Travel Rewards Under Spotlight As Aeroplan Move Shakes Up Industry

The whole landscape for travel rewards changed this week when Aeroplan, Canada’s top loyalty program, left its two-decade old partnership with CIBC and moved to TD Bank.  Now the banks and credit card issuers are scrambling to position their travel programs as a viable alternative to Aeroplan.

Perhaps sensing that the sharks are circling in to gobble up its floundering cardholders, CIBC is exploring options which include selling half its Aerogold portfolio to TD while retaining the cardholders who have a banking relationship with CIBC.

They’re in negotiations now so we’ll know more by August 26th.  But if a deal isn’t reached by then we know Aeroplan’s current agreement with CIBC will expire at the end of the year, and existing CIBC Aerogold cards will no longer be valid.

TD’s Aeroplan partnership begins January 1st and they’ll be aggressively courting Aeroplan collectors with a new suite of Aeroplan travel cards.

Consumers are caught in the middle of this messy break up and wonder where they stand.  There are two important points to remember:

  1. Whether you get to keep your CIBC Aerogold card or not, you won’t have to worry about your Aeroplan miles disappearing because those points are linked to your Aeroplan account, not your credit card.
  2. All these changes in the market have the potential to be good for consumers.  Banks will pull out all the stops to get your business in the coming months, giving you a chance to review the types of rewards programs available and switch to the one that offers the most value.

Lost in all the noise is the embattled Aeroplan program itself, which has alienated many loyal collectors in recent years.  The number of pain points is plentiful; fees, blackouts, increased mileage required for redemption, but the biggest of which is the lack of choice when it comes to redeeming your points for a flight.

Even when you can find a flight through Aeroplan that works, there are taxes and fees due that aren’t covered by your points.

Savvy travel rewards customers are looking for a more flexible travel program that isn’t tied to any specific brand or company but instead lets you book and redeem your points when and how you want.

While TD and CIBC fight over the Aeroplan portfolio, RBC thinks they’re in a good position to take advantage of the market turmoil and gain some new customers with its Avion program.

With Avion, you can get any flight at any time with no blackout periods.  15,000 points gets you a short-haul ticket, up to a $350 value, and you can transfer points into other programs like Shoppers Optimum, Esso Extra, WestJet Dollars and British Airways.

Related: RBC Visa Infinite Avion Review

According to MLM and Maritz Research Canada’s 2013 loyalty report, RBC Visa Infinite Avion ranked first in overall satisfaction and first in ease of tracking points, enrollment experience, understanding how the program works.

Avion points also won’t expire, which has been another issue for Aeroplan members.  Aeroplan announced in June that, in response to customer feedback, points will no longer expire for members who are active in the program each year.

Another flexible program to consider for earning and redeeming travel miles is Capital One’s Aspire Travel World MasterCard, the top travel rewards card on Rewards Canada and MoneySense magazine for a number of years.

With its No Hassle Rewards program you can book the travel on your own with any airline or hotel and then redeem your miles online to pay for your travel.  Because it’s not tied to any one airline or travel centre you can often book better and cheaper flights to get the most out of your points.

With a flurry of marketing activity expected from banks and credit card issuers in the coming months, now is a good time for you to look at your current travel rewards program and make sure its meeting your needs.

You’ll see plenty of incentives to entice you to switch programs, from juicy sign-up bonuses to saving on annual card fees.

It’s important to remember that unless you want to switch credit cards every year you’ll need to look beyond the short term incentives to what your card will do for you over the long term.

That’s what makes the Aspire Travel World MasterCard stand out from the pack.  You’ll get a tasty bonus offer of 35,000 points after your first purchase – good for $350 in travel –, plus another 10,000 points each year on your card anniversary.  That essentially reduces the $120 annual fee to $20 per year.


  1. Guest on August 14, 2013 at 5:57 am

    You guys should do your research a little more. Avion doesn’t let you fly anywhere for 15,000 points and when you do redeem for a flight, you pay taxes/fees like Aeroplan and every other airline rewards product.

    Why don’t you reference the First Class card for flexibility? You have this love for Aspire which is misleading…their point tiers are highland force you to over redeem if you don’t buy the exact amount…that’s a hassle.

    • Robb on August 14, 2013 at 7:02 am

      @Guest – Thanks for your comment. Avion’s flight rewards start at 15,000 points but that’s only enough to get you a short-haul ticket. I guess I should have worded it, “fly anywhere $350 can take you.”?

      I left the First Class card out of this piece because I was already talking about TD and its new Aeroplan suite of cards.

      But you bring up a good point and I should mention here that TD is currently offering 40,000 bonus points to sign up for its First Class Visa Infinite card (good for $200 in travel).

      Again though, this speaks to my point about the one-time offers and if the card will actually be good for you long term.

      As for Cap One Aspire, I agree you have to be careful when redeeming your miles for anything under $600 (anything over that amount is maximizing your redemption), so for short haul flights and hotels you’ll need to split those transactions up so they get you the most bang for your buck.

      It’s not misleading to say they’ve got the best card on the market – that’s been the case for a number of years, both on the earn side and the redemption side. And the ongoing anniversary miles is something that no other travel card is offering and is a real difference maker.

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