Advice from someone who does not know everything.

Tag: air miles

Aeroplan Versus Air Miles – Comparing Them

Air Miles and Aeroplan points. The two biggest travel rewards programs. There is always the decision on which one to go with.

This will provide a bit of an analysis on them and which one I think is better. Personally, I think you should sign up for both, since the programs are free. There are credit cards that allow you to collect more miles and that is what I am going to focus on. For the record, I am going to assume points were obtained from a credit card alone and that the individual put $10,000 on their credit card in one year. I will also assume they are using their rewards for travel.

Basically, both programs are good. They are free to sign up and free to collect for most situations. Using the credit cards and paying fees change things though. Air Miles is the only one with a \”no fee\” credit card (Bank of Montreal\’s Mosaik Mastercard and the American Express Air Miles card) and whether paying the fees is worth it to you or not, you need to read my other articles to figure that out.

The basic air miles Mosaik Mastcard is free, but the American Express is free as well and pays out more AirMiles so that is a no brainer if you want it. I figure you need to put at least $3600/year on the basic CIBC AeroClassic Visa card (the Aeroplan credit card) to make it worth your while there. For most people, that isn\’t a problem.

You will find some interesting information in these articles as well.

In my other articles, I value an Air Mile at 23 cents/mile for flights and I value an Aeroplan point at 1.6 cents/mile for flights. You can read them to see how I figure that out (links above). Using the $10,000/year situation, it would be in my best interest to pay the fee for the best credit cards. That would be the $120/year CIBC AeroGold Visa and the $80/year BMO Gold Mosaik Mastercard.

The Visa card would give me 15,000 aeroplan miles. These are valued at 15,000 times 1.6 cents or $240. Since I had to pay $120 for the yearly fee I would get $120 back from my spending.

The Mastercard would give me 666 Air Miles. These are valued at 666 times 23 cents or $153.18. Since I had to pay $80 for the yearly fee I would get $73.18 back from my spending.

I\’m getting better value out of my Aeroplan Visa card? Yes, in this situation you are. I used the \”travel rewards\” scenario where an Air Mile is worth around 23 cents.

However, Air Miles has a variety of rewards and entertainment rewards are worth up to 45 cents/mile. You can only get these with an Air Miles card (this isn\’t totally true, but there are so many more rewards with Air Miles you can\’t really compare them). In that scenario the Air Miles card actually would give you $220 back from your spending (after deducting the $80 fee).

Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of these credit card programs and the reward systems in general.

Aeroplan Points Pros and Cons

Pros: This is a better \”travel\” rewards program.

  • Collecting Aeroplan points with a credit card for the purpose of travel will give you better return on your credit card purchases.
  • You can collect them at a variety of stores.
  • Aeroplan has a good website for booking travel online
  • More international destinations available.


  • There isn\’t a \”no fee\” credit card option.
  • There aren\’t as many rewards options.
  • Aeroplan points have an expiry on them (its several years though).
  • You can\’t use them for WestJet flights (airline in Canada).

Air Miles Pros and Cons

Pros: This is better for rewards flexibility and better returns for the entertainment options.

  • There is a \”no fee\” credit card option. If you don\’t put a lot on credit cards, then this card is for you.
  • There are a lot more rewards possibilities.
  • Entertainment rewards make the return on credit card purchases worth more than the return on Aeroplan credit card purchases.
  • You can collect them at a variety of stores.
  • They don\’t expire.
  • They are good for travel with Air Canada and WestJet.
  • Excellent automated phone system for booking non-travel rewards.


  • If used strictly for travel rewards (flights), the return value from the credit card isn\’t as good as Aeroplan.
  • The Air Miles website is terrible and there is no ability to book flights online, only other rewards.
  • Fewer international destinations than Aeroplan.

Update June 15, 2007: A reader commented that you can Collect Airmiles by just flying, which I said you could not. If you use your card in conjunction with booking you can receive more Airmiles.


My summary would be that you should sign up for both programs. You should always carry a blue Air Miles card and the orange Aeroplan card. Choosing a credit card depends on your rewards preferences and how much you expect to spend on your card. If you rarely use a card and don\’t want the fee then just get the basic American Express Air Miles Card.

If you do spend more and will use the miles for traveling, then go with CIBC\’s Aeroplan Visa cards. Read my article on Aeroplan to determine whether a credit card upgrade is worth it or not.\r\n\r\nIf you would like other types of rewards (like entertainment) or just more variety in your rewards, then go with Air Miles. Read my article on Air Miles to determine wheter a credit card upgarde is worth it or not.

Collecting Air Miles and their Value

Why I think an airmile can be worth anywhere between 13 cents and 44 cents depending on what you use it for.

Air miles, Aeroplan points, HBC points, PetroPoints, etc, etc, all the way back to Club Z Points at Zellers. They seem like such a gimmick and just a way to influence your spending. The thing is, they are everywhere now and you can’t really avoid it, so you might as well take advantage of it. I have calculated how much I think they are worth so read on.

I personally collect Air Miles and Aeroplan Points so I just talk about those. This posting is about Air Miles specifically, but the same techniques can be used to figure out Aeroplan. You can read these related articles…

Basically, I value an airmile differently depending on the product. Here is my summary.

  • Entertainment gifts are about 40 cents/airmile.
  • Travel is around 20 cents/airmile.
  • Gift cards are around 10 cents/airmile.

So when you see those “double your airmiles when you buy this…” deals, you can add up how much you are going to spend and how many airmiles you will get and see if it will actually pay for yourself. Unless of course you actually need what you are buying, then it doesn’t matter.

How to Collect Air Miles

Air Miles, first of all, is free and there are three different ways to collect.

  • You can apply for the blue Air Miles card and just keep it on you. If you shop at stores that are affiliated with them (Shell, SportChek, Turbo, Boston Pizza, Safeway, Rona, etc) then you just hand them your card and you collect some points.
  • If you have the blue Air Miles card then you can also earn points buy purchasing on-line through the retailer links at using your collector number. Read more on it at Book Through AirMilesShops For More Air Miles.
  • You apply for a no fee BMO Mosaik Mastercard and link it to your Air Miles card you got above. They will give you 1 AirMile for every $40 you spend on their credit card. For a yearly fee you can increase the AirMiles you earn. You will get 1 for every $20 you spend for $35/year (the silver card), or you get 1 for every $15 you spend for $80/year (the gold card). The card upgrades can also give you some cheaper AirMile rates on flights.
  • You apply for a no fee American Express card and link it to your Air Miles card you got above. They will give you 1 AirMile for every $20 you spend on the card. This is way better than the Mosaik card above (there 1 for 20 card is $35/year), but you cannot upgrade this one any further. You don’t get any special rates on flights either.

So you may get airmiles on any purchase if you use your Mastercard/Amex and at AirMile affiliates you can \”double dip\” by collecting airmiles using your blue card that they give you and paying for your actual purchase with your credit card and getting airmiles from BMO.

These points can later be used to buy flights, car rentals, gift cards, tickets, electronics, and a variety of other products. With flights and car rentals you will still have to pay the taxes, but the base fees are covered by the air miles.

So this is the basics of the system. Now I will discuss what they are actually worth.

What is the Best Value for My Airmiles? (How I Figure Out How Much They Are Worth)

This is an interesting question. This tells you what your airmiles are worth. I decided to investigate this. Basically, I looked at how many airmiles it took to purchase something and divided it into the cost of the item. This gave me the cents per airmile they were good for. There is a large difference depending on what you buy with them.

For example, I will compare 3 items for you right now. I\’ll list the value you save, the airmiles it takes, and the value of each airmile for that item. I priced out a round trip flight from Calgary to Victoria, a Starbucks gift card, and 2 for 1 movie coupon.

  1. A flight from Calgary to Victoria on Westjet. This is an approximate savings for the flight I found.
    • Money Saved: $181 (this can be higher)
    • Air Miles Used: 800 (A discount because I\’m a gold card member)
    • Air Miles Value: 23 cents/air mile
  2. A $25 Starbucks Gift Card.
    • Money saved: $25
    • Air Miles Used: 200
    • Air Miles Value: 13 cents/air mile
  3. A 2 for 1 movie pass.
    • Money Saved: $11 (move ticket in my city)
    • Air Miles Used: 25
    • Air Miles Value: 44 cents/air mile

So you save the most money on movies, then the flight, then the starbucks card. Now don\’t run out and use your air miles for as many movie passes as you can buy. The problem here is, what do you want to buy with them? Not everyone wants to go to the theatre all the time. This is just to keep aware of what kind of value you are getting

A couple years ago, my future wife was living in Victoria and I was in Calgary. Oil prices were still low and flights were really cheap. If we waited for seat sales to see each other on the weekends, I priced out my airmiles were only worth 8 cents each. So I just shelled out the money for my plane tickets and used my air miles for something else.

Basically, my advice is to check out how much money you \”actually\” save by using air miles to purchase something and how many airmiles it takes and plug it into this formula:

Air Miles Value = Money Saved / Air Miles Used

Should I Upgrade my Mosaik Mastercard?

Should you pay the annual fee to get more Air Miles? This depends on how much money you spend on your credit card and what you will use your miles for. The more you spend, the more likely an upgrade will be a good thing.

Update (March 22, 2007): American Express offers a no fees card that pays out 1 AirMile for every $20. This is better than the Basic and Silver card. The only question is whether you should go for the Amex or the Gold Mastercard. If you don’t care whether you have an AMEX or Mastercard then read the section below called Should I Get a Gold Mosaik Card or an American Express. There is an update below regarding how to choose.

Now that we did our calculations above to see what an airmile is worth we can figure this out. Ask yourself what you want to use it for. For me, it is flights.

Upgrading Between the Mosaik Cards

If you do not want the American Express then here is the reasoning behind upgrading the Mosaik cards.

I will show you whether you should upgrade for each of the 3 examples I did above. To calculate this I made a formula that took into account the annual fee and what the value of an airmile is to figure out how much money you would need to spend to at least recover the annual fee in extra airmiles value. The formula for upgrading to the silver card is 1400 / Air Miles Value. The formula for the gold card is 1920 / Air Miles Value. If you want to see how I figured these out, send me an email and I’ll send you the proofs.

For example, if I value an air mile at 20 cents, this is the formula:

1400 / 0.20 = $7000

1920 / 0.20 = $9600

This means that I would need to put $7000/year on my Mosaik card to make it worth the fee to upgrade to the Silver card and $9600/year to upgrade to the Gold card.

For the examples I list above here are the results:

Minimum Spending Amounts Based on Reward Types

ItemValue per Air MileSilver CardGold Card
Starbucks Card$0.13$10769$14769
2 for 1 Movie Pass$0.44$3182$4364

Should I Get a Gold Mosaik Card or an American Express?

Updated March 22, 2007

This is an update to this article since I have looked at the American Express. This card pays you 1 Airmile for every $20 and has no fees. So it is not even a comparison to the Basic and Silver Mosaik cards, the Amex beats them hands down. However, the Gold card will pay you more miles if you put enough money on it.

The formula is $MoneySpent = 4800 / AirmileValue

So depending on how you value an airmile, the amount of money you need to spend to make the Gold card worth your while is shown in the table below. Remember you have to make enough extra miles to cover the $80 yearly fee you have paid.

Minimum Spending Amounts Based on Reward Types for Amex to Gold Card

ItemValue per Air MileGold Card
Starbucks Card$0.13$36,923
2 for 1 Movie Pass$0.44$10,909

Wow, that is some serious coin you need to be putting down now. Unless you own a business and are putting your expenses on it, the Amex is probably the better bet.Bottom line: The more value you get from your air miles, the less you have to put on your card to make it worthwhile for the upgrade. So if you are using all your airmiles on Starbucks gift cards, you will have to spend a lot on your credit card before you should think about upgrading.

If you are using the Amex, you can’t upgrade anyways so it doesn’t matter. UPDATE: There is a platinum Amex available now as well as Aeroplan earning cards. I will evaluate them at a later date. If you are not putting on at least the amounts I mention above to make the Gold card upgrade worth your while for the Mosaik card, you should just stick the American Express one. And based on the values, it looks the Amex is the best bet. The only question is how often you will be able to use it since it isn’t as widely accepted.