Following our previous comparison between the new premium personal Aeroplan credit cards vis-à-vis the incumbent leader in Canada’s premium credit card marketplace, the American Express Platinum Card, let’s now delve into the same comparison on the small business side.
As the only all-new product being introduced as part of the new Aeroplan launch, the Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve will enter the landscape with a fair bit of weight on its shoulders.
Has American Express made its newest product strong enough to sway longstanding Business Platinum cardholders in the direction of the Aeroplan co-brand, or to poach small business cardholders from other issuers? Let’s take a look through the details.
As before, we’re yet to find out what kind of welcome bonus the Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve will be launching with, while the Business Platinum’s current welcome bonus of 35,000 MR points (via the public offer) or 45,000 MR points (via referrals) is also depressed thanks to the pesky pandemic.
We’ll simply note that the Business Platinum has historically offered signup bonuses in the range of 60,000 to 75,000 MR points, and it remains to be seen how the Aeroplan Business Reserve will stack up when both cards’ steady-state bonus levels eventually come to light.
1. Annual Fee
The Business Platinum Card comes with an annual fee of $499, while the Aeroplan Business Reserve comes with an annual fee of $599. Neither card is known to offer offsetting credits of any sort, so the comparison is pretty straightforward.
Verdict: The Business Platinum has the more favourable price point, as it’s cheaper by $100 per year.
2. Points Currencies
As in our comparison of the personal cards, it’s important to note that the Aeroplan Business Reserve earns you Aeroplan points, whereas the Business Platinum earns you Amex MR points, which may be transferred to Aeroplan, but can also be transferred to other programs like British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy (or converted into US MR points at the prevailing exchange rate).
Verdict: The latter offers greater flexibility and optionality than the former, so it’s another easy win for the Business Platinum.
3. Earning Rates
The Business Platinum Card has one of the most straightforward earning structures out there: 1.25 MR points per dollar spent on all purchases.
Meanwhile, the Aeroplan Business Reserve will grant cardholders:
- 3 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations purchases
- 2 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on hotels and car rentals
- 1 Aeroplan point per dollar spent on everything else
I can’t help but find the Aeroplan Business Reserve’s category bonuses a little underwhelming, especially from a business owner’s perspective.
Air Canada, hotels, and car rentals cover a fair chunk of the overall travel category – but what about flights on other airlines? And what about dining and entertainment spend, two other cornerstones among Amex clients’ favoured spending types?
That’s not to mention that the “core” small business cards by TD and CIBC have gone the extra mile to grant bonus earning rates on shipping, cable, phone, and internet purchases, as well as dining and all travel purchases. Would it have been too much to ask for the Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve, supposedly a cut above those two products with a much steeper annual fee, to serve these categories as well or consider adding some exciting new ones?
Ultimately, the fact that the return on “all other purchases” is only 1 Aeroplan point per dollar spent represents the biggest missed opportunity to me. As a brand-new product for high-spending business owners, surely the baseline earning rate ought to at least match, if not exceed, that of the cheaper Business Platinum?
Verdict: I imagine that very few business owners have their spending volume concentrated only on Air Canada, hotel, and car rental purchases, which are the bonus categories where the Aeroplan Business Reserve win out. Most business spending (suppliers, vendors, materials, etc.) would probably fall into the “all other purchases” category, where it’s highly disappointing that the Aeroplan Business Reserve failed to match the Business Platinum. Another clear victory for the latter.
4. Foreign Exchange Fees
Both products continue to levy the industry-standard 2.5% foreign transaction fee on purchases in a foreign currency. There certainly doesn’t seem to be much appetite among Canadian card issuers (besides Scotiabank and HSBC) in removing this fee anytime soon. It certainly would’ve been an appreciated and widely-praised move from a relaunch of 10+ travel credit cards, but alas, it was not to be.
Verdict: A dull draw.
Perks & Benefits
At annual fees of $499 and $599, these products are supposed to justify their hefty price tag via their ongoing cardholder benefits.
In this section, our analysis largely mirrors the same discussion as the personal Amex Platinum vs. the premium personal Aeroplan cards. We’ll therefore touch upon the main points briefly, only delving into detail when the comparison differs from what we’ve talked about previously.
1. Lounge Access
The Business Platinum’s lounge benefits are among the best in Canada: like its personal counterpart, it provides unlimited access for the cardholder and one guest to 1,300+ Priority Pass lounges around the world, as well as a dozen or so very well-appointed Amex Centurion Lounges in the network.
(For a full rundown of the Business Platinum Card’s lounge benefits, refer to this article.)
Compared to the 1,300+ lounge options, the Aeroplan Business Reserve’s lounge access benefit of Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and Air Canada Cafe locations at… 14 airports across North America seems to pale in comparison.
Moreover, the access requirements are stricter too: you need to be travelling on an Air Canada or Star Alliance flight (as opposed to any airline) and you don’t get to bring a guest in for free (instead, they’ll need to pay a guest access fee).
Verdict: On the whole, the Business Platinum Card’s Priority Pass lounge benefit will elevate your pre-flight experience on a broader basis than the new Aeroplan Business Reserve.
2. Priority Airport Services
Like the other new Aeroplan credit cards, the Aeroplan Business Reserve will offer cardholders a considerable number of perks when flying with Air Canada: a free first checked bag, priority check-in, Zone 2 priority boarding, priority standby, and priority baggage handling, as well as a higher priority on the upgrade list.
The Business Platinum Card’s airport services are comparatively more limited, and only include valet services, parking discounts, and express security lane at Toronto Pearson – which are matched by the Aeroplan Business Reserve.
Verdict: The Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve earns its first victory in this category. Its priority airport services are much stronger, as long as you’re flying with Air Canada.
3. Elite Status Benefits
Compared to its personal counterpart, the Business Platinum Card’s hotel elite status benefits are less generous, but the most significant one is certainly there: instant Gold Elite status within Marriott Bonvoy.
On the other hand, the Aeroplan Business Reserve makes the path of achieving Aeroplan Elite Status easier, but doesn’t actually instantly earn you any status on its own. Instead, you’ll earn 1,000 Status Qualifying Miles (SQM) or 1 Status Qualifying Segment (SQS) per $5,000 in eligible spending, and will be able to rollover up to 200,000 SQM and up to 50 eUpgrades to the following year.
Verdict: The Business Platinum grants instant mid-tier status with Marriott Bonvoy (which ultimately isn’t the most useful in terms of tangible benefits), while the Aeroplan Business Reserve opens more doors towards achieving a higher Aeroplan Elite Status level, although you’ll still have to meet the Status Qualifying Dollar (SQD) requirements. It’s a pretty close comparison here, so let’s call this one a draw.
4. Threshold Benefits
Like the personal side, the Aeroplan Business Reserve allows cardholders to earn an Annual Worldwide Companion Pass for travel on Air Canada, starting at $99 as the companion fare, with $25,000 in annual spending.
While I do question the value proposition of an economy-class-only companion voucher in exchange for $25,000 in spending, this threshold benefit is still stronger than the Business Platinum Card, which doesn’t offer any threshold benefits at all.
Verdict: The singular benefit on the Amex Aeroplan Business Reserve is better than the absence of any published threshold benefit on the Business Platinum Card, where heavy spending will only earn you a chance of a nice retention offer at the end of the year, at best.
5. Other Benefits
Here, the comparison lies between the Business Platinum’s “Platinum family” benefits like the Amex Concierge and access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, versus the Aeroplan Business Reserve’s promise of “preferred pricing” on Air Canada flights under the dynamic pricing model.
Verdict: The new card feels as though it could’ve packed a bit more of a punch with additional benefits, but we will have to wait and see just how powerful the preferred pricing turns out to be in order to properly judge this one.
So far, everything is shaping up pretty comprehensively in favour of the Business Platinum. Can the new Aeroplan Business Reserve claim some consolation here in the ancillaries?
1. Supplementary Cards
Despite having different annual fees for the primary cardholder, both of American Express’s top-of-the-line business cards charge a fee of $199 for the supplementary cardholder.
The Business Platinum also has the option of adding lower-tier Business Gold supplementary cards for $50 per year, while the Aeroplan Business Reserve allows you to add no-fee supplementary cards to simply help you earn points faster.
On the benefit side, both cards pass down their core benefits down to supplementary cardholders as well, including their respective Priority Pass and Maple Leaf Lounge access, as well as the Aeroplan Business Reserve’s priority airport services and preferred pricing.
Verdict: There’s no clear winner here, as both products are pretty generous about treating authorized users to many of the same key benefits, while the pricing is evenly matched too. Draw.
2. Travel Insurance
Similarly, I was quite surprised to discover that the insurance benefits of these two cards are exactly the same, down to the very letter of the terms and conditions.
Among the key insurance provisions are emergency medical travel insurance covers the first 15 days of your out-of-province trip for anyone aged under 65 for up to $5,000,000 (although coverage for those aged 65+ is not provided), trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance for up to $1,500 per person, and aggregated flight and baggage delay insurance for up to $1,000 in essential purchases.
Verdict: The Aeroplan Business Reserve has essentially copied the Business Platinum’s insurance provisions down to the letter, so it’s another stalemate.
3. Ease of Getting Approved
Neither card has a minimum income requirement, although traditionally charge cards (without a preset spending limit, but a requirement to pay off the balance in full every month) like the Business Platinum have been easier to get approved for than credit cards (with a preset credit limit) like the Aeroplan Business Reserve.
Verdict: American Express is generally quite lenient with approval criteria compared to the Big 5 banks, so I don’t expect the new Aeroplan Business Reserve to be particularly difficult to get approved for. Nevertheless, the fact it’s going to be a credit card rather than a charge card like the Business Platinum means that the latter retains a slight edge in this category.
4. Visual Appearance
As I’ve commented on before, the Business Platinum, like its personal counterpart, has that timeless look of a “classic” American Express product. Likewise, the Aeroplan Business Reserve has also adopted an identical snazzy modern look as its own personal counterpart, the Aeroplan Reserve Card, with the word “Business” on it.
Verdict: It’ll be up to personal taste as to which card looks better, but in my mind the Business Platinum still scores higher from a visual perspective. Moreover, just like our comparison of the personal cards, its 18 grams of precision-cut engraved metal will clang louder than the 13 grams of the Aeroplan Business Reserve.
It’s very rare that our Head-to-Head analyses result in a landslide victory for one side over the other, but that’s exactly what we have here.
Despite being introduced to much fanfare as an all-new “premium business” Aeroplan co-branded credit card to coincide with the new program’s launch, the American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve very much pales in comparison to the incumbent product for high-spending and frequent-travelling business owners, the American Express Business Platinum Card.
Remember, unlike the other 10 new Aeroplan cards which are simply being relaunched, there are no existing Aeroplan Business Reserve cardholders who will be transitioned to this card.
That raises the question: who exactly will find the Aeroplan Business Reserve to be a good fit, when they could apply for the Business Platinum and pay a lower annual fee, earn a more flexible points currency (which can still transfer to Aeroplan), access airport lounges at more locations around the world, and earn 25% more points on general business purchases?
The strengths of the Aeroplan Business Reserve are limited to its higher earning rates on Air Canada, hotels, and car rentals, as well as stronger priority airport services when flying with Air Canada and preferred pricing on Air Canada redemptions. But if the cardholder were truly a frequent flyer with Air Canada (ostensibly the card’s target clientele), then they’d presumably have Aeroplan Elite Status, rendering many of these benefits either moot or less meaningful.
And that’s to say nothing of the competing non-American Express products out there, too. Indeed, the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business has a much lower annual fee of $175 and likely enjoys greater acceptance among suppliers for most business owners. Compared to American Express’s offerings, it lacks the attractive travel benefits, but its Avion points can still be transferred to a range of airline partners or redeemed directly at 2cpp for premium class travel.
I’d struggle to believe that American Express would launch an all-new product without a clear strategy in place for making it an attractive player in the market. I can only provide educated guesses here, but perhaps there’s an element of inopportune timing here due to the uncertainty around travel, with more exciting offers and features lined up for the Aeroplan Business Reserve sometime down the line.