Aeroplan’s Points + Cash feature lets you choose to pay more or less in points or cash on an Aeroplan redemption booking.
With this feature, you can use a hybrid combination of Aeroplan points and cash to customize the cost of your trip, which can be useful in situations where you don’t have enough points available in your account to cover the full cost of a booking.
What Is Aeroplan Points + Cash?
The Aeroplan Points + Cash feature can be thought of as a sliding scale payment option on Aeroplan redemptions. It was inspired by the much-acclaimed Cash & Points payment option in the old Starwood Preferred Guest hotel loyalty program.
Whenever you’re booking an Aeroplan reward, once you’ve selected the itinerary that you want at a price point that you’re happy with, you’ll have the option to pay for the redemption in one of four different ways:
- Regular number of Aeroplan points + regular cash component
- All Aeroplan points + $0 in cash
- 80% of the regular number of Aeroplan points + 20% of the points component converted to cash + regular cash component
- 60% of the regular number of Aeroplan points + 40% of the points component converted to cash + regular cash component
Let’s have a look at a few examples to illustrate how this looks in practice.
Suppose that you’d like to fly from Vancouver to Tokyo on ANA business class. You find a direct flight, and decide to lock it in before someone else does.
On the review page, you’ll be presented with four options for payment:
The first option, listed third in the row above, is the same cost as what you see in the search results. This is the standard redemption option that we’re all accustomed to.
You’ll pay the required number of points, along with a cash component that consists of the taxes and fees on the award, as well as any other fees that may be applicable ($39 partner booking fee, $30 phone booking fee, infant award fee, etc.)
The second option, marked with the “Points Only” graphic at the far-right end, allows you to pay for the whole thing using your Aeroplan points, thus spending $0 out-of-pocket. Doing so truly makes a reward ticket “free.”
In the above example, this adds a further 9,116 Aeroplan points to the cost, which corresponds to one Aeroplan point used to cover each cent of the taxes and fees ($91.16 or 9,116 cents), or a redemption value of 1 cent per point (cpp).
The value in redeeming points this way is very poor, so it’s never recommended to do so. You can certainly get greater value out of your points by saving them for higher-value redemptions, where you get upwards of our target valuation of 2.1cpp.
The third and fourth options go in the opposite direction: you can pay only a portion of the number of points required, and make up for it by paying a higher cash component.
The next tier down from the standard rate consists of an 80% proportion of the regular cost in points, and the remaining 20% in points converted to cash. This is sometimes marked by the “Popular” graphic, as shown above.
The difference of 11,000 Aeroplan points between the standard rate and the next tier down is converted to $209. This is akin to buying 11,000 points at 1.9cpp.
The fourth and final option lets you pay the least amount possible in points and the greatest amount possible in cash. Typically, this results in paying 60% of the regular points requirement, with the remaining 40% converted to cash.
In the above example, we see exactly that: you’d pay 33,000 Aeroplan points (60% of the regular cost), and then the remaining 22,000 points are converted to $418, again at a rate of 1.9cpp.
Let’s have a look at another example.
This time, suppose you’re flying from Montreal to Vancouver in Premium Economy, and you find a good price of 17,700 points and $48.43 taxes and fees for a one-way flight.
Here, we see the following combinations for using Points + Cash:
- The standard cost of 17,700 points and $48.43 taxes and fees.
- Converting the $48.43 taxes and fees into 4,483 points for “Points Only” at 1cpp.
- Converting 3,500 Aeroplan points into $76.45 at 2.18cpp.
- Converting 7,000 Aeroplan points into $152.92 at 2.18cpp.
As we see here, the tiers are congruent with the Vancouver–Tokyo example: 100% points, standard points, 80% points, or 60% points. For “Points Only,” we also see the conversion at 1cpp.
What’s different, though, is the conversion rate for the third and fourth tiers, which we see here at a higher effective rate of 2.18cpp. What gives?
The answer is that the valuations used to calculate the Points + Cash amounts can vary based on a number of different parameters, including the chosen routing, the regular amount of points required, and Air Canada’s own valuation of their Aeroplan currency at any given moment in time.
Therefore, a general rule of thumb of how the valuations are calculated under the Points + Cash feature might be as follows:
- 1cpp when exchanging points for cash (“Points Only”)
- ~2cpp when exchanging cash for points (at the 80% and 60% tiers)
Is Points + Cash a Good Deal?
Ultimately, the “true” redemption cost continues to represent the best value in most situations, as it’s not really a great deal to effectively sell Aeroplan points around 1cpp or buy them around 2cpp.
However, Points + Cash can be helpful for those situations when you don’t have enough points to book the full award, but would be happy to top-up the difference using cash in order to secure a booking anyway.
If you have enough points in your account to cover some, but not all, of the cost, then you’ll see which levels are available with the balance of points in your account on the “Review” screen.
Options that aren’t available to you will be greyed out, but as long as you have enough points for one of the tiers, you’ll be able to book.
For example, suppose you have 60,000 Aeroplan points in your account, and you find a direct flight from Toronto to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways business class.
You’re a bit short of the 85,000 points needed for a seat in business class, but with Points + Cash, you’re able to book it anyway.
On the “Review” page, you notice that you can use 51,000 points and pay $746.61 in taxes and fees.
In this example, we see the following rates:
- The standard cost of 85,000 Aeroplan points and $100.61 in taxes and fees.
- The “Points Only” cost, where $100.61 is converted to 10,061 points at 1cpp.
- The 80% tier, which converts 17,000 points to $323 at 1.9cpp.
- The 60% tier, which converts 34,000 points to $646 at 1.9cpp – the only option that’s bookable given your limited current balance.
Although you’re paying an extra $646, that prices pales in comparison to the cash cost of a business class flight. Moreover, booking the same flight in economy has a similar cost in points, so you can think of it as paying $646 for 13 hours of comfort.
If you’re short on points, another consideration would be to look at any current offers there are for buying Aeroplan points.
Air Canada often puts on sales in which you can buy Aeroplan points with various tiers of bonuses. If there is a sale on when you need to top-up your account, be sure to consider the cost of buying points, as it may wind up being cheaper than using the Points + Cash feature.
Aeroplan’s Points + Cash feature allows you to pay more or less in points, with the difference converted to cash.
It’s important to consider the valuations behind how the Points + Cash amounts are calculated to ensure you’re making the most of both your points and cash on hand.
In general, the “Points Only” option almost never makes sense, since it amounts to a poor deal by redeeming points at 1cpp.
However, the 80% or 60% points levels can be a helpful feature if you’re just short of covering the full cost of a booking. Just be sure to check for any sales on Aeroplan points, as buying them directly may represent a better deal.