I am disappointed that it took me this long to learn about Westjet’s member exclusive fares, a very cool fixed mileage redemption program.
I had some Westjet dollars kicking around from a credit card promo (thank you RBC for the $350 Westjet dollars) and booked a flight to Toronto, clicking the “member exclusive” fare button and surprised at how cheap it was.
I have previously been a fan of the Aeroplan program due to it’s fixed rate mileage redemption, allowing to maximize miles for peak travel times unlike programs like Avion who have a maximum ticket price or BMO World Elite mastercard who base the miles on the ticket price.
Reasons I am switching from Aeroplan to Westjet dollars as my primary credit card rewards program:
– The Westjet member exclusive fares allow you to use your Westjet dollars towards a fixed rate program OR use your dollars towards a regular ticket price.
– The accumulation rate on the Westjet RBC Mastercard is equal with the TD Aerogold Infinite for groceries, gas, and drug store purchases, and higher for all other purchases. (Assuming 1 Westjet dollar = 100 Aeroplan points based on the North American long haul fixed rate fares of $250 Westjet dollars or 25,000 Aeroplan points) as the Westjet RBC Mastercard gives you 1.5% back on ALL purchases vs. the TD Aerogold Visa only giving you 1.5% on groceries, gas, and drug store purchases.
– International redemptions are overall, less with Westjet dollars. For example, Canada to Asia is $549 vs. 75,000 Aeroplan points.
The Prince of Travel has posted a fantastic redemption chart on his blog which you can compare with the Aeroplan redemption chart on their page.
– Westjet’s companion fare. With the RBC Visa you get a companion fare to bring someone with you for $119 (plus taxes) or higher for international. Air Canada/Aeroplan do not offer any similar benefits
– Ease of booking. Westjet’s member exclusive fares are searchable from the main westjet booking site, allowing you to compare with their regular flight prices whereas Aeroplan requires you to search with a separate page or app.
– Westjet uses Canadian made and vegan companies Matt & Nat and Rocky Mountain Soap Factory for their premium and business class toiletry kits, as well as in their lavatories. These are two of my favourite companies to support as they are Canadian made and ethical.
As an added perk, Westjet had a status match promo allowing me to transfer my elite Aeroplan status to Gold status with Westjet. Unlike the Aeroplan program where there are a fixed number of eupgrade certificates, not valid on Aeroplan redemption tickets, Westjet’s Gold program appears to have more benefits although I will update this further when I actually fly and attempt to use an upgrade.
The only downside I can see at first glance of switching loyalty from Air Canada’s Aeroplan to Westjet’s rewards program is losing out on the Star Alliance network which has more reach to more destinations, and some of the best airlines (I still think Air New Zealand is the best airline I have ever flown!) Westjet does allow you to use their member exclusive fares on a number of other airlines internationally (including a few of my favourites Air France, KLM and PAL, as well as many others)
Since I haven’t been flying, I haven’t had the opportunity to do a full review. A couple things I wonder about are availability of flight rewards (which is why I have always suggested having multiple frequent flyer accounts), availability of upgrades, and the price of taxes on redemption which is always a concern with Aeroplan as often the taxes cost more than a good sale ticket with another airline to Europe.
One last tip, if you are like my dad and have been hoarding Avion points from RBC due to blind loyalty to this weak program, keep an eye out for the transfer bonus where RBC will allow you to transfer your Avion points to the Westjet Rewards program with a 20-30% bonus (apparently this happens a few times a year)
I accumulate a large amount of my frequent flyer points through credit card reward programs. The standard promos for the RBC Westjet program seem to be 250 Westjet dollars and then either the first year free ($120 bonus) or 100 extra Westjet dollars. I opted for the first year free promo but I think this card is probably worth the annual fee and is something I will be switching to as my primary credit card.
Ultimately the travel rewards program you choose needs to be the right one for you based on your particular needs. At first glance, the Westjet program looks to be better suited towards my needs and is why I will be switching loyalty to them for 2020. Stay tuned for updates on how the actual experience plays out…
Did I miss something? Please send me a message and let me know if there are any considerations I didn’t include in this review of the two programs!