe||1.05 CPM||4.23 CPM||0.90 CPM|
|Asia||1.27 CPM||3.74 CPM||1.04 CPM|
|Australia||1.40 CPM||4.40 CPM||1.50 CPM|
|Average||1.48 CPM||3.95 CPM||1.24 CPM|
When travelling in economy class, long-haul flights within Canada and the United States gave us the best value on average: 2.1 CPM. There was significantly less value on both short-haul and international flights. As a rule of thumb, flying at least 5 hours gets the best value – but Europe usually offers terrible value.
Business and First class redemption consistently gave the best value across the board – more than double the average value for economy class, and more than triple the value of Market Fare Rewards.
2. Redeeming for Aeroplan vacation packages
If you're thinking of going to a resort in Mexico or the Caribbean, or maybe getting on a cruise and sailing away from it all...Aeroplan also has the option to redeem for vacation package rebates.
This is done at fixed redemption levels. Here's the value for each option:
Mexico and the Caribbean
|Amount of miles needed||Rebate amount||Value|
Though it stays pretty consistent, redeeming for a $50 rebate gives you great value.
The cruise vacation rebates are the same value, except you only have the option to redeem for $100, $250, and $1,000 rebates.
3. Redeeming Aeroplan miles for merchandise
Redeeming your miles for merchandise is another option with Aeroplan, coming in at an average value of 0.83 CPM.
Though the average is lower than some of your other options, it's important to note that the values varied greatly when redeeming for merchandise.
In our sampling, we found values from a low of 0.51 CPM all the way up to 1.36 CPM. If you're looking at a particular item and find the value comes out to around 1.00 CPM, that's a pretty good deal.
This redemption category definitely rewards research.
4. Redeeming for Aeroplan hotels
You can also use your points to book a stay at hotels...but the value isn't great.
After test booking hotels in the downtown cores of the 9 biggest Canadian cities, the average value of your mile only came to 0.73 CPM.
The good news is that there are no taxes or fees to pay on top of your redemption – your points pay for the full purchase.
5. Redeeming for Aeroplan gift cards
Another option you have for redeeming your points is for gift cards to a variety of stores, like:
- Home Hardware,
- Indigo, and
The value for these is usually around the 0.71 CPM mark. It's a decent option if you're looking to save some money on retail purchases and have a few extra points laying around.
6. Redeeming for Aeroplan car rentals
The last option you have for your miles is to redeem them for car rentals.
After test booking 1-day compact car rentals at Canada's major airports, the average mile came to 0.64 CPM – a bit less than hotels.
But, like hotels, your miles cover all taxes and fees as well.
Aeroplan offers 3 status levels, each of which comes with increased bonuses and perks.
More information can be found here, but here's a summary of the levels and what you get with them:
|Aeroplan silver||Aeroplan black||Aeroplan diamond|
|Miles required to qualify||25,000||50,000||100,000|
|Discount on Market Fare prices||Up to 20%||Up to 25%||Up to 35%|
|Bonus miles on travel cash bookings on aeroplan.com||Up to 2 bonus miles per $1||Up to 2 bonus miles per $1||Up to 4 bonus miles per $1|
|Bonus miles at Marriott and Starwood||250 bonus miles per stay||250 bonus miles per stay|
|Bonus miles at Aeroplan eStore||2x miles||2x miles||3x miles|
|Priority access to contact center|
|Preferential rate on flight reward fees|
|Fairmont room upgrades + free breakfast|
|Fairmont $25 hotel credit|
|Farmont Welcome amenity|
The Aeroplan program is not without its critics.
There are many genuine concerns with the program. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are a few of the most common complaints:
Lack of reward availability for Fixed Mileage flights
On every Fixed Mileage Reward Flight, there are a select few seats that are designated for sale as Aeroplan reward seats. These seats are very limited and their exact quantity can change depending on how well seats on the flight are selling.
The exact formula they use to determine this is unknown, and they'd rather sell every seat to a paying customer regardless if it had been previously designated as an Aeroplan seat. The limits are primarily in place to ensure the whole plane isn’t booked by rewards passengers, not the other way around.
But they do occasionally run promotions where they release a whole slew of extra reward seats on many of their flights or add more seats on a specific flight if it's selling poorly. So, you may get a second chance even if it appears all the available Aeroplan seats are taken.
High taxes and fees
Booking a reward flight with miles doesn't cover the taxes and fees automatically. There's an option to cover them with additional miles, but the value is so poor it's not really worth it.
This is pretty standard among airline rewards programs, but what isn’t standard is how comparatively high these fees are with Aeroplan, and how they can vary between carriers.
Here’s an example
Say you wanted to fly from Toronto to Denver this April. Flights on both Air Canada and United Airlines would cost you 25,000 miles, but the taxes + fees are a different story:
- United: $70.76
- Air Canada: $198.81
For those keeping score, Air Canada's taxes are more than double the price of United's.
There may be various government regulations and airport improvement fees that only apply to Air Canada at work here, so it can’t be said definitely if Aeroplan or Air Canada is entirely to blame.
Bizarrely, the fees for Aeroplan reward flights are often higher than the fees for the exact same paid flight booked with Air Canada.
Here's just one example
Using Aeroplan.com, AirCanada.com, and United.com, another spot check was done looking at the same route and flights as the example above.
The Aeroplan taxes and fees, as we know, came to $198.81, while those on AirCanada.ca were $147.37...
That’s a 30% premium for nothing, not to mention that the same United flight had taxes and fees that were less than half of the Air Canada equivalent.
When comparing the 2 fee breakdowns for the Air Canada flights, all of the numbers are nearly identical except the Canadian GST. The GST was lower on the rewards ticket, which makes sense because you're not paying for a full fare.
For United, in addition to lower GST, they're also not charging several different U.S. transportation taxes. If flying to the United States, try to book with United and save yourself some money.
There are strict rules when it comes to booking or changing an Aeroplan rewards flight that can quickly add up if you aren’t careful.
They're as follows:
|Service||Standard fees||Fees for Aeroplan Diamond members|
|Changes (up to 2 hours before departure)||$100 + taxes per direction, per ticket||$75 + taxes per direction, per ticket|
|Refunds (up to 22 days before departure)||$150 + taxes per ticket||$30 + taxes per ticket (aeroplan.com) $100 + taxes per ticket (Aeroplan Contact Centre)|
Some tips for your Aeroplan experience
As with every rewards program, you'll have to do some extra research in order to secure the best possible deal for your time and money.
Let's take a look at a few general tips to improve your Aeroplan experience.
Increase the value of your flight
One of the biggest factors of the value you get for your miles is where you choose to fly.
After reading the Measuring the value of an Aeroplan mile section, you should be able to calculate your return for any route that Air Canada flies, as long as you know the rough cost of a flight.
Basically what you want to do is get the most expensive flight possible under a certain redemption amount. The higher the dollar cost of the ticket, the more your points are worth when they cover it.
Here are a few things that help increase the value of your flight.
Choose the longest possible distance you can fly
It's simple – longer distance means more points earned. Just keep in mind the reward zones.
For example, if you live on the coast, consider flying to the opposite side of the country or continent.
So a British Columbian could consider flying to Florida, whereas a Maritimer might want to look at a trip to California. The Caribbean represent good value for Western Canadians, and Eastern Canadians get more value out of trips to Hawaii and Asia.
Australia is a good option for everyone.
Fly to remote destinations and small airports
Smaller cities in any country are almost always more expensive than major airport hubs. Remote places like Alaska or the Northwest Territories are much more expensive than Toronto. And smaller airports within major hubs are usually cheaper than the main one.
For example, the best flight value we found was to Iqaluit, a relatively out-of-the-way destination. 25,000 miles covered a round trip flight from Moncton, not including about $250 in taxes and fees.
Purchasing this flight through Canadian North costs $2,246.16 – giving you an amazing value of 8 CPM. That's the best value of any flight we surveyed, regardless of cabin class.
Fly on high-demand routes
If you follow the first 2 tips, your routes will likely be high demand.
Routes to Australia and the Middle East are in high demand year-round, but most other places have peak travel times, like March break or the dead of winter.
Choosing high-demand travel times will skyrocket the ticket prices while keeping the redemption cost the same. Just keep in mind you'll need to book as far in advance as possible.
Get the ticket you want
After reading our criticisms of the Aeroplan program, it should be obvious that getting the reward ticket you want can be very difficult...or near impossible.
But if you know the rules and can master how the game works, it's possible to turn the program around for you. You can walk away with that high-value ticket for exactly when and where you want to travel...
All you need is some patience and preparation.
Related: 13 Fly Ways To Find Cheap Flights
The biggest asset you have when booking reward tickets is time. You'll want to book your trip as early as possible.
This means you need to plan your vacations and trips well ahead of time, but this can actually be a good thing because a well-planned vacation is often a more enjoyable and less stressful one anyway.
As you're earning miles, you should already be thinking of where and when you want to travel. Then, based on that, determine how soon you'll have to book your ticket.
Have a flexible departure day
If the first date you try is all booked up, try other days in the same week. This little bit of flexibility can open up plenty of doors for you.
In particular, there's generally more availability in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), with Wednesday being the overall cheapest and most available.
That being said, routes that cater to business passengers tend to have more availability on Saturday and early Sunday.
Aeroplan makes this easy on you because they have a calendar that show you the available dates for Fixed Mileage flights. Use that to your advantage.
Have a flexible time of year
Many vacation and travel destinations have high and low seasons for travel. Being flexible about the time of year you're planning to fly can definitely allow you to book closer to the actual date of departure.
For example, flying to Europe in the winter should be relatively easy when compared to flying there in July.
You may not want to go to Europe in the winter, but try booking just outside the high season – say early May or late October – and it'll still be warm enough for you to have a good time.
Book at different times of day
Booking during a busy time of day can be much harder than booking early morning or on a less busy day.
When there's a lot of people window shopping on Aeroplan.com, as well as people calling in to the call center, seats are often put on hold with no intention of ever being booked.
You want to access the inventory when activity is low so there's less chance that the seats you're looking for are temporarily tied up by someone else.
Granted, if the availability is completely non-existent during busy times of the day, your chances probably won’t be that much better during the slow times. But if availability is scattered, then this method could likely get you a better day, time, or connection than you were previously looking at.
Look at different airports
If you live close to several airports and can’t get your preferred flight out of the airport closest to you, it could be worth your while to check for flights out of as many neighbouring airports as you're willing to drive to.
For example, I have an airport in my home city but I also check airports in 3 other cities that are less than a 2-hour drive away. My parents live in one of those cities, so I'll obviously look there first for the free parking and accommodations, but I'd be willing to go to any of them in a pinch.
Split your booking
Another option when seats are limited is to split your booking if you're travelling with multiple people.
It's very common when searching for two or more people on Aeroplan.com for almost no available seats to show up, but if you were to search for just one person you'd get a lot more hits.
The reason is that with so few reward seats available, there are often orphan seats that sit there unbooked until a solo passenger comes along to snatch it up.
So try splitting your party across multiple flights that have similar arrival times so you can meet up later. You may even be able to find a connecting flight further down the line and fly the rest of the journey together.
An even more advanced option is to split your seats across multiple Star Alliance carriers or even use rewards points you've collected on another airline program to find that second seat.
If you get creative, there's usually a way to get the job done even when it looks impossible.
Take advantage of multi-city flights
Another great way to get a better return on your miles is to use them to take a trip to multiple cities at no additional cost.
You didn’t know you could do that, did you?
When you go to book the flight on Aeroplan.com, click on the MULTI-CITY tab and it'll allow you to enter up to 3 one-way flights that can each have connections.
There are fairly strict rules on which city can be used as your 3rd city, but as long as it isn’t too far out of the way, it should be allowed.
The beauty of this method is that if you were to book such a flight on Air Canada, it would be a fair bit more expensive than a traditional round trip flight. But since you aren’t spending any more miles to do this, your rate of return rises accordingly.
Adding the 3rd city somewhere between your origin and destination city is what's known as a stopover. You're allowed to stay in this city for as long as you want and then can continue on to your final destination city when you so choose.
Here's a personal example:
In October 2010, I flew to Vancouver primarily for my sister's wedding. While I'm there, I decided to add Edmonton as a stopover so I can do some promotion for this site. This extra leg on my flight would normally have added an additional $150 to my ticket price, but with Aeroplan there was no additional cost at all.
Connections are short stops in intermediate cities between your origin and destination during your flight.
There are strict rules with stopovers. They must be less than 4 hours in length, but they can be overnight if there are no more departing flights after you arrive.
The 4-hour rule is only for domestic or trans-border (USA) flights. For international flights, the maximum time is increased to 24 hours.
This is a short window of time to work with and doesn’t technically increase the value of your ticket. But if you manipulate your flights to give you a longer connection in an intermediate city, you can see a few sites or try out a local restaurant.
Add an open jaw section to your travel
This is a more specialized flight option that may or may not add value to your rewards, but it does provide some interesting possibilities.
An open jaw is when a portion of your trip is done using alternative means, like a train or bus.
The distance between the arrival and departure city of your open jaw must be less than the distance of the shortest flight leg on your itinerary, just to keep the system from being abused. As an example, you could book the following open jaw flight:
- fly from Toronto to Calgary,
- take the train from Calgary to Vancouver, then
- fly from Vancouver back to Toronto.
Go on a mileage run
Mileage runs are something reserved for elite (and slightly crazy) mile collectors. They can usually be applied to any airline, including Air Canada.
The season mileage runner will tell you that mileage runs are dead. And it's true – they aren't nearly as lucrative as they used to be. But there can still be some value squeezed out if you play your cards right.
The basic premise is that you find the cheapest flight, flying the longest distance, and involving the most segments allowed by a given airline.
You may be asking, "how would this save me money if longer flights are more expensive?"
But that's not always the case. Flights are mostly priced based on demand, convenience, and time. Long, roundabout flights are usually 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 travelling for business, going to visit anyone, or going on vacation…they're spending days of their time on a plane simply to earn miles and status.
What about you?
Do you have any experience with Aeroplan, good or bad?
What do you think of the changes coming in 2020? Are you worried at all for your points?
Let us know in the comments below!