WestJet Rewards: More for Business Travelers

February 15, 2021
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WestJet Rewards, the company's free loyalty program for frequent travelers, will continue as one of the most attractive of its kind in the world now that the airline is trying to lure more business travelers with more long-haul fleets to fly abroad. Here we will explain you how it works, so you’ll be ready to make the most of your frequent flyer benefits in a year when Canadian airline loyalty programs will change for good.

WestJet Airlines started off in 1996 as a regional low-cost carrier that eventually expanded its operations to all of North America. During the 2010s, budget-travel became increasingly competitive, so WestJet decided to look for new customers among business travelers and turned into a competitive full-service international airline. As a result, WestJet has consolidated as the runner-up in the Canadian market, the challenger to Air Canada’s historic lead.

WestJet Rewards Logo
WestJet Rewards

In late 2019, Onex, a deep-pocketed Toronto-based private equity firm, completed the acquisition of WestJet. The move will enhance the competitive environment in this segment as WestJet Canada will now be able to acquire more long-haul fleets to fly abroad, grow faster internationally and offer more benefits to customers.

Loyalty is Serious Business

The business segment demands from airlines more services and reliability but also offer juicier margins. Since businesses frequently allow employees to keep their frequent flier miles earned on travel, loyalty programs are an important part of both airlines’ competitive strategy. So, in response to WestJet changes, Air Canada will be revamping its own program, Aeroplan Loyalty Business, in alliance with Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Visa Canada Visa and Aimia Inc.

See the best Aeroplan credit cards for 2020

The stage is set for loyalty programs to be one of the most competed playing fields in the tug-of-war between these Canadian airlines during 2020. Let’s see what the airline that brings “Love where you're going” has to offer.

WestJet Rewards

This loyalty program is a free cashback type of tiered-rewards program. Travelers earn WestJet Dollars by booking qualifying flights, WestJet Vacation packages, hotels, and car rentals through WestJet (or its partners), and later redeem those dollars to pay for all or part of the base fare of an eligible flight or vacation package.

WestJet Rewards offers benefits from reciprocal frequent flyer agreements with other agreements. So, under certain conditions, its users can also book select Delta, Air France, KLM, and Qantas routes through WestJet’s Member Exclusive Fares.

As mentioned before, WestJet Rewards is a tiered program. This means that customers have different status depending on how they spend on WestJet marketed flights: more frequent travelers get a higher percentage of points and more perks.

The program also allows to maximize benefits and earning by adding a WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard, which requires an annual income of $80,000 or a total combined income of $150,000 as well as a $120 annual fee and offers a $250 welcome bonus, %1.5 back in WestJet Dollars on everyday purchases and 2% back on flights and vacations.

How Does it Work?

The WestJet Dollar

The first thing you must know is that you’ll be dealing with WestJet dollars. These are the basics:

  • One WestJet dollar can be redeemed for the equivalent of one Canadian dollar at the initial time of booking of your flight or WestJet Vacation package.
  • The minimum redeemable for WestJet-marketed flights is $15 (depends on the product or WestJet partner).
  • The minimum redeemable  for WestJet vacation packages is $50.
  • WestJet Dollars can’t be used to pay purchase taxes.
  • They can be earned through purchase transactions with WestJet or its partners do not expire.
  • WestJet Dollars earned through promotions, compensation, or limited-time promotional offers do expire.

Earning WestJet Dollars

WestJet Rewards is free. All you have to do to become a member is create an account. In case you apply for any WestJet RBC Mastercard you’ll be automatically enrolled.

You can start to earn WestJet Dollars immediately: You’ll get 0.5% – 8% cash-back in WestJet Dollars just by providing your WestJet Rewards ID when you book qualifying flights, vacation packages, hotels or car rentals through WestJet or its partners. The cash-back rate depends on your tier (more on that below). You can even earn WestJet Dollars for flights you have currently not taken.

You can stack-up points even faster using RBC WestJet Mastercards for your travel or everyday purchases and by converting your RBC reward points into WestJet Dollars (at 100 RBC rewards points for 1 WestJet dollar).

It is worth noting that you don’t get WestJet Dollars for the taxes paid in your travel expenses.

Buying WestJet Dollars

You can purchase WestJet Dollars to up your account. Why would you do this? First, because WestJet Dollars give you access to “Member Exclusive” fares, which may be lower priced then regular fares; and second, because, in some cases, you can only use WestJet Dollars if you can pay the full base amount of the purchase using them.

Buy as few as 25 WestJet Dollars for 29 CAD and up to a maximum of $3,000. Prices decrease when you buy more.

Redeeming your Rewards

WestJet makes every seat available, without blackout dates or redemption schedules. In order to use your WestJet dollars, just follow these steps:

  • Search for your flights on www.westjet.com
  • Choose your flights
  • Apply your WestJet Dollars at checkout

WestJet Rewards Tier Systems

WestJet Rewards is a tiered program. Frequent Flyers end up in the higher tiers. The higher the tier, the more benefits they get and the higher priority they are given when booking flights. WestJet will qualify its members based on their spending on WestJet marketed flights and vacation packages for one year (starting from the member’s sign-up date). Note that the only eligible flights on partner airlines are those designed as WestJet flights.

It’s surprisingly easy to move up to the higher tiers, you’ll keep your status for a full year following the year you qualified and you’ll never reset to the lowest tier.

These are the four tiers:

Teal Benefits

This is the welcome level, where all members start until spending up to $2,999 on WestJet flights and vacation packages (only 20% of the latter’s value counts) in a year:

  • Earn 0.5% in WestJet Dollars on the base fare on all WestJet flights or WestJet Vacation packages.
  • Earn 0.5% in WestJet Dollars on cars, hotels and travel insurance.
  • Earn WestJet Dollars on partner-marketed flights based on mileage and class of service.

Additional Silver Tier Benefits

You qualify for this upgrade after spending more than $3,000 on WestJet flights and vacation packages (only 20% of the latter’s value counts) within a qualifying year.

You'll earn:

  • 3% in WestJet Dollars on the base fare of all WestJet flights.
  • 1% in WestJet Dollars on WestJet Vacation packages and other purchases.
  • 50% additional cashback on partner airlines.

And also:

  • Two checked bags free
  • 4 airport lounge vouchers
  • 4 advance seat selection vouchers
  • Priority check-in and bag drop
  • Zone 2 boarding
  • Eligible for an upgrade to Premium cabin on EconoFlex fares (subject to availability)
  • Canada-wide companion voucher (when $4,000 spend is reached)

Additional Gold tier benefits

You’ll reach the Gold tier if you spend more than $5,000 on WestJet flights and vacation packages (only 20% of the latter’s value counts) within 12 months.

You'earn:

  • 5% in WestJet Dollars on WestJet flights
  • 1.5% in WestJet Dollars on WestJet Vacation packages
  • 75% additional cashback on partner airlines

And also:

  • 2 checked bags free
  • Unlimited airport lounge access with family privileges, plus 2 guest vouchers
  • 6 advance seat selection vouchers
  • Priority check-in and bag drop at select airports
  • Priority security screening at select airports
  • A dedicated support phone number for faster and more individualized service.
  • Early access to purchase upgrades to premium seating
  • Zone 1 boarding
  • Higher priority for complimentary upgrades to premium seats with the purchase of EconoFlex fares
  • No fee for same-day flight changes at check-in
  • Higher boarding priority than at the Gold tier.

Additional Platinum tier benefits

This is the newest tier, introduced in 2018, which you can achieve after spending more than $8,000 on WestJet flights and vacation packages (only 20% of the latter’s value counts) within 12 months. Note that you receive all benefits of Gold status, along with some key additionals:

You'll earn:

  • 8% cashback in WestJet Dollars on WestJet flights
  • 2% cashback in WestJet Dollars on WestJet Vacation packages
  • 1% in WestJet Dollars on Cars rentals, hotels, and insurance
  • 100% additional cashback on partner airlines

And you'll also get:

  • 3 free checked bags
  • Unlimited airport lounge access with family privileges, plus 2 guest vouchers
  • Unlimited advanced seat selection vouchers
  • Zone 1 boarding
  • Priority check-in and bag drop at select airports
  • Priority security screening at select airports
  • A dedicated support phone number for faster and more individualized service.
  • Highest priority for complimentary upgrades to premium seats with the purchase of EconoFlex fares
  • No fee for same-day flight changes at check-in
  • Higher boarding priority than at the Gold tier.

WestJet Rewards Partnerships

Partnerships boost the value of frequent flyer programs, giving a truly global reach to their benefits. WestJet Rewards currently allows its members to earn and redeem WestJet Dollars with Air France, Delta Air Lines, KLM, and Qantas Airways.

As mentioned before, the rate of WestJet Dollars you can earn on partner airlines varies depending on distance flown, class of service and WestJet Rewards status. Also, note that in case you want to redeem those WestJet Dollars, you must have enough to cover the entire flight before taxes, since partial redemption is not permitted.

Advantages

WestJet Rewards is certainly very flexible. The program not only offers convenience and comfort, especially for members in the higher tiers, but the fact that its reward points can be redeemed without restrictions for WestJet flights is unique in the air travel sector. Combine that with all the RBC Mastercard benefits and there’s no place to doubt that WestJet Rewards’ offers can be very valuable to its customers.

WestJet Mastercard adds value to regular WestJet travelers.
WestJet Mastercard adds value to regular WestJet travelers.

Drawbacks

Due to WestJet Rewards’ increased focus on business travelers, it is frequent to find cheaper tickets with budget airlines offer, so members in the lower tiers might end up paying more for a flight if they want to get WestJet Dollars. Additionally, earn rates in these tiers (1%, 3%, and even the 5% rate) are actually low compared to Aeroplan’s.

Find out what's Canada's best Aeroplan Mastercard for 2020

Also, despite the network has recently expanded and become global, WestJet doesn’t actually have many partners, so there’s a lot of room for growth.

The Bottom Line

WestJet Rewards is simple, flexible and easy to use. However, its benefits are clearly oriented to very frequent business travelers, especially those who use a WestJet RBC Mastercard. The upgrade in services is definitely very attractive for those who spend a lot of time in airports but if you travel less than twice a month or don’t have one of their credit cards, maybe you should also consider other airlines’ discount-based programs when looking for savings in your flights.

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