You may have already received an email from Air Canada regarding changes to its frequent flyer program, Aeroplan. In the email, you will notice that they are updating their terms and conditions effective December 19, 2022. There are quite a few terms that are being changed, but the one regarding Welcome Bonuses is the one that I would like to highlight for today.
New terms related to churning
The new terms reads as follows:
10. Welcome Bonus Provisions
In connection with a Welcome Bonus being made available for becoming a holder of an Aeroplan Credit Card […] such bonus Aeroplan Points incentives are intended for a Member who has not previously received bonus Aeroplan Points for the same Products or Services, to acquire such Products or Services.
Aeroplan may, in its sole discretion, choose to limit the number of Welcome Bonuses or similar bonuses or incentives a Member may receive in any period, and, in addition to the other remedies set forth in these Terms and Conditions, reserves the right to suspend, revoke or terminate the Account of any person who engages in a behaviour of excessive use of the Welcome Bonus offers. Such behaviours include but are not limited to: (i) applying for multiple Aeroplan Credit Cards across one or more product types or across one or more financial institutions that issue an Aeroplan Credit Card; (ii) a pattern of cancelling, or disengaging in, an Aeroplan Credit Card shortly after receiving a Welcome Bonus or similar bonus or incentive; and (iii) a pattern of purchasing and then cancelling or returning any product or service for which Aeroplan Points were issued.
Who does the new terms affect?
These new terms give Aeroplan the power to limit the number of sign up bonuses that members receive, potentially putting an end to churning. Churning is one of the faster ways to earn a lot of points in a short period of time, with relatively minimal amount of work. However, as this door closes, will slow down the speed that we can earn large amounts of points?
The timing is somewhat brutal as it is coincides new laws in place that gives retailers the power to pass on merchant credit card fees to consumers directly. Previously, when we pay with our credit cards, most retailers would pay the merchant fee (around 2.4% of the purchase price) to credit card issuers (i.e. American Express, MasterCard, Visa). Some retailers have already been doing this practice (e.g. property taxes, utilities), however, now retailers will have an easier time to pass on the fees to consumers.
To play devil’s advocate, who knows how sustainable churning was for credit card companies. It does not actually affect loyalty programs per say, since credit card companies pre-purchased those points in advance. After the loyalty companies are paid, then the credit card companies are issuing the points as rewards to their clients. So churning really only affects the bottom line of credit card companies, which is probably where the pressure came from to update these terms and conditions.
That being said, hopefully this coincides with improving features and benefits on credit cards, so that it gives cardholders more incentives to keep paying the annual fee year after year, which can organically reduce the amount of churning anyway.
These changes mentioned above can potentially really shake up the miles and points game. Some food for thought that we will monitor closely.
We are really curious to see if retailers will actually pass that cost down to consumers. And if they do, will it they actually lose customers to competitors who will continue to cover the fee for consumers?
Is Aeroplan going to shut down member accounts when they receive too many sign up bonuses? Or will they just forbid the member from receiving multiple bonuses?
What are your thoughts on all this? Please share in the comment section below!