Travel

Sweet Spot Sunday: Booking low-cost flights to and around Canada with Aeroplan

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Canada is one of my favorite countries to visit — in large part because of how dynamic it is. You can experience European vibes in places like Quebec City and Montreal, or head to Banff National Park to experience Canada’s beautiful wilderness near the U.S. border.

However, despite being so close to home, flights to Canada can be expensive. Even short-haul trips like New York to Montreal can top $300 in economy during peak business- and leisure-travel dates. Plus, flights within Canada can be expensive too, adding cost to a multistop country tour.

One of my favorite ways to save on flights to (and around) Canada is booking with Air Canada Aeroplan points. Under the program, you can book flights for under 10,000 points one-way — depending on when you fly.

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Here, I’ll show you how to book these flight deals and how to earn the points you need to book.

Why it’s special

ANDREW KUNESH/THE POINTS GUY

Air Canada Aeroplan prices transborder flights from the U.S. to Canada as low as 6,000 points on some routes and dates, according to its award chart.

The program stuck to a standard award chart for partner awards but prices its own flights dynamically. In turn, the price you’ll pay varies based on the route you book, when you fly and the date you book if you’re flying with Air Canada.

There are plenty of excellent deals to be had though. On the low end, you can book flights under 500 miles for 6,000 Aeroplan points and 47 Canadian dollars (about $34) in taxes and fees one-way. This includes popular routes like O’Hare International Airport (ORD) to Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL).

AIRCANADA.COM

Flights between 501 and 1,500 miles cost 10,000 Aeroplan points plus taxes and fees in economy on partner airlines, which is still a solid deal compared to the cost of cash flights during peak times. Unlike with British Airways Avios awards, you won’t pay more points for connecting tickets. Sometimes these tickets price slightly below the award chart price if you have a leg operated by Air Canada.

AIRCANADA.COM

Aeroplan can also be a great way to book intra-Canada award tickets on Air Canada. These often book well under 6,000 points one-way, like this Toronto-to-Montreal ticket that costs 5,600 miles and CA$42 ($31) in taxes and fees one-way.

AIRCANADA.COM

Generally speaking, you can consistently find these prices on many transborder and domestic Canadian flights — which can save you notable money on your next vacation. You may pay slightly less on some routes when you book with Etihad Guest — one of Air Canada’s newest partners — but booking with Aeroplan gives you access to United-operated awards from the U.S. and low-cost, dynamically priced awards on Air Canada flights.

Also, you may be eligible for preferred pricing if you have Air Canada elite status or the Aeroplan Credit Card.

Related: Book this, not that: Star Alliance award tickets

How to book this award

You can book these award tickets right on the Air Canada website. Look toward the center of the page, and input your desired itinerary. Make sure to check the “Book with points” option before you search.

AIRCANADA.COM

All available flights will appear at the center of the screen. You can also view the lowest award price for the days surrounding your search at the top of the screen, which is helpful if you have flexible plans.

When you find a flight you like, click on its price and follow the on-screen prompts to book your award ticket.

AIRCANADA.COM

Related: Traveling to Canada during the pandemic — what’s it like?

How to earn points for this award

THE POINTS GUY

Air Canada points have become far easier to earn for U.S.-based readers over the last couple of years.

Recently, Air Canada launched the Aeroplan Credit Card with Chase. Right now, the card offers 70,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first three months of account opening. Plus, it includes travel perks like a TSA PreCheck or Nexus membership credit, free checked bags and 500 bonus points for every $2,000 you spend in a calendar month, up to 1,500 bonus points per month.

Related: Aeroplan Credit Card review

Additionally, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One and Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Aeroplan at a 1:1 transfer ratio, and transfers process instantly.

Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer to Aeroplan at a 3:1 ratio, with transfers of 60,000 points earning a 5,000-point bonus.

If you’re under 5/24 and are eligible to open a Chase credit card, you may consider one of these cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card – Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve – Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Alternatively, consider opening one of these American Express cards to boost your Membership Rewards balance:

  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of cardmembership. Earn 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants, 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1 point per dollar), 3 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in your first six months of cardmembership. Earn 5 points per dollar on airfare purchased directly from airlines or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings with American Express Travel Travel and Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).

As a general rule of thumb, you should only transfer points once you’ve found the flight you want to book. Otherwise you could be stuck with points you can’t use.

Related: A guide to earning transferable points and why they’re so valuable

Bottom line

Flights to, from and around Canada can be expensive, but using Aeroplan points to book them can equal big savings on your next trip.

Bookmark this guide and refer to it the next time you need to book a transborder or Canadian domestic flight. Oftentimes, you’ll save points over booking with another loyalty program — plus keep cash in your pocket for other expenses on your trip.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, click here.

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