Q&A: WestJet's Head of Rewards Reveals Tips, Tricks and The Secret Sauce
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:
- Annual companion ticket to any destination WestJet flies – one every year!
- 250 WestJet dollars welcome bonus after first purchase – no minimum spend required
- No black outs or seat restrictions on any flights, any time
- Free first checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 8 additional guests on the same reservation!
- Comprehensive travel insurances including travel medical, trip interruption, auto rental collision & loss, purchase security and extended warranty
- 2% WestJet dollars per $1 spent on WestJet purchases
- 1.5% WestJet dollars per $1 spent on all other purchases
- 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