When Air Canada announced in May that they would be withdrawing from the Aeroplan program in 2020, like many Canadians, I was rather annoyed. Shares in its parent company Aimia crashed in response to the news. However, share prices recovered somewhat as Aimia promised to build on its program and still offer travel rewards – they just haven’t said exactly who they’ll be partnering with and WestJet released a statement saying they’ll be keeping their loyalty program in house, so I’m not hugely confident. As I’m just about to cash in my points for an airline ticket, I wonder whether it is time to consider some Aeroplan alternatives rather than keep racking up points in a program with an uncertain usefullness.
I’ve been collecting Aeroplan points for years, and use a TD Aeroplan Platinum Visa credit card to boost the number of points I earn. I trade my points in in to take extra flights or bring a family member on work trips with me. Admittedly the Aeroplan program had got less useful a few years back when they introduced tiers of membership and rewards, but I was still loyal to the program and it definitely made me choose to book on Air Canada over WestJet. I hadn’t even considered whether this loyalty was misplaced, and I could have been getting more bang for my buck elsewhere.
Every credit card has its own set of perks and rules for collecting points, and although they may all seem rather similar, it is worth reading the fine print to see which is going to work best for you. Both CIBC’s Adventura Visa Infinite card and RBC’s Visa Platinum Avion offer points that you can use to book any flight on any airline, but with an additional perk – you can also use your points against the taxes and fees attached to those flights. That’s hugely appealing to me, because there have been times when I’ve wondered if I could have just got a cheaper flight once I see the end total I still have to pay after redemption.
If I was ready to go all-in for WestJet, then the Westjet RBC MasterCard sounds like a good deal. In terms of the percentages that you get back, these are similar to other cards (1.5-2 percent) but there are a couple of very useful perks: On signing up you get $250 worth of WestJet dollars, every year you get a companion voucher that allows you take take someone with you on a WestJet flight for $99 round-trip, and you get your first checked bag free on any WestJet flight (plus the first bags of up to eight people traveling with you on the same booking).
I already carry an Amex business card because of the airport lounge access it gives me (Plaza premium and other non-Maple Leaf lounges across Canada and the world), and see that the travel rewards are pretty decent. In fact, only after going back in to check this did I realize that I can transfer the points I’ve been earning on that over to my Aeroplan account with no fees at a 1:1 ratio. I couldn’t make this my primary card though, as I’ve been caught short a few places that Amex isn’t accepted, and I’ve had to use a Visa anyway.
Travel rewards? Or cold hard cash?
Maybe I should ditch the idea of owning a card that gives me travel rewards altogether. There are lots of cards that offer cash back on purchases, such as the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Cash Back card, which gives 4% cash back on groceries and gas, 2% on drug store purchases and recurring payments, and 1% everywhere else. This money can be directed into whatever bank account you choose, so maybe I could direct it into a savings account dedicated to travel. There are certainly plenty of choices, I just have to think about what Aeroplan alternatives suit my work and lifestyle best.