Saturday, November 7, 2020

The new TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Card offer is 10,000 Bonus Aeroplan Points and a buddy pass for travel in North America including Hawaii & Mexico

The launch of the new Air Canada Aeroplan program has been delayed until Monday but the new credit card offers have not been! Many of the program details were revealed this past summer although there were several items being left to the actual launch date. One of those being kept behind door number three was what the new welcome offers would be on the suite of Aeroplan co-brand credit cards. Now we are pleased to pass them along and we start off with what would be considered Air Canada Aeroplan's flagship or mainstay card - the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* 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 TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card took us a bit by surprise. There are three parts to it: bonus points, a companion pass and an annual fee rebate. All of which are awarded for new applications and approvals made from today through to January 17, 2021. Why did it take us by surprise? Well we thought they would come out guns a-blazing with an explosive amazing offer that would blow our minds and the competition away! Really you are launching your new highly touted program and it should be something over the top. Have they done that? Not really. Yes there  is potential to have this welcome bonus provide some amazing value but it is limited to those who don't travel alone and for those who know they will travel by January 2022 and will want to do so in economy class with a companion. To explain this better let's look at the welcome offer:
  1. Welcome bonus of 10,000 points after 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. ​
  3. Plus, get an annual fee rebate for the primary and first additional cardholder for the first year.

First you see your standard welcome bonus points offer which is the lowest we have seen on the primary Aeroplan card for as long as we can remember - prior to this the lowest bonus was usually 15,000 miles but without any other extras like buddy passes or annual fee waivers. I'm going to jump over number two and come back to that. The third part of the bonus is the rebate for the first year annual fee on the primary and first additional card. This is the same as we have seen on the card over the past few months. Now back to number two and the buddy pass.

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 $960 in value. 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 but is still a really good valuation of $410 for the welcome bonus in this card.

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 $1069 in 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:

Starbucks bonus - 1.5 Aeroplan points per $1 spent

There is also a new bonus for Starbucks purchases for ALL TD Aeroplan cards as of today. So if you already have one this one counts for you as well. For the next year Account Cardholders will earn 50% Bonus Aeroplan points for each $1.00 in Purchases charged to the Account at participating Starbucks® locations (the "Starbucks Bonus Aeroplan Point"). All reloads on the Starbucks mobile app and in-store purchases at corporate-owned stores are eligible. In-store purchases at licensed stores are excluded from this offer. This offer runs until November 7, 2021.

Basics of the new card

The earn rates change slightly on the card from its previous iteration. The card will now earn 1.5 Aeroplan points per dollar spent with Air Canada (any Air Canada purchase, prior to this it was only for purchases) It will also continue to earn 1.5 Aeroplan points for grocery and gas station purchases but it has lost the 1.5 points for drug store purchases which will now categorize as all other purchases which all continue to earn 1 Aeroplan point 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 $10,000 spent on the card(s)
  • Each Cardholder on the Account will receive a rebate of up to $100 CAD for a NEXUS™ application and/or renewal fee. 
  • Hotel/Motel Burglary Insurance coverage up to $2,500 per occurrence for each Cardholder on the Account and eligible family members travelling with the Cardholder. 
  • Mobile Device Insurance coverage up to $1,000 for eligible mobile devices in the event of loss, theft, accidental damage, or mechanical breakdown.

Some of the other insurance benefits on this card have been updated for the better including Purchase Security/Extended Warranty, Flight Delay, Trip Cancellation/Interruption and Lost/Delayed Baggage. 

What also should be noted is that benefits are shared with secondary (aka supplementary/additional) cardholders. That means those who have cards under the primary cardholder will also benefit from items like the first checked bag free and the NEXUS benefit.

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.

New 12 month wait period

You'll also notice a major change in the terms and conditions for TD's Aeroplan cards. You now have to wait 12 months to get a TD Aeroplan card after you cancel you previous. This rule used to be 6 months so the cards were some of the better ones to churn in our market. Now you have wait twice as long but at least the option is still there given the fact some other issuers have moved to a once per lifetime welcome bonus.

Final thoughts

I must say this welcome bonus is not what we were expecting from TD and Aeroplan and to be honest it will only appeal to a smaller proportion of Canadians who are ready to travel. The airline and the loyalty programs know very well that many Canadians are not travelling right now and those who are considering are on the fence - they're 50-50 whether they will or not so they'll take a chance with this offer but if they end up on the no go side of the fence they lose the buddy pass and only end up with that 10,000 point bonus. Not an ideal welcome bonus. Then you have the solo traveler who has no need for a buddy pass and not a huge amount of value from those 10,000 points. That person would be better off getting a card like the HSBC World Elite Mastercard with its 100,000 point bonus which is worth $500 in travel and using that to book a flight on Air Canada (and earn you Aeroplan points for the flight while doing so). In my mind the ideal bonus would be 25,000 points with the buddy pass and the annual fee rebates and allow for the buddy pass to be used on Aeroplan economy class reward flights as well.

Granted though - with all that said, this bonus is only set to be here for just over two months as it is slated to end on January 17, 2021. Our hopes at that time is they won't extend this current offer and go back to something more traditional - yes I said it - traditional. I know, normally I lambast tradition but in this case I think it's needed.

Still, if you do you travel with someone else and know you will be heading to a destination covered by the Buddy Pass then this is a good welcome bonus that can provide some really good value seeing that you aren't paying an annual fee in the first year. 

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

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