How To Use Aeroplan Points

by Mike Holman

On our recent visit to the zoo, we paid for the day with an Aeroplan gift card which I received from my sister.  Since I have more Aeroplan points to use up (I gave up my Aeroplan credit card a while ago) I thought I would go over some possibilities for converting the points to something useful.  This is a good exercise if you have a small amount of points and can’t use them on flights.

Some things to know:

  • These cards expire after a year so don’t convert any points to gift cards until you are ready to start using them.
  • If you aren’t actively accumulating points then you need to do a purchase once a year using your aeroplan card to keep them active.  I just go to Esso, fill up the car and swipe the aeroplan card once a year – that’s it.
  • You don’t need to convert all your points into one card – you can spread your points into different cards and you don’t have to use up all your points at once.
  • Great for gifts or for your own use.

Can I use Aeroplan points for flights?

Sure, as long as you book exactly 1 year in advance and are ok with paying a whole pile of fees and taxes.  I say forget it – unless you have a large number of points and can plan in advance then I’d rather get less value and have the actual cash (so to speak) in hand.  That said, this trip was paid for with points.

Here are some of the possibilities that I’m considering:

Meals

This is my first choice – Aeroplan has dining cards which are fairly widely accepted.  The conversion rate is roughly 13,000 points for $100 of card.  I have just over 32,000 points so I can get a $250 card.

Entertainment

The gift card we used at the zoo was an entertainment card – the $$ conversions are roughly the same as the dining cards.  These are some of the things you can use this card for:

  • Sports
  • Live theater
  • Zoo
  • Movies
  • Movie rentals

Some people might find this card very easy to use but we don’t do many of the eligible activities on it so we had to search to find something (zoo).

Malls/stores

Aeroplan also has more specific cards like the Eaton’s centre or Future shop.  These typically have a higher conversion rate but of course you are more limited in where you can use them.  This might be perfect if you are planning a large purchase and can get a card for that particular merchant.

Esso gas card

One of the more practical uses for points is an Esso gas card – assuming you have access to an Esso station then this is probably the best way to convert points to cash (or equivalent).  It’s a bit boring however.

How about you?

How do you like to spend points?  Do you use them for something practical or to treat yourself with something you would never pay cash for?  Are there any better deals with Aeroplan points?

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 nobleea

I thought it was no longer allowed to place expiry dates on gift cards?

I only use the aeroplan points on flights. Typically short haul flights.

2 Shaynepathum

Good post Mike. I use my Aeroplan points exclusively for flights between Vancouver and Toronto. In my opinion, flights offer the best bang for ‘points’ compared to any other merchandise or gift cards. This is taking into consideration the annual CIBC Aerogold VISA fees ($120) and the fees and taxes I pay when booking a flight on Air Canada. In 2.5 years since I had the card, I have booked 5 return flights between Vancouver and Toronto. I figure that with 25000 points it cost to book such a ticket, the savings are at least $300 but likely about $350 – 400 (better than your dining card example). Furthermore, I have never booked flights more than 5 months in advance to get this rate with points. I have heard that collecting enough points to book international flights is even a better deal than domestic flights. But we don’t fly overseas that often.

3 Jerry Hung

Mike your 32,000 miles can give you 2 short-haul flights (say Toronto-Montreal). Say each flight is $170 + $80 taxes (usually it’s more than $170 while the surcharge/tax stay the same), you should come out ahead than the gift cards

This is always a heated topic, as well as AC vs WestJet
but despite not a big fan of AC and AE, I do agree, best use for AE miles is Business class for long-haul flights (so 75000 miles can redeem you a ~$1500 flight to Asia, 100000 miles can redeem a $4000 biz flight to Asia, 120000 miles can be $6000 first class to Asia)

Usually you don’t need to book 1 year ahead unless you’re on some very popular route (YYZ-Sydney for one, or YYZ-Tokyo NRT)

4 Four Pillars

Nobleea – It says right on their website that the cards expire after 12 months. Maybe there are exceptions to the expiry rule?

Shaynepathum – I agree that flights are the best bang for your buck but you do have to book pretty far in advance. I may have exaggerated a bit when I said “1 year”. 🙂

Jerry – I can’t disagree with your math but I have absolutely zero use for a short-haul flight. In fact I doubt I’ll be doing any flying for the next few years which is why I’m not actively accumulating points anymore.

I guess the moral of the story is to analyse the rewards programs along with your own behaviour and make sure pick the one that benefits you the most.

5 Barry Millman

The article’s comment about not using Aeroplan miles for travel is confusing.

We recently used our Aeroplan points to go to Hawaii from Ottawa (round trip). We called the Aeroplan line and paid the $30 for the service for each ticket.

They found us flights for 40,000 Aeroplan miles each person, round trip.

I highly recommend the telephone service and didn’t mind the $30 charge at all. It was a great trip.

6 randy

We use our Aeroplan points for flights.

My spouse is a teacher so we must travel in the summer. When the cost of flights are high, it seems to us that is the best or highest return on using say 120,000 points for us to fly to Rome return from the west coast.

It seems to me that if you don’t fly in peak season that one might be better of with a card which gives cash back. Recently, at least one card provides more than 1% back and it has a rising scale for big spenders.

An article on the worst value cards compared to the best cash back cards might be of interest to readers.

7 Carl Pentilchuk

Regarding use of aeroplan points for flights, your comments about having to book 1 year in advance, etc. don’t at all reflect my experience.
My experinece has be that, when flexible (even a day or two) on travel dates I have had excellent success. For instance both last summer and this summer I secured flights when booking 6 weeks or less in advance of departure date.
In 2 weeks I fly to Whitehorse (from Kamloops) for a major 3 week kayaking adventure. I booked the flight on June 7th for July 17th departure …..and the “cost” was 15,000 points.
No question, I’m a satisfied Aeroplan member – for over 25 years.

8 Ross Probert

We have used the Aeroplan program for numerous long haul flights over the years with consistant success. Unfortunately the US Star Alliance partner is United. They have to rank among the worst airlines. I am concerned about the economic viability of AC in the long term. They are reported to be choking on poor fuel hedges and pension liabilities.
Aeropln should add Westjet to their options before WJ brings out the own plan.

9 Ken

It seems like I never have any luck booking with Aeroplan travel online. It is either the date I have selected are not available or they give you the crappiest schedule. Then you have the option to pick a better schedule which cost you more than double or triple the aeroplan miles. I have been meaning to book a trip for the past 2 years and never able to land one. Am I doing something wrong? I have about 150,000. I remember the day where I can book a trip to Vegas from Toronto for about 25,000 points.

10 Joe

Aeroplan points really aren’t that hard to use — and they are almost definitely the most valuable on flight routes. Assuming a low valuation of $0.015 / point most merchandise is 1.5-2.5 times retail value when purchased with points.

Compare this to a round trip to south america in business class that I recently booked (times 2) for myself and my girlfriend for 75K points each.

On Air Canada a direct flight in business class ranges in price from 4K – 8K depending on the time of booking. This effectively means that my points were valued at $0.05 / point — dramatically higher than any merchandise purchase.

Long story short — use the points for flights. Highest possible valuation, especially if you travel regularly.

11 Mike Holman

@Joe – There is no question that flight points are more valuable than merchandise points – however the issue is availability of flights. After a while, I was happy to just use the points anyway I could. I found the flights useless, since I had to book so far in advance.

Sounds like you found a great value for the South America trip.

12 Kelly

Reading these comments here I just had to throw my 2 cents into the ring
You are allowed to book flights with Points 330 days in advance. I tried on the day to book 2 flights to Central America 330 days in advance. This is for next December and it already said No seats available or full. The problem is I’m travelling at peak times. So if you are OK with travelling whenever and are flexible when you can go then the points are fine but if your stuck travelling at peak times ie: when school is out then it seems like you can’t use your points when you want. I was extremely mad about this. I’m going to continue to try and use these for a flight but I decided I’m getting rid of my Aeroplan and Aeroplan Visa and getting something with more flexibility. There are cards out there that give you points then you can convert the points to cash and book your flight whenever you want and then you get credited back on your visa for the points/cash conversion so I switched to that.

13 Mike Holman

@Kelly – I did the same thing. Unless you charge a ridiculous amount of money per year – the cash cards are better. I like to be able to book my flights less than 9 months in advance. 🙂

14 Ken

@Kelly and @Mike – I’m with you guys. I canceled my card a few years back, but still have the points sitting in my account and unable to book anything for it. I think it is still the best to use the points for travel rather than merchandise. I guess I will have to try again and see whether I could book anything in advance.

15 Money Smarts Blog

@Ken – I think you get a bit more $$ value from using the points on flights, but if you factor in the inconvience of booking way in advance – I’m not so sure it’s worthwhile.

I used my remaining 30,000 points to get $300 (or maybe $350?) worth of dining cards which we used at a local restaurant. And I didn’t have to book a reservation 6 months in advance. 🙂

16 Herman Russell

How do I go about converting or selling my aeroplan miles for dining cards?

17 Arnold

Mike, I’m not sure how old this article is because it is not dated. I have to agree with others – it is simply not true that you have to book 1 year, or even 9 months in advance to get great flights on AC using APP. Ok, if you want to fly from Toronto to London in July or the Barbados in March break your chances of getting something is lower. But I just booked 1 week vacation in July (2 months in advance) with no problem. The bottom line is – if you want to use your points in a “Smart Money” way – use them for flying. The value is 2X over using them on cards.

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