With Air Canada and Aeroplan likely getting back together

The jury is still out on whether or not the end result is going to be for the better or for worse.

So while we wait for this ongoing saga to run its course, might as well look at other travel rewards programs in Canada:

1. AIR MILES

The most widely known rewards program in Canada is, without a doubt, the AIR MILES program.

AIR MILES is a loyalty program that was founded in 1992, and awards cardholders with “miles” for purchases they make at participating locations.

The miles earned can be used as either Cash Rewards or Dream Rewards, and in turn can be used for a number of different things – flights, hotels, merchandise, gift cards, and even to make purchases at different participating stores.

Related: BMO AIR MILES Credit Cards Now Offering 2x Miles At Participating Partner Locations

It’s the flexibility of this program that makes it a favorite among Canadians, but it does have its downsides.

If you’ve collected AIR MILES in the past, or know much about the program, you will know that miles are not given at every store, so, unless you shop exclusively at AIR MILES partner locations, it could take a very long time to earn enough rewards to actually go somewhere.

AIR MILES credit cards are a great way to earn even more miles, and thankfully, BMO has a Mastercard that will have you earning AIR MILES at a pretty impressive rate – everywhere you shop.

The BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard is miles ahead of the competition when it comes to AIR MILES Mastercards in Canada. This card will give you:

  • an impressive earn rate of 1 mile for every $10 spent… everywhere you shop,
  • a welcome bonus of 3,000 miles,
  • a 15% discount on AIR MILES flights within North America… letting you get even more out of your hard earned miles,
  • exclusive VIP access to airport lounges worldwide with Mastercard Airport Experiences Provided by LoungeKey, plus two complimentary passes,
  • one companion flight rebate. Simply use your AIR MILES to book a flight for two people within the first year, and you will get a mile rebate for one of the tickets,
  • one of the best insurance packages currently on the Canadian market, and…
  • 24/7 concierge service.

Find out more here:

Plus a $150 travel bonus.
Only 200 gift cards left.

2. Avios

Live in (or near) Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver? The Avios program, which is part of the oneworld alliance, can take you almost anywhere in the world.

Wondering which oneworld alliance airlines fly out of Canada?:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian

Similar to Alaska Airlines, you won’t be able to use Avios to fly within Canada. This is for those of you who want to explore the rest of the world. A great option for earning Avios is the . This card will earn you the following:

  • 1 point per dollar spent,
  • 2 points per dollar spent on British Airways

…and all for an annual fee of $165.

This card also comes with a hefty welcome bonus:

  • 15,000 points upon approval,
  • 25,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first two months, and…
  • 10,000 when you keep your card for a second year.

The card benefits don’t stop there, however.

If you spend more than $30,000 per year, you earn a companion award eVoucher. Book an award ticket on British Airways, and you’ll be able to bring someone else with you – you just have to pay the taxes, fees and carrier charges.

Finally, this card will give you access to 9 different types of insurance.

3. Alaska Airlines

One nice thing about the Alaska Airline rewards program, is that the miles that you earn can be redeemed for a number of exclusive partner airlines as well:

  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific

Because of these added options, if you live in any major Canadian cities that have these airlines, you should be able to get anywhere you want to go.

However, it is important to note that these are all foreign airlines, meaning they are unable to takeoff and land within Canada during the same flight. So, if you’re looking for travel rewards that can get you from province to province, this wouldn’t be the best rewards program for you.

But if international travel is more your thing, a great way to start earning these rewards is through the Alaska Airlines Mastercard.

Both cards have relatively high sign-up bonuses with lower annual fees when compared to other travel credit cards, a good reward miles earning rate, broad insurance coverage and they both offer a rare free flight for your companion (a saving of $121) once per year.

With the , enjoy 20,000 welcome miles after your first purchase which can be worth up $500 in flight rewards when redeemed for long haul flights between Canada and the Continental USA. Better, the annual fee is only $75, much lower than other travel credit cards’ fees of $120 or more. Plus, there is no minimum income requirement, whereas most premium cards typically require $60,000-80,000 personal income.

With , enjoy an increased 30,000 mile welcome bonus worth up to $750 when redeemed for flights. Pay an annual fee of $99, slightly higher than MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Mastercard, for added $250-worth of sign-up bonus, extra price protection insurance and complimentary first checked bag on Alaska Airlines flights for up to 6 passengers.

4. American Express Fixed Points Travel Program

Another program that could be a great replacement is the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program which is part of American Express Membership Rewards.

Some rewards programs are pretty complicated… but things don’t get much easier than this fixed points program. Cardholders are given the ability to book flights any day, to any destination, and with nearly any airline they like.

Plus, the Amex Fixed Points Travel Program allows you to use your points to pay for the taxes, fees, and surcharges that flying leads to – that isn’t something that all rewards programs do. Your points won’t go quite as far on taxes and fees though, so you may just want to pay them out of pocket instead and save your points for your next flight.

Cardholders simply need to match their intended destination to the chart below to find out how many points are required for a free flight (as long as they flight they are booking is under the max amount).

Amex Fixed Points Travel Program

Points which are also referred to as Membership Rewards Points can be used for a number of different things and can be earned simply by using select American Express Credit Cards.

One credit card that gives cardholders these valuable rewards is the . Not only does this card have the highest earn rate on grocery store and restaurant purchases (at 5 times the base rate), but based on our algorithm, this card is also the best card in 4 different categories:

The great rewards program and bonus earn rate go a long way to boost its Genius Rating but it has a lot of other benefits as well:

  • a high sign up bonus,
  • a solid insurance package,
  • great American Express exclusive perks, and…
  • and a monthly fee of only $10.

Read our detailed review here:

5. Starwood Preferred Guest

With all this talk about travel rewards programs, you’re probably pretty surprised to see a hotel loyalty program on the list, but there is a very good reason the Starwood Preferred Guest Program is mentioned here.

What is this new program so great?

For starters, not only does it allow you the option to book travel (and cover taxes and fees) with no blackout dates, but it will also allow you to transfer your SPG points to over 40 different airline programs – and often at a 3:1 ratio.

As an added bonus, if you transfer your points in 60,000 increments, you will be given a 25% bonus, turning your 60,000 points to 25,000 miles.

6. Aventura Airline Rewards

CIBC’s travel rewards program is called the Aventura Airline Rewards program.

This program allows cardholders to redeem their points for any airline they like – any flight, any seat – and you can also use these points to pay off the taxes and fees associated with your travel.

Destination Max Price Points Required
Canada and US
Short Haul
$400 10,000 – 20,000
Canada and US
Long Haul
$800 25,000 – 35,000
Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Central America, Caribbean $1,000 40,000 – 60,000
Europe $1,300 50,000 – 70,000
Rest of the World $2,000 75,000 – 125,000

One travel credit card that gives cardholders these rewards is the . This card is the best no fee travel credit card in Canada for two years running. Despite being a no fee card, this card comes with:

  • a solid sign up bonus,
  • some travel and purchase insurance, and…
  • Travel Concierge Service (which normally only comes with premium credit cards.)

One big benefit of Aventura points is that they have a really high value due to the low number of points required when compared to other fixed points programs. They even offer reduced points on popular (less expensive) routes which is why you see 25,000 – 35,000 for a long haul flight in Canada and the USA.

That is countered by relatively lower earn rates and spending multipliers. On the Infinite version of the card you get 1 point per $1 spent on regular purchases and 1.5x on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases. Not quite the 5x or 2x you get with Cobalt – but, at the regular 1x rate, you’re better off because the points are worth more.

7. RBC Avion Rewards

Very similar to the CIBC Aventura Travel Points, the RBC Avion points allow cardholders to redeem for any flight… any time.

You just need to decide where you want to go and check out the chart below to find out how many Avion points you need to get there.

Avion Fixed Points Travel Program

One of the top Avion credit cards, the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege, not only gives you the ability to earn 1.25 points for every dollar you spend, but it also allows you to convert your points 1:1 to 3 different airline reward programs:

  • British Airways Avios (with regular promotions that give you 30-50% more miles when transfering)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • Asia Miles

This card does come with a pretty hefty annual fee of $399 and a personal/household income requirement of $200,000, but it also has a pretty great insurance package, a really decent sign up bonus, and all the perks of having a Visa Infinite Privileges card.

Another RBC credit card that could be an option for our readers is the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard.

Unlike all the other cards on our list so far, this card rewards cardholders with a percentage of cash back instead of points or miles – up to 2% back. This cash can be used towards WestJet flights or vacations with no blackouts and no restrictions. This card comes with:

  • a comprehensive insurance package,
  • 24/7 Concierge Service,
  • an annual round trip discounted companion voucher to anywhere that WestJet flies (a favorite feature among it’s users), and…
  • the ability to get your first checked bag free on all WestJet flights – a big money saver if you travel on WestJet flights often.

Not ready to give up on Aeroplan just yet?

Whether or not Aeroplan remains to be a great airline loyalty program after 2020 is something we’re not 100% sure of yet… but that doesn’t mean we need to completely give up on them.

Aeroplan must be determined to retain as many of their customers as they possibly can if they want to remain a contender for Canada’s #1 travel rewards program… and with all this stiff competition, it’s pretty clear that they are going to have to work hard to do it.

Hopefully that means that there will be a few more big announcements coming from Aeroplan in the near future.

So, what do you do if you’re not quite ready to give up on Aeroplan, but you want to keep earning miles, just in case Aeroplan is able to keep their promise and come out with the loyalty program that will “transform travel planning as [we] know it”?

Our suggesting? The Gold Rewards card from American Express. This card was our best travel card for many years running, because it has so much going for it.

Firstly, this card is a premium travel card, but it has no minimum income requirement. That means you’re getting valuable rewards, a great insurance package, exclusive American Express perks, with no need to worry about not meeting the high income requirements that are often attached to premium travel cards.

Secondly, this card not only gives you access to the American Express Fixed Points Travel Program that we mentioned above, but also allows you transfer your points to both Aeroplan miles and Avios points – the best of both worlds. Meaning that no matter what happens in 2020, you’ll still have a wallet full of Amex Membership Points that will have you on the trip of your dreams in no time.

Add to that the 3.43% return on spending you can get when you redeem for select travel and it’s 4 bonus spending categories, and we think this card will be a great card to bridge the gap as you wait on the fate of Aeroplan.

We would love to hear what you think

Do you have a favorite travel rewards program?

Are you optimistic about the changes that are coming for the Aeroplan program?

Or are you getting ready to jump ship?