FI Personal Finance Travel

How to Save Money on Travel With Points

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This guest post was written by Barry Choi, a personal finance and travel expert at He makes frequent media appearances where he talks about all things related to money and travel.

How to Book Travel on Points

Travel rewards are one of the best ways to save money on your next trip. The concept is simple: If you have a travel rewards credit card, you can earn points or miles on all of your purchases. When you’re ready to travel, you can cash in those points for free or reduced airfare, hotels, car rentals and more.

Even though travel rewards are very straightforward, there is an optimal strategy to maximize your points and to reduce the overall amount of points or miles that you’ll use. The key is to plan ahead so you’re always working towards your next vacation.

1. Determine your goals

If you want to travel for cheap with points, you need to determine what your goals are first. Some people may be interested in flying business class on specific airlines, while others might want to stay at a hotel with overwater bungalows. 

As a general rule, you want to have a few destinations or goals in mind. By having this flexibility, you can adapt to the ever-changing landscape of loyalty points. More importantly, earning points will take some time, so you need to have a goal that you’re always aiming for.

2. Figure out what points will get you there

Let’s say your dream is to go to Japan, and you’re currently based in Vancouver. A quick search shows that you can fly directly to Tokyo with Air Canada, ANA, and Japan Airlines (JAL). 

From a points perspective, you’ll likely want to focus on Aeroplan since they’re the loyalty program of Air Canada. In addition, ANA is a Star Alliance partner, which is part of the Aeroplan network. In other words, you can potentially fly with two different airlines with a single points currency. 

The next step is to determine how many points you’ll need. According to the Aeroplan flight reward chart, a one-way flight from Vancouver to Tokyo should cost you 35,000–65,000 points in economy, 45,000–120,000 points in premium economy, or 55,000–150,000 points in business. 

However, since Aeroplan uses dynamic pricing, the number of points required for a redemption could exceed what’s listed. Your best bet is to search for some dates that you’re interested in so you have a better idea of how many points you need. A quick search in November of 2023 shows that you can get a one-way flight in economy for 65,000 Aeroplan points, 137,000 points in premium economy, and 272,000 points in business.

Based on this information, a round-trip flight from Vancouver to Tokyo in November will cost roughly 130,000 Aeroplan points in economy, 274,000 points in premium economy, or 544,000 points for business.

3. Start applying for the right credit cards

Let’s say you’ve decided you just want to get to Japan for cheap, so an economy flight will do. That means you need to earn about 130,000 Aeroplan points. The idea of earning hundreds of thousands of points may seem daunting, but it’s easier than you think. 

The first thing to do is to look at the list of the best travel credit cards in Canada. This will show you all the current welcome offers. For example, the American Express Aeroplan Reserve Card typically has a welcome bonus of around 100,000–120,000 Aeroplan points. That’s almost enough points for your flight.

That said, you need to plan your applications. Every welcome bonus has a minimum spend requirement. The big bonuses require you to spend more, and some of them are spread out over multiple months. Simply put, if you can’t meet the minimum spend requirement, there’s no point in applying for the card. In addition, since the bonus can be spread over multiple months, it may take you time to get the entire welcome offer. This is part of the reason why you want to plan ahead.

On a positive note, once you factor in the points you’ll earn regularly from meeting the minimum spend requirement, you could have enough points for that flight. That’s a pretty good deal for signing up for one credit card.

4. Know the ins and outs of loyalty programs

Knowing how your loyalty programs work can also help you achieve your goals faster. For example, Aeroplan has 40+ airline partners. This is relevant since partner flights have a fixed price for award redemptions compared to Air Canada’s dynamic pricing.

For that trip to Japan, you could fly one-way with ANA at a flat rate of 35,000 points in economy or 55,000 points in business. This is obviously a much better deal than Air Canada flights. However, partner airlines typically only release one or two seats to Aeroplan about a year in advance. These seats get snatched up quickly, so you need to have the points and be ready to commit a year in advance if you’re looking to minimize the number of points that you’re using.

You can also set up Aeroplan family sharing plans. That’s where up to eight people can pool their points. This can be useful for families that don’t earn enough points individually to get a meaningful redemption. However, if you were to pool your points, you could get a free seat much sooner.

The bottom line

Loyalty points can help you travel for less, but it requires a bit of planning. Your goal should be to have some destinations in mind, start earning points that will get you there, and redeem your points as soon as you can. This is known as earn and burn and can be quite effective since you’ll constantly be spending points as quickly as you can earn then. Once you’ve used your points, don’t be afraid to apply for more credit cards as the welcome bonuses offered are the often quickest way to earn more points.

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  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    June 24, 2023 at 8:50 pm

    Great tip about family pooling of Aeroplan points. I definitely need to look into this.

    • Reply
      June 26, 2023 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Maria—we pooled our Aeroplan points with my in-laws recently and it worked out great for us! It’s definitely worth considering. 👍

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