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Published December 7, 2022

Aeroplan vs. Air Miles: Differences and Alternatives

Aeroplan is usually an ideal choice for those who want to use points for Air Canada flights, while Air Miles is a better choice for those who want flexible point redemption options.

When it comes to travel loyalty programs in Canada, many people like to compare Aeroplan vs. Air Miles. Both rewards programs have been around for decades and have millions of members. 

Whether Aeroplan or Air Miles is better for you will depend a lot on how you spend money and plan to redeem points, so you’ll want to understand both programs before you choose a credit card and start earning points.

What is Aeroplan?

Aeroplan Rewards is Air Canada’s loyalty program. Even though the program is specific to Air Canada, you can use your points on 45+ partner airlines. This feature can be valuable since Air Canada is the country’s flagship carrier, which means you can fly just about anywhere in its network.

Earning Aeroplan points is easy since there are several ways to boost your balance. You can earn points with a co-branded credit card, on Air Canada flights, through retail partners, via the Aeroplan eStore and more.

When it comes to redeeming points, you have lots of options since every seat on all Air Canada flights is eligible for redemption. In addition, you can use your points on eligible seats with partner airlines. You also have the option to use your points on vacation packages, hotels, car rentals, gift cards and merchandise.

What is Air Miles?

Air Miles is a general loyalty rewards program. Despite its name and obvious focus on travel, it’s more of a shopping rewards program, and has many retail partners throughout the country.

Air Miles offers two ways to earn points: Cash Rewards and Dream Rewards. You can log into your account and choose which you’d like to earn. 

Cash Rewards allow you to redeem 95 Air Miles at partner retailers for a $10 instant credit towards online or in-store purchases.

With Dream Rewards, you can use your points on a various perks, such as travel, merchandise and tickets to various attractions and events, all with different redemption values.

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Aeroplan vs. Air Miles 

When comparing Aeroplan vs. Air Miles, some people may assume that Aeroplan is best for those who fly Air Canada, while Air Miles is ideal for consumers who want reward flexibility. While that’s true to a certain extent, you need to look at the details of each program before picking sides.

Similarities

There are quite a few similarities between Aeroplan and Air Miles. Both allow you to use your credit card points on dozens of airlines around the world in any class. Both programs also use dynamic pricing when it comes to redemptions. Generally speaking, the more expensive a ticket is, the more points it costs you.

Beyond flights, both programs allow you to use your points for gift cards, car rentals, vacation packages and merchandise.

Aeroplan and Air Miles also allow you to earn points with co-branded credit cards, retail partners, their respective online portals, contests and promotions.

Differences

The differences between the two programs come down to the details. While both programs give you access to multiple airlines, Aeroplan offers access to more aspirational travel. 

That’s because Aeroplan uses a rewards chart based on zones and distance. The farther you fly, the more points it costs you. Aeroplan also has partner airlines that require a fixed number of points for flights and these flights typically have favourable redemption values. 

Air Miles uses dynamic pricing based on the redemption price. Those aspirational flights are usually quite expensive, so the value relative to Aeroplan is lower.

There are also some major differences when it comes to earning points. Aeroplan has more than 10 co-branded credit cards, whereas Air Miles has fewer. 

Air Miles and Aeroplan also differ in the number and type of retail partners they have. 

Comparing Aeroplan and Air Miles

 AeroplanAir Miles
Earn rateVaries by co-branded credit card.Varies by co-branded credit card.
Rate of returnNerdWallet searched more than 75 flights in 2021 and 2022 to determine the average value for Air Canada flights. Based on our analysis, the average value of 1 Aeroplan point is worth 2.23 cents.NerdWallet analyzed 75+ data points to compare the Air Miles redemption values of flights in 2022 to determine a “cent per mile” value for each flight. Based on our analysis, the average value of 1 Air Miles Dream Mile is worth 11.35 cents. NerdWallet has not analyzed the average redemption value of Air Miles Cash Rewards.
Redemption optionsFlights, vacation packages, hotels, car rentals, gift cards and merchandise. Flights, vacation packages, hotels, cruises, car rentals, gift cards, merchandise, events and attraction tickets.
Ways to earnCo-branded credit cards, Air Canada flights, retail partners, eStore merchants, car rentals, hotel stays, contests and promotions.Co-branded credit cards, retail partners, online portal merchants and promotions.
Special perks and benefitsAir Canada benefits, such as free checked bags, priority boarding, lounge access, eUpgrades provided with Aeroplan status or a core/premium Aeroplan credit card.25% discount on flights (conditions apply), free Boingo Wi-Fi around the world with select Air Miles Mastercard credit cards.
Transfer partnersAmerican Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to Aeroplan.No transfer partners.

Alternatives to Aeroplan and Air Miles

While Air Miles and Aeroplan are often compared to each other, there are other travel programs worth considering.

Avion vs. Aeroplan

Avion, more commonly known as RBC Rewards, allows you to use your points on any flight on the RBC travel portal. Your points are typically worth around 1 cent each, but RBC also has a fixed travel redemption schedule where you can get more value per point. Avion points give you more flexibility than Aeroplan, but most redemptions have a lower value. You can also transfer your Avion points to WestJet Rewards, British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and more.

Air Miles vs. Avion

RBC Rewards/Avion is very similar to Air Miles when it comes to redemptions in that you can use your points for any type of travel. However, with RBC, you have a fixed point value, whereas Air Miles redemptions fluctuate in value depending on the ticket price. Earning Avion rewards is easier than Air Miles since the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card has a higher earn rate compared to similar Air Miles cards.

Aventura vs. Aeroplan 

Aventura is CIBC’s rewards program but is more commonly known as CIBC Rewards. IYou can use your points across a variety of airlines in accordance with their airline reward chart. Unlike Aeroplan, Aventura points can also be used for financial products, such as paying your mortgage.

Air Miles vs. Aventura

Air Miles and Aventura are similar since you can use your points for just about any travel purchase. The earn rate on CIBC Aventura cards is often higher than Air Miles cards. Plus, if you use the airline rewards chart with CIBC, you can get a value of up to 2.33 cents per point.

American Express Membership Rewards vs. Aeroplan

With American Express Membership Rewards, the base value of your points is worth 1 cent each. However, you can transfer your points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio, so the value is technically equal. Membership Rewards may be preferable as you can use your points for any travel purchase charged to your card, or you can transfer your points to Aeroplan as needed.

How to choose the travel loyalty program that’s right for you

Many people may prefer Aeroplan over Air Miles since it’s easier to earn points, and you can get good value out of your redemptions. That said, you need to look at your shopping habits and goals. If you shop at a lot of Air Miles retail partners, you can quickly earn points by taking advantage of in-store promos and paying with a co-branded credit card.

However, if you’re a frequent Air Canada flyer and like the idea of getting airline benefits, then focusing on Aeroplan is the way to go. Either way, you’ll need to look at what each co-branded credit card offers and see how it lines up with your everyday spending and goals.

About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert. His website moneywehave.com is one of Canada's most trusted sites when it comes to all things related to money and travel.

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