Chase and Air Canada just launched the U.S. co-brand card for the big Star Alliance airline up north: the Aeroplan World Elite Mastercard.
They could have done what everyone else does, offer 3-2-1 earning with accelerators in categories they hope you’ll think you’ll spend in but won’t really and then throw in free checked bags and call it a day. They didn’t do that. They made the card really interesting for earning elite status, and they’re incentivizing continued spend on the card with big rewards.
In some ways that shouldn’t be surprising. Mark Nasr, the Senior Vice President who oversees loyalty marketing among other things at the airline, shared that prioritizing a revamp of the U.S. co-brand card came during an Aeroplan executive mileage run. Mark has said in the past that it’s important for executives to eat their own dog food and understand the product they’re offering – as well as competitor products.
Initial Bonus: 100,000 Points In Value
This $95 annual fee card comes with an initial bonus: of up to 100,000 bonus points after $4000 spend in the form of (2) 50,000 point certificates, which are effectively coupons applied towards any Aeroplan redemption.
For instance if you were redeeming an award that cost 65,000 points you could apply one of these awards and spend 15,000 miles.
These certificates do not expire as long as you have the card, and you can book two one ways or two passengers to use both at the same time and maximize value.
Mark Nasr explained 3 reasons for offering these certificates rather than points.
- He was candid that this lets them offer the highest value at the lower cost, since not all certificates will be redeemed for 50,000 points each
- They were inspired by hotel free night certificates but with improvements since those often expire and can’t be topped off (although Marriott at least is solving for that)
- This encourages redemption as quickly as possible – and not just for an award but a for a big award, which he believes is how they get the best engagement in the program. People who redeem at high value continue to earn rapidly in the program and certificates are treated as “burning a hole in the pocket from a behavioral perspective.”
Those who joined the waitlist for the card also get 10,000 bonus points and 10 eUpgrades as part of their initial bonus when applying by February 15, 2022. eUpgrades can upgrade any Air Canada flight reward including – for a premium – at booking.
The card offers 3x earning at grocery stores, on dining at restaurants, and spend with Air Canada and 1x elsewhere.
In addition it earns 500 points per $2000 spent, up to 1500 additional points per calendar month. You can effectively earn up to 3.25 points per dollar if spending in accelerator categories exactly at bonus thresholds. And if you use 50% off redemption certificates that can be earned with the card it’s equivalent to earning 6.5 points per dollar in these categories at the extreme.
Of course the card comes with free first checked bag for cardmember and up to 8 others people on same reservation.
They’re also introducing Pay Yourself Back with the card starting in 2022, allowing members to apply points towards travel expenses charged to the card at 1.25 cents apiece in value up to 50,000 points per calendar year.
There are Mastercard World Elite Benefits as well like concierge, priceless experiences, and Lyft rebates as well as Trip Cancellation; Baggage Delay; Trip Delay; Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver; and Roadside Assistance.
And you get up to a $100 statement credit for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or Nexus every 4 years – since Nexus is specific to the U.S. – Canada border this last one makes sense and it’s the first product that extends to include Nexus credit.
The card comes with the first tier of elite status (25K level) through December 2023. You can keep that status with $15,000 in annual spend. and status is reflected almost immediately. In the future status that comes with the card will be for the remainder of the year in which you’re approved plus the following year.
Spending $50,000 on the card bumps you up an elite level.
- To 35,000 mile status based on spend alone, reflected right away.
- A member earning elite status with Air Canada spending $50,000 gets a one-level bump up starting at the beginning of the next calendar year. This even lets a member earn top tier Super Elite status which is one of the best top tiers in the world. An Aeroplan 75K member who spends $50,000 on the card becomes Super Elite in the next calendar year which is a no-brainer for them if they can manage it.
I wrote to expect real status-earning opportunities with the card and that seems right. Mark Nasr also acknowledged that next year won’t be a normal status-earning year and there will be a “whole host” of promotions. I’d expect that to be true not just with Aeroplan.
Status earned via the card is real or full status and comes with all of its benefits including ‘50% off rewards,’ which allow for a discount on redemptions – including on partners and in premium cabins based on status level.
So if you level up your status and use the points earned on this card, in conjunction with the points you might transfer in from programs like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards, those points are going to go farther.
What I like is the way that the spend and status are really reinforcing, something first done by Frontier Airlines (where all spend counts towards status) and by Hyatt (where spend earns elite nights and every 10 nights drive incremental benefits). It’s something that American AAdvantage is moving towards with Loyalty Points but it feels a bit more gamified and fun here because of the stacking of benefits.
Spend Threshold Benefits
Are you a really heavy spender? You get to bump up elite status after $50,000 spend in a year but they want you to keep going.
They offer 50% off redemption Priority Rewards at 100,000; 250,000; 500,000; and 750,000 in spend.
- 25K & 35K members can use these for U.S. and Canada economy redemptions
- 50K members for North America up to Premium Economy
- 75K members can use them worldwide up to Premium Economy
- Super Elites can use them for up to business class worldwide.
For someone spending $1 million on the card in a year they’re offering something they call “GLOBAL+1” which is like a worldwide award redemption companion pass offering 100% of points redeemed back on all redemptions in all cabins for remainder of year earned plus the entire following year for a companion traveling with the cardmember. That’s potentially incredible.
Each month there are rewards for spending $2000, $4000, and $6000 on the card (500 bonus points at each threshold). Then each year there are threshold rewards for spending $15,000; $50,000; $100,000; $250,000; $500,000; $750,000; and $1 million.
They’ll Offset Your Emissions
All redemptions on Air Canada that are redeemed by members with an Aeroplan Chase card will be fully offset – free to the member and automatically.
This is cool if the offset efforts are real, most programs are carbon theater.
They promise these will be high quality offsets, purchased by Air Canada with funding from Chase. One of the efforts mentioned is direct carbon capture which is a technology that seems to have real potential and needs more investment.
Mark says, paraphrasing, ‘look I have a 2.5 year old and another on the way, I care about this and by the way I want to hang around for awhile myself to see them grow up.’ I get that and applaud efforts that aren’t just buying Catholic indulgences.
Air Canada Aeroplan Is A Useful Program For Americans
Air Canada Aeroplan elite members get significant discounts on award redemption through “Priority Rewards so this program is already useful for those with big balances with Chase, American Express, Bilt or Capital One since Aeroplan is a transfer partner of all four.
And Aeroplan award redemption is very useful with no fuel surcharges and access to both Star Alliance airline awards and award travel across an extensive network of partners (even Etihad).
They’ve eliminated fuel surcharges from the program, and allow family accounts to pool points from up to 8 member accounts free. That can be useful if the whole family gets Aeroplan cards.
Moreover when redeeming for business class awards on Air Canada generally a 10,000 to 12,000 point premium gets a business flex award and that comes with access to probably the best business class lounges in North America, the original Signature Suite in Toronto and the one in Vancouver.
Air Canada Signature Suite Toronto
Mastercard Has To Be Paying Through The Nose For This
Chase issues very few Mastercards. They have a blanket deal with Visa where they lease the network and capture nearly all fees from incremental charges. This encourages them to grow spend on Visa cards. Meanwhile Visa participated in funding Air Canada’s re-acquisition of the Aeroplan program. And Air Canada issues Visa products (along with American Express) in Canada.
Mastercard has been especially aggressive over the past couple of years, especially with FinTech deals. For Mastercard to break further into Chase, and to do it with Aeroplan, suggests they really backed up the truck on this one. That’s great, it helps fund a strong product. And it suggests that payment networks are a far more competitive space than many might imagine.
While we’ve seen several reports of customers who are over 5/24 recently being approved for some Chase products, at this point Chase only seems to be approving people with fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months.