Secret tricks and tips for booking Aeroplan rewards

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Shutterstock

If you’ve ever signed up for an Aeroplan card, chances are you have a love-hate relationship with the popular rewards program. On one hand it’s easy to rack up the points thanks to credit card sign-ups and bonuses on everything from gas to drug store purchases, and you can earn also points by travelling with any of their Star Alliance counterparts.

But when it comes time to use all those hard-earned points…that’s when things usually go south. Here are some secret tricks for booking Aeroplan rewards, that will have you flying first-class for less in no time.

Ditch the taxes

I’m going to cut right to the chase: Aeroplan is one of the worst offenders when it comes to tacking on a stupid amount of taxes for reward flights, which is why the program gets a bad rap. Those who’ve searched for a redemption from Canada to Europe know exactly what I’m talking about—why would anyone in their right mind pay $800 in tax and part with 60,000 points for a trip across the pond, when you can simply buy the ticket outright for about the same price?! Mind boggling. Fortunately, there are some ways around it.

You see, the program passes along a carrier surcharge on behalf of airlines such as Air Canada and Lufthansa, which is why that ‘free’ flight suddenly costs so much when you go to book. But here’s the secret…many of the program’s partners don’t! United, Swiss Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air China and Singapore Airlines are just some of the carriers who don’t levy the extra fee for redemptions, which is why savvy travellers always look to fly with them to save big bucks.

Lufthansa may be a great airline, but look out for those taxes! Credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Lufthansa may be a great airline, but look out for those taxes! Credit: Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

For example, I once searched for an Air Canada flight to Sydney, Australia via Vancouver, and the taxes were a staggering $1,200 on top of my 80,000 points—umm, no thanks. Instead, I found a United flight that travelled to Sydney via San Francisco, and only paid $250 in taxes!! Not bad for a flight that literally goes around the world.

Pick up the phone

That brings me to my next point. Sometimes it takes a bit of work to find those low-fee redemptions, which is when using your social skills comes in uber-handy. I know what you’re thinking: “Who picks up a phone these days when you can just book everything online?” But when it comes to redeeming Aeroplan rewards, you’ll be surprised at how much you WON’T find on the website, which only an Aeroplan agent can help you track down.

If you have a rough itinerary but can’t find a low-cost reward that fits, it’s worth calling customer service to see what they can pull up on their end. When I was travelling around South America I wanted to book a reward flight with Avianca that was on United’s redemption website, but lo and behold when I went to aeroplan.com it was nowhere to be found. I simply gave them a call, read the agent the flight information, and she managed to book it for me.

One caveat is there is a $30 charge per ticket to book through the call centre, but seeing as how I saved myself hundreds of dollars by forgoing the pricier options (and got first class tickets out of it, to boot) it was well worth the surcharge.

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Travel like a celebrity

Are you frugal but want to live like a one-percenter? I have great news for you: booking business and first class tickets are the best use of those coveted Aeroplan miles. Premium plane seats can cost thousands of dollars, but when you break down the cost of redemptions per point it’s actually better value to redeem them for a first class reward versus economy.

You’re welcome. Please save me some champagne.
champagne first class jet

Be spontaneous

Here’s another secret about booking Aeroplan rewards: the cancellation fee is only $90. Now you may think be thinking, “A hundred bucks just to change a flight I already paid for!? What the…” but then you’re clearly a person who has never had a modify an itinerary before because then you’d realize THAT’S SO CHEAP.

You see, when you call most airlines to try and change your plans they’re all like, “Oh that’s cute. That will be $600 please, even though your flight was only worth $300” and I’m not even kidding. That’s why Aeroplan is amazing if you need to book a flight but aren’t 100% sure if you’ll need to reschedule—you simply cancel, and they give all your points back minus the $90 bucks! Easy peasy.

Update as of November 2016: Aeroplan is changing their cancellation and refund charge structure, which now range in price from $30 to $150 depending on program status. 

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Shutterstock

No turning back

One of my absolute favourite things about the Aeroplan program is that unlike conventional airlines, they don’t penalize flyers for one-way trips. That means the rewards redemption for a one way flight is exactly half the amount of points required for a round trip ticket (as everyone should do, IMO). Smart travellers visiting multiple destinations on one trip can use this to their advantage, for example by flying into Paris and home from Rome.

A trip to Paris? Don't mind if I do! Courtesy of Shutterstock

A trip to Paris? Don’t mind if I do! Courtesy of Shutterstock

Now, pay attention as I have a HUGE. TIP. FOR. YOU. It turns out that sometimes you can actually save points by booking two one-way flights, instead of a return flight.

Reward availability occasionally means there are only premium seats for one leg of the flight, but not on the the other. However, Aeroplan will try and ding you points for a premium reward both ways! Yuck! If you’re stealth enough to notice the discrepancy, simply book each leg separately and you’ll get to keep those extra points from the economy leg.

Do you have any secret tricks for booking Aeroplan rewards to add to this list? Please share them in the comments below!

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37 Responses

  1. Cj says:

    Thanks for posting this!

    My wife and I have been all over the world on Aeroplan using your exact same stradegy. Going to south east Asia thru San Fran, or Europe thru Chicago, etc etc!! People have asked why we’ve had so much success with the program, where they seem to not?
    I also have to agree about the call centre. The $30 surcharge and being on hold for 20 mins saved me $1400+ a few times!!

    Thanks again

  2. John says:

    Great article; thanks for the pointers…especially on how to lower the taxes and surcharges.

    One irritant, though, is your use of “try and” vs. the grammatically-correct “try to”.

    On one occasion you say, “Aeroplan will try and ding you…” Aeroplan will either “try to” ding you and fail (presumably if you catch on and change your plans) or they will simply ding you (no need for the try – and or to – at all.

    Yes, I’m being pedantic; but, if you’re going to be in the business of communicating, it’s best to do so correctly.

  3. Franco says:

    Thanks!
    What’s the policies on canceling those cards after that XXXXX points bonus at sign in?
    Can one just cancel it after a few months and keep the points?

    • Yup, that’s usually allowed. However as I understand it, it doesn’t do your credit rating any favours if you go through cards so quickly. What I do is keep the card right until before it’s set to expire (even if I haven’t used it for 9 months) and then cancel it right before the annual fee is due.

  4. Anderson says:

    Do you have any advice on redeeming Aeroplan miles specifically for FIRST class on Lufthansa or Singapore? I can never seem to find a first class option on the Aeroplan website despite finding the route and availability via Lufthansa or Singapore’s website.

    Thanks!

    • I hear ya. Singapore Airlines (my favourite) is one that typically doesn’t show up on the Aeroplan booking site unfortunately. You can try navigating their Kris Flyer site to track down availability, but as far as I know the only way you can actually book it is by calling Aeroplan. They have that $30 call fee, but you might be able to ask the agent to waive the fee if you’ve already done all the work of tracking the flight down yourself. They’ve waived fees for me before, so worth a try!

      • Joan says:

        Do you usually have to do all the work yourself before calling in to an agent, or can you simply call Aeroplan and let them know where you want to go on which dates and which airlines (on Star Alliance but not Air Canada) and they do the work to find the flights?

        • In my experience it helps to do the work yourself before calling, so that when they inevitably say they can’t find anything you can helpfully direct them towards the exact booking you’re looking at.

          • Sandra Regier says:

            How do you know if the flight you are tracking down is even available through Aeroplan? I thought they only have limited seats they release every so often? I hope you are right!! I’m trying to book 7 seats to Costa Rica and finding NOTHING on the aeroplan site.

  5. Astrid says:

    Thanks for the great tips!
    Do you know if stopovers are allowed on a one way flight (Aeroplan points redemption)?

  6. Nick says:

    It seems that these days most of the aeroplan cards only let you get the welcome points once in a lifetime. I’ve already got a welcome bonus from visa once and AMEX once, so what now? Any trick to keep getting those bonuses?

    • Hi Nick, I have seen some cards limit how often you can get the bonus (for obvious reasons), but have also heard stories about people being able to reapply and get the bonus. Have you had any luck trying to reapply for a card you once had?

  7. Danielle says:

    These are great tips – thanks! Any idea about using miles more than a year in advance? I’m a planner … It’s tough to wait

  8. Matthew says:

    This is very helpful, thank you. I often fly out of Halifax, and if I want to go to Europe, Aeroplan wants to route me via a Halifax-Heathrow Air Canada flight, which has a very high tax & surcharge fee. If I want to use United, the logical connection is Halifax-Newark-Europe, because there is a direct Halifax-Newark flight on United. But on the Aeroplan site online, the direct Halifax-Newark flight via United doesn’t show up – they are only offering me Halifax-Boston (via Air Canada), and then Boston-Newark on United. It will still save me some money, but the extra stop in Boston is annoying. Are you saying that the direct Halifax-Newark flight (via United) WOULD be available if I booked by phone using an agent?

    • So frustrating isn’t it! Yes, I would recommend going on the United rewards site first to check which flights they have available, then call Aeroplan and see if they can get you on one of them. Good luck!

    • Philipp says:

      Depending on where you want to end up in Europe… ZRH is a great hub to go to. From Zurich you can pretty much get anywhere in Europe using Star Alliance Carriers (via Aeroplan). I frequently fly YHZ-YUL-ZRH using strictly Aeroplan for Business Redemption. SWISS is very good, much higher overall standard than AC. LX87 out of Montreal periodically uses their new flagship, Boeing 777. Airport taxes are up to 8 times less going that route vs. LHR which you mentioned in your post. I suggest to never travel to LHR unless your final destination is London. Another decent route is YHZ-BOS-ZRH, again use AC from Halifax to Boston and then SWISS from Boston to Zurich. Business makes sense here as you have a longer layover and want to enjoy the international business lounge. I generally avoid using U.S. Hubs when going to or traveling from Europe. Especially coming back you will most likely deal with very long waiting times at Immigration. I use NEXUS but not everyone does. Here are a couple more: YHZ-YUL-MUC using Lufthansa from Montreal to Munich, Business and sporadically you can snag some First Class Tickets (O) as well. Another one: YHZ-YYZ-FRA, Lufthansa again from Toronto to Frankfurt on their newer 747-8 with upper deck business class or sometimes in 3 class configuration. Going first here, you will be picked up in a black BMW on tarmac and chauffeured to the arrival lounge. The LH First class lounge has it’s private immigration booth and every other luxury you could imagine. Just some food for thoughts. Enjoy! Philipp, Truro NS, 2Mio Aeroplan Points.

  9. Kay says:

    Thanks Tamara for great tips. The only confusion about your tips is about First class or Bussiness flights rather than Economic ones. How might it benefit us when it costs so much more air miles compare to economic ones? Can you clear it up for me, please?

    • Hi Kay! Essentially it comes down to how you value the miles. For example, let’s say you redeemed 20,000 points for an economy flight that would normally cost $600, that means the points would be worth $0.03 each. But if you redeemed 50,000 points to get a first class ticket on the same flight which would cost $2100 if you bought it outright, your points are now worth more than $0.04 cents each, so you’re technically getting more value out of them.
      Hope that makes sense!

  10. Drew says:

    Does that still work calling in to Aeroplan and getting them to find flights that are not actually on Aeroplan’s website?

    For instance if I find a flight I want on Polish LOT’s website that isn’t on Aeroplan’s – I can call in and give them that flight information and they can use my points for it?

    • Hi Drew, as long as there are reward tickets available for that LOT flight, they should be able to book it. Unfortunately you need to remember that just because you can see seats available for a flight, it doesn’t mean there is reward space available, which is what the Aeroplan call centre can look into for you.

  11. Maria says:

    Hello Tamara! Thanks for this blog!

    I want to add my recent experience with Aeroplan and believe it or not, it was pleasant! I booked flights online using my points for our trip in December…yes…11 months away! When I got my email confirmation, I saw that we were already assigned seats as I did enter our seat preferences when I completed our information. When I checked our seat numbers, we were way at the back – next to the washrooms and I was so disappointed. I know my family would be once they find out. I don’t want to spend money buying seats to change them. That is how I came across your blog hoping that you would have some tips about this.

    Desperate, I tried calling Aeroplan and lo and behold – they were nice enough to change our seats. They said the system just automatically assign those seats because of course it has to start from the back. So that’s my tip! If you get bad seats when you book online using your Aeroplan points, just call and they could change them for you, depending of course on availability. The lady actually even said with Aeroplan, you don’t have to pay for seats. How sweet! Happy travelling to all!

  12. Tina says:

    Thank you so much Tamara for this information. Exactly what I am looking for as I am trying to redeem my point for very first time. Just one question how do I find out about other airline which have seat available before I call in, Do I just go on the website of that airline ? Thanks again Tamara

    • Check the options on the Aeroplan website first, and if you don’t see anything you like then try to go to the specific rewards program of each airline (i.e. Kris Flyer for Singapore Airlines, United’s Mileage Plus, etc) and try to see award availability there before calling in. Hope that helps!

      • Sandra Regier says:

        Do I have to be a member of those other programs to see what flights are available? Any tricks on how to do that?

        • Yes you do, but you can just sign up for a new account and once you do it will let you access their rewards flight schedule, even if you don’t have any of the airline’s specific “points”

  13. sona says:

    I am trying to book a flight to India and would have preferred Business/First Class but can’t seem to find anything in May. Any other hints. The Air Canada, economy ticket taxes and fees are almost $650 plus 75000 points. The ticket itself to purchase is only about $1,300. i am so disappointed. I have been saving for years to get a First class flight.

    • Unfortunately availability isn’t always the best, especially if you’re trying to book a ticket only a couple months out as it sounds like you are. I’d suggest calling Aeroplan and seeing if there’s first class availability through one of their partners, like United or Singapore Airlines. Good luck!

  14. Danny says:

    Being new in this game this may be a novice question. When I look at another airlines site like United they have saver award and regular higher priced awards available for different flights. Am I only allowed to call Aeroplan to get the saver award flights for a United flight?

    • Hi Danny, unfortunately while you can book some United flights through Aeroplan’s site directly, those saver rewards you’re referring to are actually part of United Airlines’ frequent flyer program so you’ll need those type of points (Mileage Plus) to book the flights you’re seeing on their site.

      If you think you’ll be booking United flights a lot, it may be worth signing up for their program and earning Mileage Plus points on flights instead of Aeroplan miles.

  1. April 28, 2016

    […] Secret tricks and tips for booking Aeroplan rewards […]

  2. March 22, 2017

    […] RELATED: Secret tricks and tips for booking Aeroplan rewards […]

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