The offers are extremely similar, with up to 150,000 points on each card. Surely you’ll want to get both if you can!
But between steep annual fees, hefty spending requirements, and a tight timeline to apply before the offers end on August 3, 2021, it might be more realistic for you to only get one. So which one of these best-ever offers is truly the best?
In today’s Head-to-Head, let’s have a showdown between the two cards, with an emphasis on how the welcome bonuses differ.
In This Post
- Bonus Structure
- Points Currency
- Annual Fee
- Referral Bonuses
- Earning Rates
- Lounge Benefits
- Other Travel Benefits
- Cash Rebates
- Charge Card vs. Credit Card
First and foremost, let’s take a look at the signup bonuses, often one of the most significant factors that compels you to get a new credit card.
To recap, both cards are offering 150,000 points, all-time highs not just for the cards themselves but for the Canadian credit card market as a whole.
Aeroplan Reserve Card
70,000 MR points upon spending $6,000 in six months
70,000 Aeroplan points upon spending $6,000 in six months
Eats & Drinks Bonus
10x points in the first six months, up to 50,000 points or $5,000 spent
10x points in the first six months, up to 50,000 points or $5,000 spent
5,000 points in each of the first six months in which you spend $1,000
Second Year Bonus
30,000 points upon making a purchase in months 14–17
150,000 MR points
150,000 Aeroplan points
The initial bonus, spending threshold and deadline, and Eats & Drinks bonus are all the same. They key difference is in the remaining 30,000 points.
For the Aeroplan Reserve Card, those points are distributed in monthly chunks of 5,000 points, upon spending $1,000 each month. That means you can’t capitalize on gigantic expenses upfront to earn the full bonus; you’ll have to spread out your spending.
You’ll receive the full bonus within six months. This has two key advantages: you can use your points sooner, and you don’t have to keep the card (and its pricey annual fee) into the second year if you later decide that the ongoing value isn’t worth it for you.
For the Platinum Card, there’s no monthly bonus; instead, you’ll get a modified anniversary bonus. It’s clearly structured to be triggered after Month 14 with the card, beyond the deadline to cancel and receive a full refund on your second-year annual fee.
Therefore, even though the bonuses are technically the same size, you’d need to keep the Platinum Card into the second year to earn the full points payout. While we value 30,000 MR points at $630, more than enough to cover the net annual fee for the second year, you could earn the same value at a lower cost with one year of the Aeroplan Reserve Card instead.
Also, it’s possible that you might score an extra monthly bonus on the Aeroplan Reserve Card without any spend requirement on your first statement, as we’ve seen on this card in the past, as well as on the Cobalt Card. In that case, you could net an extra 5,000 Aeroplan points for no additional trouble.
Verdict: The Aeroplan Reserve Card has a better bonus because you can earn it all in the first year, potentially saving you a premium annual fee in the future, and definitely enabling you to book aspirational trips sooner.
The Aeroplan Reserve Card is a co-branded Aeroplan card, and naturally it earns Aeroplan points. Aeroplan is the best travel rewards program for Canadians, with redemptions on any seat on Air Canada flights, outsized value for long-haul seats in premium partner cabins, and unparalleled interconnectivity linking Canadians across the country to the vast global Star Alliance airline network.
The Platinum Card uses Amex’s in-house travel rewards program, earning Membership Rewards points. They can be used for the Fixed Points Travel chart for flights, redeemed for statement credit, but most importantly, they can be transferred to airline and hotel partners, including Aeroplan.
Simply put, because Membership Rewards can be transferred to Aeroplan, there’s nothing they can’t do that Aeroplan can. I often treat the two interchangeably, and we value them the same at 2.1 cents per point, but there’s a ton of intangible value in flexibility.
With Membership Rewards, I can always choose to use them for a different airline partner, or even to cash them out, if those uses present a better choice when I have a redemption lined up.
You can’t do that with Aeroplan – once the points are in, you’re more limited by what the program allows you to do with them. Even though it’s a great program with lots of redemption options for good value, it’s still a one-trick pony.
Verdict: The Platinum Card wins here, because with all other things being equal, flexibility is a virtue.
The Aeroplan Reserve Card has an annual fee of $599. On the surface, it looks like it comes out ahead of the Platinum Card’s annual fee of $699.
However, the Platinum Card offers a $200 annual travel credit, which can be easily redeemed for any type of travel booking through the Amex Travel portal. I’d consider this credit as good as cash, since it’s so easy to redeem. Plus, you should have no trouble keeping the credit in case your travel plans change and you need to cancel a refundable booking.
Effectively, this brings down the net annual fee to $499, making the Platinum Card a less expensive choice.
Verdict: The Platinum Card has a slight edge here, saving you $100 each year. But I wouldn’t let that be a dealbreaker if you decide the Aeroplan Reserve Card is an overall better fit for you. Instead, I’d use it as a tiebreaker if none of the other factors sway you strongly in one direction.
The Platinum Card rewards the referrer with 10,000 MR points when family, friends, or colleagues use their referral link and are approved for a new card. You can earn up to 225,000 MR points per calendar year this way – it’ll take quite a few referrals to hit the limit.
Normally, the Aeroplan Reserve Card rewards the referrer with an equivalent 10,000 Aeroplan points, up to 75,000 points per year.
For the duration of these welcome bonuses, however, the Aeroplan Reserve Card has boosted its referral bonus to 20,000 Aeroplan points for the referrer (although the annual limit remains the same). That’s a huge win, on par with the Business Platinum Card‘s 20,000 MR points for the referrer.
If you’re looking to apply for as many cards as you can this month in multiplayer mode, you’d want to prioritize the Aeroplan Reserve Card. Once you start scaling with many referrals, the difference will compound dramatically.
Also, it’s important to consider the limitations on which cards can refer to and from each other. The Aeroplan Reserve Card can refer to itself and to the Aeroplan Business Reserve Card, giving you up to two bonuses for each person you successfully refer (if they open both cards).
The Platinum Card can also refer to two cards, itself and the Business Platinum Card. Even so, you won’t want to use the Platinum Card for referrals. The Business Platinum Card rewards twice as many points, and it can refer to all of the same cards (and then some).
Previously, the Platinum Card could only be referred to by another Platinum Card, so it was useful to have one for referral bonuses as others flocked to Amex’s flagship product. Now, though, the Business Platinum Card can refer to the Platinum Card, so you’re better off generating a referral link that way for a bigger bonus.
Verdict: The Aeroplan Reserve Card is a clear winner here, both short-term and long-term.
Assuming you already have a Business Platinum Card, there’s really no referral benefit on the Platinum Card – and if you expect to maximize your referrals, there’s a strong argument to be made for the Business Platinum Card’s bigger referral bonuses winning out over the Platinum Card’s bigger signup bonus anyway.
Once you’ve finished with the 10x earn rate to kick off your new card, or for everything that doesn’t fall under Eats & Drinks, it’s important to consider the regular earning rates on the cards, especially if you have an eye on keeping the card long-term.
The Platinum Card uses a 3-2-1 structure:
- 3 MR points per dollar spent on dining in Canada
- 2 MR points per dollar spent on travel purchases
- 1 MR point per dollar spent on everything else
The Aeroplan Reserve Card uses a similar structure:
- 3 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations
- 2 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on dining in Canada
- 1.25 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on everything else
On these cards, dining includes restaurants, bars, cafes, and food delivery. Groceries are included in the 10x Eats & Drinks bonus, but once that’s finished, they’ll no longer earn extra points.
Basically, between the two, travel and dining are flipped, and the Aeroplan Reserve Card gets a minus for restrictions on which travel expenses earn bonus points, but a plus for a higher earning rate on other purchases.
That said, there’s a unique advantage with the Air Canada category: no other cards (aside from the Aeroplan Business Reserve Card) will earn that many points. Even the Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege cards only earn 2x points on those purchases. If you spend a lot of money with Air Canada, there’s no better card to make the most of those purchases on an ongoing basis.
On the other hand, 3x points on dining on the Platinum Card is certainly juicy, but it’s hardly exclusive. For instance, you can earn 5 MR Select points on dining with the Cobalt Card, which can be transferred via Marriott Bonvoy to 40+ airline partners at a ratio of 2:1.
In other words, you could have 2.5x airline miles with a huge variety of hard-to-access airline loyalty programs such as ANA Mileage Club, Singapore KrisFlyer, or Aeromexico ClubPremier, or 3x airline miles with Amex’s smaller roster of direct transfer partners from the Platinum Card. Depending on your goals, using the Platinum Card at restaurants is hardly a no-brainer.
Verdict: As usual, it depends on what you tend to spend the most money on, but I’ll give the edge to the Aeroplan Reserve Card for its comparative advantage on its bonus categories. There are many cards with strong dining bonuses, but few with 3x points on Air Canada cash fares. Also consider the higher rate on uncategorized spending, and this card makes a compelling case whether or not you’re a big Air Canada spender.
Nothing compares to the Platinum Card’s comprehensive suite of lounge benefits. You’ll get unlimited access to Priority Pass airport lounges for yourself plus one guest, as well as access to Centurion lounges and a plethora of other lounge affiliates around the world.
Most major airports have a Priority Pass lounge, so you and your travelling companion will always be able to find respite from the crowds in the terminal.
The Aeroplan Reserve Card is no slouch either, with unlimited access to Maple Leaf Lounges in North America when travelling on Air Canada or a Star Alliance partner.
That might be useful if you frequent the 14 airports with a Maple Leaf Lounge, but overall, the Platinum Card will elevate your travel experience in a wider variety of situations.
Also, now that Plaza Premium has ended its relationship with Priority Pass, it’s a lot harder to access Plaza Premium lounges with other credit cards. They have a strong presence in Canada and were always a good choice for the single-use passes found on many Visa cards.
The Platinum Card, however, has maintained access to Plaza Premium, since they are a direct partner with Amex, not just through Priority Pass. That comparative advantage makes the strong Platinum Card even stronger.
Verdict: No question, the Platinum Card comes out ahead.
Other Travel Benefits
Premium credit card perks aren’t just about lounge access – there are other travel benefits that you need to consider.
With the Platinum Card, you’ll get automatic Gold Elite status with Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, and Radisson. While you might not score top-tier treatment, it’s still useful for a baseline level of service, including things like late check-out and some amenities. If you concentrate your efforts on one hotel loyalty program, such as Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite, then no-brainer Gold Elite status can be useful for the odd times when you stay at a different hotel.
Alternatively, you could also use the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program, a de facto elite status program for assorted luxury hotels, only available to Platinum cardholders.
Both cards offer a mixed bag of priority airport services. The Platinum Card will score you car rental discounts and priority security lanes at Toronto Pearson.
On the other hand, the Aeroplan Reserve Card gives a very strong collection of benefits when travelling with Air Canada, including priority boarding, priority check-in, and a free checked bag.
Also, you’ll get preferred pricing discounts on Aeroplan award tickets, at the best rate available to premium credit card holders. Furthermore, you’ll be able to carry over up to 20 unused eUpgrade credits year after year, which you can parlay into business class flights for the price of premium economy.
You can also earn Status Qualifying Miles and Status Qualifying Segments by spending on your Aeroplan Reserve Card. If you’re an Aeroplan Elite with lots of Status Qualifying Dollars from buying revenue fares, but need a boost on the other side, this card can help you climb the status ladder.
Finally, both cards have very strong insurance. The Platinum Card has some of the most generous payouts and coverage in the business, while the Aeroplan Reserve Card will cover your Aeroplan award bookings if you pay the taxes and fees with the card.
Verdict: It depends. The Aeroplan Reserve Card truly shines for Air Canada loyalists, whether you rack up lots of cash fares as a Super Elite, or redeem lots of Aeroplan points for flight rewards. But if you’re not going to maximize those perks, the Platinum Card might be a better all-around fit for the breadth it offers.
Amex often doles out generous offers throughout the year for existing cardholders. In fact, the 10x points on Eats & Drinks component of the signup bonus is also available for anyone who’s already opened these cards.
Here’s a sample of some notable Amex Offers we’ve had in recent years:
- $250 grocery credit on the Platinum Card in Summer 2020
- $200 grocery credit on the Platinum Card in Winter 2021
- $150 grocery credit on the Aeroplan Reserve Card in Spring 2021
- $250 Air Canada credit on the Aeroplan Reserve Card in Spring 2021
- $50 Shop Small event announced today on all Amex cards
In the past, the Platinum Card has received the best offers. As Amex’s premier product, naturally its cardholders get the best incentives.
I’m encouraged by the strong rebates that we’ve seen on the Aeroplan Reserve Card more recently. Since the Aeroplan relaunch in November 2020, it looks like Amex is elevating this card’s status in its lineup, promoting it on equal footing with the Platinum Card.
Verdict: A very slim edge to the Platinum Card here thanks to historical precedent, although I really don’t think you can go wrong either way.
Charge Card vs. Credit Card
Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you can actually get the card you’re applying for!
Amex is usually quite generous with who they’ll approve, and they have no income requirements. But there is one specific rule that might trip you up: you can only have four Amex credit cards at a time.
Amex is unique amongst Canadian credit issuers in that they are the only one that offers charge cards. They’re similar to credit cards, except they have no preset spending limit, and an obligation to pay in full every month (which you should be doing anyway).
Luckily, Amex doesn’t count charge cards against the four-card limit. You can have as many charge cards as you want, but only four credit cards.
The Platinum Card is a charge card, and it won’t impact your limit. Hooray!
The Aeroplan Reserve Card is a credit card, competing in your wallet with other useful keeper cards including both Marriott Bonvoy cards, the Cobalt Card, the Air Miles Reserve Card, and the SimplyCash cards. Boo!
Verdict: As a charge card, the Platinum Card wins, since it won’t fill a precious credit card slot.
One thing’s for sure: American Express has set the bar one way or another with these two offers. There’s a compelling case for either card, and it always depends on your own situation, but overall I’d give a slight edge to the Platinum Card over the Aeroplan Reserve Card.
Realistically, the answer is probably extremely simple: get whichever card you don’t have yet. But if you’re new to American Express credit cards, then the world is your oyster – go forth and conquer as many signup bonuses as you can handle before these glorious offers expire on August 3, 2021.