These changes mainly address earning points for yourself and not on behalf of someone else, prohibited activities, and Aeroplan’s remedies against members who are deemed to be engaging in said activities.
The bulk of these changes explicitly impact credit card usage, so it would be wise to brush up. Let’s take a look at what’s happening, and what it might mean for Canadians who hold Aeroplan co-branded credit cards.
New Aeroplan Terms & Conditions
With these upcoming changes, the key areas of interest are Sections 6, 10, and 11 of Aeroplan’s terms and conditions.
Section 6 has been amended to clarify that Aeroplan points earned via partners will only be credited to the Aeroplan account of the Aeroplan member transacting with the partner.
In the case of an Aeroplan credit card, Aeroplan Points will only be credited to the Account of the Member who is the primary card holder of that Aeroplan credit card Aeroplan Points will not be credited to the membership number or Account of any other Member.
This means, among other things, that you can’t, say, put your own Aeroplan account number on your partner’s Aeroplan credit card. This has always been frowned upon if ever one did slip through the cracks, but now it’s expressly forbidden.
The account of the Member with [a] Conversion Program must be in the Member’s name so that the name on the Account with Aeroplan and the account under such Conversion Program are the same person. Under the Aeroplan Program, the intention of permitting conversions from a Conversion Program into Aeroplan Points is so that the resulting Aeroplan Points under any such conversion arrangement are thereafter used by the Member for redemptions within the Aeroplan Program and Aeroplan reserves the right, at any time, to impose limitations on the ability of a Member to engage in conversions from a Conversion Program into Aeroplan Points and on the use of such Aeroplan Points upon conversion.
Similarly, this paragraph means that you can’t, say, transfer Membership Rewards points from your own American Express credit card to a friend’s Aeroplan account. Likewise, this wasn’t condoned before, but now it’s much more clear that it isn’t permitted.
Section 10 is where things get spicy, with a brand-new set of provisions on credit card welcome bonuses.
[a] Welcome Bonus is intended as an incentive for a Member to become a holder of an Aeroplan Credit Card where that Member is not then a holder of the specific type of Aeroplan Credit Card
Aeroplan may, in its sole discretion, choose to limit the number of Welcome Bonuses or similar bonuses or incentives a Member may receive in any period, and, in addition to the other remedies set forth in these Terms and Conditions, reserves the right to suspend, revoke or terminate the Account of any person who engages in a behaviour of excessive use of the Welcome Bonus offers. Such behaviours include but are not limited to: (i) applying for multiple Aeroplan Credit Cards across one or more product types or across one or more financial institutions that issue an Aeroplan Credit Card; (ii) a pattern of cancelling, or disengaging in, an Aeroplan Credit Card shortly after receiving a Welcome Bonus or similar bonus or incentive; and (iii) a pattern of purchasing and then cancelling or returning any product or service for which Aeroplan Points were issued.
Previously, it was entirely up to the banks to set and enforce the terms governing repeated welcome bonuses on the same card, or multiple welcome bonuses on different products (e.g., a Visa Infinite card and a Visa Infinite Privilege card). Now Aeroplan will have eyes on this as well, and they may take sweeping measures against members who get a new card only for the welcome bonus.
Finally, Section 11 spells out prohibited activity, and the remedies against it, in much more detail.
To paraphrase, Aeroplan is emphasizing that they may suspend, revoke, or terminate membership in cases where the member exhibits a pattern of behaviour.
Aeroplan again calls out the following actions:
(i) applying for multiple credit cards across different product types (e.g., Entry, Core, Premium), across multiple financial institutions that issue an Aeroplan Credit Card in order to circumnavigate these Terms and Conditions or the terms and conditions of any such financial institution issuing an Aeroplan Credit Card thereby receiving multiple Welcome Bonuses; and (ii) a behaviour of cancelling, or disengaging in, an Aeroplan Credit Card shortly after receiving a Welcome Bonus
What Does This Mean for Cardholders?
Aeroplan has specifically identified that they’re not a fan of cardholders opening multiple cards at the same tier from different banks, or multiple cards at different tiers from the same bank, in quick succession.
With so many credit cards in the market, this had long been a great way to earn bonuses quickly, as it had never been prohibited. Now, though, if Aeroplan is to begin prohibiting this behaviour and enforcing this provision, it will be paramount to focus on the biggest and best bonuses, rather than a scattershot approach across many cards.
Also, Aeroplan is clearly encouraging cardholders to continue spending on their cards long-term, rather than earning a welcome bonus and stashing the card away.
As members seek to stay in Aeroplan’s good graces, it’ll be important to put a healthy amount of ongoing spending on any cards that they open, beyond the initial minimum spending requirement.
While we know that terms and conditions may not always be enforced to the letter, the prospect of pushing the boundaries in this environment is a lot less enticing, given that the downside risk for your travel rewards accounts may be unrecoverable.
For the majority of cardholders, your behaviour probably won’t change. More likely than not, if your behaviour as an Aeroplan member would raise any eyebrows, you’re probably already aware that you should dial it back.
Fortunately, there are still plentiful ways to rapidly amass travel rewards. American Express continues to offer industry-leading incentives. Also, Aeroplan Family Sharing makes it easy to earn and redeem together with your loved ones while all using your own Aeroplan numbers on your credit cards.
There’s still value to be had in participating in the program; Aeroplan simply wants its members to be playing the game by their rules, and have laid down the law to that end.
What Does This Mean for Aeroplan?
This is the first time that a loyalty partner in Canada has placed limitations on its members’ behaviour across multiple financial partners. The only similar instance that comes to mind is with the Marriott Bonvoy US credit cards, where Amex and Chase share data to limit the number of welcome bonuses each member can earn.
In the US, however, these institutions have explicit terms outlining if and when you’ll be eligible for another welcome bonus. These are enforced to the letter, and they simply govern the points you can and can’t earn; there’s no punitive element for misbehaviour.
If Aeroplan is moving in the direction of enforcing these exclusions, it would be ideal if they had the foresight to offer the same clarity as Marriott Bonvoy in the US. Clear guardrails would do a lot for member engagement and goodwill, rather than opaque boundaries with a spectre hanging over every turn.
At this time, it’s somewhat frustrating that Aeroplan has only provided threats without firm rules within the updated terms and conditions, which makes it difficult for customers to know how they can and can’t use the program.
For example, the following types of behaviour would all appear fairly reasonable on the surface, while technically meeting the definition of prohibited behaviour under a strict reading of the terms:
- Having an American Express and a Visa Aeroplan card, given that Amex acceptance is more limited across the board
- Holding multiple Aeroplan credit cards but spending meaningfully on each one for different purposes (say, personal and business expenses)
- Applying for both Canadian- and US-issued Aeroplan cards to maximize the cards’ distinct benefits as a member with ties in both countries
- Changing from one Aeroplan credit card to a different tier (for example, from core to premium), and then changing to another tier (for example, back to core) due to evolving travel needs
Based on Aeroplan’s recent trajectory, it’s clear that the program’s leadership believes in doing right by their members.
Since refreshing the program in late 2020, they’ve been pretty open about striking a balance between limiting their liabilities while keeping members engaged. Indeed, they’ve demonstrated efforts to add value in spite of some necessary negative changes.
With that in mind, it’s unlikely that Aeroplan would go on a draconian crackdown. Instead, by their broad and ambiguous scope, these new terms and conditions merely give Aeroplan the latitude to address unique and extreme situations, while serving as a deterrent against repeatedly taking steps to earn credit card welcome bonuses without further engaging with the card.
For anyone who may be concerned about whether their past behaviour crosses the line, keep in mind that these terms only kick in as of December 19, 2022, and it wouldn’t be reasonable for Aeroplan to retroactively reprimand members for actions taken before those actions were explicitly cautioned against.
Aeroplan’s new General Terms and Conditions, effective December 19, 2022, will expressly prohibit certain behaviours and set out remedies against members that are deemed to be in violation of these policies.
The terms are worded quite broadly to encompass virtually any degree of remedy for any situation, which is bound to instil some fear in its members. That said, Aeroplan ought to be shrewd enough not to deploy these broadly worded rules against members in a needlessly hostile manner.
Make no mistake: Aeroplan knows that its most valuable customers are its frequent flyers and long-term cardholders with natural spend, and they are sending a clear message that these are the groups they most intend to reward.
If you’d like to participate in the program long-term going forward, it’s important to find ways to continue extracting value from the landscape that Aeroplan has laid out.