Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce are offering new card benefits corresponding with a revamp of Air Canada’s loyalty program, which predates the spread of COVID-19 but is taking on new urgency as would-be travelers shun flights in the face of the pandemic.
Canada’s largest airline revealed Tuesday that it will relaunch its Aeroplan program Nov. 8 with new features including waived fees, unrestricted seat access and points- and benefits-sharing, which Air Canada said will make it the country’s first loyalty program “purpose-built for families.”
TD Bank and CIBC, along with Visa Canada, teamed up with Air Canada to buy its longtime Aeroplan program in 2018, a decade after it was spun off into its own company and the year after the airline said it intended to abandon Aeroplan for a new program.
The banks have refreshed their collections of Visa Aeroplan credit cards accordingly.
“We know it’s a challenging time for Canadians to be thinking about travel, but our focus is on the future,” said Katy Boshart, senior vice president of Canadian credit cards at TD Bank. “From in-demand and shareable travel benefits that enhance the air travel experience to accelerated earn rates on gas, groceries and Air Canada purchases, our refreshed suite will be a powerful differentiator for TD in the market.”
Laura Dottori-Attanasio, group head of personal and business banking at CIBC, said the enhancements add to its “already robust travel card reward options.”
“This new program offers existing Aeroplan cardholders a smooth transition with the peace of mind that all of their current Aeroplan Miles will be honored as Aeroplan points on a one-to-one basis,” she said.
Air Canada said the company examined loyalty and frequent flyer programs from around the world and will provide more value to customers flying with the carrier than travel programs offered by major banks in the country.
“This is more important than ever as airlines compete to earn and retain customer loyalty in a rapidly changing environment,” Air Canada President and Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said.
Mercator Advisory Group warned in June that travel credit cards and those linked to specific brands carry more risk of customer attrition, and that issuers need to apply “innovative strategies … to counter the pandemic’s economic consequences affecting their reward programs.”
“Credit card issuers that rely on rewards to attract and retain customers must consider the changing economic realities and construct programs that do more than link to weakened co-brand partners,” the group said. “While many consumers gravitate to cash-back rewards, co-brand programs that feature alliances with airlines, cruises and hotels leave consumers with points that may not be useful for several years.”
TD Bank noted that Aeroplan points will not expire for its cardholders.
Numerous other companies and banks tweaked their rewards cards and programs as consumers cut back on discretionary spending and began to stay home during the pandemic.
Discover in late July permanently overhauled the Discover It Miles credit card, allowing customers to redeem miles for benefits or cash through a wider variety of venues including restaurants, gas stations, Amazon and PayPal. Redemption was previously limited to statement credit for travel purchases such as hotel rooms and rental cars.
JPMorgan Chase is rewarding holders of its Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards with extra points on certain purchases through September, while Wells Fargo debuted a personalized cash-back program for debit and credit cardholders.
TD Bank is the sixth-largest bank in North America by branches, with more than 26 million customers, while CIBC has 10 million clients. The banks are the 25th- and 58th-largest in the world by assets, according to S&P Global, with $1.1 trillion and $496 billion, respectively.