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More flexible than ever: Why you should care about Aeroplan even if you never visit Canada

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and offers.

Air Canada’s Aeroplan program has undergone some huge changes over the last year.

Air Canada reacquired its loyalty program a couple of years ago and revamped it at the end of 2020. The refreshed Aeroplan completely changed how you redeem Aeroplan points. Unlike many recent loyalty program changes, most of these were for the better.

For example, the cost of some award tickets went up. At the same time, the airline unveiled a valuable new stopover program and completely removed fuel surcharges. This massively reduced the out-of-pocket expenses for many award tickets, and added the ability to see two destinations for slightly more than the price of one.

As a result of these positive changes, Air Canada Aeroplan won the Editor’s Choice award for the Best International Airline Loyalty Program at the 2022 TPG Awards.

This article will show you everything you need to know about earning and redeeming Air Canada Aeroplan points. I’ll also discuss elite status and some of the program’s other nuances.

Air Canada Aeroplan partners

Lufthansa A319 in Star Alliance Livery Taking off at Frankfurt
Aeroplan has a wide range of alliance and non-alliance partners. OLAF SCHULZ/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Air Canada is a Star Alliance member, so naturally, you can earn and redeem Aeroplan points with any Star Alliance carrier. Over a dozen airlines are Star Alliance, and they’re based all around the world. Some of the largest Star Alliance hubs include Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Istanbul Airport (IST) and Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND).

The following airlines are a part of Star Alliance:

  • Aegean.
  • Air Canada.
  • Air China.
  • Air India.
  • Air New Zealand.
  • ANA.
  • Asiana Airlines.
  • Austrian Airlines.
  • Avianca.
  • Brussels Airlines.
  • COPA.
  • Croatia Airlines.
  • EgyptAir.
  • Ethiopian Airlines.
  • EVA Air.
  • LOT Polish Airlines.
  • Lufthansa.
  • SAS.
  • Shenzhen Airlines.
  • Singapore Airlines.
  • South African Airways.
  • Swiss Air Liens.
  • TAP Portugal.
  • Thai Airways.
  • Turkish Airlines.
  • United Airlines.

Aeroplan also has a handful of non-alliance partnerships with other airlines. Many of these partnerships (like Etihad) allow for reciprocal mileage earning and redemption on all flights, while others (like Cathay Pacific) only extend earning and redemption to select routes. Make sure to check the airline’s partner page on Air Canada’s website for more information.

The following airlines are non-alliance Aeroplan partners:

  • Aeromar.
  • Air Creebec.
  • Air Dolomiti (Star Alliance affiliate).
  • Air Mauritius.
  • Air Serbia.
  • Azul Brazilian Airlines.
  • Bamboo Airways.
  • Calm Air.
  • Canadian North.
  • Cathay Pacific.
  • Etihad Airways.
  • Eurowings (Star Alliance affiliate).
  • Eurowings Discover (Star Alliance affiliate).
  • GOL.
  • Gulf Air.
  • Juneyao Airlines (Star Alliance connecting partner).
  • Olympic Air.
  • Oman Air.
  • SunExpress.
  • Virgin Australia.
  • Vistara.

Related: How to credit miles to a partner airline program

Air Canada Elite status

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at London Heathrow Airport
Air Canada elite status includes valuable benefits, like lounge access on international flights. EQROY/SHUTTERSTOCK

As you’d expect, Air Canada Aeroplan has an elite status program too. This rewards frequent Air Canada and Star Alliance flyers with valuable perks like upgrades, free checked bags and other perks. There are five different status tiers you can earn by meeting specific flight requirements with the airline in a single calendar year.

To qualify, you’ll need to meet a set Status qualifying mile (SQM) or Status qualifying segment (SQS) requirement in addition to a Status qualifying dollar (SQD) requirement. SQM is calculated based on your flight distance, SQS is based on how many flights you credit to Aeroplan and SQD is based on how much you spend on tickets. Note that SQD is based on Canadian Dollars.

Here’s a look at the requirements for each status tier:

  • Aeroplan 25K: 25,000 SQM or 25 SQS and $3,000 SQD.
  • Aeroplan 35K: 35,000 SQM or 35 SQS and $4,000 SQD.
  • Aeroplan 50K: 50,000 SQM or 50 SQS and $6,000 SQD.
  • Aeroplan 75K: 75,000 SQM or 75 SQS and $9,000 SQD.
  • Aeroplan Super Elite: 100,000 SQM or 100 SQS and $20,000 SQD.

You’ll get more benefits with higher status tiers. You’ll also earn eUpgrade certificates as you progress through status tiers. These let you upgrade flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge from economy class to Business Class, Premium Economy or Premium Rouge.

Air Canada elites can also pick Select Benefit Bundles that offer more rewards. Some of the selections include bonus points earning, upgrade certificates and lounge passes, among others. You’ll have different choices at each status level.

Related: How to earn Air Canada elite status without flying

How to earn Aeroplan points

It’s surprisingly easy to earn Air Canada Aeroplan points even if you’re not flying Air Canada. Here’s a look at some of the most common ways to earn Aeroplan points. Check out our full guide to earning Aeroplan points for even more methods.

Flying with Air Canada

Air Canada Plane
As you might expect, you can earn Aeroplan points on Air Canada flights. TSOP/SHUTTERSTOCK

Unlike most U.S. carriers, Air Canada has continued to award points based on flight distance. That said, you also need to factor your fare class into your calculations too. Some fares earn as little as 25% for mileage flown, while business class fares earn 150% for miles flown.

Here’s a look at how much each fare earns:

Air Canada earning chart

Those with Air Canada elite status can choose to earn bonus points on Air Canada flights if selected as a Select Benefit Bundle. Here’s a breakdown of how many bonus points each tier earns:

  • Aeroplan 25K: 25%.
  • Aeroplan 35K: 35%.
  • Aeroplan 50K: 50%.
  • Aeroplan 75K: 75%.
  • Aeroplan Super Elite: 100%.

To calculate your mileage earning, use a website like GCMap to find your flight’s distance. Then, multiply the distance by the percentage listed to the right of your fare class on the earning chart.

So if you’re flying from Toronto to London Heathrow in premium economy, you’d earn 4,445 miles one-way. The flight is 3,556 miles long, and the fare earns 125% points per mile flown.

An Aeroplan 35K member flying the same route would earn a 35% bonus on this flight if selected as Select Benefit Bundle. This means this member would earn 6,001 Aeroplan points on this same booking.

Flying with Star Alliance and non-alliance partners

You’ll earn miles the same way when flying with an Air Canada partner, but the number of points you’ll earn per mile flown varies by airline. You can find your partner’s earning chart on Air Canada’s airline partner page. Just find your partner on the list and click on it.

Say you’re flying Copa Airlines from O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in R-fare business class. This flight clocks in at 2,324 miles one-way.

According to the earning chart, you’ll earn 125% miles flown, equal to 2,905 points. Alternatively, someone flying in A fare economy class would earn 2,324 points on the same route since the fare earns 100% miles flown.

Copa Airlines earning chart

Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Aeroplan

Last August, Aeroplan became the newest Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. You can transfer your Chase points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 transfer ratio. This means that 100,000 Chase points equal 100,000 Aeroplan points.

You can earn Chase points by spending on a participating Chase credit card. Here’s a quick look at all of the available Chase cards —  here’s a look at current signup bonuses:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and 3 points per dollar on dining purchases.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. Earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining purchases.
  • Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card:  Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 in the first three months from account opening. Earn 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent per calendar year (then 1 point per dollar) on shipping, internet, cable, phone, advertising with social media sites and search engines and travel.

Spend on these cards and you’ll earn Chase points you can immediately transfer to Aeroplan. That said, we don’t recommend transferring without a plan. Instead, find the award ticket you want to book first and then transfer your points when you’re ready to book your ticket.

Transferring American Express Membership Rewards to Aeroplan

Amex Gold Card
American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan. WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

Another one of the easiest ways to earn Aeroplan points is transferring American Express Membership Rewards points. Amex points transfer to Aeroplan instantly and at a 1:1 transfer ratio.

You can earn Amex points by spending on a variety of different American Express cards. Each has its own set of benefits, annual fees, bonus spending categories and — of course — welcome offers. Here’s a quick look at three of my favorite Amex cards that I use to earn points on my everyday spending:

Like Chase points, only transfer Amex points to Aeroplan if you have an immediate plan to use them.

Transfer points from Bilt Rewards to Aeroplan

Bilt Card

You can also transfer Bilt Rewards points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 transfer ratio. You can earn Bilt Rewards points by spending on the no-annual-fee Bilt Mastercard® or by paying your rent with Bilt.

As a reminder, you can pay your rent fee-free to any landlord with Bilt and earn 1 point per dollar in the process. Meanwhile, the Bilt Mastercard earns 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel (airlines, hotels, motels, resorts, cruise lines and car rentals) and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

Related: Should you use the Bilt Mastercard? Why it could be a game changer for renters

Transferring miles from Capital One Rewards to Aeroplan

Capital One miles transfer to Aeroplan, but at an unattractive rate. WYATT SMITH/THE POINTS GUY

Further, you can transfer Capital One miles to Aeroplan at a 2:1.5 transfer ratio.

This means that 100,000 Capital One miles are worth 75,000 Aeroplan points, so you’re losing a bit of value when you transfer to Aeroplan instead of Capital One’s 1:1 transfer partners. Regardless, it can make sense for certain redemptions, like one-way tickets with a stopover. I’ll go more in-depth on this later.

Interested in earning Capital One points? You can apply for a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. The card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, so you can rack up miles without worrying about bonus categories.

You might also consider the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, which has additional features, like lounge access. The card’s higher $395 annual fee is largely offset by an annual $300 Capital One Travel credit and 10,000 bonus points on each cardmember anniversary.

Earn points with cobranded credit cards

Last year, Air Canada and Chase teamed up to launch the Aeroplan® Credit Card. This card includes Air Canada-specific benefits like a free checked bag and preferred award pricing.

Additionally, you’ll receive complimentary Aeroplan 25K elite status through the next status year upon opening the card; you can extend this by spending $15,000 on your card each calendar year. The card offers 70,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.

Those based in Canada have a few different options for Aeroplan credit cards. Three banks issue Aeroplan cards in Canada, and each card has different benefits, fees and points earning. You’ll want to assess each card and see which best fits your needs and budget. On the high end, you’ll get benefits like free checked luggage, lounge access and a high welcome offer.

Earning with retail partners

Air Canada has a shopping portal that lets you earn Aeroplan points with third-party vendors. These include Apple, Uber Eats and other popular merchants. You can click through the merchant’s link on the Air Canada eStore before you make a purchase, and you’ll earn a set number of points per dollar spent on your purchase. This can be a great way to earn bonus points on everyday purchases.

Note: Not all Air Canada retail partners are valid for points-earning purchases in both the U.S. and Canada. Some are Canada-only, so double-check on the partner page before making a purchase.

Related: Pros and cons of the new Air Canada Aeroplan loyalty program

How to redeem Aeroplan points

You can use Aeroplan points to fly on Air Canada or its partners, like Lufthansa. RYAN PATTERSON/THE POINTS GUY

Now for the fun part: redeeming Aeroplan points. Between Air Canada’s huge route network — and its long list of alliance and non-alliance partners — you can use your points to fly all around the world.

Here are a few important things to remember as you redeem points. Again, check out our full guide to redeeming Aeroplan points for more valuable information.

Aeroplan points

You can use your Aeroplan points to book Air Canada flights, as well as flights operated by its Star Alliance and non-alliance partners. Unlike many U.S. carriers, Air Canada has kept a standard award chart. This means you can book award flights at predictable prices. Better yet, it also removed fuel surcharges last year, so you’ll only pay minimal taxes plus a $29 partner booking fee (if applicable).

Award chart info

Aeroplan employs a hybrid distance and region-based award chart. This means you’ll pay based on how long your flight is, but pricing varies based on the region you’re flying to and from. Here’s a look at how Air Canada defines each award region — you’ll notice that each is very broadly defined.

Aeroplan Award Regions

To find the cost of an award, first determine the region you’re flying from and to. Then, calculate the physical distance between your origin and destination using a tool like GCMap. Then, find the award chart for your region pair in the Air Canada award chart (PDF link) and find the cost for your flight’s length.

JFK to FRA route map with distance from GCMap

For example, this New York to Frankfurt flight originates in the North America region and lands in the Atlantic region. It’s 3,856 miles in length, so you’d pay 35,000 points in economy or 60,000 points for a Lufthansa partner flight in economy or business class, respectively.

North America to Atlantic Aeroplan Award Chart

You’ll notice that Air Canada flights have a price range listed under each cabin. Flights with standard saver award space will price at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, while flights without this will price higher. I recommend sticking to the lowest-priced awards whenever possible.

Partner awards

As you can see in the screenshot above, all partner flights have predictable pricing. You can essentially book all partner awards right on the Air Canada website. They will appear alongside Air Canada flights in search results.

JFK to IST Aeroplan award on Turkish Airlines

Air Canada Corporate Rewards

Woman at an airport lounge drinking coffee
Your business can earn rewards when you or your employees fly with Air Canada or select partners. JACOB LUND/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Air Canada has a business rewards program dubbed Air Canada Corporate Rewards.

Businesses can use this program to earn rewards when employees book trips on Air Canada or select Lufthansa Group airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss and Brussels Airlines. These rewards are earned in addition to whatever the employee earns on their flights, so it’s truly a win-win for the business and the employee.

These rewards aren’t standard Aeroplan points. Instead, they’re separate rewards currency that can be redeemed for things like Maple Leaf lounge passes, eUpgrade certificates and preferred seating discounts, amongst other perks.

Related: Airline loyalty programs for small businesses

Aeroplan sweet spots

Air Canada Express Q400
Aeroplan has a ton of great award redemptions. HEATHER DUNBAR/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

The new Aeroplan award chart is full of interesting sweet spots and great deals. Here are some of the best ways to maximize both the award chart and some of the program’s other interesting features, like stopovers on one-way award tickets.

Book a mini round-the-world trip with stopovers

You can add one stopover to one-way tickets and two stopovers to round-trip tickets for 5,000 miles apiece. These stopovers can be pretty much anywhere in the world, and Aeroplan lets you get creative with your routing.

The only major restriction to keep in mind is that your connecting flight cannot require more than double the mileage cost of a nonstop flight to your final destination. This means you could book something like New York to Dubai via Frankfurt but not New York to Frankfurt via Dubai.

This opens up a lot of interesting bookings. For example, you can book a mini round-the-world that takes advantage of a stopover, two round-trip tickets and multiple 24-hour layovers. Even better, you can now book stopover tickets online, but you may need to call in to book more complex itineraries with additional layovers.

Air Canada itinerary with a stopover

Book high-surcharge tickets without the surcharges

Air Canada has joined the United MileagePlus and Avianca LifeMiles by not adding fuel surcharges to Star Alliance award tickets. So if you’re comparing where to transfer your Amex or Capital One miles, consider transferring to Aeroplan to save on large fuel surcharges.

Business class from the East Coast to Europe

Many flights from the U.S. East Coast to Europe fall into the 0-4,000 mile tier on the North America-to-Atlantic award chart. These flights cost just 60,000 points in business class and 90,000 in first class, so it’s a great way to hop over the Atlantic. This is cheaper than what other Star Alliance programs, like Avianca LifeMiles and United MileagePlus, charge for the same flights.

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

Bottom line

Air Canada’s new Aeroplan loyalty program is great. Solid redemption rates mixed with flexible stopovers and no fuel surcharges mean you can get some excellent deals on award tickets.

So, definitely consider using it to book your next big award ticket.

See Bilt Mastercard rates and fees here

See Bilt Mastercard rewards and benefits here