Last month, we announced the winners of the 2021 Prince of Travel Awards, which were determined after three weeks of voting.
As a community, you had cast your votes to recognize the strongest performers in the Canadian loyalty landscape throughout 2021 across 28 different award categories.
As the year draws to a close, let’s once again wrap things up with a playful round of Anti-Awards, in which we’ll ask the opposite question.hat were some of the most disappointing developments in 2021 for Canadian credit card holders and loyalty program members, and which players in the industry have the greatest room to improve in 2022?
After all, as the leading voice for Canadians who are interested in leveraging Miles & Points to travel the world, it’s important that we not only recognize excellence in our space, but also highlight noteworthy weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.
As a community, then, you are invited to make your voice heard across eight Anti-Awards categories, with the end goal of spurring on better performance from the airlines, loyalty programs, credit card issuers, and other companies looking to win our business – and building a richer landscape for all of us in Canada.
Biggest Loyalty Program Devaluation
There’s no two ways about it: we’ve seen our fair share of devaluations to award charts and redemption opportunities in Canada this year, even if some of the programs would prefer to dress up these changes as “relaunches” or mask the downsides with “enhancements” in parallel.
Which devaluation has been the most egregious?
- Air Miles shifting to dynamic pricing
- Alaska Mileage Plan ending their relationship with Emirates
- BMO Rewards reducing their redemption rate
- Marriott Bonvoy announcing dynamic pricing (coming in 2022)
- World of Hyatt introducing peak pricing
Weakest Big 5 Bank Credit Card Portfolio
Which bank needs to beef up its credit card lineup the most? Don’t forget to factor in each bank’s proprietary points program in your assessment.
Most Cumbersome Credit Card Approval Process
A difficult and cumbersome approval process can easily sour the banking relationship before it begins, perhaps deterring you from even applying at all.
The following Canadian credit card issuers have received the lion’s share of complaints about their credit cards being a headache to sign up for, with some new contenders joining the list as recent frustrations have increased.
Which issuer is in the most dire need of straightening out their approval process?
Most Difficult Flight Cancellation Process
It started last year with Canada’s airlines collectively failing to provide refunds on cancelled flights. While the refunds have eventually come through, many airlines continue to make you fight tooth and nail, despite offering generous cancellation policies as the pandemic persists.
Which airline or loyalty program program have you had the most difficulty getting a timely refund from?
- Air Canada / Aeroplan
- Alaska Airlines / Mileage Plan
- British Airways / Avios
- Cathay Pacific / Asia Miles
- WestJet / WestJet Rewards
Most Disappointing Type of Credit Card Signup Bonus
After the austerity of 2020’s weak signup bonuses during the depths of the pandemic, 2021 has overall been quite an impressive year for credit card incentives, with many issuers offering record-breaking signup bonuses.
That said, despite high amounts of total points, some issuers are structuring the bonuses in ways that make them more challenging to achieve.
Of these various structures which have been rising in prominence this year, which would you say is the most disappointing and a potential deterrent from applying for the card?
- High total spending requirements (e.g., American Express Aeroplan Business Reserve Card, CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card)
- Spending requirements throughout each of the first 12 months (e.g., American Express Aeroplan cards)
- Second-year bonuses (e.g., American Express Platinum Card, HSBC World Elite Mastercard)
- Vouchers instead of more points (e.g., Air Canada Buddy Pass)
Co-Branded Credit Card with Greatest Unfulfilled Potential
Personally, I think there’s so much more room for innovation among various loyalty programs’ co-branded credit cards in Canada, especially when we look at the creativity and value south of the border with the US Aeroplan and Bonvoy cards, for example.
We’ve seen the new Aeroplan credit cards dabble a bit with more creative partnerships this year. Which of these co-branded credit cards would you most like to see some serious innovation from in 2022?
- American Express Marriott Bonvoy cards
- BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard
- MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard
- RBC British Airways Visa Infinite
- WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard
Loyalty Program with Most Significant Absence
Many global airlines and hotel chains operate in Canada, but currently don’t offer a co-branded credit card or a high-value transfer partner to their loyalty program in the Canadian market.
I’ve picked out five such programs that I believe would stand to benefit from challenging the establishment here in the Canadian loyalty landscape. In your view, which one’s absence is felt most keenly and would benefit the most from adding a Canadian offering in 2022?
Beyond obvious devaluations, sometimes there are technical difficulties, behind-the-scenes processes, or just slow movement in general with banks and loyalty programs. These are out of our control and often out of sight, but they can rear their ugly head when we least expect.
Which of the following was the most frustrating unexpected event of 2021, as it pertains to how you use rewards?
- Aeroplan continuing to lack a multi-city search engine, after launching over a year ago with this as a highly-touted feature
- Aeroplan’s sky-high off-the-charts dynamic pricing on domestic and international business class flights
- American Express temporarily blocking Membership Rewards cards from being linked
- Scene+ launch issues with bonus categories not properly earning 5x points, and with partial redemptions not working
- TD’s delays in issuing and converting the Air Canada Buddy Pass
- WestJet’s lack of a valuable loyalty program in any meaningful sense, more than a year after discontinuing Member Exclusive fares
Bonus: What’s Stopping You from Travelling?
As the world inches towards a full reopening, many of us, including myself, are travelling again, albeit not nearly as much as we’d like. The ongoing pandemic is still limiting our movement around the globe for a number of reasons.
I’m curious: which would you say is the strongest factor currently holding you back from travelling more, if at all?
- Risk of getting or spreading COVID-19
- Risk and/or cost of quarantine, whether expected or unexpected
- Cost and/or hassle of required COVID-19 testing
- Uncertainty of plans or restrictions changing
- Desired destinations are closed
- Fear of judgment from others
Under the Anti-Awards, you are invited to select only one nominee in each category that you believe most fits the description.
You can follow the below link to access the voting page; after you submit your vote, you’ll be able to see the current running totals for the 2021 Anti-Awards as the votes come in.
Voting will close on December 31, 2021 – and I’ll update this article afterwards to highlight the unwanted “winners” of the 2021 Anti-Awards so that they may do better as we move into 2022.