In this instalment I will cover a few of the programs available to you, including bank, airline and hotel partners. This will not be a concise guide, but I will outline what we have chosen to focus on as well as some programs that may be of interest. I will mainly focus on what is available to us here in Canada.
To start, I will list what we have focused the majority of our energy on. While still learning ourselves, we feel our future travel goals will be met by heavily investing into these programs.
OK, we are not heavily investing into these anymore. However we do hold more than 400k TD Rewards between us and we are not going to just let them go. As mentioned previously these will never hold a value higher than $.005. ½ of a cent, that is it. But with how many we have, we still have more than $2000 if booked for travel through Expedia for TD. Their value decreases to $.004 as soon as you use them any other way. And they drop to .0025 ($1000) if I were to redeem them for cash. Bet your ass we will be using them for travel through Expedia for TD
American Express Membership Rewards:
These are our bread and butter because AmEx has such great welcome bonuses and their flexibility can’t be beat. You can transfer MR points to the following airline partners:
- Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio
- Alitalia MilleMiglia at a 1:0.75 ratio
- Asia miles at a 1:0.75
- British Airways at a 1:1 ratio
- Delta Skymiles at a 1:0.75 ratio
- Eithad Guest at a 1:0.75 ratio
The best use of transfers in my opinion would be to Aeroplan and British Airways to maintain as close to or more than $.02 per point.
You can transfer MR points to the following Hotel partners:
- Hilton Honors at a 1:1 ratio
- Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio
If you are a domestic traveller, the lack of Hilton products in Canada would make this transfer pointless. If you are a more international traveller and enjoy Hiltons, this could be right up your alley. I personally would never transfer MR points to Marriott unless it was an unusual circumstance. Such as topping up my Marriott balance for a Luxury stay in an exotic location.
MR points can only be earned on the following Amex cards: Take note that these are charge cards and not typical credit cards. With these cards there are no pre-set spending limits and balances must be paid off in full every month.
- Gold Rewards card
- Platinum Card
- Business Gold card
- Business Platinum Card
As stated, the goal here is to always try and maintain a minimum value of $.02 with your points. With so many available transfer partners for MR points, holding your points in your MR account and only transferring when you need to would benefit you if one of the programs on our list were to go through a devaluation. My understanding is that devaluations are a regular occurrence by many programs within this game.
Surprisingly, the American Express fixed points travel program will redeem in many instances at a value of $.02. The only hang up here is that, as demonstrated previously, Aeroplan business class redemptions can have values of $.07 or more so you may realize more value by transferring to a partner. Redeeming your points any other way loses value quickly. Shopping on Amazon with points or buying Holt Renfrew gift cards only has a value of $.007. Shopping through the American Express portal shows me a value of $.005 to buy a GoPro Hero 8.
American Express Membership Rewards Select Points:
Tricky American Express. Two different rewards currencies. With the Select points holding a value of about .014 according to Ricky at Prince of Travel. Oddly enough, there is no clear distinction as to how you earn which points. American Express now just refers to all in-house points as Membership Rewards.Thanks to the multitude of blogs and forums I acknowledged earlier I can tell you. Currently in Canada these are the credit cards that earn MR Select points.
- American Express Cobalt Card
- The Business Edge Card
- Choice Card from American Express
Angela currently holds the Cobalt card and there are some great daily drivers to this card. 5 points for every dollar spent on groceries and 2500 bonus points every month you charge at least $500 to the card, for a $120 annual fee that is charged at $10 per month.
MR Select points cannot be transferred directly to any airline partners however. For the most part you must use these in the American Express fixed points travel program (which as we have seen is not bad), shopping, statement credits or transfer them to Marriott Bonvoy. Once transferred to Bonvoy you could then transfer them to airline partners. 60,000 Bonvoy points will earn you up to 25, 000 miles/points depending on the airline. These will transfer at a 1:1.2 ratio just as MR to Marriott Bonvoy. In the past there have been bonus promotions of 1:1.5 to Marriott Bonvoy. We are holding out at this point to see if it comes again.
British Airways Avios:
Our intention with Avios will be to use them for short haul flights within Asia and Europe. Only redeeming where “it makes sense”. Flying within Southeast Asia in many instances would make more sense just paying cash. Afterall, it is quite cheap to fly there. I have done enough research at this point though that I can find flights from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh city for as little as 12,000 Avios for both of us. The same cash fare would be $388.13. That is a redemption value of $.032. In this instance I would opt to use the points.
Two reasons for this: Avios are known for their sweet spots on short haul redemptions and we chose to focus more on quantity than quality for some of our redemptions. A two hour economy fare flight is not something we will get bent out of shape about. And we still have Aeroplan for long haul international redemptions where we may want a business class fare. While $388 is extremely cheap for two flights, that $388 could also mean extending a trip by 2 days. We will take more days in some of our desired locations in exchange for the mass of points we have built. The same approach will be used for parts of Europe.
Of all the redemptions I have searched for in multiple parts of the world the lowest value I have found in Avios is between $.017 and $.018. We are still staying near or above our .$02 goal in every instance. We have earned Avios through Angela’s RBC British airways card and both of our Amex Business Platinum cards by transferring our MR points. With the RBC card being the only co-branded card in Canada, transfer partners will be the main draw to earning Avios here.
Air Canada’s Aeroplan:
I have already demonstrated in a previous post and linked to above what kind of value they hold. In general we will always look for a minimum of $.02 on any redemption knowing that it can also be substantially higher. We have earned Aeroplan to date through both my Amex Aeroplan Reserve card and TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege card. And once again through both of our Amex Business Platinum cards by transferring our MR points.
There are a multitude of Co-branded Aeroplan credit cards on the market from three different banks:
- TD: Aeroplan VISA Platinum, Aeroplan Visa Infinite, Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege and the Aeroplan Visa Business
- CIBC:Aeroplan Visa Card, Aeroplan Visa Infinite, Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege and the Aeroplan Visa Business
- American Express: The Aeroplan Card, Aeroplan Reserve and Aeroplan Business Reserve
In addition, Aeroplan has more than 150 popular online retailers where you can earn Aeroplan points by shopping through the Aeroplan Estore. This way we earn Aeroplan for everything we buy at places like Amazon. Quite frequently they run great promotions earning 10 points or more per dollar spent. And of course you can earn by flying with Air Canada
For our purposes, we plan to use Bonvoy points for stays in expensive cities that we don’t plan on spending much time in such as Singapore. It is all about saving cash out of pocket. A few nights in Singapore before moving on to Jakarta would ideally be paid for by redeeming our Bonvoy points. Bonvoy has been hit or miss when searching for redemptions. I have found some really horrible values but then I get surprised on occasion.
While I don’t think we will ever get anywhere near $.02, I have found some up to $.014. I accept that this is just what the high end will be for this particular hotel partner. The use of the 35k annual night certificate will also come in handy.
We earn Bonvoy points through my Amex Marriott Bonvoy Business card and Angela’s Bonvoy personal card. Both of us holding a version of the card gives us two 35k annual night certificates. These points can also transfer to more than 40 airline partners which makes them even more valuable. Of course you can also earn Bonvoy points by staying at any Marriott.
CIBC Aventura Points:
We got involved with these because quite frankly I was impatient. When we first got involved I read that these points could be transferred to Aeroplan. I applied immediately for my first card in the game. LESSON TO ALL NEWCOMERS. READ CAREFULLY!!! In my haste I didn’t read all of the details. It turns out that these points can only transfer to Aeroplan if you have been an Aventura card holder since sometime back in 2013. There was a $3000 minimum spend on this card. Needless to say, this was an expensive mistake.
On the positive side, there was a rebate on the annual fee. Having said that, it’s not all bad. There is some upside to it. Aventura points according to some hold a value between $.01 and $.013. That is a much better return than the TD Rewards. I am sitting on about 25k of these points that I don’t know what I am going to do with yet. Not to worry, I will redeem them for maximum value at some point. Outside of credit cards there is no other way to earn Aventura points. There are a multitude of cards for the Aventura family:
- Personal: Aventura Visa, Aventura Gold, Aventura Visa Infinite, and Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege
- Business: Aventura Visa for Business and the Aventura Visa for Business Plus
Others to Consider
Alaska Mileage Plan:
I foolishly opted not to get involved with this program early on due to their impending entry into One World Alliance. I was new and everybody had expected a massive devaluation once they officially joined. As of March 31, 2021 Alaska Airlines will be a member of One World Alliance. The good news is that it was announced on January 12, 2021 that Alaska will not change their redemption chart when joining One World. They have also vowed to give advance notice when/if they do change it.
Alaska Airlines is the only major US airline with co-branded credit cards in Canada. The MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard and MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Mastercard. Depending on who you ask, they hold a value of $.02 – $.23 per mile. Alaska Airlines has partnerships with Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas and Japan Airlines. These carriers are known for having some of the best premium cabins in the industry. And apparently Alaska’s redemption rates are some of the best around. According to some, a transpacific one way business class flight can be booked for as little as 50k points through the Alaska Mileage Plan. The two cards listed above may become top priority for our next round of cards.
RBC Avion Points:
We touched on the RBC Avion credit cards in the last post. For starters, they maintain great value because of the transferability. RBC has three cards that earn Avion points. The RBC Avion Visa Infinite, RBC Avion Visa Platinum and the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege. Avion points transfer to these partners at the following ratios.
- British Airways Avios: 1:1
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles: 1:1
- WestJet Rewards: 1:1
- American Airlines AAdvantage: 1:0.7
These points can also be redeemed through the RBC Rewards site. They have a fixed points travel program that will allow you to redeem points in fixed increments. One of these examples is as follows:
- For 65,000 Points you can visit any city in Europe
- Depart from any major gateway in Canada or the US to a European destination
- Max ticket price of $1300
- Excludes applicable taxes, surcharges and fees.
If you found a flight valued at exactly $1300 you would have a redemption value of $.02 (1300 divided by 65000). Unfortunately if you found a ticket that cost $700 you would still use those 65k points but you would only have a redemption value of $.011. You can also use points to cover the additional fees but only at a value of $.01 regardless of what the ticket cost is. Ricky at Prince of Travel has valued these points at $.019. I would guess his valuation has mostly to do with their transferability.
There are currently no great offers for these credit cards, but they did have a 100,000 point welcome bonus offer through the fall of 2020. These points can also transfer to some airline partners: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and British Airways Avios. As far as I know it is currently the only way to earn KrisFlyer rewards in Canada. The transfer ratios are bizarre to say the least.
- 25,000 HSBC Rewards converts to 9000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles
- 25,000 HSBC Rewards converts to 10,000 British Airways Avios
- 25,000 HSBC Rewards converts to 8000 Cathay Pacific Asia miles
The only way to earn these rewards is through an HSBC rewards earning MasterCard. These include the HSBC World Elite, HSBC +Rewards, HSBC Premier World Elite, HSBC Premier and the HSBC Advance.
HSBC Rewards can also be redeemed at $.005 on travel. I know I complained about this redemption value with TD, so don’t say it. The benefit with HSBC is that it can be travel booked any way you choose. You are not forced to use a travel portal through their bank. Simply redeem your rewards as a statement credit within 60 days of purchase.
Yet another perk to HSBC Rewards and the World Elite card specifically is it also carries no Foreign Transaction fees. Which is one of only a handful in Canada that do so. In case you didn’t know, when travelling most people think they are paying a currency exchange and that is all on their foreign transactions. That is not the case and I would advise you to scrutinize the terms and conditions of your credit cards. Almost every card in Canada will charge an additional 2.5% or more for a foreign transaction fee on top of the currency exchange.
While right now may not be the best time to grab one of these cards, if they were to re-introduce the100k welcome point bonus it may be worthwhile. If you transferred that 100k to British Airways Avios you’d get 40,000 points which matches what the offer on the RBC British airways card.
This post only scratches the surface of some of the many programs available to Canadians. And I assure you there is much more. Now that we’ve discussed programs that earn rewards and programs that redeem rewards, hopefully you are starting to understand the magnitude of the world of miles and points. Next we’ll go into the finer details about what you’ll need to know about acquiring these credit cards
Previously: Rewards and Values
Next up: Ready to apply? Some things to know.