Saturday, November 7, 2020

The new CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card offer is 20,000 Bonus Aeroplan Points and a buddy pass for travel in North America including Hawaii & Mexico

The second of three CIBC cards that we'll be covering this morning is the CIBC® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Privilege Card 

 Recommended reading:

And links to the other consumer card offers revealed today:

The Welcome Bonus

The limited time welcome bonus revealed today for the new CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card is pretty shoddy for an ultra premium card. Sure it has the buddy pass but only 20,000 Aeroplan points? I mean come on CIBC - I know you are not the primary card partner anymore and are putting more money behind your other products but that's it for a $599 a year card? Here's what this card offers as its welcome bonus: 
  1. Welcome bonus of 20,000 points on your first purchase
  2. Earn an Air Canada Buddy Pass to bring anyone along to anywhere Air Canada flies in North America, including Hawaii and Mexico when you spend $1,000 or more on the card in the first three months of having it

The Air Canada Buddy Pass is a companion pass that you can use to get a $0 base fare on any Air Canada, Air Canada Express or Air Canada Rouge flight in North America including Hawaii and Mexico. You receive the pass once you spend $1,000 on the card within 90 days of opening your account. The buddy pass is good for travel in economy class (in any economy class - Standard, Flex, Comfort, or Latitude​) so when you buy a ticket you can redeem the pass to have someone fly with you and you only have to pay the taxes and fees on that second ticket. The pass is valid for 12 months from date of issuance. This is where the potential big value comes in, if you are planning on traveling in North America, to Hawaii or Mexico and will be traveling with at least one companion you can enjoy some big savings, especially so if you buy the higher end economy class fare levels and as the buddy pass has no black out date it can be used during peak season albeit peak season in 2021 won't be anything like pre-COVID times. 

Here are a few examples of using the Buddy Pass for travel in early 2021:

Vancouver-Toronto  February 2021

The base fare is $840 per adult for the highest Economy Fare Class (Comfort) which means the buddy pass will save you $840! Combine this with our minimum valuation of Aeroplan points at 1.2 cents each and the welcome bonus for this card becomes $481 in value - the lowest out of all the cards offering the buddy pass. If you chose to go with the lowest Economy Class fare (Standard) the base fare is $290 per adult so the value of the buddy pass drops which now gives you a -$69 value - ouch.

Toronto-Honolulu March 2021


The base fare is $949 per adult for the highest Economy Fare Class (Comfort) which means the buddy pass will save you $949. Combine this with our minimum valuation of Aeroplan points at 1.2 cents each and the welcome bonus for this card becomes $590  value. If you chose to go even higher and purchase a Latitude fare on this same flight the base fare is $1633 per adult so the value of the buddy pass is huge at $1633!!

That is a huge value for those who do buy Latitude fares but for most Canadians I think the buddy pass will be mostly used on those Standard to Comfort fares.

For the most part I would value the Buddy Pass at no less than $100 based on redeeming it for some shorter competitive routes like Toronto-Montreal or Vancouver-Calgary. For example here's a really cheap fare between YYZ and YUL where the Buddy Pass would only be worth $112:

Basics of the new card

Like it's TD counterpart the primary card annual fee is being increased to $599 from $399 however this card's additional card fees will only jump to $149 from $99. The main reason this card doesn't see the additional card increase is that it's NEXUS benefit isn't as valuable as it is only available for the primary card and it appears, based on CIBC's terms the one guest you can bring in to Maple Leaf lounges is only good for the first year of having the card.

The earn rates are the same as the TD version of this card and will be 2 Aeroplan points per dollar spent with Air Canada which is a 0.5 points boost. Then it will earn 1.5 Aeroplan points for Gas, Grocery, Travel and Dining purchases - with travel and dining being two new accelerators. It does lose the 1.5 points for drug store purchases which will now categorize as all other purchases which all continue to earn 1.25 Aeroplan points per dollar spent on the card.

Also new to the card are the following benefits:

  • Preferred Pricing - Holders of these cards will receive discounts when redeeming miles for Aeroplan reward flights
  • First Checked Bag Free - Cardholders will receive their first checked bag free for themselves and up to 8 other travellers on the same reservation. This benefit works on both paid and award flights on Air Canada.
  • Elite Status Earning - These cards earn 1,000 SQM (Status Qualifying Miles) and 1 SQS (Status Qualifying Segment) for every $5,000 spent on the card(s)
  • Maple Leaf Lounge Access - These cards offer complimentary access for the cardholder (Primary and additional) plus one guest to Maple Leaf Lounges and Air Canada CafĂ©s in North America.
  • Priority Airport Services - These cards offer priority check-in, priority boarding, and priority baggage handling
  • Annual Worldwide Companion Pass - This pass is provided when cardholders reach $25,000 in spending annually on their cards. The pass can be used for travel to anywhere Air Canada flies with companion paying only $99 for flights in Canada & Continental U.S., $299 for Hawaii, Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, $499 for Africa, Europe, Middle East and South America, $599 for Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Taxes and fees are extra on top of those amounts
  • Rollover Status Miles - Primary Cardholders who also hold Aeroplan Elite Status can roll over up to 200,000 Status Qualifying Miles (SQMs) beyond the status level for which they’ve qualified, from the prior qualification year to qualify for status the next year.
  • Rollover eUpgrade Credits - Primary Cardholders who also hold Aeroplan Elite Status and requalify for the next year, can roll over up to 50 unused eUpgrade credits, to be used during the following status year.
  • New Mobile Device (up to $1,500)
  • Hotel Burglary (up to $2,500) 
  • enhanced Trip Cancellation (up to $2,500) insurance

The regular Visa Infinite Privileges such as complimentary Priority Pass membership with 6 annual visits, Priority Security Lanes at select Canadian airports, Visa Infinite Privilege Concierge, Visa Luxury Hotel Collection, Dining & Wine Country programs, and Entertainment and Sports benefits are all still included with this card.

Why a buddy pass instead of more points?

There are several reasons why Air Canada is doing this and I do get why they have chosen to go this route. The first is breakage - this is a term loyalty programs love and it is where miles, points, vouchers, bonus gift cards or in this case buddy passes go unused and they expire. Hotel chains like Best Western are famous for this - they rather award limited time gift cards over points since the latter never expire. It allows loyalty companies an easy way to get rid of that debt. And here in Air Canada Aeroplan's case they know travel is severely curtailed right now and by not offering as many points as the welcome bonus and instead providing a buddy pass that has a concrete end date Air Canada is truly hoping a lot of them go unused. Even if the customer at the time of application has full intentions of travelling there is no guarantee they will be able to if more travel restrictions are put in place, the traveller becomes sick themselves and so on. So that's the first reason Air Canada has done this - it will cost them a lot less than issuing tons of points that people will hold onto for a couple of years. The second reason is to boost revenue. There are people who will travel who may not have before if they didn't have this buddy pass. So for Air Canada this means a boost in revenue - sure you are giving up two seats for the price of one but that's better than none. Planes aren't flying anywhere near capacity right now so if this buddy pass can entice someone to get out of their house to take a trip then they will do so on Air Canada instead of WestJet or any other airlines and that's a win for Air Canada. The third reason they have gone the buddy pass route is they want the cardholders to be able to experience the benefits that come with card such as the first bag free benefit.

Final thoughts

This card's welcome bonus is probably the weakest of the entire suite of Aeroplan cards - if people are doing their research they'll realize there is no point in getting it because of the other offers that is unless they have their heart set on keeping all their banking products with CIBC.

Learn more about and apply for the new  CIBC Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Card here

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