Why using Aeroplan points didn’t add up

Holiday Green Road Sign and Airplane Above with Dramatic Blue Sky and Clouds.My husband and I are planning a trip to Spain and Portugal in the fall of 2015 that includes a one week river cruise. We cancelled our Aeroplan Visa last March, but we decided to blow our account balance on either economy tickets with premium bulkhead seats or business class tickets. But in the end we got a better deal by using only the travel points accumulated since March on our new Capital One Aspire World MasterCard.

The Tango fare on Air Canada from Toronto-Lisbon-Madrid-Toronto flights is $2087.56 ($1,727.56 plus $360 for premium bulkhead seats). The outbound flight has one stop in London and will take 11 hours and 25 minutes to reach Lisbon. The return flight from Madrid is direc and wil take about nine and a halrf hourd. For the Tango fare on same flights, I need 120,000 Aeroplan points. In addition, the taxes, fees and premium seating add another $1,610.12.

Business class seats require 180,000 Aeroplan points. Since I only have 169,638 miles, the top up fee is $350 for the additional miles. As a result, I would be out of pocket a total of $2,567.99 including taxes. But the worst part is that the only currently available Aeroplan return flight from Madrid has two stops and would take 29 hours and 15 minutes.

The Capital One Aspire World MasterCard card gives me two reward miles for every dollar spent and I got 35,000 bonus reward miles for signing up. Currently I have over 150,000 reward miles which is worth $1,500 in travel costs. But I have a further 90 days to accumulate additional reward miles which can be used to cancel the cost of the Tango fare or the additional fees for the Aeroplan economy or business class tickets.

Based on our previous spending pattern and with the holidays and some big insurance bills coming up, I have no doubt that we will be able accumulate another 25,000 points within the next three months.

So comparing the out of pocket cost and convenience of the three options, paying $2087.56 for the Tango fare and being reimbursed by Capital One makes the most sense. If I opted for either Aeroplan economy or business class tickets I would still be out-of-pocket either $1,610.12 or $2,567.99. Of course I could use Capital One reward miles to pay for these additional charges, but in the end it would be like paying twice for the same fare.

So now we have a year to plan for and anticipate this big adventure. But we also have a whole bunch of Aeroplan miles that are very expensive to use. Maybe blogger Robb Engen (boomer& echo) is on to something when he extols The Benefit Of Cash Back Rewards instead of travel rewards.



  1. Interesting case study Sheryl….

    Normally, international flights are better deals for use of travel rewards, but the challenge remains the same; getting the flights you want, avoiding major layovers and milk-runs with the flights; avoiding crazy fees and ticket surcharges.

    Being out of pocket for an international flight of about $2,000 AND using 120,000 Aeroplan points (or more much for business class) is nuts. Aeroplan is not a great program for many reasons.

    This is why I like cash back. You can spend the money as you please and it’s tangible, you know what the purchasing power is.

    I keep my Aeroplan points, but I always use them for short-haul flights (25,000 to 40,000 points) where there are less restrictions.


    • The big problem is that with Aeroplan the additonal fees are not covered by the points. I’m going to hold on to them for a while but once I might use some of them up at 13,000 for a $100 Mirvish gift certificate.

  2. I’ve very rarely used my Aeroplan points for flights, primarily because of the additional fees you have to pay any ways and then the difficulty in actually getting a flight you want with points (it’s ironic – you pay and get the flight you want; or you use points and pay for a flight you don’t want).

    When I first joined the program it was much more reasonable and I did get flights it a couple times. But since then my Aeroplan points have been used for merchandise. Of course, I no longer have an Aeroplan credit card so most of the points I accumulate come from the Esso station in our neighbourhood – and I’m not going anywhere fast with those points!!!

    • Thanks for commenting!

  3. It really frustrates me to have to pay additional fees when I redeem my aeroplan points. I have the Capital One Aspire card as well and I really like how easy and straight forward it is to redeem the points for travel spending.

  4. Hi Sheryl,

    You bring up some good points but you need to understand which airlines charge fees and fuel surcharges to Europe.

    I wrote a book, Canadian Travel Hacking, that shows good redemptions vs bad redemptions (just by changing the routing). As an example, I am going to New Zealand/Australia next year for 6 weeks and the tickets for my family of 4 cost $1,000 vs over $8000 (we are flying in peak season and using multiple stopovers in Sydney and Christ Church.

    Let me know if you need a hand!

    • I’d be interested in a copy of your book. If you are willing to send it along I’ll send you a direct email with my address.

  5. I am still using my Aeroplan points for travel. One thing I do when flying outside of North America is that I look for Star Alliance Partners such as United that do not or have very little extra charges. Just returned from a trip to Asia using EVA instead of Air Canada. Extra fees went from over $800 for 2 for about $100. Mind you it is much harder to get direct flights when you are avoiding Air Canada planes

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