When it comes to racking up Aeroplan miles, the methods we usually emphasize as the most effective include earning Amex MR points and transferring them over at a 1:1 ratio, applying for the personal and business TD Aeroplan line of credit cards, and applying for the personal and business CIBC Aerogold line of credit cards.
But there’s actually another set of co-branded Aeroplan credit cards here in Canada, which I haven’t given much attention to thus far: the American Express AeroplanPlus line of credit cards.
These four credit cards offer various levels of Aeroplan signup bonuses and perks and benefits when flying with Air Canada, although their relatively higher annual fees is the reason why they’ve taken a backseat so far compared to the more popular Aeroplan earning methods.
Amex has recently added a few more perks to these cards to sweeten the deal, though, so let’s go through the Amex AeroplanPlus credit card lineup and look for any circumstances under which it might make sense to apply.
1. American Express AeroplanPlus Card
The American Express AeroplanPlus Card is the no-frills introductory product within this lineup. The card has an annual fee of $60, although Great Canadian Rebates (GCR) is offering a $30 cash back offer upon approval, bringing your net out-of-pocket cost down to $30 for the first year.
The signup bonus is a relatively paltry 5,000 Aeroplan miles, which is granted upon spending $500 in the first three months. The card’s other perks are also relatively limited compared to the higher-end AeroplanPlus cards, and overall, earning 5,000 miles for a $30 outlay isn’t at all worthwhile for submitting a new credit application in my books.
Let’s instead take a look at the other AeroplanPlus cards, which appear to have much stronger offers.
2. American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card
Fun fact, the American Express AeroplanPlus Gold Card was actually the first American Express card I had ever gotten, back in August 2014 when it was offering 30,000 Aeroplan miles with the first year free.
Since then, the AeroplanPlus Gold’s offer seems to have remained at the standard level of 15,000 Aeroplan miles after spending $1,500 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $120 that’s not waived for the first year. Having said that, GCR offers a $50 cash back upon approval for this card, which brings your first-year net outlay down to $70.
In terms of the card’s other perks, the earning rate is a standard 1 Aeroplan mile per dollar spent on the first $10,000 in annual purchases, but then rises to 1.25 Aeroplan miles per dollar spent on purchases over $10,000.
However, considering the card’s limited signup bonus compared to what’s available on the Membership Rewards cards, I still only see limited circumstances in which it might make sense to apply for this card, and I don’t think that the elevated earn rate after $10,000 in annual spending would move the needle too much.
What might those circumstances be? Well, if you’ve already gotten all the Membership Rewards cards available to you and need a quick top-up of 15,000 Aeroplan miles, then the AeroplanPlus Gold Card could be a quick fix. Otherwise, I’d only recommend considering this card if an elevated signup offer like the one back in 2014 were to ever return.
3. American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum Card
Here’s where things get more interesting. The American Express AeroplanPlus Platinum Card offers 40,000 Aeroplan miles upon spending $3,000 in the first three months, as well as a $150 Air Canada eGift card upon spending $6,000 in the first six months.
That second part of the signup bonus is a relatively new offering, and was only introduced after Air Canada had announced their takeover of the Aeroplan loyalty program and had confirmed that American Express would be remaining onboard as a financial partner of the new loyalty program in 2020.
Furthermore, until December 31, 2019, GCR is offering a $75 cash back offer upon approval for the AeroplanPlus Platinum, and throw in the $150 Air Canada eGift card (which you can assign face value assuming you plan to travel on Air Canada to the tune of $150 at least once in the future), then your net outlay for the first year is only $274.
Picking up a signup bonus of 40,000 Aeroplan miles for a $274 outlay is already seeming like a pretty good deal, and we haven’t even considered the card’s other perks and benefits yet.
First, as a cardholder, you’ll get an annual Partner Ticket worth 15,000 Aeroplan miles, which will be quite valuable if you regularly travel on short-haul Aeroplan redemptions in economy class with a partner in tow.
Aeroplan short-haul flights are one of the best sweet spots for redeeming miles for quick getaways at a great value, especially in certain geographic regions such as Atlantic Canada. If you plan to take advantage of this sweet spot and visit up to two places within the same short-haul zone for 15,000 Aeroplan miles, then the Partner Ticket benefit can sweeten the deal on the AeroplanPlus Platinum even further.
And that’s not all – AeroplanPlus Platinum cardholders also get unlimited access to Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges in Canada, the US, and internationally (prior to an Air Canada flight for the cardholder only, with any guests subject to a nominal entry fee), as well as a Priority Pass membership (although unlike the Platinum and Business Platinum cards in the MR series, you do need to pay the access fee for every Priority Pass visit).
I could see the lounge benefits on this card being particularly useful for those based in airports where there’s no Priority Pass presence, and only an Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge available for departing flights, such as Montreal’s domestic and transborder terminals, Ottawa, or Halifax.
Overall, I’d say that the 40,000 Aeroplan miles, short-haul Partner Ticket, and Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge access perks actually make up quite a compelling value proposition in exchange for the $274 first-year outlay, especially if your travel patterns are such that you can easily see yourself making use of the latter two benefits.
4. American Express AeroplanPlus Reserve Card
The first thing that many people notice about the American Express AeroplanPlus Reserve Card is its eye-watering annual fee of $899, which is surely one of the highest annual fees that I’ve ever seen on any credit product in Canada.
What, then, does the card – a “Reserve” card, which is positioned as even more high-end than the Platinum product – offer to justify its staggering annual fee?
The signup bonus is 50,000 Aeroplan miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. On top of that, you’ll earn a $200 Air Canada eGift card upon spending $6,000 in the first six months (just like the AeroplanPlus Platinum, this was also introduced quite recently).
The card also offers a $200 travel credit similar to the American Express Platinum Card, which can be used towards any type of travel booked through American Express Travel Services. If we were to value both of these $200 credits at face value, then our net outlay for the first year is brought down to $499.
Then, similar to the AeroplanPlus Platinum, there’s an annual Partner Ticket benefit and some neat lounge access perks as well.
The Partner Ticket on the AeroplanPlus Reserve entitles you to a complimentary long-haul North America flight in economy class for the second passenger, when you redeem 25,000 miles for the first passenger.
Remember that you’re entitled to a stopover on intra-North America Aeroplan redemptions as well, so if you do intend to book one of these Aeroplan tickets as a couple to visit up to two places in North America as part of a long-haul round-trip, then the Partner Ticket benefit would save you a nice chunk of 25,000 Aeroplan miles on the second passenger when doing so.
In terms of lounge access, the AeroplanPlus Reserve also grants unlimited access to Maple Leaf Lounges (prior to an Air Canada flight) and Priority Pass lounges for the cardholder, with any guests subject to a nominal fee in both cases.
Indeed, these lounge access benefits are very generous, and make the AeroplanPlus Reserve a unique offering for the Canadian frequent traveller who might need to visit both Maple Leaf Lounge and Priority Pass locations on a regular basis.
Finally, as an AeroplanPlus Reserve cardholder, you’ll get the baggage fee waived on your first five checked bags annually when flying with Air Canada or any of its subsidiaries, which would otherwise cost you $30 per bag.
Taking all of these benefits together, the overall picture is that you’re effectively shelling out $499 in exchange for a bonus of 50,000 Aeroplan miles, a Partner Ticket worth 25,000 Aeroplan miles, unlimited Maple Leaf Lounge and Priority Pass lounge access, and a handful of free checked bags on Air Canada, which is starting to look like a very good deal – even putting it on par with the high-end Membership Rewards cards like the Business Platinum or Platinum Card in terms of value.
This analysis assumes, of course, that your travel patterns will allow you to use up the $200 travel credit, the $200 Air Canada eGift card, and the North America long-haul Partner Ticket. If that’s indeed the case, then it may well be in your best interest to recognize the value that lies behind the AeroplanPlus Reserve’s $899 annual fee and give it a try.
Among the four Amex AeroplanPlus products, the Platinum and Reserve cards have the highest annual fees, but also offer the strongest benefits in return, especially now that Amex has added Air Canada eGift cards of $150 and $200, respectively, to entice more customers towards these products.
While I’d still recommend the Membership Rewards series before the AeroplanPlus series (primarily because there are fewer “strings” attached to getting maximum value out of the cards), the AeroplanPlus Platinum and Reserve shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re looking to boost your Aeroplan balance while also enjoying a few unique Air Canada-related perks, like the unlimited Maple Leaf Lounge access.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the offers on these cards (as well as the corresponding TD and CIBC products) will likely be subject to change when Air Canada launches their new loyalty program in 2020, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we saw some even more enticing deals in the AeroplanPlus lineup when the time comes. Therefore, while it may make sense to get the Platinum and Reserve products now, it could also pay off to wait until next year if you aren’t in a rush.