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Top Loyalty Programs in Canada (updated November 13, 2016)

This post is long overdue for an update. Last time around, I still listed Air Miles as one of the top 5. With the upcoming controversial expiry policy (which may be altered anyway by a new legislation), they will temporary be bumped out of the top 5.

To qualify to be on this list, the loyalty company will need to be headquartered in Canada, so I am going to bump out British Airways’ Executive Club program. I had them on last time, because one of the factors that I included was the ease of earning miles or points with that specific program as a Canadian.

1) American Express Membership Rewards (no change)

Last time around, American Express’s Membership Rewards program had a much larger gap from second place, RBC Avion. The gap has significantly closed because American Express has this new one-in-a-lifetime sign up bonus rule. Though I suspect that they may loosen the rule as time goes on. I can’t seem them leaving it that way forever. That could really damage their business in the long run. It would make more sense to just implement a waiting period in between sign ups.

What makes Membership Rewards so valuable is their transfer frequent flyer transfer partners: Aeroplan, Executive Club, MilleMiglia, Asia Miles, Delta SkyMiles, Etihad Guest, HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest. Though, RBC Rewards also has a competitive list. The edge that Membership Rewards has is that they have more competitive credit cards to choose from to earn points with.

2) RBC Avion (RBC Rewards) (no change)

RBC Rewards’ key transfer partners do not only include frequent flyer program. They are AAdvantage, Asia Miles, Executive Club, Esso Extra, Shoppers Optimum and WestJet Rewards.

Another valuable way to redeem your Avion points is to pay for a flight ticket. Below is the “Air Travel Redemption Schedule”:

Number of Points Required Description Maximum
15,000 Short-haul: Adjacent Canadian province, Canadian territory or U.S. state $350
35,000 Long-haul: Anywhere in Canada/U.S except Hawaii and Alaska $750
45,000 Long-haul: Western Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska OR Eastern Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean $900
55,000 Long-haul: Eastern Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska OR Western Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean $1,100
65,000 Long-haul: Canada/U.S. to Europe) $1,300
100,000 Long-haul: Canada/U.S to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Middle East, Africa, South America $2,000

RBC Rewards has historically offer more transfer bonuses than Membership Rewards. So the gap between the two programs are very close. Let’s see what enhancements each company will come up with. So long as they are not devaluations.

3) Air Canada, Aeroplan (no change)

As unpopular as Aeroplan is with many people, they still offer a very competitive program. What makes Aeroplan so valuable is the many different co-branded credit cards offered by American Express, CIBC and TD. Aeroplan has their reward redemption sweet spots as well, just need to dig a little deeper.

4) WestJet Rewards (new)

WestJet offers some decent value. The thing that is hurting their potential is that they are not part of any major airline alliance. In a way, it may work out better for them, because they have more freedom to control their product. However, a big part of what makes Aeroplan so valuable is because they are part of Star Alliance. Without their membership, I don’t know if I would even bother with Aeroplan. At least WestJet does have some valuable airline partners.

That is what makes WestJet Rewards so valuable. On the bright side, because they have a straight cash back reward system, it is very straighforward and easy to understand. Every $1 you earn in rewards, is $1 that you can spend on WestJet.

=5) VIPorter (new)

Porter Airlines offers a decent rewards program. However, they offer very few destinations and have no airline partners. So their growth potential is limited. However, there is a lot of value to be had with their program.

=5) Aurora Rewards (new)

Tied in 5th place is Canadian North’s airline reward program, Aurora Rewards. They offer a very similar program as VIPorter. They also have the same limitations with the limited destinations

Canadian North does partner up with Aeroplan, but Porter offers more popular destinations. So this cancels out and makes each program tied for the moment.

6) Scene (new)

The Shoppers Optimum program should probably be ranked above Scene. But with the uncertainty revolving around the future of Shoppers Optimum, due to its takeover by Loblaws, I will put Scene above them.

What I love most about the Scene rewards program is that they really diversified their business model. You no longer have to go to the movies only to earn and redeem your points. They have many other partners to earn and redeem points with.

7) Shoppers Optimum (new)

There is so much value to be had with the Shoppers Optimum program. Mostly due to its frequent bonus promotions. If you time your purchases accordingly, you can rack up your points in a hurry. I just hope that they continue to remain in operation when all the dust settles. Loblaws would be smart to retain their program and offer their own a co-branded credit card through PC Financial. Their reward redemption schedule is as follows:

  • 8,000 points = $10
  • 22,000 points = $30
  • 38,000 points = $60
  • 50,000 points = $85
  • 95,000 points = $170

The key is the redeem at a higher level to get more value per point.

8) Air Miles (last time 4)

Air Miles has dropped down the list, but not that badly. Currently, they still do have lots of ways to earn miles, especially through American Express and BMO co-branded credit cards, along with all their partners. They do still have some sweet spots in their reward catalogue. Otherwise, you can always redeem your points in cash, at their retail partners, which is less of a headache.

I am curious to see how things play out in 2017 for Air Miles. Something is going to happen, one way or another.

9) Aventura (new)

Aventura has a very similar program to the RBC Avion program, minus the valuable transfer partners. They used to have Aeroplan as a transfer partner, but once they discontinued that relationship, the value of their program really dropped. I wish they would learn from RBC Avion and Membership Rewards.

10) Esso Extra (new)

Esso Extra is actually a very underrated program. They do have some sneaky value in their reward options. A few months ago, I would have put Petro-Points ranking higher than Esso Extra, but Petro-Points recently terminated its agreement with Asia Miles, and discontinuing its popular savings card, while Esso Extra stayed stagnant. So by default, Esso Extra moves up.

Esso Extra also have a decent no annual fee co-branded credit card called the RBC Esso VISA Classic Card.

Bubble for the top 10) Canadian Tire, More Rewards, Petro-Points, PC Plus, Plum Rewards

I will cap my list off at top 10. Any programs that I should include in a future update to the post? Agree or disagree with the list?

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