Air Canada’s Aeroplan is holding a mega miles sale, but there’s good reason to be cautious

From 7-14 May, Aeroplan will sell miles from 1.4 cents each. There's potentially great value to be had, but tread carefully.

For the uninitiated, Aeroplan is Air Canada’s frequent flyer program, and miles can be redeemed for flights on Star Alliance carriers, as well as Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, GOL, and Olympic Air. 

If you read the US miles blogs or browse Flyertalk, you may have picked up that there’s quite a bit of excitement surrounding Aeroplan’s first-ever miles sale, where miles will be sold from as little as 1.4 cents each.

But is it worth a bite for someone in Singapore?

The sale

From 10 p.m on 7 May to 11:59 a.m on 14 May (Singapore time), Aeroplan members will receive up to a 115% bonus on miles purchases.

The regular sales price for Aeroplan miles is 3 cents each, so here’s what that means for the cost per mile: 

  Bonus Cost Per Mile*
First 10 million miles 115% 1.40 cents
Next 100 million miles 90% 1.58 cents
Subsequent sales 65% 1.82 cents 
*Prices are denoted in CAD, which is almost 1:1 with SGD right now. I’m unclear as to whether sales tax is applicable. US-issued credit cards will not be charged sales tax, so I’m assuming the same applies to any non-Canadian card.

Aeroplan imposes the following caps on the number of miles that members can purchase (all amounts are pre-bonus):

  • In a single transaction: 250,000
  • In a year: 500,000

Therefore, the maximum miles you could buy under this sale would be 1,075,000 (2 * 250,000 * 2.15), for a cost of C$15,050. That assumes however that both your transactions happen to fall in the 115% bonus tranche, which as we’ll see is far from certain.

What’s the catch?

The 115% bonus is limited to the first 10 million miles sold (I’m assuming this refers to base miles). That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t. It’s safe to assume there’ll be at least 40 people spamming 250,000 miles transactions in the first few seconds.

We’ve seen this happen before with other awesome deals like buying Hyatt points during Daily Getaways– more technically inclined users write scripts to automate their purchases, making it nigh on impossible for anyone else to snag any.

After that, there’s a further 400 slots of 250,000 miles in the 90% bonus tranche, but subsequently everyone else is looking at a 65% bonus. It’s unclear to me whether you’ll know the bonus you receive before you hit the purchase button. 

That means you should realistically expect to buy miles for 1.58 cents each at best, and then the question becomes whether that’s a good deal.

What can I redeem with Aeroplan miles?

The Aeroplan redemption chart and region definitions can be found here.

For ease of reference, I’ve included a sample of round-trip prices (Singapore is part of the Asia 2 Zone).

Round-trip Business First
Asia 2 to Asia 2 80K 110K
Asia 2 to India 100K 130K
Asia 2 to Australia & NZ 135K 190K
Asia 2 to Europe 1/2 150K 220K
Asia 2 to Canada & Continental USA 155K 215K
Asia 2 to Southern South America 190K 260K

On the surface, 150,000/155,000 miles for round-trip Business Class to Europe/USA & Canada doesn’t sound too bad. It’d cost 184,000/190-198,000 miles for the same route on KrisFlyer.

But, and this is a big but, Aeroplan may pass on fuel surcharges. I say “may”, because the policy varies from airline to airline. 

Take this example below from Singapore to Frankfurt via Zurich on SWISS. SWISS is notorious for high fuel surcharges, but the total taxes only come up to C$235.87. 

Or this route from Singapore to New York JFK via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, another carrier known for egregious fuel surcharges. The total taxes amount to just C$88.44! Buying the 155,000 miles at 1.58 cents would mean paying ~S$2,560 for this ticket, a very decent price. 

On the other hand, this flight from Singapore to Sydney via Bangkok on THAI does have C$321 of fuel surcharges included. 

Long story short, you’ll definitely want to research your intended route and carriers before deciding whether to buy miles. Mercifully, Aeroplan’s search engine is fast and reliable, with an easy-to-use award calendar and the ability to include or exclude mixed cabin results.

Remember: you’ll want to look for “fixed mileage flight rewards”, as “market fare flight rewards” are dynamically priced (and in any case, only available for Air Canada). 

Based on a handful of searches, here’s a sample of airlines for which Aeroplan does and does not pass on fuel surcharges. 

No YQ YQ
  • Asiana
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines*
  • SWISS
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • ANA
  • Austrian
  • THAI
  • LOT Polish
  • Lufthansa
*Aeroplan doesn’t generally have have access to long-haul Singapore Airlines premium cabin space, but this changes from time to time

What else should I know?

Here’s three other important questions to consider, even if you’re convinced by the award chart value. 

Will the program adopt dynamic redemptions?

Aeroplan will be making some major changes to its program by Q4 2020, the details of which have not yet been unveiled. It’s a good bet that they’ll progressively move towards dynamic redemptions on the partner side, however, as we saw with United Airlines.

Is a devaluation on the cards?

The other question is whether these massive miles sales herald an upcoming devaluation. This isn’t so much an issue if you buy and redeem them straight away, and in the current climate, I would more than ever not buy points speculatively. 

Will Air Canada survive?

Even if you redeem your miles straight away, there’s still the looming question of whether the airline is in danger of going under. Air Canada, like all airlines during Covid-19, is losing money by the bucketloads.

The Canadian government has not yet announced any bailout for the airline industry, but given the importance of Air Canada it’s hard to see them allowing it to go under. Should that happen, however, your unused award tickets may not be honored. 

Do your own diligence and decide if you’re comfortable. I personally won’t be jumping on this sale, although I can certainly see opportunities for other people. 

What card should I use?

Assuming you’ve decided to purchase Aeroplan miles, you should know that these transactions will be processed by Points.com in CAD. 

Here’s the best cards to maximize the miles earned on your purchase:

  Earn Rate Remarks
Citi Rewards
Apply here
4 mpd Cap of S$1K per s. month 
UOB Visa Signature
Apply here
4 mpd Min FCY spend of S$1K per s. month, cap at S$2K per s. month
SCB X Card
Apply here
3 mpd Until 30 Jun 20. Min spend S$2K per c. month
SCB Visa Infinite
3 mpd Min spend S$2K per s. month
BOC Elite Miles 
3 mpd  
S. Month= Statement Month | C. Month= Calendar Month

Conclusion

Aeroplan’s upcoming sale could potentially be a great opportunity to buy miles, but you’ll need to factor in the odds of you actually getting the maximum bonus, the prospect of a devaluation, and whether Air Canada will still be around by the time you’re able to travel. 

tl;dr: If this makes you nervous, hold on to your money. But if you like to roll the dice, there are certainly some prizes on offer here. 

(Cover photo: TPG)

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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freedom

Can you register with Singapore address? I tried many times, always failed.

freedom

Thanks.

It matters when I am going to hold hundreds of thousands of miles.

Disarm

The insolvency risk is much too high…

Mile Chaser

You were right. It was impossible to log on for like 30 minutes and by then the 115% bonus was already gone….

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