Last May I blogged about the Aeroplan Star Challenge and volunteered to take a flight on Virgin's Upper Class. No one has offered me that ticket yet (hint, hint). I did however complete the challenge and received my 16,500 Aeroplan points.
Aeroplan has rolled out the Star Challenge again this year, although they've tweaked it quite a lot in their favour. I spent some time reading their terms and conditions and like much of the Aeroplan reward program it leans towards helping the rich stay rich (the people who benefit the most from Aeroplan perks probably don't even pay for their own tickets yet they, not the person who pays for them, get all the freebies).
|Chuck the Channel Cat in Selkirk (thanks Wikipedia)|
Broken down to the simplest form the program goes like this: Collect 100 stars to receive your 25,000 points. Chances are if you are an avid Aeroplan collector you have some sort of affiliated Visa card, so that gets you 5 stars right of the bat. You also get 1 star for registering. Great, only 94 to go. You receive 2 stars for every eligible purchase at an online retailer through their eStore, however this time it excludes eBay which was a source of many of my stars last time. You also get two stars for an in-person shop at a storefront retailer. Ones that the average Winnipegger is likely to shop at? Esso, Rexall, Sobeys and Home Hardware (when visiting rural relatives or Chuck the Channel Cat).
There are a bunch of other basically fake opportunities to earn stars with flights and car rentals but they almost all require that you both purchase and complete those during the contest period (March 11 - April 10). No one can afford to fly Air Canada without strategic planning months in advance grabbing sale prices, who are they kidding. Ditto goes for earning points with hotel stays with Aeroplan partners - no booking on a cheaper site (not eligible for Aeroplan normally) nope, you need to book directly with the hotel which almost always costs more. Do you know who might benefit from that? Business travellers who already earn hundreds of thousands of Aeroplan miles a year.
There is one slightly attainable way to earn extra stars, by using your CIBC card at special Aeroplan Bonus restaurants. You will earn one extra star as well as double the Aeroplan points on your transaction. Of course this means you will also spend way more than $470 to collect the 25,000 points. In Winnipeg restaurants include Hermano's, Chamberlyn's, Hu's, Wasabi, Deadfish, Star Grill, Carbone Pizza and Olympia Diner. If you live outside Winnipeg use this website to find restaurants in your area. Maximum of 5 stars through this method.
So since I can't imagine when I might have more money then time, so I expect to put $10 worth of gas into my car every day at Esso starting Monday (hopefully this can cover about 20 of my transactions, although I don't usually go through $200 of gas in a month, maybe I'll have to roadtrip somewhere...). I will also become a regular at Sobey's.
It's basically a promotion that is designed to have people fail which is great for Aeroplan, not great at all for consumers. If they run this promotion again and if it's tweaked to their advantage any further I won't be able to participate so I might as well go for it one last time.