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Travel expert Barry Choi covered the introduction of the new version of Aeroplan for The Globe and Mail and you can read his story here. I asked Mr. Choi for a quick take on his view – thumbs up or down. “Huge thumbs up,” was his reply.

What a relief – not just for Aeroplan members, but everyone who collects reward points. The rebooting of Aeroplan shows that life as a points collector doesn’t have to be about takeaways.

The life cycle of a reward program is to start strong to attract members and then reduce benefits to improve profitability. But when the new Aeroplan relaunches on Nov. 8, it will be better. This revamp is a challenge to all the reward programs and credit cards out there. What improvements do they have to offer?

A big win for Aeroplan members in the reboot: All seats on Air Canada flights are available to book for Aeroplan rewards, including premium economy and business. Previously, there was a limited number of seats available for reward redemptions. Also, carrier surcharges that can cost hundreds of dollars disappear, although there’s a minor trade-off for this gain in a $39 booking fee for partner airlines. “I’d rather pay $39 than $900 to fly to Germany on points via Lufthansa,” Mr. Choi said by e-mail.

Now for an issue that is going to bug Aeroplan members hoping to book summer or holiday season travel – dynamic pricing. It means high-demand routes and travel dates will require a higher expenditure of points, while off-peak travel will cost less.

A few other notable points:

  • Existing Aeroplan miles will be accepted on a one-to-one basis (going forward, miles will be called points)
  • You can share points and benefits with family
  • There’s a new redemption chart spelling out the points required to fly between different points – Mr. Choi says there are some sweet spots that mean fewer points will be required.
  • Aeroplan.com will eventually be wound down and reservations will be made on aircanada.com

More on the new Aeroplan from:


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Rob’s personal finance reading list

Can the housing market stay hot?

Toronto Life asked seven experts for their view on the housing market – a mix of analysts, academics and housing industry people. The most optimistic views came from the housing industry people, which prompted a response on Twitter from Evan Siddall, president of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., a federal government agency that has a mandate to help Canadians access affordable housing. Here’s some good news for first-time buyers: The mortgage stress test you have to pass when qualifying to get a mortgage is about to ease a bit.

The new way to pay on the installment plan

All about new services that allow people to put pay for even modest purchases as low as $35 in installments with interest rates as low as zero. The idea is to get more people to buy things they presumably can’t afford. Otherwise, why the installments?

A $12.99 kitchen safety system that works

Introducing cutting gloves – wear them when you’re using a kitchen knife or grater and skip the nicks and cuts. This U.S. article prices these gloves at $9 – Amazon.ca has then for as little as $11.23.

Shopping for a new car? Compare insurance costs before buying

This list of tips for new car buying includes information on how insurance costs for the same class of vehicle can vary widely. In the example provided, two similar SUVs differ in annual premiums by more than $1,500.


Ask Rob

Q: In a recent column, you talked about balanced ETFs and published a list ranging from conservative to growth funds. You often talk about diversification. So why not invest in each of the balanced ETFs on your list? I am 68 years old and have $180,000 to invest.

A: Believe me, it’s much to your benefit to choose one suitable balanced ETF and leave it at that. These ETFs provide a fully diversified portfolio – exposure to thousands of individual stocks and bonds. You don’t need anything further, which means you limit your brokerage commissions for buying and selling ETFs and you limit the time needed to maintain the portfolio.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.


The money-free zone

I saw Rawi Hage’s byline on a recent story in the Globe on the terrible events in Beirut and I remembered how much I liked his novel, Cockroach, which is about a Middle Eastern immigrant’s life in Montreal. He’s a thief, among other things.


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