Recently, I received an e-mail notice from Aeroplan warning that my miles are about to expire. I don’t carry much of a points balance because I’ve long given up on collecting rewards and instead prefer to carry a couple of cash-back credit cards. Any miles that I do accumulate through occasional travel, I end up redeeming for Esso (at Aeroplan) or Shell (at Air Miles) gift certificates. Therefore, even if my small balance of miles do expire it is not a huge economic loss.

However, that’s not true of many Aeroplan clients. Many years after Aeroplan changed the rules regarding expiry, many find too late that the tens or even hundreds of thousands of miles they’ve accumulated over many years for that special trip to Australia have expired and Aeroplan wants $30 plus 1¢ per mile to have them reinstated. The reinstatement charges could run into many thousands of dollars for long-term collectors.

Make at least one qualifying transaction

The easiest way to keep your account active is to earn or redeem miles every 12 months. If you are not in the habit of taking frequent flights, you can earn miles at a number of Aeroplan partners such as Esso, Home Hardware and Rexall Pharmacies. Even if you did fly frequently with Air Canada or partner airlines, you should make sure that your miles have been correctly credited.

Miles expire in seven years

You should also be aware that Aeroplan miles now have a “best before” date of 7 years. Aeroplan miles that were collected prior to December 31, 2006 and remain unredeemed on December 31, 2013 will expire on that date.

The hoops that Aeroplan makes clients jump through are a big reason why I soured on rewards programs. It is much easier to receive cash back or automatically redeem points for groceries. As an added bonus, getting rid of the rewards cards made my wallet feel less like the one George Costanza was carrying around in that famous Sienfeld episode.

This article has 30 comments

  1. Me too. I don’t really care to spend a lot of time reading all the fine print. Cash back credit cards are much easier. (not withstanding that the whole “rewards” system is subsidized by inflated prices charged to consumers and merchants themselves)

  2. Charles in Vancouver

    Another easy way to bump the points is to troll the cereal aisles for the brands that come with an Aeroplan coupon inside. Just buy that cereal once a year and you’re set 😛

  3. I tend to agree with all you have said, but the only reason I keep my CIBC Visa Aeroplan Infinite card is that redeeming miles for an overseas business class ticket is the only way I ever get to fly business class on a long airplane flight. The mile redemption premium for business class using Aeroplan is about 30-40% more whereas paying for the ticket can be 500% to 1000% more. But, of course, finding Aeroplan business class seats that are available is a different story!

    As for cereal brands that come with an Aeropan coupon I did not know about that. I`ll have to look for that. A good way to make sure you get the one requisite mile each year to keep your membership active is to earn Aeroplan miles when you fill up at Esso.

  4. What do you find advantageous about aeromiles versus airmiles? I seem to find more businesses who offer airmiles but then I have never really looked for aeromiles offerings.

    • @Slacker: Agreed. The entire rewards system is really a big tax on all consumers. Yes, if you look around you can get kickbacks to the tune of 1% but the credit cards charge merchants anywhere up to 2.5%. The rest stays in their pockets, so it is not such a great deal for us.

      @Charles, @Returns Reaper: I’ve done that a couple of times myself just to keep the Aeroplan account active. IIRC, you can find Aeroplan miles on Quaker & Tropicana products.

      @Sustainable PF: I don’t actively collect rewards but I find I accumulate a lot of Aeroplan miles anyway mostly from flights on Air Canada and partner airlines such as Lufthansa.

      @Noel: I’ve heard colleagues upgrading their tickets to business class using Aeroplan miles as well. It’s something I’m going to explore. I wouldn’t mind flying business class on long flights, especially when we are flying with kids!

  5. Returns Reaper

    In addition to cereal, Tropicana often issues a couple of token points per jug of OJ.

  6. Ugh. I only became an Aeroplan member because I was a Canadian Plus member who got “merged”. And I used to have an RBC Canadian Plus points card but due to the CIBC Aeroplan VISA relationship, RBC got turfed in the deal so they started their own Avion points program and that’s how I ended up in that program… Since I now live in a border town and frequently travel in the USA, I revived my old US Airways Dividend Miles program from back when I used to have to travel to the USA for work.

    But I also stopped using my Northwest and American Airlines programs in addition to no longer using Aeroplan. I just belong to so many programs now – and since Aeroplan is the worst “plan” of the lot, it’s one of the aforementioned odd men out.

    I have been an Air Miles customer outside of my work stuff. Not only do I find them to be a better travel points program, they also have better “stuff”.

  7. @Canadiancapitalist – I was referring to getting the business class ticket totally on Aeroplan points instead of ugrading from a bought ticket, which I think is what you were referring to. I don’t know whether the premium in Aerolan points to do theatter upgrade equates to about the same 30-40% extra in point value or if it is even possible to but i am going to now check. However. That can only be done upon check-in not before since if it was available before you’d be able to book the business class ticket instead of the economy one in the first place (unless of course you didn’t have enough points for the ticket but did for the business class upgrade portion).

  8. We have enough Aeromiles built up to fly the U.S. at least for free and will use them this year. However, after doing a lot of research (both online and by phone) comparing both Aeromiles and RBC Avion we’re switching to Avion because of the increased flexibility with airlines, better customer service (even though my family has been with CIBC for over 60 yrs if you incl. my parents) etc. Also, with Avion when/ if the primary card holder dies the points can be trasnfered to the estate and therefore donated, and or used by beneficiary. Last time I checked with Aeroplan this is not the case. You can do this with the new CIBC Aventura but Aeroplan miles cant be converted to Aventura points but you can do the reverse. Aeroplan miles can be converted to Avion points via Esso points with about a 30% loss. Although we’ll just be using up our Aeroplan miles for a trip this year. There was also a bonus 25% discount for business related expenses on the highest Avion card. For us, the Avion is a better fit for personal use.

    We do have a business/corp Visa thorugh CIBC for us and our key staff for our company expenses. But again, after doing reserach we are considering chaging that to a better corp Visa card through RBC or TD.

    Good reminder to keep an eye on your rewards, whichever program you use, and use it or maybe lose it… Thx CC.

  9. @cc: Not sure about upgrades with Aeromiles but I know many times we have been able to upgrade our seats to business class on various trips…mind you not European (yet) as well as hotels. Also, a collegue of ours who travels as a Microsoft consultant around world most of the year said she found out a recent trip to Europe you could use your Aeroplan miles for free hopper flights within a certain range. I believe she had already purchased the flight ticket and then the hopper flight was included for free. I would contact Aeroplan to confirm though. Might be a nice bonus for those using Aeroplan.

  10. Ive used CIBC Aerogold for years now and RBC Avion for 2. I am getting rid of the Avion because it cost me’ 100,000 miles for a recent trip to South America and it would have been only 50,000 points with Aeroplan. Also, long haul US flights are 35,000 miles on Avion vs 25,000 miles on Aeroplan. So, you are paying a significant premium in miles for the flexibility of using any airline. My annual spend on the card is about $35,000-$45,000 and even though Aeropan is a bit restrictive in how many seats are available for members I so find I have no problem using these miles up on short haul and long haul US & Canada flights. Also, with Avion, if you ever get rid of your card you only have 3 months to redeem your miles.

  11. @Phil: I have one of those Northwest Airlines rewards program with some balance miles on it. It’s now called Delta Skymiles. It looks like I can redeem the miles balance for Old Navy gift cards.

    @Noel: My mistake. I misunderstood your comment. Thanks for the clarification that you can only book business class fully with Aeroplan point in advance, not upgrade from economy class by redeeming points.

    @Marie: You are right that Aeroplan miles cannot be willed. According to the terms and conditions:

    http://www2.aeroplan.com/terms_and_conditions.do

    “Aeroplan Miles or rewards are personal and cannot be assigned, traded, willed or otherwise transferred…”

    I guess this goes to show that the best rewards card for someone may not be the best for another. If I traveled more, I can see why Aeroplan would be advantageous. A couple of trips to Asia could easily work out to 40,000 points or so.

  12. Another mpoetant point: RBC Avion gives you 14 day emergency medical insurance while Aeroplan does not. But a healthy person under 65 can buy that for $80/year, ie $40 less than the card costs and even get 30 day insurance for $130, which is just a bit more than the Avion card costs.

    I was really interested in RBC Avion and so tried it for a while, but having to spend 40-100% more on that card than I have to on CIBC Aerogold to get an equivalent flight is just not worth the flexibility of being able to choose any airline other than Air Canada or it’s partner airlines, especially when North American flights are pretty easy to get on Aeroplan at the lowest point redemption (not to mention being able to fly business class for 30-40% more points, something which you can’t do on Avion unless you are willing to spend 5-10x more points).

  13. @Noel: Thx. Good points. We’ll consider them. We’re also looking at the CIBC Aventura, again for the flexibility of using the points for rail travel, etc. which for us is important. We’ve talked to others like yourself who have used both and chose to stay with Avion for various reasons. Good to note is CIBC Aventura series does allow the primary cardholder’s estate to donate and or use any residual points (obviously as dictated by the terms of an individual’s will).

    We’ve compared packages and still choose to buy travel medical insurance as needed from Visa or CAA but if we travel more will look into a different option. Again, this is just what works for us.

    I guess as always, and as CC often encourages, self-education and doing what make sense for your situation is key.

    Happy safe, travels all…and use those points.

  14. BTW as an aside, I do hope that within in a few years Japan will once again be a great travel option and they recover from this tragedy as quickly as possible. We’ve never been but it’s still on my bucket list.

  15. I’ve been a member for quite a while and if you keep track of them, I find it is a worthwhile program.
    With respect to Tropicana and Quaker points, be careful and make sure that they are credited to your account as I deposited several hundred miles in my wife’s and kids accounts to keep them active and they misteriously never made it to their accounts. I have since found out that minors accounts do not expire until they become adults.

  16. I should clarify that the medical insurance (15-day) is actually offered on the CIBC Visa Aerogold Infinite card but not on the CIBC Visa Aerogold card. So, in that respect the former is the same as the RBC Avion card.

    Also, in reading all of these comments it I can only assume that many of you who like rhe RBC Avion card accumulate far more miles than I do with the $40K +/- that I spend on my credit card or you don’t travel that often and need to be able to use the points on other modes of travel (rail, etc) or other airlines or routes that Air Canada doesn’t travel. Of course, you also need to accumulate far more miles to do the same amount of travel on the RBC Avion card as you do on the CIBC Aerogold card, and give up any hope of travelling business class. Not that I love Air Canada’s tight inventory of Aeroplan seats, but I travel enough that I have no problem using them up over the 7 years they are valid and then pay for seats when I can’t get an Aeroplan seat or I need to travel on a different airline.

  17. After my recent trip planning, I’m questioning the value of the Aeroplan (or any plan) system. I travel a bit for work, so I’ve gathered a fair number of points over the years. I’m planning to go to the middle east this summer. Now, in theory, it should cost 75,000 points to get there, but I think they only way that’s possible is if you book 9-12 months in advance. I’ve never seen an opportunity to fly for that many in reality. I’m looking at going in 3 months and it will cost about 120,000. The sad part is you still have to pay the fees & taxes. For the trip I’m looking at that comes to about $650. The cost of the flight on the same days cost $1,600 (with fees & taxes). Plus at least with the cost, I get status miles, the ability to upgrade (if credits are available) – and more points… 😛

    • @EZ: So, if you book 9-12 months in advance, a trip to the Middle East would work out to 1.26 cents per Aeroplan Mile. But if you book 3 months in advance, the trip would only work out to 0.79 cents. Wow, that’s less value than you can get with gift cards, which are literally cash.

  18. @EZ: Maybe using Aeroplan is not the best use of the points for this particular trip but I’d find it surprising if you couldn’t use the points for some trips in the 7 years they are valid. I’ve found the best use of the points are in the short/long haul Canada & US flights, where I have almost never had a problem using the points at the lowest redemption amount. And, I am going to travel these routes anyway in addition to going overseas for pleasure once in a while, so I use the points on the the short/long haul US & Canada flights and pay for overseas tickets (unless I can get those at the lowest point value, which is rare unless I book well in advance). Anyway, in this way I am able to get the maximum value out of the points.

    Now, if you never need to use the points for travel short/long haul in the US & Canada and always go overseas and want to use the points for only this purpose you’ll find it more difficult to get the maximum value out of the points. And, remember, there is a value to the emergency medical insurance provided with the card if you don’t have other coverage.

  19. @CC:
    Actually, just checking the Aeroplan site and for 65,000 points you can get a $500 Future Shop gift card, so for 130,000 points, you’d get $1,000 which is just a bit more than that flight. So actually, from what I see that flight is still more value than cards, but marginally. But yeah, amazing how the value drops on the long distance flights.

    @Noel:
    I’ve never looked at or used points for domestic flights, but it sounds like AC is more flexible in those scenarios. Good to know. Thanks.

  20. I was just trying to book an Aeroplan ticket to Australia for next year and checked NYC for next month and LA for the month after that. I had absolutely no problem getting any of these flights. Here’s what I found that kind of tells you the value of a point. All ticket costs are pre-tax (which is the only portion Aeroplan covers anyway. TD Infinite and RBC Avion Infinite VISA will cover taxes too but you pay a big premium for using the points for taxes instead of a flight, so save the points on those cards for flights and pay the taxes yourself):

    75,000 points = $1,500+ ticket to Sydney, Australia
    25,000 points = $529 ticket to Los Angeles
    15,000 points = $329 ticket to NYC

    So, that equates to a little over 2 cents per mile for each ticket, which is way more than you are ever going to get redeeming the miles for anything other than flights on Aeroplan.

    • @Noel: Thanks for finding this out. I totally agree that flights paid with Aeroplan rewards offer some of the best bang for your reward points. All the flights you’ve researched work out to more than $0.02 per mile, which is much higher than the 0.80 cents or so on gift cards.

  21. Another way to collect Aeroplan is Sobeys grocery chain (Ontario?). One can convert Sobey points to Aeroplan automatically.. but Esso is really the easiest option (insert CC, insert Aeroplan, done)

    I agree, I only keep Aeroplan for Biz class, or mini Round-The-world trips
    The fuel surcharge and taxes are INSANE, especially for domestic flights (e.g. for 15000 pts to NYC, you probably pay $150 cash for tax/fuel..50% of the retail price already)

  22. Rewards programs really can be worth it if you are willing to work the system, find bonuses, fly with rewards only on high value routes, and manage to keep your miles active. I’ve written a fairly long 3 page guide to the Aeroplan program, if anyone care to read it.

    A couple of bucks in the tank at Esso is my favourite way to keep my miles active. We don’t eat any of the food that comes with Aeroplan miles attached to it, so that’s the cheapest, quickest, and easiest way for us to stop them from expiring.

  23. Pingback: Flight Rewards Changing at Aeroplan « MoneySense

  24. Beware!!! No guarantees when using areoplan. My son used his aeroplan points to fly him and his wife to Bejing Business class. They left Winnipeg flying business, arrived at their destination, and had their holiday. When they were to return home, they were seated in economy. The difference in airmiles
    was minimum 75,000 aeroplan miles which were never replaced. We all know how long it must have
    taken to save those miles. Air Canada has no loyalty to their customers obviously.

  25. Currently we have a silver Amex (1.25 aeroplan points per $1 spent), and CIBC Visa aerogold (for companies that don’t take Amex) and for years it aeroplan was great. However, as anyone trying to book aeroplan points in the last year knows – it’s IMPOSSIBLE to book a basic rewards flight anymore. IMPOSSIBLE. So I just recently got an RBC Avion Visa. We chose Avion because it takes us 3 hours to drive to the nearest Air Canada airport. Our local airline (not AC) can be (partially) paid for via Avion. I am wanting to convert my 300k + aeroplan points to Avion – is there any way other than via points.com with a 30% loss? Or the complicated aeroplan to esso to avion route? I HATE Aeroplan – I want out!

  26. I’ve just mailed this off to Aeroplan:

    “Aeroplan Centre
    Box 7737
    Station Terminal
    Vancouver BC V6B5W9

    To whoever gives a crap, although I doubt there is anyone:

    As a member of Aeroplan since 2001, I have become overwhelmingly frustrated with attempting to book a rewards flight with you. Since I suspect that this is your goal, to frustrate everyone to the point of giving up, you have succeeded with me.

    You can pat yourself on the back, you have lost another customer. I am looking at options to use up my points and get out of your program. I will bad mouth your program at every single given opportunity with great vigor, so I may even assist you in getting the program shut down completely, in a more timely fashion.

    The fact that you have no direct email or contact number speaks for itself. You are not interested in the customer. Please don’t even bother to pretend you do.

    I just wanted to update you on the success of your campaign to make it nearly impossible for customers to redeem their points for travel. Well done.”

  27. Well said.

    This is the reason I stick with simple cash back programs, and just shop around for the cheapest flights everytime. It’s not worth my time to fight with the bureaucracy to squeeze out a few dollars of reward.

    There are travel reward CC’s that allows you to use any airlines ore car rental.