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Why Chase adding Aeroplan is a game-changer for Ultimate Rewards

Aug. 13, 2021
8 min read
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It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

In the past, I've found its transfer partners to be lackluster beyond World of Hyatt. United MileagePlus has devalued its award chart time and time again and it rarely makes sense to transfer to Southwest Rapid Rewards. Of course, there are a handful of solid non-exclusive partners like Air France/KLM Flying Blue, but none that provide outsized value.

But that's starting to change. Earlier this month, Chase surprised cardmembers when it added Air Canada Aeroplan as its newest transfer partner. Chase points now transfer to the Canadian airline at a 1:1 transfer ratio. Remember, Air Canada completely revamped Aeroplan in 2020, and the new program is more powerful than ever with no fuel surcharges, cheap stopovers and a standard award chart.

I think that Chase adding Aeroplan as a partner will be a game-changer for Ultimate Rewards going forward. It won't edge out American Express Membership Rewards as my favorite points currency per se, but I may focus on earning Chase points when it makes sense to do so. For example, earning 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides with my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card through March 2022.

Here, I'll discuss why I think Chase adding Aeroplan as a transfer partner is a big deal. I'll mostly discuss what makes Aeroplan points valuable and compare them with other Star Alliance options in the Chase transfer partner portfolio.

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Why Aeroplan is Chase's best airline transfer partner

A set award chart with no fuel surcharges

Air Canada lets you use Chase points to book Star Alliance award tickets at a predictable points price. (Photo courtesy of Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy)

When Air Canada revamped Aeroplan, it removed all fuel surcharges and promised to keep award charts. This is a huge deal for Chase cardmembers as its other two Star Alliance transfer partners — United MileagePlus and Singapore Krisflyer — either switched to dynamic award pricing or add fuel surcharges to award tickets. Adding Air Canada actually fixes one of Chase's biggest downfalls: not having a great Star Alliance redemption partner.

Aeroplan has a pretty reasonable award chart too. You can view it on Air Canada's website (PDF link) and it's distance and region-based. Just match the regions you're flying to and from with the award chart, and use a tool like GCmap to find the distance between your origin and destination. Then, match this with the award chart to see how much your award ticket costs.

This is a huge benefit for Chase cardmembers. There's no guessing how much an award ticket costs, as dynamic pricing isn't a factor in pricing. Plus, you can save hundreds of dollars in fuel surcharges compared to booking the same tickets with Singapore Krisflyer if flying with Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and other Star Alliance carriers that pass on fuel surcharges to customers.

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Related: Book this, not that: Star Alliance airlines

Stopovers make Chase points even more valuable

One of the best parts of the Aeroplan program is that you can add stopovers for just 5,000 miles on top of an award ticket. This is a huge benefit and far better than the Excursionist Benefit offered by United MileagePlus, largely because you can add them to one-way tickets (or two to a round-trip ticket).

Better yet, the rules around these stopovers are very relaxed. You can stop over anywhere you'd like en route to your final destination, even if it's in a different region. You can also mix carriers, add layovers and get creative with your routing. The only hard-set rule is that your routing must be under double the physical distance of a nonstop flight to your final destination.

For example, you can book New York-JFK to Frankfurt (FRA) to Singapore (SIN) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) to Hong Kong (HKG). Regardless of what you book, you'll pay the cost it takes to fly to your final destination plus 5,000 miles. This lets you see two cities for just moderately more than the price of one.

(Image courtesy of gcmap.com)

Related: The complete guide to maximizing stopovers and open jaws on award tickets

It gives Chase members a good way to redeem for Etihad flights

(Photo by Javier Rodriguez / The Points Guy)

Air Canada and Etihad have a non-alliance partnership that lets Aeroplan members redeem points on Etihad flights and Etihad Guest members redeem miles on Air Canada flights. Etihad flights fall into the same standard award chart as other Aeroplan partner flights, so you'll get predictable pricing. You can also add stopovers for 5,000 miles.

This means you can book a business class flight from New York-JFK to Hong Kong (HKG) with a stopover in Abu Dhabi (AUH) for 90,000 Chase points transferred to Aeroplan. This is because the flight clocks in at 10,606 miles and the price includes the 5,000-mile stopover surcharge.

(Image courtesy of gcmap.com)

Aeroplan is the only good way for Chase cardmembers to redeem points for Etihad Airways flights. This is a huge benefit for luxury-seeking award travelers who want to sample one of the best business class experiences in the sky.

Related: Flying a 5-day-old plane: Etihad business class on the 787-9

Chase still has a ways to go

There's no doubt that Chase adding Aeroplan as a transfer partner is good news for those with Ultimate Rewards points. At the same time, it doesn't move the needle enough to make them more valuable than Amex Membership Rewards points.

Aside from World of Hyatt, all of Chase's other valuable transfer partners are also Amex transfer partners. This includes Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. It's also easier to earn Amex points in my experience. For example, the American Express® Gold Card earns 4x points on dining at restaurants, 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x points), 3x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines or American Express Travel and 1x points on all other purchases.

This is higher than the recently revamped Chase Sapphire Preferred card that now earns 3x points on dining and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs) and 2x points on travel, including airfare. That said, it does earn 5x points on flights booked through the Ultimate Rewards Travel portal. So with that in mind, I'll keep putting my everyday spending on my Amex Gold to earn more points to transfer to Aeroplan and others.

But that's just my perspective. To counter my own point, Chase Sapphire Preferred's $95 annual fee is lower than the Amex Gold's $250 annual fee (see rates and fees). Plus, Amex doesn't have any worthwhile hotel transfer partners, while Chase has World of Hyatt. This transfer partner can be extremely valuable when used to book high-end properties.

So while I won't change my own spending in response to this change, it can make sense for many travelers to switch to Chase Ultimate Rewards. It's up to you to run the numbers and see which works best for your everyday spending.

Related: Why I’m no longer chasing Ultimate Rewards

Bottom line

While Chase Ultimate Rewards has long struggled with a lackluster set of transfer partners, the addition of Air Canada Aeroplan marks the start of a much more valuable currency. It provides great redemptions on Star Alliance and non-alliance airlines, and you can book without paying fuel surcharges. Plus, the ability to add stopovers for 5,000 points is an excellent value add.

That said, Air Canada is already an Amex transfer partner, so it won't change my spending habits. At the same time, this new transfer partner makes me more excited to earn Chase points when it makes sense to do so. Plus, it adds a ton of value to the recently refreshed Chase Sapphire Preferred card.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.

Feature photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Rewards

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5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
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Recommended Credit

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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
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Rewards Rate

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.