Why Aeroplan’s generous stopover option adds even more value to Amex cards

Aug 11, 2020

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When planning out their adventures, many travelers focus on simple round-trip itineraries — New York to Paris and back, for example, perhaps with a side trip via a cheap flight or train ride mixed in. But award travel enthusiasts know that you can really make the most of an international trip by working in multiple destinations, often by adding in stopovers or extended stays in a city on the way.

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United Airlines recently brought this little-known option to light through its free Excursionist Perk. Now Air Canada’s relaunched Aeroplan program is making stopovers a key feature, with the ability to add in a side trip on the way to your final destination – and on the way back as well. While Aeroplan had previously allowed stopovers in certain cases, this is undoubtedly an upgrade, even though the perk is no longer free.

“That’s great, but I don’t have Aeroplan points,” you might be thinking. Fortunately, Aeroplan partners with several key transferrable-points programs, so there’s a good chance there’s an easy fix. Membership Rewards points transfer instantly at a 1:1 ratio — once you find an itinerary you’d like to book, you can send your points over and lock in your award. You can also transfer miles from Capital One, at a 2:1.5 ratio, and Marriott Bonvoy at 3:1, but with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.

Related: How Aeroplan’s Family Sharing prevents ‘gaming’ while letting you rack up rewards faster

Aeroplan allows you to work in flights operated by all Star Alliance carriers, plus a handful of partners, like Etihad. Photo by Nicky Kelvin/TPG UK.
Aeroplan allows you to work in flights operated by all Star Alliance carriers, plus a handful of partners, like Etihad. Photo by Nicky Kelvin/TPG UK.

Once the new Aeroplan program launches on Nov. 8, members will be able to add stopovers for 5,000 points each — two for each round-trip itinerary, and one for each one-way trip. With a separate one-way flight added in, you can even piece together an incredible round-the-world adventure, for just 10,000 points more than you’d pay for a round-trip.

Using use my home in New York City as an example, I can book the below itinerary, traveling from Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) on United, with a week or two in Australia, then on to Bangkok (BKK) via Thai Airways, which we’ll consider my destination.

From there, I could book a cheap paid flight to Delhi (DEL), stop in India for as long as I’d like, then fly Air India to Paris (CDG), with another extended stop in Europe before flying United, Lufthansa, Swiss or other Star Alliance carriers back home.

Screenshot courtesy of Great Circle Mapper.

With this itinerary, I’d be able to visit Australia, Asia, India and Europe, all for the cost of a round-trip award, plus just 10,000 points. That’s unbelievable and far more affordable than many round-the-world award options. There’s one disappointing component to note, though — stopovers are not permitted within North America, so if you want to see an extra city in the U.S. or Canada, you’ll need to add on an extra one-way.

And, thanks to instant transfers with Membership Rewards, you can boost your Aeroplan balance quickly with a handful of top Amex cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express, the American Express® Gold Card and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express.

Related: 19 things you need to know about redeeming with the new Aeroplan

Bottom line

Aeroplan certainly doesn’t have the only stopover option, but given the number of airlines you can book — more than 35 individual carriers — plus the routing flexibility and transfer partners, it’s definitely one of the most appealing.

Personally, I’ve been a big fan of Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan stopover option, though it’s a bit challenging to piece together a flexible itinerary, as we explain here. Besides, the program recently became even more restrictive. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to book Star Alliance airlines, United’s Excursionist Perk is also worth a look. Especially if you’re hoping to transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Featured photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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