It’s been said that it is better to work smarter, not harder. When it comes to the choice of Air Miles or Aeroplan reward programs, which one will have you making your money work smarter?
For most people, the cards in your wallet are not the product of an extensive research process that breaks down the best card for you, your spending behavior, and your goals.
Often, you choose the card that is offered by your bank, your most commonly frequented grocery store, or the one that your parents have always used. If you haven’t compared the cards and the loyalty programs you are using, you could be losing out on significant benefits.
What Are the Differences?
It can be hard to tell if programs like this are substantially different. On the face of it they seem extremely familiar. They are both loyalty programs where you earn points from qualifying purchases.
They are both often tied to credit cards and partner stores where you can maximize points. They are both used to redeem purchases for travel. They even sound similar. How different can Air Miles and Aeroplan possibly be?
It turns out they can be really different! They are Canada’s top two rewards programs and while the rewards that can be redeemed may appear similar, they have some polarizing differences. To maximize the potential of your chosen rewards program or to know which one to choose, you need to know how these programs differ.
There are several approaches to hacking your way into optimal point-earning if you know what each program offers and how to take advantage of it. This is the breakdown of what each program offers, how they work and how they differ from each other.
Air Miles Reward Program
The Air Miles reward program offers points through the use of a collector’s card and/or credit card. These points, also known as frequent flyer miles or travel points are then redeemed for Cash Rewards or Dream Rewards.
The cardholder can then obtain certain goods and services, cash, airline tickets, event tickets, hotel stays, etc. for free or at a discounted price! If you have no use for your Air Miles, you can donate Dream Miles to either Kids Help Phone or Food Banks Canada.
Earn Air Miles with your Air Miles collector’s card with participating partner stores like Shoppers Drug Mart, Shell, Safeway/Sobey’s, IGA, Staples, etc. You can also find many online stores through the Air Miles Shop, like Indigo, Ticketmaster, The Children’s Place, and even Etsy!
If your goal is to maximize your purchasing power to get the most out of your Air Miles, there is no shortage of in-person and online shopping to take advantage of. If you have a credit card company that offers Air Miles, you can earn points at non-participating stores as well. Air Miles that are earned never expire and are always redeemable.
Aeroplan Rewards Programs
Aeroplan is an extremely popular rewards program in Canada. Its main focus is on travel rewards with Canada’s largest airline, Air Canada. There are over 150 online businesses and partner brands that make it extremely easy to collect and earn Aeroplan points. With so many partners and earning options, many of your everyday purchases become a steady stream of points into your account.
These points can be used for any number of purchases. This includes flights on Air Canada flights or one of its partner airlines. They can also be used for vacation packages, hotel stays, special events, vehicle rentals, or all sorts of merchandise.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Aeroplan program is that your points expire after 18 consecutive months of no activity on the card. That means that you haven’t redeemed, earned, transferred, or donated any points in 18 months.
While this is a drawback of this program, it is easy to avoid this by using an Aeroplan credit card for purchases regularly.
This is a fairly simple to understand and valuable program. For those that like to use their points for travel-related purchases, this is a great program.
Aeroplan Points vs Air Miles Reward Miles
One of the biggest draws of these reward programs is that you can earn points and redeem rewards for purchases that you are already making.
With a few simple changes like using a specific credit card or shopping at a partner merchant, you can get free or greatly discounted items that you want. If you need help finding the right cards, companies like Hardbacon provide easy tools to discover which credit cards are the best for you and your needs.
This is a pretty sweet deal! It’s no wonder that many people choose to leverage them. When it comes to the two most popular rewards programs, Aeroplan and Air Miles, it is important to know how you collect and earn points or miles so that you can choose the best program for you and your family.
Earning and Collecting Aeroplan Plan Points
You collect and earn Aeroplan points in many ways. You can use your Aeroplan card, you can use an Aeroplan branded credit card or you can earn Aeroplan points anytime you fly on Air Canada. Different types of purchases will earn you differing amounts of Aeroplan points and these points can be used for redeeming travel rewards or partner store purchases.
This is a breakdown of your Aeroplan points earning potential.
Participating Merchants will earn you 1 point for every 1$ you spend.
Featured Credit Cards will earn you up to 3 points for every 1$ you spend.
On Flights, you can earn anywhere from 10% to 150% of your flight cost in points!
Earning and Collecting Air Miles Reward Miles
Collecting and earning Air Miles reward miles is similar to the Aeroplan program. Through a collection of affiliate merchants, the best Air Miles credit cards, and specialty programs, you can collect a significant amount of Air Miles. Where Air Miles differs greatly from Aeroplan is that they give you an option to choose Air Miles Reward Cash where you can directly use your points as cash at participating merchants.
This is a breakdown of your Air Miles points earning potential.
Participating Merchants will earn you 1 Air Mile for every 20$ spent.
Featured Credit Cards will earn you up to 1 Air Mile for every 5$ spent.
Unfortunately, Air Miles does not offer the option to earn any Air Miles on flights.
Bonus Tip: By keeping up with promotions in your local area and with online retailers, you can greatly increase the average amount of points or miles you earn. It is common to find 5x, 10x, and 20x the Air Miles or Aeroplan points events.
Extra Bonus Tip: You can “triple-dip” by purchasing qualifying purchases from stores that are running points promotions with your Air Miles/ Aeroplan credit cards.
You may be tempted to decide at this point to assume that Aeroplan is the best choice because you earn more points for your purchases through Aeroplan. Before you jump to that conclusion, what you need to consider is what you can redeem with your points and the purchasing power of each point.
Earning your points is just the beginning. After all, having a bunch of points or miles is useless if you can’t or don’t redeem them. Both Air Miles and Aeroplan have different options and avenues for redeeming your points.
Which is better? That depends on you and what you are hoping to accomplish with your rewards programs.
Redeeming Your Aeroplan Points
Your Aeroplan points can be redeemed for many different types of purchases. Being the rewards program of one of Canada’s largest Airlines, you have great options when it comes to redeeming travel-related perks. These include car rentals, hotel room rentals, and vacation packages. These can be redeemed on their website directly.
Their website also allows you to redeem points with purchases from partner stores. You can also choose to purchase items with cash through their site for additional point bonuses (such as 7x the points!)
There you can purchase flights with your Aeroplan points.
Aeroplan uses a variable pricing model for its point redemption. This means that the amount of points you need to redeem a flight is related to the dollar cost of the flight. This can lead to more “expensive” flights in the term of points but it is offset by Aeroplan’s new policy that allows you to book any seat, on any flight with no restrictions. This is a perk that you do not get with Air Miles.
Redeeming Your Air Miles
One of the best perks of using Air Miles is that they have an extremely large array of partner stores and affiliate partners that you can redeem your points from. Through their site, you can directly choose products to purchase with points or purchase with money to get extra points on your purchases (such as 7x the points).
Air Miles provides you with an option that Aeroplan does not. You can redeem your points as cash directly from retailers in their stores. You must decide on your account how you will split your Air Miles.
You can choose the option of Air Miles Cash Rewards and Air Miles Dream Rewards.
Your Air Miles Cash Rewards equal out to 10$ for every 95 points in participating merchant locations. This gives you a greater level of flexibility when it comes to redeeming your points.
Air Miles also offers great value for events with your Dream Rewards Points. These points don’t go very far when redeeming for the merchandise but go much further for special events. Whether it is travel or a concert, your Dream Rewards Points can be a great asset to you.
Purchasing Power of Aeroplan/ Air Miles
For those who want to get technical and break down the purchasing power of each of your points or Air Miles, you need to understand the concept of cents per mile (CPM) or cents per point (CPP). This gives you the actual equivalent value of each reward point in the real world.
When it comes to deciding which of these plans is better for you, this may be the deciding factor. For those who are purely looking to maximize their value, this is the crucial aspect of these reward programs.
To understand which provides more value, you need to understand the rate of return. This is calculated by knowing the cost per point/mile compared to the amount of money spent to get those points.
Since the points/miles vary per purchase, each category will have its own rate or return. Here are a few examples.
Flights: 17.2 CPM (cents per Air Mile earned) / 0.53% (rate of each dollar spent returned)
Flights: 2 CPP (cents per Aeroplan Plan Point earned)/ 2% (rate of each dollar returned)
Car rentals: 16.2 CPM (cents per Air Mile earned) / 0.81% (rate of each dollar spent returned)
Car rentals: 0.9 CPP (cents per Air Mile earned) / 0.9% (rate of each dollar spent returned)
Events: 21.6 CPM (cents per Air Mile earned)/ 1.08% (rate of each dollar spent returned)
Event: 0 CPP/ 0% return (Aeroplan does not offer event options to redeem)
In the end, the Average Rate of Return for Air Miles is 0.69% and Aeroplan is 1.02%.
Aeroplan: Any seat, any flight, no restrictions
Air Miles: Air Miles never expire, cash option for redeeming points
Aeroplan: Points can expire
Air Miles: Black-out dates for travel
Which Program is Better?
This can only be answered by you. You know your situation and goals better than anyone else. Hopefully, this has provided you with all of the information you need to choose the right program for you and your needs.
In the end, whichever program you choose (you can even use both!), the important thing is you are gaining the most value for the dollars you spend. Happy redeeming!
Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.