Saving Aeroplan Points on Business Class with eUpgrades

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With the launch of the new Aeroplan program, many people have been trying to find the new best redemptions to get more value out of your hard earned points. The new program gives members an opportunity to earn elite status without flying through their co-branded credit cards such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite and the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card. One great benefit of the new program is that you can use eUpgrades on certain Aeroplan award tickets, further maximizing the value of your points.

Air Canada 787 Business Class

Air Canada Business Class

If you hold one of these credit cards and make enough qualifying transactions, you may have the option to use eUpgrades on Aeroplan redemptions in economy class, savings thousands of points to fly business class. This is a great option which may also give you access to more flights and is a great incentive to earn Aeroplan Elite status.

Step 1: Get Aeroplan Elite 25K status

Many people earned 25K status this year, either because they were Aeroplan Distinction Diamond, or through Air Canada’s Travel At Home promotion.

For those who don’t have status, the new Aeroplan program lets you earn Aeroplan Elite 25K status without ever actually flying, through Everyday Status Qualification, starting January 2021.

To earn 25K status, you need to earn 100,000 Aeroplan points from eligible transactions. This is separate from status qualifying miles which are earned mostly by flying.

The easiest way to earn qualifying Aeroplan points for status are through co-branded credit cards. These include the cards issued by CIBC, TD, and American Express. The majority of people who qualify for status through non-flight activity will be going through this mode of earning.

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite will be the primary mass-market card for most members. It currently has a signup bonus of 10,000 points, as well as a Buddy Pass for travel within North America.

Source: TD

The American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card is an ultra-premium card suitable for the most frequent Air Canada travelers and offers a whopping 65,000 Aeroplan points and $100 statement credit.

Source: American Express

To view the details of what qualifies as an eligible transaction for Everyday Status Qualification, visit this Air Canada page.  Primarily, the major exclusions to qualifying transactions are:

  • Points accumulated through sign-up or welcome bonuses associated with Aeroplan credit cards
  • Points accumulated through conversion from other programs

This means that a Membership Rewards earning card such as the American Express Business Platinum Card, which has the highest signup bonus in Canada with 75,000 points, will not count.

As mentioned, points earned from co-branded credit card spend will count.  The Aeroplan Reserve card from American Express will earn 3x points on Air Canada purchases, 2x points on eligible dining and food delivery, and one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card will earn 1.5 points on gas, grocery, and Air Canada purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

This means that cardholders will need to spend in the mid-five figures annually to earn status, but that is attainable for many consumers. The benefits, in my opinion, are well worth it.

Aeroplan Elite 25K status has many benefits, but the most useful ones for flying are probably:

  • Priority services on Air Canada
  • 2 free checked bags on Air Canada
  • Star Alliance Silver

However, for redemption purposes, there are two other useful benefits:

  • A discount on Air Canada redemption costs, which ranges between 10-15% of the original price that non-elite members see, but can be up to 40% on certain itineraries
  • 25 eUpgrade credits (20 base and 5 as a select benefit), which you can use to upgrade economy to business

Step 2: Use eUpgrades on Aeroplan Redemptions

With the new Aeroplan program, you aren’t just redeeming for “economy class” any more.  You redeem for Standard, Flex, or Latitude, which have different price points, and behave similarly to revenue fares.

If you redeem for Latitude, you get several perks:

  • Free changes and cancellations
  • Fewer eUpgrade credits required for business class
  • Upgradeable at time of booking
  • No cash add-on for eUpgrades on Aeroplan Latitude tickets

While the flexibility is not something most people would pay for on its own, the other two benefits allow you to fly business class at a significantly reduced cost.

Before we go into any examples, it may be worthwhile to review the eUpgrade chart. On the very last page, it shows that for all status levels, Latitude bookings can be upgraded any time. The other pages show the cost for different fares and distances between different zones (make sure you’re looking at the lower “Aeroplan flight rewards” section).

A North American transcontinental flight would cost 4 eUpgrades each way, regardless of connections (that is, SFO-YVR-YUL-YYZ is 4, as is SFO-YYZ).  International flights are 11 or 13 credits each way, depending on length.  If you only have 25 credits, you won’t be able to upgrade a round-trip, but there’s no penalty to booking one-way flights under the new program, so you could do this in one direction and redeem for business in the other (or upgrade to premium economy, or fly economy).

Here’s an example for a Toronto – Vancouver flight on April 14.  This price is from an Elite 50K member, showing 12,800 points for Standard, and 23,800 points for Latitude.

eUpgrades on Aeroplan (Toronto - Vancouver)

eUpgrades on Aeroplan (Toronto – Vancouver)

Upgrades from Latitude Reward bookings to business class come primarily from R class, which is the same inventory that customers who book a paid flight and upgrade have access to. To view flight availability, you can use a third-party tool such as ExpertFlyer.

The flight above is R6, which means there are 6 seats currently available for upgrade to business class. As you can see, Latitude is 22.3k, but business is 54.5k.  You could book this flight and immediately upgrade it for 4 credits, paying half the points, but still sit in business class.  If your plans change in the future, you can refund the booking at no cost because it’s a Latitude Reward, and the eUpgrade credits will also be instantly returned.

Here’s a  example on a flight from Toronto to Tokyo on April 14:

eUpgrades on Aeroplan (Toronto - Tokyo)

eUpgrades on Aeroplan (Toronto – Tokyo)

This flight is R9, meaning at least 9 seats are available for upgrade.  This flight requires 13 eUpgrades, and booking Latitude would save you over 13k points in comparison to booking business class outright.

One thing to note is that there are sometimes issues with the website trying to upgrade Latitude Rewards, and you may need to call in.  If you make this call, just ask, “the website isn’t letting me put in an upgrade request for business class, can you please do it?”  Keep it simple, and trust the system to handle it.  This strategy has consistently worked for me.  Some people have reported pushback when they say things like “I should be able to instantly confirm an upgrade”, and the agent disagrees with them.

One thing that makes this benefit even better is that there can be flights where R class is available, and I class is not, meaning the cost of a business redemption would be much higher than pictured above. In those situations, upgrading will save you tens of thousands of points over a business redemption, and it reminds me of the old Priority Rewards that Super Elites used to have

Summary

Earning Elite 25k status with qualifying credit card transactions is a great way to save on Air Canada business class by using eUpgrades on Aeroplan redemptions.  Due to the limited eUpgrade credits available, I’d be tempted to do this for North American flights if you have enough of them, where the cost is capped at 4 credits per direction, but it works well for one or two international flights.

All you need to do is earn 100k points from credit card spend or other means (noting the exclusions), and then you’ll have 25K status, which you can use to upgrade your Latitude Rewards, saving your Aeroplan points for future use.

If you use a credit card such as the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite and the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card, you’ll get a further discount on redemptions.

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