In Part 1 of the Understanding WestJet Series, I talked about some of the features of WestJet and its reward tiers. What I didn’t go over in detail is how to quickly earn WestJet Dollars (WSD) so that will be the focus of this post.
I think everyone can agree that the credit cards that have category multipliers like the American Express Cobalt or the American Express Gold card are the most lucrative. It really is amazing how quickly you can accumulate points through these multipliers and bonuses. One of the things that most people don’t realize is that WestJet offers these same type of multipliers through their tiers, it just take a bit of work to qualify.
If you’re a business traveler, $6,000 spend to get to Gold status isn’t actually all that hard to achieve and most people that do a decent amount of travel can get to Silver status pretty easily.
WestJet Rewards is unlike other programs that have complicated dual qualifications (I’m looking at your Air Canada) which require you to not only fly a set amount of segments but also spend a set amount of money. WestJet is much simpler to qualify for status as it is only based on the amount you spend with the airline. It’s simple. This will be a theme throughout the program.
I’ll start out by saying that WestJet dollars aren’t exactly sexy but they aren’t designed to be. Earning and redeeming are dead simple and that’s what I love about the program.
WestJet is a relatively “quiet” program amongst Travel Hackers because it suffers from the fact that humans inherently love big numbers and the WestJet Dollars you earn tend to be small in comparison to Aeroplan’s Miles. A flight from Winnipeg to Toronto might get you $3-$5 WSD but Aeroplan might award you 750 Aeroplan Miles. This is purely a psychological trick and you will, hopefully, soon come to see that with Aeroplan, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
I’m also of the strong belief that the WestJet Rewards Program is much more lucrative than Aeroplan.
WestJet Dollars (WSD) are earned based on the base fare of your ticket and your tier status. I’ll give you an example of a booking that I am looking at doing in April.
To go from Winnipeg to Halifax, it would cost me $656.80 in the Econo Fare. Unfortunately, you do not earn WSD on the taxes you pay but that’s standard for every program. You do, however, earn on the full base fare and the “Other ATC” that WestJet charges. I found out that the “Other ATC” charges is actually Fuel Surcharge (YQ), which is disappointing but at least you earn WSD on it.
In this example, here’s what you would earn based on your status level:
Teal (1% of base fare): 5 WSD
Silver (3% of base fare): 16 WSD
Gold: (5% of base fare): 27 WSD
The reason these numbers look a bit off is that WestJet rounds the amount of WSD you earn to the nearest dollar. For example, as a Gold Member, I would earn 27 WSD ($547 * 0.05). These are pretty great earn levels and this is the lowest economy fare available. I’ll give you another example for the same flight but I’ll choose the cheapest Plus Fare I can find.
If you were to book a Plus Fare, you would earn even more WSD. I understand that many people wouldn’t do this but if you are a business traveler like I am, sometimes you can swing these kinds of perks. In the event you are able to get work to pay for the flight or if you happen to treat yourself, you will earn WSD at an accelerated pace:
Teal (1% of base fare): 11 WSD
Silver (3% of base fare): 32 WSD
Gold (5% of base fare): 53 WSD
Now get ready to have your mind blown!
If you have the RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard and you put your WestJet flight charges on the card, you earn an additional 2%! That means that as a non-statused member (Teal), you would earn at what a normal Silver Member earns at (3%). If you are Silver, you earn like a Gold (5%) and if you are Gold, you earn at a whopping 7%!
I’ll have a full review of the credit card in a later post but that’s really one of the killer features of the credit card.
Let’s look at that first Econo Fare example again.
If you have the RBC WestJet credit card, you would earn as follows:
Teal (1% + 2% = 3%): 16 WSD
Silver (3% + 2% = 5%): 27 WSD
Gold (5% + 2% = 7%): 38 WSD
To me, this is where WestJet Rewards is absolutely brilliant. I know that Jayce had previously written some excellent guides on how to find award availability and while the guide is great and prescriptive, I think you’ll agree that it’s crazy complicated. Sure it’s rewarding once you know what you are doing but even experts in finding award availability are at the complete mercy of what airlines make available.
WestJet, on the other hand, makes every seat available. You don’t need a guide or an award service to help you find your flights. You find your flights by looking for your flight on WestJet and then applying your WSD against your base fare. ANY SEAT. ANY FLIGHT. NO BLACKOUTS. NO RESTRICTIONS.
I want to hammer this point home because it’s important. With WestJet Rewards and WestJet Dollars, gone are the days of worrying about whether you can find award availability. There is no more “I guess I’ll just pay cash for this ticket because there is no award availability”. IF THERE IS A SEAT AVAILABLE YOU CAN REDEEM YOUR WESTJET DOLLARS FOR IT.
This is a HUGE benefit and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
I would give you a step-by-step but quite honestly, it’s an incredibly simple process.
- Search for your flights on www.westjet.com
- Choose your flights
- Apply your WestJet Dollars at checkout
The only limitation is that you must have 15 WSD to apply per direction. I’m not sure why that limitation is there but I would guess it has to do with the work required to administer the redemption. I’ve been a WestJet Rewards Member for a while and have noticed that they reduced the minimum significantly as it used to be 50 WSD (25 WSD per direction).
An additional benefit is that you can use your WSD towards WestJet Vacation packages as well. You often see great specials from WestJet Vacations where you can earn additional WSD by booking a package.
As Travel Hackers, this is our ultimate goal. Redeem a rewards currency and get more back!
Why I Like WSD More Than Aeroplan
There are many reasons why I prefer WestJet Rewards over Aeroplan. These reasons include:
- Redemptions of WSD on ANY AVAILABLE SEAT – With Aeroplan, there’s no guarantee that you can find award availability.
- Partial redemptions of WSD is possible (anything over 15 WSD per direction) – With Aeroplan, you need to have 100% of the points required for redemption.
- Ability to stack your status earning with the WestJet MasterCard to earn between 3 – 7%, depending on your status tier. While Aeroplan has stacking, WestJet is more lucrative.
- Redemption of WSD is as simple as applying your WSD at the payment screen – Aeroplan redemptions require a TON of research, understanding things like MPM, YQ, and other obscure rules.
- WSD offers 100% transparency – Aeroplan not so much.
- Have a family of 4+ and want to be on the same flight? With WSD you can do that. Good luck trying to do that with Aeroplan
Ultimately, I would rather spend my free time with my family rather than dealing with the frustration of award redemptions in programs like Aeroplan.
Think about this.
How many redemptions of WSD cross the desk of paid award bookers? I would assume none because anyone can understand and redeem WSD. Now think about how many bookings these award bookers do with Aeroplan.
Programs like Aeroplan are the reason that award bookers exist. The program is incredibly convoluted, rules-laden, and non-user-friendly.
With WestJet, what you see is what you get.
WestJet Dollars can be incredibly lucrative even if you aren’t a status member, as long as you hold the WestJet MasterCard. If you have status and have the credit card, the world is your oyster.
Speaking about making the world your oyster, WestJet will soon be taking delivery of their 787s and with that, new routes around the world with WestJet will open. This means that in the very near future, you can use your WSD to travel internationally on WestJet.
While this is speculation, I would guess that you will be able to redeem your WSD on WestJet’s new Business Class. Nobody has seen it yet, but Rossen Dimitrov was brought back to WestJet to lead the development of the new Business Class product. Rossen’s claim to fame? He led the development of Qatar’s world-class Q Suite. I don’t know about you but I’m incredibly excited about this!
With Aeroplan dying a slow death and with the inevitable run on Aeroplan awards by those trying to get out, I can think of no better time to switch your loyalty program to WestJet Rewards. I currently have 400,000+ Aeroplan Miles and I am nervous about finding award availability to burn them on and we’re still 2 years away from the program ending. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
Do yourself a favour and jump on the WestJet wagon. The future is incredibly bright!