The most compelling new airline card: Review of the Chase Aeroplan Credit Card
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Chase Aeroplan Credit Card overview
The Chase Aeroplan Credit Card is the first cobranded airline credit card to offer the best of both worlds: award flexibility and valuable airline benefits. With its strong earning rate and incentives to spend on the card beyond earning the sign-up bonus, the Aeroplan credit card is worth considering for many points and miles enthusiasts. Card rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
* Card rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Since Air Canada Aeroplan’s rebrand in November 2020, the carrier has made significant improvements that boosted the value of the loyalty program.
In fact, we crowned Aeroplan as the winner of the best investment in airline loyalty in the 2021 TPG Awards, thanks to its addition of eight new redemption partners, dedication to keeping its award charts and induction into the Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer portfolio.
Now there’s an all-new credit card option for Aeroplan fans. Chase is now offering a cobranded credit card with Air Canada for U.S. consumers, joining the ranks of United and Southwest.
The Aeroplan card offers unique benefits we’ve rarely seen on other airline cards, all for a reasonable annual fee of $95 per year. If automatic elite status and a sign-up bonus worth up to 100,000 bonus points sound appealing to you, keep on reading.
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Who is this card for?
As this is the first Air Canada cobranded card available to U.S. travelers, you may wonder: Why should I apply for a credit card with a Canadian airline?
We’ll delve more into this concept in the redemption section of this review, but diversifying your points and miles portfolio is crucial to opening up award possibilities from various airlines.
While collecting transferable points (such as Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards) rather than airline miles is usually your best bet, there’s still value to be found in collecting airline miles — especially with a currency as flexible as Air Canada Aeroplan.
Remember that Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance, but it also works with many non-alliance carriers. Not only can you book awards with Asiana Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines (for a grand total of two dozen partner airlines), but Air Canada also maintains partnerships with Etihad, Azul and a handful of other international airlines.
Since the carrier publishes award charts, Air Canada Aeroplan makes it easy — and predictable — to know precisely how many points you’ll need for a particular redemption — seemingly a rarity in this day and age.
As many borders reopen (and hopefully remain open), it’s not a bad idea to start accruing Aeroplan points, especially if a dream redemption in international business or first class is on your wish list for 2022.
New applicants will have the opportunity to earn up to two “Welcome Flight Rewards,” which are certificates worth up to 50,000 Aeroplan points each (for a total of up to 100,000 points in value). To attain this sign-up bonus, you’ll need to spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
You’ll want to be strategic on how you use these flight certificates, as they’re valid toward a single passenger award ticket. While you can’t combine flight certificates, you can top off your certificate with Aeroplan points to score some incredible redemptions that are just outside of the 50,000-point mark.
For instance, if you redeem your reward for a flight that requires 70,000 Aeroplan points, you’ll need to pay up the 20,000-point difference.
However, if you redeem your reward for a flight that requires 35,000 points, your full certificate will be considered used, and you won’t be able to get those 15,000 points in a separate certificate.
TPG values Aeroplan points at 1.5 cents each. Therefore, if you can fully use both certificates to effectively get 100,000 points toward award tickets, the full value of this sign-up bonus is a whopping $1,500.
Benefits and perks
How often do you see a card with a $95 annual fee grant you automatic elite status? With the Air Canada Aeroplan credit card, cardholders will receive automatic Aeroplan 25K status for the remainder of the calendar year in which they open the card and the entire following year. With Aeroplan 25K, elite status members are entitled to the following perks:
- Priority check-in, security and boarding.
- Two one-time passes to Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounges.
- 20 eUpgrade credits to upgrade from economy to premium cabins on Air Canada-operated flights.
- Automatic Star Alliance Silver elite status, with access to priority wait-listing and standby.
After the introductory period, you can retain (or extend) that status — but cardholders are incentivized to spend a lot to do so. Cardholders will need to spend $15,000 on the card in a calendar year to maintain 25K status (which is then valid through the end of the following year).
But by spending $50,000 in a calendar year, cardholders can earn a one-level status boost to 35K elite status (or beyond). This could be a great option for high spenders who already earn elite status based on flying, as hitting the $50k threshold could essentially upgrade you to a higher tier.
At the $100,000-plus level, cardholders will start to “unlock unprecedented Aeroplan redemption benefits, including 50% off Priority Rewards and companion benefits,” though these exact perks aren’t clear at this point — and it would require a lot of spending to earn them.
Even if you don’t maintain your elite status beyond the first year, here are all of the other benefits you’ll get from the Aeroplan credit card:
- First free checked bag on Air Canada flights, along with up to eight companions.
- Up to $100 statement credit for Global Entry, TSA Precheck or NEXUS application, every four years.
- Travel protections such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, auto rental insurance and roadside assistance.
- World Elite Mastercard benefits, including 24/7 concierge service, access to Mastercard Priceless® experiences, everyday discounts and offers and more.
- No foreign transaction fees.
This is one of the first cards we’ve seen to reimburse NEXUS applications, allowing pre-screened travelers to expedite security when entering the U.S. and Canada.
Cardholders will earn 3 Aeroplan points per dollar spent at grocery stores, dining, and purchases made directly with Air Canada and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.
For every $2,000 you spend on the card each month, you also can receive up to a 500-point bonus — up to 1,500 points per month. These bonus points can really add up if you’re a heavy spender, with the potential of earning up to 18,000 bonus points annually.
Redeeming with your Aeroplan credit card by following two main approaches. You can redeem your points for flights to over 1,300 destinations through Star Alliance and Air Canada’s airline partners — and for generally fewer points than you’d need than with other loyalty programs.
Even better, Air Canada publishes distance-based award charts with tons of sweet spots to look out for (including Lufthansa first class). You can read here about some of the best ways to maximize your Aeroplan points, but here’s a sample of what you’d pay for flights from North America to the “Atlantic” zone — which includes Europe, Africa, the Middle East and part of the Indian Subcontinent.
For those who get lost trying to optimize their points and miles, Chase Aeroplan cardmembers will soon be able to redeem their Aeroplan points toward travel purchases — on any airline, hotel, car rentals and more — at a rate of 1.25 cents each, on up to 50,000 points annually using the Pay Yourself Back tool. That’s the best fixed redemption value we’ve seen for travel purchases of any card – and this flexibility is valuable for those who want to offset travel purchases in a lucrative yet seamless way.
Which cards compete with the Air Canada Aeroplan card?
The Air Canada Aeroplan card comes with a $95 annual fee, which matches the price of other popular travel credit cards that earn transferable rewards. Let’s compare some credit cards of the same caliber and determine if the Aeroplan credit card is the best option for you.
First up is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card is more than a decade old and has proved its value time and time again, making it one of our all-time favorite travel credit cards.
While its sign-up bonus is lower (60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening), there’s a case made for flexibility here. That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points offer the resounding potential for travel rewards:
- Book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal (flights, hotels, rental cars and more) at a rate of 1.25 cents each.
- Transfer your points to Chase’s 11 airline and three hotel loyalty partners (including Air Canada Aeroplan) at a 1:1 ratio, potentially stretching the value of your points to TPG’s valuations of 2 cents each.
The second option is where you can get a knockout value from Ultimate Rewards points. If Air Canada Aeroplan is of interest to you, but you don’t necessarily want to be locked into the program with the Aeroplan credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best alternative you’ll find.
For example, you can convert those 60,000 bonus points into Aeroplan points if you want to leverage the airline’s award charts for a redemption of your choice. Or, consider transferring your points to one of Chase’s other loyalty programs, such as Southwest Rapid Rewards and World of Hyatt.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred also offers Pay Yourself Back to offset certain purchases at a rate of 1.25 cents each, but the categories are rotating and more niche — Airbnb and Away purchases until March 31, 2022.
The earning rate on the Chase Sapphire Preferred is slightly better for everyday purchases:
- Earn 5 points per dollar on Lyft (through March 2022) and travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
- Earn 3 points per dollar on dining, online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs) and select streaming services.
- Earn 2 points per dollar on all other travel purchases.
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
If you already carry the trusty Sapphire Preferred, consider whether the Air Canada Aeroplan credit card could be a great addition to supplement your award strategy, since you can top off your balance with Chase’s transfer program.
The other contender worth mentioning is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. Also with a $95 annual fee, this card goes head to head with the Air Canada Aeroplan credit card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
If you value simplicity above all, you’ll be thankful for the Venture’s simple earning rate of 2 miles per dollar spent on everything you buy. No matter the purchase, you’ll earn 2x Capital One miles, taking away the stress of remembering bonus categories and strategies to maximize your spending.
You can transfer your Capital One miles to 14 airline and three hotel transfer partners at a 1:1 ratio (except for ALL – Accor Live Limitless at a 2:1 ratio and EVA Infinity MileageLands at a 2:1 ratio). Among these partners, Air Canada Aeroplan also participates in the Capital One miles program. Much like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Venture cardholders can easily transfer over miles to Aeroplan.
Other benefits of the Venture card include an up-to-$100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit and a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. TPG values Capital One miles at 1.85 cents each, so that’s an estimated $1,110 in value (valuation not provided by the issuer).
Here again, the flexibility of the card is paramount — as you can use your Capital One miles to cover travel purchases at a fixed value or transfer to a travel partner and potentially get even more value.
The new Chase Air Canada Aeroplan Credit Card brings fresh benefits that we haven’t seen on most airline cards before. Even if you’re not a regular flyer of Air Canada — or perhaps have never flown the airline at all — chances are that you’ve flown its Star Alliance partners. With Aeroplan points as one of the most valuable airline currencies out there, this new credit card is an excellent way to get toward your dream redemption in 2022 and beyond.
Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.
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