Redeeming Your Aeroplan Miles

Canadians love to travel and collect frequent flyer miles, and one of the most popular rewards programs in Canada is Aeroplan.  Aeroplan members redeem their miles for over 1.5 million flight rewards each year.

Aeroplan Miles: How to Collect and Redeem

I first began collecting Aeroplan miles back in 2007 when I was travelling a lot on business.  They were easy to accumulate when I was flying across the country with Air Canada.

I’ve also earned Aeroplan miles on occasion by filling up at Esso and shopping at Home Hardware.  I even thought enough of the Aeroplan loyalty program to purchase shares in Groupe Aeroplan (AER).

Redeeming your Aeroplan miles for flights is fairly straightforward.  Redemption for short haul flights in Canada and the U.S. starts at 15,000 miles, and long haul flights starts at 25,000 miles.

I’ve redeemed Aeroplan miles for a free short haul flight from Lethbridge to Edmonton with no hassle, other than the extra fees and taxes.  I also like to redeem my points for products, and I have redeemed my Aeroplan miles for gift cards at Toys R Us, HBC and Home Hardware.

Changes to the Aeroplan Program

Many Canadians heard about recent changes to the Aeroplan program that came into effect July 15th, 2011.  These changes increased the number of miles required to redeem for certain long haul flights.  According to Aeroplan, these changes represent an average increase of less than 5% in the number of miles per flight rewards.

There has also been an outcry from members over the apparent expiration of Aeroplan miles over time.  The Aeroplan website claims that when you stay active in the program, you make sure that your Aeroplan Miles don’t expire.

All it takes is one transaction every 12 months to keep your account active, and you have a full 7 years from the time you accumulate the miles to redeem them for a reward.

For the record, my last transaction was in March 2012 and there is a note on my account stating that my Aeroplan miles will expire in March 2013 unless I redeem my points or add to them with another transaction.

Best Loyalty Program or Waste of Time?

After I changed careers and stopped traveling frequently I found it difficult to collect Aeroplan Miles.  They don’t have a long list of sponsors like the Air Miles program does, especially here in Alberta.

My transaction activity last year consisted of two flights, three visits to Esso and one trip to Home Hardware.  I even sold my Groupe Aeroplan shares last year.

For frequent Canadian travelers, the Aeroplan card should be in your wallet just for the simple fact of having Air Canada and the Star Alliance partnership.

But with the recent changes to their rewards program, constant booking issues and customer service complaints, lack of other retail sponsors and the possibility of your rewards expiring due to inactivity, it seems that collecting Aeroplan miles is more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Do you collect Aeroplan miles?  What are your thoughts on their rewards program?


40 Responses to Redeeming Your Aeroplan Miles

  1. I have about 25K Aeroplan miles that is just sitting there, though I regularly go to Esso for my gas..

    I checked out the catalogue and the stuff you can get for housewares/small appliances cost so many miles! :(

    I think i would rather do a flight. The extra 5% does make sense though, seeing that fuel prices are so expensive right now.

    • Echo says:

      @Y&T
      I hear you on the redemptions for products, not a great value there. Flights might be the best value in the case of Aeroplan. I don’t see the increase as that big of a deal, they decreased some mileage for flights as well.

  2. My Own Advisor says:

    We collect Aeroplan miles, have done so for years. Last year, we took a flight to NYC on miles – had to pay for the taxes on the tickets though. Overall, I find the program just OK. Takes forever to get enough points to go anywhere.

    This year, given the changes made to their program, we’re buying gas cards (Esso) and gift cards with our miles. I’ll probably never use the miles for travel ever again and that’s OK. There are worse things in the world that can happen then Aeroplan changing their program ;)

    Cheers,
    Mark

    • Echo says:

      @Mark
      I agree, the changes to the program weren’t that meaningful. It is tough to accumulate enough points to redeem for a flight, unless you fly a lot.

      Good call on the gas cards, I think that will complement your car-pooling and help subsidize your monthly fuel costs.

  3. tg says:

    I like to take advantage of all the points that I can get to build for some future travelling that my wife and I are planning. My business cc gives me Aeroplan points. Esso is great but Home Hardware here in St. John’s will not ask or remind customers in case they forget. I have asked the staff repeatedly why not and the answer always is “we are not allowed to ask”
    I think this is a very poor policy for a company that promotes Aeroplan on their advertising.
    Their corporate office has not been helpful with a resolution so I use my Air Miles at Rona as much as I can and my cc helps build my Aeroplan. Home Hardware has no idea how much business they have lost because of this.

    • Echo says:

      @tg – That is a poor policy because they probably pay a lot of money to be part of a loyalty program like Aeroplan. I find that Safeway employees are the best for asking if you have your Air Miles card.

  4. ronika says:

    Tried to book two flights to Portland, Oregon two months in advance, which should technically have cost 50,000 aeroplan miles. Nothing was available within weeks of my intended travel date. I ended up booking two one way business class flights instead (using up the entire 50,000 points).
    If you do want to travel using aeroplan points, you need to book your travel well in advance. Keep in mind that there are surcharges and taxes, which can also add up.
    I prefer my TD travel card, which has a lower points to spending rate of return, however can be redeemed against any travel spending as long as you charge to your credit card.

  5. Gerard says:

    Aeroplan is a *frequent* flyer programme, so yeah, it works best if you fly a lot. A few things people don’t always think of:
    *flights are pretty well always a better deal than toasters and gift cards. Longer flights and higher classes are even better deals (well, compared to the cash price at least).
    *as other posters have said, if you have specific destinations and dates in mind, you do have to book far, far in advance.
    *take advantage of the free stopovers on return tickets. For example, I can go from St. John’s to Toronto return for 25,000 points. Or for the same number of points, I can go to California return, with a stopover of any length in Toronto!
    *if you’ve got points that soon expire and you aren’t earning enough to actually fly, you can donate them to charities like Doctors Without Borders that need to fly people around. This keeps your account active and does some good.
    *if you’re serious about aeroplan, lurk on the flyertalk website for hints on maxing out your miles.

  6. tg says:

    Next May my wife & I will be attending a convention in Bangkok but taking a trip beforehand through VietNam. Our friends booked their flight through Avion.
    This week I got their itinerary and carefully researched their flights through Air Canada.ca. Wanting to fly business I checked and no seats were booked so I confidently called Areoplan and not one of my flight sections had any business seats available.
    I could have waited to see if sometime in the future seats would be released on these flights but this is way too much of a gamble.
    We do have flights, mostly business, but not with our friends or even the same cities and a much less convenient schedule.I do get to check out service on 6 different airlines
    I was told to check back periodically and if some business seats are released on my non-business legs, then they would upgrade “at no cost to me” How kind!
    Although the lady at Aeroplan was exceptionally friendy and willing to check several options, I was frustrated this being my 2nd time using Aeroplan points and not understanding why I cannot get seats 6 months in advance on the empty flights that I would prefer.
    By the way, I had tried to book through Aeroplan on-line but it kept referrring me to call Aeroplan where I got to pay an additional booking fee. :(

  7. Pina L. Buono says:

    EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED WITH AEROPLAN. WE USED POINTS TO PURCHASE A DELL ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER AND THEY SENT US A REFURBISHED ONE! WHAT A BUNCH OF SCAM ARTISTS. NOW THE DELL COMPANY WILL NOT ASSIST US WITH THE PRINTER(IT HAS A TECHNICAL PROBLEM)…THE DELL COMPANY IS BOUNCING US BACK TO AEROPLAN. BEWARE OF CHEAP CUSTOMER SERVICE AND CHEAP MERCHANDISE. OUR ISSUE IS ONGOING!

  8. Denise MacLellan says:

    I would like to book a flight for my cousin in Montrealto visit me with my aeroplane points.
    How do I go about doing that???

  9. Bob Spring says:

    I would like to book my flight for a March tour now using airmiles. The tour that I wish to go on is not full yet. Should there be a cancellation of that tour how would I go about getting my airmiles back or are they lost.

  10. Mary Simard says:

    My husband has been collecting aeroplan miles for many years and we had recently found out from another aeroplan card holder that the miles which are seven years old are automatically removed from your account.

    We had done extensive repairs and remodelling including adding vinyl siding and adding another room to our home through Home Hardware spending thousands of dollars.

    This is why he doesn’t even have enough points to get a fruit basket?

    He said that he had never received any notice of this.

  11. Roger Kirby says:

    My wife Ruth has 162000miles on her card.She had a bad stroke and is wheelchair bound,cannot travel alone .Can we both use these miles for a flight together?.Please advise.

  12. Andy Topper says:

    I just got an email from Aeroplan promoting their credit cards.
    For getting 50,000 bonus miles that will cost me only $499 per year for the Platinum card
    Note that I can book a flight anytime over the internet for $517 (incl. taxes/fees) to Mexico City which only takes 7 hours rather than having to endure a 20 hour flight from Vancouver via Chicago as a Classic Aeroplan Mile reward s for 40,000 miles (and pay the taxes/fees of $150)…..
    Conclusion: The Aeroplan is not very attractive anymore – one airmile is worth at best 1 cent (if you can get a seat….) so you are getting the Platinum card for free for one year..
    Who is so stupid to bet a credit card with a $499 annual fee ?????

  13. Fred says:

    I traveled every year from Toronto to Kansas City and it was a short haul (15k points per person). Now when I try to find short haul flights with Classic rewards to KC there isn’t any available. They only have ClassicPlus flights on Air Canada at rates around 75K points per person.

    You can get alliance partners for 25K points with long stopovers. Why has Air Canada abandoned their short haul classic rewards and forced you on partner airlines. When I called aeroplan the agent couldn’t explain why I couldn’t find classic rewards for this flight (even looking a year out).

  14. Gordon Frattini says:

    My wife and I have collected Aeroplan Miles on and off for a few years. How do we go about cashing them in for cash or items. Thanks. GF

  15. Mary @ Bob Emmett says:

    We have had no sucess in finding out what points we have so it does not seem worthwhile bothering with aeroplan cards

    • Rennette Madill says:

      All you need to do is register on the Aeroplan website and you can find your mile balance anytime, by clicking on “account”. Is easy to do.

  16. Rich says:

    I have 25,065 points. Is there any way I can get rid of the 65 points (i.e. donate) and keep the 25,000 for another year? (A lot of flights have 25,000 even).

  17. SE Book says:

    Interesting I didn’t realize you could trade in your mile for things like gift cards.

  18. Jacquie Erickson says:

    Is it true business/first class for Vienna would only get us that on the short connecting flight Frankfurt to Vienna, and economy Toronto to Frankfurt. (180,000 points per couple) The aeroplan website indicates this. What a waste?

  19. judith flynn says:

    I’ve been an Aeroplan member since the early 1990s. I no longer fly very frequently but I used to be able to save up my points over a long period of time and have enough to fly business class. Economy class is so unpleasant it’s like travelling steerage. Now that I can’t save up miles for more than a year Aeroplan is no longer attractive. I’m going to dump my current miles, cancel my Aeroplan gold visa, and look for a new rewards plan so I won’t have to travel Air Canada any more. Some airlines, I hear, have a class between business and economy. Sounds much more sensible than continuing to pay for a card that gives me practically nothing.

  20. SE Book says:

    I wish our rewards system in the states was as good as what you have.

  21. RainSR says:

    Hello,

    I just booked a round-trip from Toronto-Montreal and it cost me 15000 aeroplan miles and about $200 in taxes and surcharges.
    I just want to counter one point, for Air Canada at least Aeroplan has a lot of choices and I booked my ticket only a week in advance and I guess because YYZ-YUL is a busy corridor there was a lot to choose from.
    The downside is that I lost 15000 miles and only saved about $400. Seeing as it took me so long to get these miles I don’t know if that’s a fair deal or not.
    Also, when you sign up with CIBC’s Aeroplan cards, they do give you a minimum of 15000 miles to start with.
    15000 miles comes in very handy when travelling on First Air though.

  22. Alan says:

    I have collected Aeroplan miles for many years, and have a premium credit card to collect miles faster. The best value is to use your miles for business class travel, but be aware that you have to book long in advance as not many seats are available. I wouldn’t even bother trying to find flights on the Air Canada website as you can spend a lot of time and only find flights with ridiculous stopovers. Spend the $30 and speak to an agent at Aeroplan. They are very helpful and knowledgeable. The taxes and surcharges (which you have to pay in cash) are very high though. For a return flight to Europe I recently booked in business class, the taxes and surcharges were $975.96!

  23. James Patterson says:

    In 2011 my wife and I planned a cruise out of Venice in July. I started to book our flights in January 2011 only to find out that Aeroplan could get us there but could not get us back. After checking on line every day for three months we had to give up and pay for our tickets ($2,800.00)to secure our return date.
    We did eventually use up our points for a trip to San Francisco after which we cancelled our CIBC Aeroplan credit card. We are now using our TD Infinite Travel card (no annual fee!)to collect points which equate to dollars which we can use to book travel without any blackout periods.

  24. Brent Bymoen says:

    How can one redeem his aeroplan miles for free gas?

    Thanks

  25. Mary Hill says:

    Trying to book a flight with Aeroplan is enough to drive one nuts. Even booking months in advance, the dates are often unobtainable and if, as in my case, I want to fly to the UK from Toronto, there are so many delays that it could end up being a 20+ hour flight instead of something nearer 10 hours. It’s extremely frustrating, especially when one has to use miles PLUS pay the taxes. I understand there are some cards that include both points and taxes when booking flights. I am seriously considering giving up Aeroplan, especially when they are now telling me that my points will expire in 2014, thereby forcing me to use them. Incidentally, I can get a flight to UK, including taxes, with other carriers for not much more than what Aeroplan charges for taxes alone (and I have to use 60,000 points for the privilege).

  26. Eddie says:

    I gave my folks pts to fly 1st class to france for their 40th anniversary. By the time they were finished getting hosed on “fuel surcharges” fees, etc it cost the requisite 160K in pts and…$1800 in taxes!!!

    The fuel surcharge is a scam plain and simple. I’m fine with the taxes but that they can charge the surcharge outside of the fare and that it often equates to the actual fare charge itself is a disengenious cheat.

    Screw Aeroplan. I’m done.

  27. Melvey says:

    A few years ago, I booked flights with our Aeroplan miles, but had to cancel them: the fees were $90 for each flight segment (that’s 90 X 4, for the two of us). Plus you have to pay airport departure taxes. Another problem is trying to find available flights! You might have to plan up to a year in advance (so far ahead that you may cancel and then you are paying more fees, like I did!!).
    If you are able to find your flights and follow through with them, it is a good deal. But it does take a long time to accumulate, and we only fly a couple of times a year, albeit, internationally.
    I’m thinking of switching to Scotiabank.

  28. Adams Savannah says:

    It is important to keep a track of the miles,reward programmes,expiry date of such bonus programmes,retail sponsors.I frequently make business trips to US by Korean Airways from last four years and my last two air flights charged almost one quarter of the original ticket price.I agree that inactivity or lack of follow on such events do not grant you any extra facility or redemption of your aeroplane miles which happened in your case.

  29. Industrielle Isabel says:

    This type of programs are more targeted towards frequent flyers to attract them to their services. If you travels a lots then enrolling in a redemption programs make much sense and you will be able to take all benefits. If you are not a frequent flyers then such programs are rarely beneficial. better I would prefer if they have one programs to include all the family members then it will be more useful. Any Idea if any program like this exists?

  30. Glen Morgan says:

    The only really good way to build up those miles is by using a credit card for just about everything. We probably put 90% of our spending through one. We have family on the other side of the continent and find this to be the most beneficial use of point. But you have to be flexible. Very very flexible. Since we are retired we can do this. But I can tell you, we do not love either Aeroplan or AirCanada. Always a hassle!!

  31. PCTH PhD says:

    By far the best use of Aeroplan miles is to travel long-haul in business/first class. I just booked a round trip in business class to Europe (London, Copenhagen, and Amsterdam all on the same ticket) for me and my wife, for 180,000 miles plus $700 in taxes (most of it because we are going to London which has high airport taxes), which would have cost in excess of $15,000 each ticket. I only booked about a month and a half before our trip, and found plenty of available flights. The key is to be flexible with travel dates – there’s always some combination of flights that will work, but you may have to take a long layover somewhere. But it’s worth it in my opinion for such a unique experience. This is the second time I’ve redeemed for international business class in the last 5 years.

    Getting that many miles wasn’t that hard with all of the incentives offered by the credit card companies to sign up for their cards.

    BTW: I’m a student and I accumulated all of my miles through normal everyday spending, with the bulk of them through credit card sign up bonuses.

  32. J R 30 says:

    I dislike the new aeroplan policy. I have a good mind of ditching my aeroplan card. As soon as I get all my miles redeemed sometime next year they can stick it up their asses.

  33. Travelbug says:

    I recently used aeroplan miles to fly Ottawa-Toronto-Beijing-Taipei-Hong Kong-Tokyo-Toronto-Ottawa executive class. The cost was les than $450. Well worth the annual cost of my credit card and I plan to upgrade my card at no extra cost to eliminate the need to pay the taxes.

  34. I stopped using Aeroplans when I was not flying much either. It takes way too long to get points.

    Also, as my family grew, I wanted to have flexibility of airline and prices since it was much harder to get points for 4.

    So far, I am with Cash Back from a credit card point of view and use AirMiles where I can but I am mostly out of points royalty.

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