Q&A: WestJet's Head of Rewards Reveals Tips, Tricks and The Secret Sauce

Q&A: WestJet's Head of Rewards Reveals Tips, Tricks and The Secret Sauce

Last updated on January 30, 2018 Views: 2237 Comments: 12

We are super excited to have the highly accomplished loyalty and marketing executive Sol Zia from WestJet Rewards with us for an in-depth Q&A!

WestJet’s credit card program is quickly distinguishing itself among its peers with a truly unique set of benefits in the Canadian marketplace.

We invited Sol to do a Q&A with GreedyRates to help us understand the secrets to maximizing the value of WestJet’s credit card program. The result is a masterly dissertation on how to squeeze hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars out of WestJet EVERY year. The best part is, WestJet’s happy to see you do it.

Q: What’s the goal of the WestJet Credit card program?

A: Like other programs, it’s pretty simple. It’s to enhance the earning opportunities for our members.

But what makes our card different, are the travel opportunities – first bag free and the companion voucher, those are amazing features. If you’re traveling as a family, or you like to travel with other people, you can’t beat the card.

Q: Who’s the WestJet credit card best suited for?

A: It’s designed for moderate to frequent travelers. It’s also for folks who are loyalty savvy that enjoy paying with points and cash. Families have a big affinity for the WestJet card. I love seeing them flash their card at the airport.

Q: How can cardholders get the most value from the WestJet credit card? What are some of the secrets out there?

A: The savviest cardholders sign-up for all our promotions. The secret sauce is getting the card, always using it when you book your flight, but signing up for every promotion that we have out there.

We have one for California that starts tomorrow, and you can earn up to 250 WestJet dollars. They’re free to register.

Q: Can you go into a bit more depth on how these promotions work?

A: They are typically destination based. If you were to book your flight, without your credit card and it was $100 to Boston, you would earn 1 WestJet dollar. Get the credit card, now you’re earning 3 WestJet dollars. Still ok, but you sign-up for the promotion and you save an additional 40 WestJet dollars. That’s a huge earn rate based on the cost of the flight. That is the secret sauce.

Q: Are those promotions available to cardholders only? Or to WestJet Reward members as well?

A: They’re available to all WestJet reward members. But if you’re using your card you’re getting that triple dip so to speak (credit card, loyalty rewards and promotion dollars).

Q: Which features are the most popular with cardholders? Talk to me about how cardholders use them.

A: Free first bag is hugely popular, as is companion voucher and then the earn rate – earning 2% when you use the card, so the double dip is the third feature. The welcome bonus is typically fourth place.

No one offers free bag and the companion voucher, especially with the new ability to use it for Europe, Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean. Folks love it and they’re redeeming for great destinations.

Q: You’re seeing a lot of uptake, even in the last 3 months?

A: We’re definitely seeing it in the redemption of those vouchers to sun destinations and to Europe. Folks are being really smart about it, they’re booking Plus seats (business class).

There’s no blackout or restrictions on those companion vouchers. Your companion is booked for $399 dollars (return) to London in that Plus seat, as long as you buy the first Plus seat (you can use your WestJet dollars). It’s a phenomenal deal.

Q: And when consumers buy a full fare ticket, it’s the same price they get at WestJet.com?

A: If you find a seat sale for Plus, you can use the companion voucher with it. It’s amazing value. Folks don’t believe it, because everyone’s skeptical, and I’m sure you’re readers are just as skeptical as everyone else. Everyone believes there must be a restriction, a blackout, but there really isn’t.

Depending on when you buy that seat to London, you could be saving upwards of $1,000. No cash back card, at 1.5% will ever give you that much return.

Q: Why should readers choose the WestJet credit card over any other card? How does the WestJet card beat out the alternatives?

A: I think it’s the flexibility of the card and its features.

You would choose the card because you travel enough where you can see the benefit of having that first bag free, for yourself and the other folks travelling on your same itinerary.

You travel enough times a year, and you travel with someone else, so you’re going to see the value in that companion voucher. That beats most other travel cards if that’s how you travel.

The third piece is, even if you don’t travel, but you buy travel for other people, you’re getting that return. Let’s say you travel twice a year, but you often buy a flight for your mom, grandma, or kids, you can redeem for anybody. You don’t have to be the primary traveler.

Q: Can you transfer WestJet dollars to other members?

A: We don’t see a lot of transferability because we have partial redemption. In Aeroplan, you have to have 25,000 points for long-haul, so there’s a lot more reasons economically to transfer and pool points.

Because we have partial redemption, if you’re buying 3 WestJet tickets and 3 people each have 75 WestJet dollars, each redeems partially.

We do have transferability like every other program, but very little take-up.

Q: Who do you view as your primary competitor in the travel card space?

A: The primary alternative in the marketplace to our card would be TD Aeroplan.

After that would be the bank led travel programs. But they compete on earn rate. Because they’re bank run and they don’t have any affiliation or ownership of an airline, they don’t have features like first bag or companion vouchers.

Q: The only other card offering companion fare would be Alaska Airlines?

A: Alaska’s a great program, but it’s really centered towards Western Canadians. If you live in Montreal or Toronto you’ve got to find an Alaska flight to use it.

British Airways is pretty niche too, because not everyone is going overseas (and you have to spend $30K to get the companion ticket), you have to really play the game to redeem on Avios.

Q: Several bank travel card programs offer lounge access. The WestJet card does not. Any reason?

A: That’s a really good question, only because we ask that every year, and lounge access always ranks really low.

For the leisure traveler, lounge has just not popped as something they want on the card. If the demand was there, we would address it. But I can show you just how far down on the right demand is for lounge on one of our charts.

There are other higher demand flexible travel features that cardholders and members are asking for that we’re looking to add on.

Q: What are the top destinations that people like to redeem for?

A: Before we launched Caribbean, Mexico and London, it was Vegas. The top 5 hasn’t really changed, because we haven’t had enough time yet. But the trend is moving away from Nevada and Florida. Depending on when you want to travel the value is amazing.

WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard Summary:

  1. Annual companion ticket to any destination WestJet flies – one every year!
  2. 250 WestJet dollars welcome bonus after first purchase – no minimum spend required
  3. No black outs or seat restrictions on any flights, any time
  4. Free first checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 8 additional guests on the same reservation!
  5. Comprehensive travel insurances including travel medical, trip interruption, auto rental collision & loss, purchase security and extended warranty
  6. 2% WestJet dollars per $1 spent on WestJet purchases
  7. 1.5% WestJet dollars per $1 spent on all other purchases
  8. Earn WestJet dollars twice, once with your credit card, and again with your WestJet Rewards ID when booking a flight and get an additional 5% in WestJet dollars

Article comments

12 comments
Courtenay says:

Can you explain the 1.5% WestJet dollars per $1 spent? For example, if I spent $2000/mo on the card, how many WSD would I be earning?

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hey Courtenay,

We’d be more than happy to explain the 1.50% earnings rate for WestJet Dollars on the WestJet World Elite card. Basically, the card helps you save money on your purchases by earning rewards (in this case, WestJet Dollars) that can themselves be spent on travel. If you book airfare or other travel accommodations with the card then you’ll get 2.00% of the total purchase price back in WestJet Dollars, which helps you save up for your next vacation or business trip. Everything else that you buy that isn’t a “travel-related purchase” will collect 1.50% back in WestJet dollars. If you spent $100 with the card, that’s $1.50 immediately deposited directly into your WestJet account.

If you spent $2,000 with the card each month, then you’ll earn 30 WestJet Dollars each month, or $360 in your first year. Add in the $250 welcome bonus you’ll receive as a first-time cardholder, and that’s $610 in your first year—likely enough for a full short-haul trip right there. The annual companion voucher increases the value you get each year. We hope that our analysis helps you make sense of the card and determine whether it’s suitable or not. If not, we’re prepared to make other suggestions based on your precise criteria. Just respond with a short description of your financial situation and what you’re looking for in your next card and we’ll get right back to you!

GreedyRates

Uwe says:

I am planning an eighteen day trip to various cities in Europe in August 2019. WestJet thankfully flies to London but our last city that we’ll visit is Rome and WestJet doesn’t fly out of Rome so we must fly with a competitor. That said, is it worth while to use my WestJet dollars and companion voucher for a one way flight to London? Does this make economic sense?

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Uwe,

Good questions. We understand that Rome isn’t a WestJet location, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your WestJet dollars for some part of your trip. However, the companion voucher cannot be used in the same flexible way as WestJet Dollars, unfortunately. While you’re able to buy a one-way ticket with WestJet Dollars, for example, the companion voucher is officially called the ‘Annual round-trip companion voucher’ because it can only be used on round-trip flights.
When redeeming your WestJet Dollars, remember that you can pay for your flight partially only if the fare is an Econo, Flex, or Plus flight. Member Exclusive fares must be paid in full with WestJet Dollars. Otherwise, you won’t run into any unanticipated issues. In our opinion, unless you have enough to pay for a one-way ticket in full, you should save your WestJet Dollars for a single-destination trip with a friend or family member.

GreedyRates

GAB says:

do I get points when I buy canadaian tire gas on my elite card

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi GAB,

We’re grateful for your inquiry on whether the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard applies its 1.50% cash back rate to gas purchases at Canadian Tire. We checked into the fine print and it seems like the “all-purpose” flat cash back rate stands: you’ll definitely get 1.50% back when you buy gas with the card, no matter where. Just remember that for 2.00% cash back, you’ll need to buy travel from WestJet, and 1.50% comes from virtually everything else (except cash transactions like paying for fees or taxes, ATM withdrawals, etc.).

GreedyRates

BB says:

Could you explain the difference between lounge Access and lounge voucher.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi BB,

No problem! Lounge access typically means that you’ll receive a Priority Pass or LoungeKey membership. These are the two programs that connect most of the world’s airport lounges and place them under a single umbrella, so that anyone who is a member can get inside, no matter where they are. If you pay for membership to either Priority Pass or LoungeKey, then you’ll always be able to access the lounge but will still need to pay the entry fee each time you go in. Many credit cards give membership for free (it’s usually around $99 per year), while onetime entry is usually about $20.

If your card comes with membership and lounge vouchers, it means that not only do you avoid the yearly membership fee, but you also have one or more single-use passes that get you into the lounge at no cost. If you only have the membership, then you can get in, but you still need to pay when you do so. This is how it works with all members from the highest rung on the ladder to the lowest, and we’re not aware of any credit cards that offer free membership and also free, unlimited lounge access. Hope that clears it up for you!

GreedyRates Staff

Pat says:

See if I can phrase this properly. To get WestJet status, you have to do a yearly spend. Spend so much money. If you use Airmiles or BMO WORLD ELITE points to purchase the flight, does this count towards your yearly spend? I have the RBC WestJet card but have other points that have to be used. Thanks.

The GreedyRates Team says:

Hi Pat,

Great question. With the WestJet World Elite Mastercard, if you can spend $3,000 dollars
within the first 12 months of membership, you’ll attain Silver Status with WestJet—that’s
correct. However, this only counts for cash purchases made with the WestJet card itself, on
things like retail goods, groceries, gas, or whatever else. You cannot spend WestJet Dollars, and
certainly not another program’s rewards points, and expect this to count. Remember that
$3,000 over the course of 12 months is just $250 per month, which is a pretty easy target to hit.
Thanks very much. Let us know if you need any further assistance!

The GreedyRates Team

Paul says:

If I get a Westjet ID for my child will he or she earn westjet dollars simply by using the ID on a flight that I as a westjet member book?

GreedyRates says:

Hi Paul, thanks for the interesting question! Unfortunately, WestJet only gives WestJet Dollar rewards to cardholders, not other WestJet members on the same itinerary. In our article, the statement “[The promotion is] available to all WestJet reward members. But if you’re using your card you’re getting that triple dip so to speak (credit card, loyalty rewards and promotion dollars)” means that any WestJet member that purchases flights, even without their credit card, can earn rewards for it. Dependent children on the trip itinerary aren’t eligible because they aren’t purchasing anything.

The other statement about sharing WestJet Dollars concerned splitting the redemption cost of a round-trip flight with other WestJet members. You can also redeem points for the flights of relatives, but they won’t earn WestJet Dollars for it. Hope that helps!

GreedyRates Staff