The Air Canada Aeroplan program is one of our favorite airline programs. It is our go-to choice for Star Alliance programs. However, recently, the airline emailed its members that it is updating its terms and conditions. And indicated it is bringing in some changes that could impact many members.
The new changes come into force in February 2024. However according to Aeroplan, they are being put in place to combat activity that Aeroplan deems to go against the spirit of the program. The problem, as you will see, with these new terms and conditions is they are very vague. The wording is opaque, and the rules have lots of grey areas.
What are the New Rules Designed to Combat
In a nutshell, the new rules are designed to combat misuse of the program, especially credit card sign-up bonuses. This is done by churning and gaming the system. And general misuse of the account.
What is the Aeroplan Program planning on doing?
According to the new terms and conditions page:
“Aeroplan reserves the right to audit a Member’s Account at any time and without notice to ensure compliance with these Terms and Conditions”
While this is great news (not if it’s your account), it raises several questions. First and foremost, what are the criteria that would trigger an audit? What is the company auditing exactly? So far we have not been able to determine an answer.
What makes things worse is while it is unclear what triggers an audit. However there are some serious ramifications if you upset Aeroplan. Per the terms and conditions:
“Where, in the reasonable opinion of Aeroplan, a Member has violated these Terms and Conditions, or Aeroplan believes that a Member may have violated these Terms and Conditions, Aeroplan may, in addition to its other rights and remedies in these Terms and Conditions, at any time and in its sole discretion, take one or more of the following actions: (i) freeze the Account of any Member while Aeroplan investigates suspected activity on the part of that Member; and (ii) refuse to credit the Account of any Member, or debit the Account of any Member, including reversal of Aeroplan Points previously credited.”
Credit Card Signup Bonuses
The main thrust of this Aeroplan campaign seems to be aimed at reducing the number of people who apply for a co-brand credit card. Then hit and run the welcome bonus and move on. They clearly state the following:
“Aeroplan may, in its sole discretion, choose to limit the number of New Card 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, abuse or misuse of the New Card Bonus offers.”
Per the terms and conditions and in Aeroplan’s own words, they are looking for the following type of behaviors:
“Such behaviours include but are not limited to: (i) applying for, transferring or switching (including upgrading or downgrading), or completing any other product changes between 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 New Card Bonus (or any portion of a New Card Bonus) or similar bonus or incentive; (iii) a pattern of purchasing and then cancelling or returning any product or service for which Aeroplan Points were issued; and (iv) linking your Aeroplan Credit Card to an Account that is not your own Account.”
The Problem with Disengaging
Aeroplan is looking for a pattern of “disengaging” in an Aeroplan Credit Card. Per Websters, disengaging is defined as follows:
“to release from something that engages or involves”
So, what is disengaging? Aeroplan does not say. Not spending on your card for a week, a month, or 4 months. What are the criteria that constitute disengagement in Aeroplan’s view? How about your own spending patterns? Where most travelers will plan ahead their purchases to keep meeting a rolling goal of credit card sign-up bonuses?
What about if you hold the card to primarily book Aeroplan flights and a few purchases here and there? And your main motivation for holding the card is lounge access. Will you be deemed to have disengaged? We have to say that Aeroplan has let itself and its customers down. These terms and conditions are too vague and opaque. Aeorplan should be clearer with what exactly it means.
The Aeroplan Sanctions For Violating the New Terms
So the next question is, what happens if Aeroplan audits your account and deems you guilty of violating its grey terms and conditions? Again, in Aeroplan’s own words:
“Aeroplan Membership is a privilege that can be suspended, revoked, or terminated at any time, for any reason, and without compensation.”
Essentially, you are done. Your account is toast, and your points are history, and by all indications, you will not even have a right of appeal.
Other Aeroplan Program Violations
The violations do not end with credit card sign up bonuses but include the following grey list (in some cases) of violations:
“(i)a circumstance where a Member intentionally engages in a pattern of activity or behavior that, in the reasonable opinion of Aeroplan, is intended to circumvent or work around these Terms and Conditions, or the terms and conditions of any Aeroplan partner;
(ii) any abuse by a Member of any of these Terms and Conditions, any additional applicable terms and conditions or any benefit, privilege or reward associated with the Aeroplan Program;
(iii) any misrepresentation by a Member to Aeroplan, its affiliates, participating partners or suppliers or to any entity associated with or participating in the Aeroplan Program;
(iv) any attempt to participate in the Aeroplan Program via script, macro or other automated means; and (v) any other actions or conduct of a Member deemed by Aeroplan, in its sole discretion, to be damaging to Aeroplan, the Aeroplan Program or the interests of Aeroplan’s affiliates, participating partners or suppliers.”
What Can You Do?
As bizarre as this may seem, there is not much you can do beyond sticking by the rules. Make sure you stay relatively engaged with the program. Especially if you are an Air Canada Cardholder; make one or two small purchases on your card per month, and you should be Okay.
Also, if you have a strong travel plan that involves good strategic use of your Aeroplan account, you need to be able to document your plan. If ever Aeroplan should come knocking you can explain your engagement pattern with the program. Bear in mind that while Aeroplan is a loyalty program, being a member is by no means a commitment to use Aeroplan exclusively. No Airline program with an ounce of common sense would try to force that level of commitment on its members. It would be a disaster!
These types of updates are by no means unusual. In fact, every so often, a program gets itself all twisted up about people taking advantage of its welcome bonuses. As a result it goes on a crusade to “fix the problem.”
There is little you can do apart from keep your nose clean and your head low. And wait for the program to relax and little. Remember, at the end of the day, any program wants to reduce unprofitable activity. However, not at the expense of angering and driving away masses of its regular members.