For frequent Air Canada flyers, or those who just want more from a card when redeeming Aeroplan miles, American Express has 2 premium credit cards to consider – the and the .

In addition to earning lots of Aeroplan miles on every purchase, they come with a long list of perks such as 2-for-1 rewards flights and airport lounge access.

And like all Amex cards, they have no income requirements either, making them easier to access.

So let’s see what these cards have to offer – and whether or not their high annual fees are worth it.

Related: Fly For Free Faster: Credit Cards With Airline Miles

Summary of the Amex AeroplanPlus Platinum and Reserve cards

Amex AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex AeroplanPlus Reserve
Welcome Bonus 40,000 Aeroplan miles and a $150 Air Canada eGift Card (terms) 50,000 Aeroplan miles and a $200 Air Canada eGift Card (terms)
Earn Rates * 1.25 miles per $1 on the first $25,000 in annual spend
* 1.5 miles per $1 after that
* 1.25 miles per $1 on all purchases
* 2 miles per $1 on eligible Air Canada purchases
Perks available * Air Canada priority check-in
* Priority services at Toronto-Pearson
* Annual Partner Ticket benefit of up to 15,000 Aeroplan miles
* Unlimited Maple Leaf Lounge access
* Priority Pass lounge membership
* $200 annual travel credit
* Air Canada Priority Check-in
* 5 free checked bags per year on Air Canada
* Priority services at Toronto-Pearson
* Annual Partner Ticket benefit of up to 25,000 Aeroplan miles
* Unlimited Maple Leaf and Priority Pass lounge access
Insurance Coverage 11 types 11 types
Annual Fee $499 $899
Card Type Charge Credit
Learn More Learn More
Plus up to 4% cash back.
Ends Dec 18, 2019.

Amex AeroplanPlus Platinum overview

Offering a generous Aeroplan mile earn rate on every purchase, the also offers great perks and insurance for its annual fee of $499.

Just note that it’s a charge card, not a credit card. That means there are 2 key differences:

  • the balance must be paid in full every month, and
  • there’s no pre-set spending limit.

If you’re the kind of person who pays their balance in full every month, you’ll likely not notice anything different about a charge card.

But if you do tend to carry a balance, a charge card is not for you. You’ll be charged an interest rate of 30% on any outstanding balance at the end of the month.

Amex AeroplanPlus Reserve overview

To get even more perks, consider the . And while it has the largest annual fee of any (publicly available) credit card in Canada, it’s got great perks to help offset what you’re paying.

This card is a regular credit card as well, not a charge card.

Redeeming Aeroplan miles

Before getting into the details of each card, let’s give an overview of Aeroplan – Air Canada’s loyalty program.

There are many ways you can redeem Aeroplan miles, but by far the best way is redeeming for flights within Canada and to the U.S.

Why only here? Outside of this region, taxes and fees take up a large part of the flight cost, and seriously undercut the value of a mile. Europe can be especially bad, with a mile worth less than 1 cent. The only exception is to business class seats, which offer great value no matter where you travel.

There are carriers that do charge lower taxes and fees, but there aren’t many and finding seats on them can be difficult.

Our average value for one mile when redeemed for flights in North America is 2.5 cents, which takes into account Fixed Mileage Economy, business, as well as economy Market Fare flights.

You have alternative travel redemption options as well. Here they are with their average value:

  • Air Canada gift cards – 1 cent per mile (CPM),
  • Vacation packages – 0.83 CPM,
  • Hotels – 0.73 CPM, and
  • Car rentals – 0.64 CPM.

For everything you need to know about redeeming (and earning) Aeroplan miles, you can find them in our Aeroplan guide.

Earn rates in detail

Okay, back to the cards in question now. Let’s start with the earn rates.

They actually both have the same earn rates – 1.25 miles per $1 spent.

However, there are some wrinkles. The increases your earn rate to 1.5 miles per $1 after your annual spend reaches $25,000 per year.

The doesn’t increase your base earn rate.

But it will earn you 2 miles per $1 on eligible Air Canada purchases.

What qualifies as an eligible purchase? Basically, it’s Air Canada flights and Air Canada Vacation packages that were purchased directly with Air Canada OR through American Express Travel services.

Things like car rental and hotel bookings made through Air Canada aren’t eligible – the purchase must be an Air Canada service to qualify.

The Reserve will also double your earn rate on normal purchases by providing your Aeroplan number at checkout (at participating Partner brands).

So with these different earn rates, what could you earn for miles?

Here’s what a typical $2,000 per month spend would look like. We’ve made an allowance of $100 per month on Air Canada purchases as well.

Amex AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex AeroplanPlus Reserve
Monthly spend Earn Rate Miles Earned Annually Earn Rate Miles Earned Annually
Air Canada Purchases $100 1.25 miles per $1 1,500 2 miles per $1 2,400
All Other Purchases $1,900 1.25 miles per $1 28,500 1.25 miles per $1 28,500
Total Miles Earned 30,000 30,900

It’s obviously very close – 900 miles is only equal to about $22.50 in flight redemptions, certainly not enough to justify the extra $400 in annual fee.

How much each card earns you depends on:

  • how much you spend on Air Canada per year, and
  • how much (or if) you spend over $25,000 in a year.

Let’s supercharge these numbers: $30,000 in annual spend, with $300 per month spent on Air Canada.

Amex AeroplanPlus Platinum Amex AeroplanPlus Reserve
Monthly spend Earn Rate Miles Earned Annually Earn Rate Miles Earned Annually
Air Canada Purchases $300 1.292* miles per $1 4,650 2 miles per $1 7,200
All Other Purchases $2,200 1.292* miles per $1 34,100 1.25 miles per $1 33,000
Total Miles Earned 38,7650 40,200

*Note – since the total annual spend exceeds $25,000, the Amex AeroplanPlus Platinum card earns 1.5 miles per $1 spent on $5,000, increasing the average earn rate as shown.

In both cases, the came out ahead, and this time it’s with a much more pronounced lead.

Want to try out other spending combinations? Head to our compare cards page and you can enter in whatever you like. The “Store” field will account for any Air Canada specific spending and give you the appropriate bonuses. Plus our calculators take into account the different tiers of the .

Welcome bonus

A big part of getting any new credit card is the welcome bonus. We all like being rewarded big just for getting a new, flashy credit card.

And since they have large annual fees, it only makes sense that both cards come with high welcome bonuses.

Both cards currently have 2 part bonuses.

For the , it comes with:

  • 40,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, and
  • a $150 Air Canada eGift Card after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months.

The comes with a similar bonus structure, but takes things to the next level:

  • 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, and
  • a $200 Air Canada eGift Card after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months.

Both offer quite the value in the welcome bonus. In fact, they’re amongst the largest welcome bonuses currently available, if you assume a typical Aeroplan mile value of 2.5 cents each.

At this value, the welcome bonus is worth a total of up to $1,150 for the , and $1,450 for the .

Perks comparison

Though you’ll certainly be earning lots of Aeroplan miles, you’re not going to be earning much more than other top Aeroplan cards. Take for example our favourites, the and the , both of which have much lower annual fees.

To make up for those large annual fees, these cards offer a bevy of perks that will either save you money or make your travelling life easier.

For the , here’s what it comes with:

  • annual partner ticket benefit,
  • Air Canada priority check-in,
  • priority services at Toronto-Pearson,
  • unlimited access to Maple Leaf lounges, and
  • a Priority Pass Lounge membership.

The biggest one of these is the annual partner ticket. Once per year, redeem 15,000 Aeroplan miles for a short-haul Fixed Mileage flight, and you’ll receive a partner ticket for the same itinerary. You’ll just have to pay taxes and fees.

To use this benefit, your rewards flights have to be booked through the Aeroplan call centre at 1-800-361-5373 (the typical phone booking fee will be waived).

Air Canada priority check-in is straightforward – every time you fly on Air Canada, you’ll be able to access the priority check-in line and bypass (potentially) long lines when you need to drop off a checked bag.

Fly frequently from (or through) Toronto-Pearson? Great benefits await you when moving through the airport. The full benefits can be found here, but you’ll get access to:

  • free valet parking,
  • discounted parking rates, and
  • priority security.

Finally, to relax before your flight, this card provides unlimited access to Maple Leaf airport lounges. To access Maple Leaf Lounges, you need to have a same-day ticket on an Air Canada operated flight.

And if you’re not flying on Air Canada (or there isn’t a Maple Leaf Lounge), you can also access Priority Pass lounges instead. Just note the card only provides a membership, so you’ll still have to pay for access, which is around $32 USD per visit.

The will get you all of the benefits of the Platinum version, plus these ones:

  • annual partner Ticket benefit increased to 25,000 miles,
  • $200 annual travel credit,
  • 5 free checked bags on Air Canada, and
  • unlimited visits to Priority Pass Lounges.

The change to the annual partner ticket is really noteworthy. With this card, you can redeem 25,000 miles for a long haul Fixed Mileage economy ticket, and bring a 2nd person for just the taxes and fees. It’s much more flexible, and will allow you to travel anywhere in Canada or the Continental U.S. instead of just to a neighbouring province or region. You also get a special number to call to make your booking – 1-855-279-3896.

The $200 annual travel credit is also easy to use. Simply book any travel through American Express travel, and you’ll get $200 back on your booking.

The free checked bags are a nice perk, helping you save money when flying. However, only the cardholder can get the free bags. Companions travelling on the same reservation don’t, though supplemental cardholders can.

Finally, the Priority Pass lounge access has been upgraded. Instead of just getting a membership, the card also provides free access for the cardholder, waiving that pesky $32 USD fee per visit.

For this card, taking advantage of these benefits can be enough to offset the annual fee.

Here’s how:

  • $200 for the annual travel credit,
  • $625 for a 25,000 mile partner ticket, assuming a mile value of 2.5 cents, and
  • $157.50 for 5 free bags per year ($30 per bag plus 5% GST).

Add these up, and you get $982.50 in savings per year – putting you ahead $83.50 on the annual fee.

And this is without taking into account the free lounge access. An unlimited Priority Pass lounge membership costs $429 USD (roughly $566 CAD) and a Maple Leaf Lounge membership is regularly $375, putting you ahead another $941 in value. Not to mention you still get priority check-in and more.

Unfortunately, you can’t say the same with the .

The only major savings benefit is with its partner ticket.

Even if you get 2.5 cents on a short haul redemption, it’s only worth $375. And with no other direct cash savings (not including lounge access and any savings you might get through the Toronto-Pearson benefits), it’s not enough to offset its annual fee of $499. That being said, the Maple Leaf lounge membership is worth $375, adding to the value.

Complimentary purchase and travel insurance

When it comes to insurance, these cards are identical.

They offer 11 types of purchase and travel insurance.

The verdict

So which card is better?

Ultimately, like most cards with high annual fees, it comes down to how much stock you put into the perks.

Based on the fact that it has a better voucher and an annual $200 travel credit, the is the better card. There’s a clear path to offsetting the annual fee, depending on how you view airport lounge access.

But it all depends on you.

What are your thoughts on these cards?

Are they worth the large annual fees or not?

Let us know in the comments below.