WestJet is Canada’s second largest airline and is poised to grow significantly over the coming years with its upcoming order of Boeing 787 aircraft. Millions of Canadians travel with WestJet every year, and in that respect it’s an airline that hasn’t been getting enough of the spotlight here at Prince of Travel. Today we’ll have a look at why I think the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard might be a contender for a potential spot in your wallet.
The card is currently offering a signup bonus of 250 WestJet Dollars (WSD) upon first purchase. The annual fee of $119 is not waived for the first year, although there may be ways to lower or eliminate it (read on for details).
What exactly are WestJet Dollars? Well, 250 WSD can be applied as a $250 credit to the base fare of any WestJet booking, so as long as you fly with WestJet once a year to the tune of at least $250, the signup bonus is as good as cash in your pocket.
Unlike programs such as Aeroplan or Alaska Mileage Plan that are based on an award chart, WestJet Rewards allows you to redeem WSD towards the cost of any WestJet flight, so there’s no need to worry about award availability. Of course, the flipside is that you can’t capture as spectacular value as you could with a geographic award chart – instead, the value of your signup bonus is limited to $250.
The 250 WSD bonus doesn’t have to be used up all in one go either. You’re free to earn the bonus, wait for one of WestJet’s great deals to pop up on a route you're interested in, and then apply the bonus towards your booking.
The other major selling point of this card is an annual companion voucher for travel on WestJet. This companion voucher can be redeemed in one of the following three ways:
- $99 for travel within Canada or the Contiguous U.S.,
- $299 for travel to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, or
- $399 for travel to Europe
Since it’s a companion voucher, you have to be booking an itinerary for at least two people – the first passenger would pay full price, while the second passenger would enjoy the companion voucher’s promotional price.
Surprisingly, I actually think this companion voucher offers the best value at the lower end. That’s because WestJet’s international fares tend to be quite competitive for economy class, while domestic air travel within Canada can get quite expensive. For example, applying the companion voucher on this flight from Vancouver to St. John’s would give you pretty amazing value:
Instead of paying the $1,202 fare for both people, you’d pay $1,202 for the first passenger and only $99 plus taxes and fees of about $150 for the second passenger, saving you about $950. It’s plain crazy that Vancouverites have to pay over $1,000 for travel within Canada while flights to Asia and Europe routinely go on sale for $600 or less, and the WestJet companion voucher is one way to ease the burdens associated with exploring the beauty that lies within our own backyard.
Taking into account the 250 WSD signup bonus and the potential savings of the companion voucher, the $119 annual fee is definitely a small price to pay. However, if you don’t want to pay it, there are a couple of tricks that you can employ to suppress the annual fees on RBC’s credit cards.
The RBC VIP Banking Account costs $30/month and comes with a one-year fee waiver on a premium credit card, which can be used on the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard. You could open the chequing account, grab the credit card with its fee waived, and close your account after two months, thus lowering your effective outlay to $60 instead of $119.
Furthermore, RBC offers something called the Right Account Guarantee, which gives you your monthly fees back if you close a chequing account within three months of opening it. I haven’t verified that this works for the purposes of eliminating a credit card’s annual fee, but if you really want to keep costs down, it’s worth a try.
Rewards & Benefits
With the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard, you’ll earn 2% back in WSD per dollar spent on WestJet flights and vacations, and 1.5% back in WSD per dollar spent on all other purchases.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using this card for everyday spending, since there are more valuable and flexible currencies out there to be earned, such as American Express Membership Rewards, or Aeroplan miles or Alaska miles if the merchant doesn’t take Amex. Instead, the WestJet MasterCard is more of a card that you apply for in order to obtain the signup bonus and then keep around for the benefits of being a cardmember.
The most significant of these benefits is the free checked bag benefit on WestJet flights for the primary cardholder and up to eight other passengers on the same booking. Checked baggage normally costs $25 on WestJet, so this benefit alone could be worth up to $100 per trip if travelling as a family of four, or potentially even more if you're travelling as a larger group.
Other benefits include the ability to save 3¢/L on fuel at PetroCanada whilst earning 20% more PetroPoints, access to airport lounges as part of MasterCard LoungeKey (although fees do apply), and access to the MasterCard Concierge Services for last-minute restaurant and event bookings.
As a World Elite product, this credit card comes with comprehensive premium travel insurance, including:
- Emergency medical insurance for the first 15 consecutive days of any out-of-province trips
- Trip interruption insurance of up to $5,000 per covered person
- Auto rental damage and theft insurance, which can help you save on the insurance fees that rental companies like to impose
- Hotel burglary insurance of up to $2,500 in total
- Travel accident insurance of up to $500,000 against accidental death or dismemberment
You’ll also enjoy top-drawer purchase protection benefits, including an extended warranty that doubles the original manufacturer's warranty for up to one year, and coverage against accidental loss or damage of personal property for up to 90 days from the date of purchase.
As with other World Elite cards, this card requires a minimum personal annual income of $80,000 or a household income of $150,000 to apply. Note that longstanding RBC clients may have success going in-branch to see if these requirements can be waived.
Click the below link (not a referral link) to get to the RBC landing page if you’re interested in applying. You may also want to consider product switching to this card from a different RBC card in order to preserve your credit account’s contribution to your overall credit history.
While this credit card won’t be helping you jetset around the globe in business class or First Class (at least not until WestJet's 787s are unveiled with what's hopefully a competitive business class product), the fact remains that everyone eventually runs into the need to book a quick flight to somewhere in economy class.
WestJet’s competitive fares in Canada and abroad make it a worthwhile option when that need arises, and the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard’s signup bonus of 250 WSD and annual companion voucher can significantly reduce your costs in these situations.