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A new airline credit card has officially arrived on the scene.

After months of rumors and a teaser campaign, on Thursday, Chase unveiled its new Chase Aeroplan® World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card, the issuer’s first-ever card tied exclusively to Air Canada. Named after the airline’s frequent flyer program, Aeroplan, the card replaces the carrier’s previous US credit card, which was issued by TD Bank and discontinued in 2020.

The new Chase Aeroplan card, with an annual fee of $95, has a number of unique features that could make it attractive even to US consumers who don’t typically find themselves visiting our neighbor to the north. This includes access to Chase’s Pay Yourself Back tool starting in early 2022, allowing card holders to redeem Air Canada points for flights on virtually any airline, as well as hotel rooms and car rentals, at a rate of 1.25 cents per point, up to 50,000 points per year.

Chase Aeroplan bonus categories and elite status

Airlines have made an effort in recent years to broaden the bonus categories on their credit cards, and the Chase Aeroplan card is no exception. It earns bonus points in several popular everyday categories, including:

  • 3 points for every dollar spent on dining, takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3 points for every dollar spent at grocery stores
  • 3 points for every dollar spent directly with Air Canada
  • 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases

In addition, card holders earn 500 bonus points for every $2,000 spent on the card in a calendar month, up to a maximum of 1,500 points per calendar month.

The Chase Aeroplan card also makes it easy to quickly earn elite status on Air Canada. New card holders automatically receive Aeroplan 25K elite status for the remainder of the first calendar year of having the card, plus the following calendar year. This basic-tier status provides benefits such as priority check-in, early boarding, upgrades and more on Air Canada flights.

However, for those applying for the card before the end of 2021, this perk will extend all the way until Dec. 31, 2023, meaning you’ll get over two years of complimentary elite status just for having the card.

In future years, Chase Aeroplan card holders will be able to requalify for 25K status by spending $15,000 on the card in a calendar year. And for high spenders, putting $50,000 in purchases on the card in a calendar year will earn Aeroplan 35K elite status, which is the next level up from the basic status; 35K status provides access to Air Canada airport lounges in the US and internationally when flying on Air Canada or on partner carriers like United.

air-canada-lga-maple-leaf-lounge

But frequent Air Canada flyers who already have status with the airline won’t be left out of the elite status party. That’s because if you already have Aeroplan elite status from flying, the same $50,000 in annual spending on the card will earn you a one-level status boost for the next year. And additional spending thresholds starting at $100,000 in a calendar year unlock additional Aeroplan redemption benefits, such as 50% off Priority Rewards and companion perks.

Chase Aeroplan card benefits

As is typical with airline credit cards in today’s market, the Chase Aeroplan card provides a free first checked bag on Air Canada flights for the primary card holder as well as up to eight other travelers on the same itinerary. In addition, card holders get a suite of travel protection perks, including trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement and auto rental collision damage coverage. The card also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Another feature of the card is a credit of up to $100 toward Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or NEXUS membership every four years. While the first two options on that list are fairly common when it comes to travel credit cards, the addition of NEXUS — a program that allows prescreened travelers expedited processing when entering Canada — is unique and obviously appropriate for a card tied to a Canadian airline.

Of course, an airline credit card is only as strong as the frequent flyer program it’s attached to. Fortunately, Air Canada’s recently revamped Aeroplan program is one of the better international options. It features partnerships with 45 other airlines, including United, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Singapore Airlines and many others, providing abundant opportunities to redeem Air Canada points for flights from the US to a multitude of destinations around the world.

And for those concerned about the effect of air travel on the environment, Aeroplan will purchase carbon offsets for Chase Aeroplan card holders who fly on Air Canada using an Aeroplan flight reward to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions associated with your travel. This benefit applies not only to primary card holders but also to travel companions on the same reservation for flight segments with Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada Rouge.

A 100,000-point sign-up bonus…with a catch

air canada plane in flight against blue sky

The Chase Aeroplan card launches with a somewhat unusual sign-up bonus. New card holders can earn two Welcome Flight Reward Certificates valid for up to 50,000 points each (for a total of up to 100,000 total points) after spending $4,000 on the card in the first three months after opening the account.

Each of these certificates can be used for any Aeroplan redemption — including travel on partner airlines — and additional points can be added from a member’s Aeroplan account to “top off” a redemption if more than 50,000 points is required. However, if the certificate is redeemed for an award worth less than 50,000 points, the remainder of the certificate is forfeited. Also, the two certificates cannot be combined for a single redemption for one passenger, though they can be used together for two separate passengers on the same itinerary.

While this bonus is more complicated than a typical credit card sign-up bonus — which usually comes in the form of basic points — Chase and Air Canada executives told CNN Underscored that the unusual structure allowed the issuer and airline to provide a more generous overall bonus than would have been possible with a standard point-based bonus. Customers will also find similarities to the free night certificates that often come with hotel credit cards, except that the Aeroplan certificates can be topped off and don’t carry an expiration date as long as you keep the card open.

Should you get the Chase Aeroplan credit card?

In today’s highly competitive credit card market, issuers are thinking outside the box when it comes to designing new products that appeal to specific audiences. This is a pattern we’ve seen in the recent introductions of the Capital One Venture X and the Hyatt Business card, and it continues with this new Chase Aeroplan card, with a set of perks that will strongly appeal to the airline’s customers.

For those who find the Aeroplan program attractive but don’t fly Air Canada regularly, Chase’s own Ultimate Rewards program — which is attached to popular cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® — can transfer points to Aeroplan and 13 other airline and hotel partners at a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning for every 1,000 points you transfer from an Ultimate Rewards credit card, you’ll get 1,000 Aeroplan points. This could be an easier path to Aeroplan redemptions than getting a card tied exclusively to the airline.

But the new Chase Aeroplan card may still have some appeal to US-based customers, though it could require leveraging the carrier’s elite status for perks during partner travel, or using the card’s rewards to book flights on other airlines, either through the Aeroplan program or Chase’s Pay Yourself Back tool. But with attractive bonus categories and an easy path to elite status, the new card is certainly worth a look.

Looking for the best overall credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.

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