This is our first "Guys Who Travel - From The Mailbag" entry.
We recently got an e-mail from a reader Zenon P:
As a US resident (Canadian citizen) I have had the opposite problem and it has been driving me crazy for over a year. I live in the US and travel frequently to Canada. Up until last year I had a B of A card that gave me Aeroplan miles, but they cancelled that. This year they even cancelled miles transfers. I can't get any card with Aeroplan miles as a US resident so I can't accumulate AC miles. Aeroplan told me to get an Amex Gold that accumulates Aeroplan miles, not realising that you have to be a Canadian resident for that. I could get a US Amex gold card -- with no signing bonus and poor transfer rates. So I am stuck -- I can't even prevent my Aeroplan miles from expiring (except by donating them) since I don't have an Aeroplan credit card to charge.
Is there no way for a US resident / Canadian citizen to get a Canadian CIBC or Amex card with Aeroplan miles?
Thanks Brad for any help.
Thanks for writing. I assume from your e-mail that you are a permanent US resident, and thus are eligible to apply for US based credit cards.
As far as I know, you really only have two options, one of which you have already mentioned. The US-based Gold American Express card is actually a lot better than you think. The current public offer gives you 25,000 Membership Rewards points after $2,000 in purchases, and you get the first year’s annual fee waived. (And you might be able to find better referral offers by Googling). You earn 1 Membership Rewards point for each dollar charged, with bonus miles at airlines, gas stations and supermarkets. And best of all for your purposes, you can transfer the Membership Rewards points on a 1-for-1 basis, and the transfers happen instantly.
Another option is to get the Starwood (SPG) American Express. You can get 30,000 SPG points assuming you charge $5,000 in the first 6 months, and the annual fee is waived for the first year. SPG points are actually my favourite “award point currency”, since they are so versatile. They of course can be used for Starwood hotel stays, but they can also be transferred into many different airline programs, including Aeroplan. And while they transfer at a 1-for-1 ratio, for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a bonus 5,000! So that’s a better transfer ratio than the Gold card. The main drawback is that the transfer from SPG points to Aeroplan points can take a week or two -- it’s not immediate like the Membership Rewards transfer.
So my suggestion is to get BOTH cards. Can’t beat getting all those points for free for the first year so long as you make the initial spend. Then use the Gold card for your airline, gas station and supermarket purchases, and the SPG card for all other purchases.
Of course, since both cards are American Expresses, you probably want to have a Visa or Mastercard for the places that don’t take AmEx. For that, I concur with Zak and recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred card.