Three Steps to Aeroplan Black Distinction Status–And Only Spend $5K+ In One Year

This post is a summary of recently posted material regarding how to get up to 50K Aeroplan points that will count as Distinction points with Aeroplan.  There’s the 3 levels of Distinction with Aeroplan–Silver, Black, and Diamond.  Diamond, if you’re an Aeroplan maniac, spending over $7K/mth on the card or a combo of spending on an Aeroplan credit card plus travel on Air Canada flights could get you 100K Aeroplan points that are Distinction qualifying. That will get you a 35% discount on Market Fare tickets (discussed below) AND priority when calling Aeroplan’s booking line (though I’d only use it to book a flight that can’t be booked online or just to get info that they can access to avoid Fuel Surcharges for overseas flights with Star Alliance affiliates).

Basically, anytime you spend money on your AMEX Aeroplan, CIBC, or TD Aeroplan Visa, you’ll get Distinction qualifying points.  25K Distinction points will get you Silver status, which gives you 20% off Market Fare rates.  Black you get at 50K and Diamond at 100K.  On your Aeroplan account when you click, “Your Aeroplan,” and then, on the dropdown menu “Transactions,” you’ll see on the right column the amount of points you received, and beside it, a lower case fancy “d”.  The only time you don’t get a “d” is if it’s not earned through travel or purchases on a credit card.

TD and AMEX welcome bonus points on a new card do NOT qualify, BUT…

  • The 10K you get with the TD Aeroplan after spending $1K in 3 months DOES.
  • The CIBC Aeroplan, both the business welcome bonus of 20K (annual fee waived now ’til August 31) DOES and…
  • The personal welcome bonus of 15K (annual fee waived when applying in a CIBC branch–some say you have to get a chequing account and agree to some credit insurance in case you lose your job but other sources say you do NOT need any of this) DOES

So you spend $1K on your TD Aeroplan Infinite, at least a few dollars on the CIBC business and personal has just earned you 45K Distinction qualifying points.  You’ve now spent $1K and change to get the 45K Aeroplan points +1K (or more if you spent them in certain qualifying categories such as gas or groceries on the TD or CIBC personal cards)–now you need only spend another $4K on all 3 cards and you’ll have Black status.  With that, you’ll get a 25% discount on Aeroplan Market Fare flights.  You also KEEP your status through next year.  If you’re a churner, you may be able to pull off things such as:

Applying for 2 TD Aeroplan cards on the same day (not at the same time–may register as a duplicate application) (that’s only ONE credit hit BTW if it’s on the same day).

Cancelling and reapplying for the CIBC cards after a few months…you get the idea.

I.E.  You may be able to pull off Diamond Status this way–it’s not my way, but it’s an option that while it may be frowned upon by the banks, is not illegal from anything I’ve read.

Market Fare is an excellent way to fly IF you’re desperate to get an AC flight that has no classic fare availability for that day or for a specific flight time, but be prepared to get ripped off by Aeroplan for the number of points they want from you for the flights.  They can truly be astronomical!  Like over 100K points for a one-way to New York from Toronto.  IF you book the flight right in the beginning of the opening of AC flights with Aeroplan, 356 days in advance, you could get tickets for the same or LESS than a classic fare flight if you book while there’s plenty of availability–and the taxes are lower.  For a one-way flight to NY, tickets are about $50 cheaper with Market Fare flights.

With some flights, it’s practically impossible to book the flights to get classic rewards.  I’ve tried to fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico with Aeroplan points, on the direct flight during peak season.  No success, but with Market Fare, if I’m fast enough, I may have success–and so might you!

Canadians NEED to Get a (or a few) US AMEX Cards!!

AMEX is a special animal in the credit card world.  It’s the only credit card I know of in the USA that offers Canadians a credit card!  Yes, you may be able to get one if you bank with TD or some other Canadian bank’s US affiliate, but those cards offer little to no benefits and NO welcome sign up bonus! **YOU WILL NEED A US ADDRESS TO APPLY AND TO RECEIVE THE CARD AT THAT ADDRESS. Then you can get paperless billing after that.**

It also helps to have a Canadian AMEX card, as they can use it to pull up some info on you, perhaps your credit worthiness.  They will possibly ask you to send them documentation proving your credit worthiness–pay stub, mortgage payments, etc.

A problem when applying over the phone is that you will not get the BIG bonus sign ups unless those are being currently offered everywhere, not just by invitation or online.  You’ll get the regular ones (25K AMEX Membership Reward points for the Gold Rewards card, 40K for the Platinum). You can TRY to get them to match the online offer you will likely receive on your browser if you’ve never applied before for 50K points for the Premier Gold Rewards card after spending only $1K USD in 3 months, but no guarantees!  I just called them and they refused to honour the online deal.

You’ll also have to find a source of USD.  My previous post of XenBanx is one option.  Another good one is Knightbridge, but Knightbridge will only trade CDN to USD at a minimum exchange of $5K USD (at a great rate mind you).

The reason is because you will need to apply for your card over the phone as the online application requires you to have a Social Security number.  If you have business in the US or you vacation there, it’s totally worth getting this card.

Here’s why:

The Gold Rewards card now comes with no foreign exchange fee (as of June 2015) so though you’ll have to pay your bill in US$ or lose on the exchange.   The Platinum number doesn’t have one and costs a LOT less than the Canadian version, and is BETTER with the offers that are given on the card, as well as the benefits.

You can also apply for business cards, other consumer cards, like the SPG card with the annual fee waived for the first year, only $65/yr after that (not $120 like in Canada) and 25K SPG points upon approval!  That’s better than any Canadian offer ever gets!

The “Premier Rewards” card comes with a 25K point sign up and a first year annual fee waived.  The 25K can be switched 1:1 with Aeroplan or British Airways Avios.  BUT it can also be switched to WAYYYYYYYYY more airline point systems than the Canadian version.  It can also be switched at better rates.  For example, the Canadian AMEX offers a switch to Alitalia points at a 1:0.75 rate, so 1000 AMEX points turns into 750 Alitalia points.  Alitalia is a good airline that can get you to places like Tel Aviv comfortably, connecting in Rome.  AMEX USA does the switch at a 1:1 conversion rate!

Rumours are swirling that the Avios system may be devalued, but they’ve already made a change recently to their system, so a devaluation would be very unlikely in the near future.  As I’ve written about on many posts, the British Airways Avios system is very valuable, and should be collected along with Aeroplan to diversify your airline points portfolio.  Those points can be used to fly AA, US Airways (same thing now as AA), along with a ton of other airlines, all part of the One World Alliance, with very flexible cancellation policies, less points to fly, especially for short haul flights, such as Toronto to New York, but even on long haul flights, with respect to the number of points it will cost you, you’re better off with Avios.  Availablility-wise, it depends when you want to fly.  Flying to Florida in December will be tough (as it will be with Aeroplan) but at least with Aeroplan, Distinction status will get you the flights, even if for WAYYY more points.

The card comes with INCREDIBLE free offers.  You can link your AMEX to your Twitter account to take advantage of other offers that will be added to your account.  It’s SOOOOO much better than what the Cdn AMEX system currently offers:

Case in point:

AMEX has a deal that has been offered to some card holders ’til Saturday–spend $50+ at BJs Wholesale (there’s two in Buffalo–like Costco but not Costco), and get $25 cashback to your AMEX account within 90 days AND YOU CAN GET THIS DEAL FOR THREE VISITS!  So, you make one trip, make three purchases, of which they can be gift cards for future trips, and get back $75USD!  That is just ONE example of the deals that are out there when you sign into your US AMEX account and choose offers that may include ones like that one!  Then, you simply add the offer to your account.

It also offers FOUR FREE TOWS up to 25 miles away!  While you may already have CAA, consider cancelling your membership if you can get some kind of towing coverage with your auto insurance.  I’m with the Cooperators, and for $10 a year, I get up to $100 towards a tow with no limits, so if I end up needing a tow that is more than 25 miles away, I can charge my insurance to cover up to an extra $100 in towing fees!

To get the card, call 1-800-243-3888 to apply.  Let me know how it goes!  If you have a Social Security Number, you definitely should apply on line for the 50K AMEX points welcome bonus offer!  BTW, in the US, they only allow you to one welcome bonus per card.

$10 a night for a decent to very nice hotel room? YES IT’S POSSIBLE!!

I’ve stayed at a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom suite at the Staybridge Suites (with an indoor pool and hot tub) at Buffalo Airport.  I’ve stayed at the Hotel Indigo in Cleveland for 3 nights, 2 rooms, for next to nothing!  Canadians, it will cost you $10 per room per night, with a limit of 2 weeks per reservation–no more than 2 reservations per hotel.  You’re thinking, “wow Steve.  A stay in Buffalo.  A stay in Cleveland.  Whoopdeedoo.  How about something a little more exotic?”  They have properties all over the world.  YOU DO NOT NEED A CREDIT CARD TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS DEAL!  Keep reading for more info on that!

The IHG hotels chain offers Point Breaks every 3 months, which means that hotels that charge, for example, 20K IHG points per night, are only charging 5K points per night.  All the hotel deals are 5K points per night and if you apply for the Capital One IHG card in Canada using the link here, you pay $120/yr for the card and get 60K points as a welcome bonus.  That’s enough right here for 12 free nights when booking a Point Break hotel!  That’s $10 per night that you paid for with your annual fee! In the US, you can get 60K easily with the Chase IHG card (click here), and if you secure message Chase, they have been matching better offers, including 80K points plus $50 cashback (harder to find links for that) with NO annual fee the first year!  The Canadian one though gives 2 points per dollar of spending on regular everyday shopping, while the US one only offers double (2 points per dollar) on gas, groceries, and restaurants.  BUT the Cdn one charges a 2.5% foreign exchange fee which is ridiculous considering it’s a travel card–welcome to Canada. The US one charge no forex fee at all–that’s a Chase thing on most of their cards that have an annual fee.

A bonus with the CDN one is if for every $10K you spend, you get a bonus 5K IHG points–that means if you spend $10K, you’ll have 25K points, which means spending $10K gets you 5 nights using the Point Breaks! Sweeeet!

Also, both the US and CDN card will give you a free night at ANY IHG property in the world upon your card’s anniversary.  In the US, that means $49 for a free night in a fancy hotel–in Canada, even at $120, that is a sweet deal!

Want to see what hotels in the chain are offering the point break deal?  The list came out today.  Click here to see the newest point break offers.  Click the continent to see what offers are available where, from stays in Ashkelon, Israel to Guelph, Ontario, bide your time for the point break that meets your vacation goals!  You might say, hey, I don’t want to stay in a Holiday Inn?  I don’t blame you, but the chain does include nicer hotels, including very fancy ones like the IHG Bora Bora, $800 a night.  You can start off with a booking in a studio suite, at say, the Staybridge Suites or Candlewood Suites–I like those hotels in the chain (the Crowne Plaza is nice too, but very few of those show up for Point Breaks.)   You can base your choice of where to go on vacation based on where the Point Breaks are!

The IHG credit card is one of the only credit cards that offers you Platinum status for having the card and that means A LOT in this chain.

You can also buy points through their website that will put you back $35USD per 5K IHG points, so that works out to $35/night USD but why do that when you can get welcome points for free that will perhaps cover your vacation plans and more that you can earn by making this one of your main credit cards?  It’s a trick whereby you can make a reservation at a property using cash and points that is non-refundable, then cancel the reservation and get only points back, meaning that you lose cash but gain points at a reasonable return ($35 for 5K points) BUT you first have to HAVE 5K points minimum to do this, and the only ways to do this without an IHG credit card is to, in the US, if you have a Sapphire card, transfer 5K Sapphire points to IHG (bad use of points but in a pinch, you do what you’ve gotta do) OR buy points through with this link after signing up for an IHG membership for free here.  That will cost you $67.50USD for 5K points (and possibly a 50% bonus so you’ll get 7.5K IHG points for $67.50USD.

Follow this path:

If you haven’t signed up for a Trip Advisor account yet, you should.  Go to to sign up and start reviewing places that you stay in.  You can use that to help you for leverage when dealing with hotel managers.  Go to the Trip Advisor reviews for the hotel you’d like to stay at.  Look good?  The manager of the hotel answering to reviews from Trip Advisor members’ reviews?  Great!

Next, call the hotel you wish to stay at.  Find out the general manager’s email address.  Send her/him a note after you’ve made your reservation for a studio suite (that’s the best you’ll get with your point break stay.  Let the manager know that you’re coming into whatever town you’re going to, how much you’re looking forward to staying there, especially after having read reviews about the hotel and noticing that the manager takes the time to respond to Trip Advisor reviews and how impressed you are that s/he cares enough to do so.  Mention your reservation number and the date of your arrival.  Mention your Platinum status.  Ask if s/he would be so kind as to upgrade you (especially if you’re travelling with your family and need the space).  Request what you’d like to be upgraded to–go to the IHG website and see what rooms are available in that hotel to pay with by cash.  Then you know what to ask for!

I’ve never hit a wall with method.  Politeness and persuasion can get you far in the hotel industry!

Act quickly!  They only accept 200 reservations per hotel for point breaks.  After that, you’re out of luck.  Missed out this time?  Pick up the credit card this time around, and then pounce next time I publish the next IHG Point Break!

Amazon’s July 15th Black Friday Worldwide and its affiliates around the world, including is apparently having a sale that will be comparable to Black Friday this Wednesday, July 15.  You MUST be a Prime member in each country that you wish to take advantage of this deal for, which if you haven’t been a Prime member for a year (including not having had a free trial for a year–you’re in your 13th month), then you are eligible to get it free for one month.  You can always go into your account and have it cancelled after your month is up, if you really have no intentions of keeping Prime.  Some even open a new account with a different email address under their partner’s name to get free Prime again.

It will likely take the format of the “Lightning Deal,” that if you have any experience with Amazon, used to mean SUPERB deals, while over the last couple of years for Black Friday/Cyber Monday weeks, it hasn’t been as good as it used to be.  In fact, they have lightning deals daily, especially on the US website.  Lightning deals are items that go on sale at a specific time and when they sell out, the deal is over.  Used to be when they were amazing deals, they’d sell out in SECONDS, and you’d need to have your cursor hovering as the seconds countdown was nearing an end, while of course, being signed in at the time. DOES ship many products to Canada, so you can easily sign up for an account, get Prime for free for one month, and take advantage of the Prime status for the deals July 15th, as well as at times where Prime members get to jump on some lightning deals 30 minutes before the general public.  You’ll pay to have it sent to Canada if the cost is more than approximately $20CDN, as they’ll charge taxes, additional shipping fees (you can’t use a US Prime account to get free 2 day shipping to Canada), and customs/brokerage fees.  The shipping fees for items can be under $10 in some cases, as it depends on what you’re sending.  You can always click “buy” for the lightning deal, and as you go through the checkout process, you can see what the charges will be to ship to Canada and then decide to empty your cart and give up the deal or have it sent to a US address…

I recommend you take a two day vacation in the States.  Staying out of the country for 48 hours allows you to bring back $800CDN per person, along with up to 1.14L of booze.  I’ve heard that Customs officers will push it and allow you to bring in up to 1.5L without a hassle.

Take advantage of an IHG hotels 5000 point break hotel over the border somewhere (go into the search box to see what I’m talking about), get their address, call and confirm what is usually obvious (that they’ll accept packages that come in the mail in YOUR name) and start sending that there, whenever there is a good deal!

Address them to:

Your Name, Arrival Date _______________

Hotel/Motel Name

Full Address with Zip

Now you might be saying, “yeah, but the Cdn $ is in the toilet!  It’s totally not worth buying things in the States!”  You couldn’t be more wrong.  There are still PLENTY of cheaper deals in the States, including on that the Canadian version (.ca) either doesn’t carry, or charges more than the forex (foreign exchange) fee plus the difference in currency value.  Sometimes A LOT more!

Also, it may be worth getting US Amazon Prime for the music, kindle, and video options.  There are services such as that will mask your IP to make websites think that you’re in the States or other countries, allowing you to access US or other countries’ streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix in the States.  You will need a US credit card and US address to take advantage of Netflix (I believe) other than the one month free trial.

The videos on Amazon Prime are not new, though they do offer the opportunity to access newer videos to stream for a price.  If you have a SMART TV (internet connected), Amazon Prime will likely already be on there if you call the customer service number for your TV Brand or Google on how to change the country of origin for your TV after you have purchased a service such as

Amazon also sells a product now available to the general public called the Echo.  It’s sort of like Siri or Android’s version that you can ask questions to and it will answer you.  The difference is that this unit is not a phone, it’s a small cylindrical device that you place in a central location and is connected by wifi.  My understanding from the Amazon Echo dept. is that you need to have a service like to access the service.  It includes music from the gazillions of available songs on the Amazon system to stream.  I’m getting it soon (it’s been sitting at a friend’s house in Buffalo awaiting my pick up for about 3 months now) so I’ll have to remember to report on how good this device is in Canada.


It’s worth it for $50 – 6%

The best XM Radio that is on the market is available here with a great deal from!
This year, I picked up on EBay this very same radio with no subscription deal like this one and paid around $80.  This one is only around $47 after you start your purchase through that is offering 6% cashback.  If you haven’t signed up for EBates yet, click here. Then type in XM radio and the deal will show up.  The $7 off the $50 deal ends July 5th.

Here‘s the link just to see the deal info.  Remember to use EBates to get the extra 6% cashback though!

The Onyx Plus is amazing.  One gets the vehicle kit version with this.  You can always buy the home kit version online so that you can pull out the unit and plug it in to a home dock that connects to your home speaker system or purchase a boombox online that will work with this unit.

What great about the Onyx Plus is that it comes with 20 presets that whatever music stations you add to it, it will memorize one hour’s worth of each of your presets.  As soon as you wish to, you can press the “t-mix” button, which will randomly play music from the memorized music from any of your presets.  It also gives you artist/song alerts letting you know when a favourite song or artist is on a different channel.  You can, of course, listen to that song over and over again, or pause it and come back to it.

It has a colour screen so that you can see the album cover, along with the name of the song and artist.

In today’s world, many just download a bunch of their favourite songs on an iPod, smartphone, or similar device, but I like the option of listening to news, music, including music from my favourite decade (80s), love songs, etc, while my wife loves the women’s targeted channel, the Blend with the excitement of never knowing what song is coming up next. If you hate a song, go to another commercial free channel (most of them are). Once you get satellite radio, it will be hard to go back to terrestrial radio or MP3s!

Before your 3 month trial ends, threaten to cancel if you cannot afford the monthly fees ($15.99 + tax + royalty fees and a regulatory fee) and they will offer you a deal–in Canada, the deals aren’t as sweet as the US–in the US, they’ll offer you 5 months for $20 + tax.  In Canada, there’s different retention offers, that if you turn one down, then the next one, they’ll offer you something better–and if not, call back and speak to another agent from “listener care” or the retention dept.  It’s amazing how one agent will offer you a great deal while others won’t.  And don’t fret if you have to cancel.  Many get emails asking them to come back, with no new activation fee involved, for an excellent rate.  A friend of mine chose to go with a one year deal for $79.  I’ve heard that’s the best deal you can get in Canada, but others have gotten better short-term deals.  You just need to keep track of when your deal is ending, then call them before they charge you the regular rate.

How to Get Out of Paying A Cancellation Fee With Aeroplan

Aeroplan is just evil when it comes to cancellation fees.  Firstly, you better be sure to make your cancellation at LEAST 22 days before the date of departure.  At which point, they will be kind enough to reinstate the taxes, fuel surcharge fees if any applied (i.e., more taxes), and your points–but at a $90 cost plus tax, per person. Oh, and if you have 2 one-way tickets that need cancelling instead of a return trip ticket, that will be $180 + tax, please!

OR how about if you need your ticket cancelled inside the 22 day window.  Well, firstly, you have to change the date of your flight to a date OUTSIDE the 22 day window.  Yes, that’s also a $90 + tax fee.  THEN, if the agent is nice enough to let you deal with her/him without having to hang up and call back, pay YET ANOTHER $90 + tax fee to now cancel your ticket.  If your ticket was a short domestic flight, sometimes it’s cheaper just to take the hit and not try to get your taxes and points back.

This is one of the biggest weaknesses in the Aeroplan system.  Compared to British Airways Avios (part of the One World Alliance including US Airways, American, and MANY other airlines around the world), which only charges you the taxes and fees AND allows you to cancel your flight with more than 24 HOURS notice.  If your flight was out of Toronto, that could be over $100 easy.  If it’s out of Buffalo Airport (yet ANOTHER reason to fly out of BUF), the cancellation fees (the taxes and fees) are literally a few dollars.  Plus, MANY tickets can be cancelled online from the BA online system when you go to “Manage My Booking” under “My Upcoming Flights” on your Executive Club page.  If you need to call them because the “Cancellation Options for this booking” does not show up, always call them late in the evening, between 10pm and 11pm ET to avoid LONG waits on hold.

So, HOW do you do it?  This has only been proven to work if you book WAY in advance and a similar scenario happens to you:

I advised my friend Stephen to call them and see if, since the flight was booked, if ANY leg of the flight times had been changed.  Now from what I’ve heard from Aeroplan, they are not really obliged to offer you anything if the time change did not effect any particular segment in a way that made it difficult to catch a flight OR the flight departure times had changed more than three hours.  But in reality, if you get a nice agent, s/he will confirm with a supervisor when you raise the issue of the time change and your need to cancel the flight(s) (in THAT order) that s/he can refund you the taxes and fees as well as the Aeroplan points back into your account. That’s how my friend saved about $500 in cancellation fees with Aeroplan!

Personally, I had a family vacation that I needed to book and AVOID FUEL SURCHARGES AT ALL COSTS require 3 stopovers on the way back to make it work.  Seems crazy, right??  With a family of 5 at the time. Well, crazy…LIKE A FOX!  Booking several months in advance, the chances that there won’t be ANY flight time changes that will effect the connecting flights, as the Aeroplan agent told me, is slim.  So, first one leg was messed up so Aeroplan booked us on a route with ONE less stopover.  Then, a couple months later, ANOTHER time change to a flight lead to not only one less stopover, but a direct connection from London to Toronto–which means THEY absorbed the fuel surcharges as this new connection was with Air Canada!

Can this be done within the 22 day window? Don’t know anyone whose tried–if YOU have and it worked, send me a note!

Tangerine is THROWING $390+ At New Customers!

It all begins when you sign up to a new account with Tangerine (formerly ING), get $50.  Let me refer you!  I’ll get $50 “Orange Key:4385341651).  You refer your significant other or friends–get another $50 for each one!

You sign up for a chequing account for instance.  Great!  Get $50.  Then, get a direct deposit pay put in their before June 30, and then at least one for the next two months, get $10 EVERY Friday for 12 weeks.  That’s another $120 for you and for your significant other.  Is s/he at home with the kids.  The jury seems out as to whether the code that’s used by the Gov’t for money for the kids counts.  Apparently, some things count, others do not.  If both of you have paid jobs, let’s figure this out…

$50 for you.  $50 for your partner/friends/famliy + another $50 for EACH referral!  Let’s say you refer ONE.  $120 over 12 weeks for direct deposit pay for you, another $120 for them.  That’s $390!!

Oh, did I mention how most transactions are free with Tangerine?  Tangerine is basically Scotiabank without the tellers.  There’s a mobile unit of Tangerine if you wish to sign up without a 4-5 day waiting period before getting your “orange key” code to refer someone else.  It’s located at Yonge & Steeles at Towne & Country Mall (Centerpoint–still don’t want to call it that but to avoid confusion…) in the parking lot along Yonge Street.

What’s free?  All withdrawals, including UNLIMITED interac and cheques.  You can do online banking, bank from any Scotiabank machine (for free) and get 0.25% interest for the chequing account.  You can sign up for a savings account too and get DOUBLE the interest for the first 6 months (2.10%).  Cancelling an account never costs anything.  We went to the mobile unit and the whole event took place on an iPad in a matter of minutes.  It was THAT easy.  Online, you have to scan a cheque for $100 (minimum) to put in the account to make it active and then wait the 4-5 business days to have the account active, with a code to get your orange key referral code.  From the mobile unit, no wait at all and you technically don’t NEED to put in $100, but I got the impression it sped things up.  Putting in $100 is easy–just bring an access debit card from your old bank and interac it over to your new account!  It was REALLY easy.

They don’t charge for the first 50 cheques, then it’s $12.50 for 50 more.  Not bad.  They have overdraft protection (they call it something like “oops” protection) up to a couple hundred dollars at no cost, but you do of course have to pay them back within 30 days.

Much better option than a regular bank account, especially for those of you who got the loyalty shaft by TD and RBC in the last few months, whereby grandfathered accounts were hit with higher minimum balances to avoid charges to outright monthly charges for free accounts  This is a way to STICK IT TO THE MAN!!! (and make some money off of it!).