Friday, February 10, 2017

Marriott and Starwood provide 2017 Hotel Category Award Night changes - 60+ hotels in Canada affected

You may recall from earlier this year that we already mentioned the category changes for IHG Rewards Club and that we could expect changes from Marriott and Starwood as well. Those changes are here. Remember, the actual amounts of points for redeeming for specific categories have not changed. These changes are for the hotels themselves moving up or down to a different category. All of these changes will kick in on March 7th. As we always advise if you were planning to book one of these of hotels on points or free night certificates, and there is a good chance you are seeing that the amount of hotel changing make up a decent amount of Marriott's and Starwoods worldwide portfolio, book now if you can if the hotel you want is going up in categories or wait until after March 7th if you can to book if the hotel is going down.

On to the changes!

Marriott has well over 1,000 hotels changing categories this year and 24 of them are in Canada. 13 are going up a category and 11 are moving down. This isn't too bad, a pretty even split. One of the surprising changes is the Delta Calgary Airport In-terminal hotel. It moves from Category 4 to Category 5 which makes it the same as its new neighbour and in all honesty, the much better hotel, the Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel. Read our review of the new hotel here and see why if you are going to redeem to stay at YYC why you wouldn't even bother with the Delta now that it costs the same.

A sampling of some of the Canadian changes:

You can find the complete list of Marriott changes here.

On the Starwood side we see 40 of their hotels in Canada change categories. Overall the entire chain has 325 hotels changing categories. The 40 hotels in Canada is a significant portion of their portfolio here! And its not so good news, 38 of those 40 are going up in price which means they will cost more points or may not be available for free night certificates like the Category 1-4 certificate that comes with $40K in spending on the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. Two hotels even have significant 2 category jumps higher, the Westin Toronto Airport and the Four Points by Sheraton Halifax both go from being Category 2 hotels to Category 4 hotels.

A sampling of some of the Canadian changes:

You can find the complete worldwide list of the Starwood Hotel changes here.

What are everyone's thoughts on this years changes? Are there any hotels that you may have been planning to stay at that are affected? Will that change your plans? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

February 8 Update: Marriott updates mobile app, Aeroplan adding Budget & Payless Car Rental, Lufthansa seat sale

News, Tips & Tricks
Marriott launched an updated version of their app for iOS with an update for Android coming soon. Here are the highlights from the press release
Extensive customer research and member feedback is driving the new mobile app experience and will continue to do so as part of Marriott’s ongoing service innovation strategy.

Since Marriott became the first hotel company to offer Mobile Check-in/Checkout and Mobile Room Ready Alerts worldwide in 2014, more than 12 million members have taken advantage of it. The popular feature will now be easier to use and more powerful. For example, when members check in using the app, for the first time they will now be able to request room upgrades and receive notification it has been fulfilled before they arrive. Also for the first time, they will be able to request a late check-out in the app rather than at front desk, which is guaranteed for Gold and Platinum Elite Members.

With the app’s innovative new navigation, members will find it even easier to customize their stay with Mobile Requests. Guests can use the app to chat directly with hotel staff before, during and after their stays for special requests that require personal attention, or choose from a drop-down menu of the most frequently requested services or amenities such as more towels or extra pillows. Fully 54 percent of users make their requests before they’ve even checked-in. Having been the first to offer Mobile Requests globally beginning in 2015, the service is currently available at more than 4,000 hotels worldwide.

With the app relaunch, Marriott is also expanding Mobile Key, rolling out to more than 500 hotels globally this year. Members who check-in using the Marriott Mobile app can choose to skip the front desk and go straight to their room, using their smartphone to open the door.

For travelers in planning mode, they will now be able to precisely narrow down their destination searches by address or point-of-interest to find the closest, most convenient hotel, and to save their favorite hotels for quicker future bookings.

Increasingly, travelers are seeking more authentic destination information from local experts whether they’re choosing where to go or looking for tips for what to do once they get there. For the first time, the app will deliver curated, original content from Marriott’s digital magazine, Traveler based on users’ previous hotel searches or upcoming travels. 

As an update to Monday's news, Aeroplan reached out to us to let us know that although Avis will be their only car rental partner when Hertz leaves on March 2nd it won't be that way for too long. Avis's other company Budget will become an Aeroplan partner once again this year as will Payless Car Rental. (Source Aimia)


Posts since our last update:

Travel Deals
Lufthansa's has some great deals on their flights between Canada and Europe. You can fly Montreal-Paris for $779, Toronto-Helsinki for $829 and more! Book by Feb 14. Find out more here.

Canadian Bonus Offers

Other Bonus Offers
Carlson Hotels Club Carlson
- 1,000 Bonus Gold Points when you download the Club Carlson mobile app and book and complete your first stay. More... Until ?
- Double Gold Points for stays on the Business Package at participating Country Inns & Suites By Carlson hotels in the United States, Canada and Latin America. More... Until Dec 31, 17

Hilton HHonors
- 500 Bonus Honors Points for each eligible stay at any Hilton Hotels Worldwide that you book via the Hilton Honors app. More... Until Dec 31, 17

Iberia Plus
- Triple Avios when you fly Iberia between Madrid and Basel. More... Register & book by Feb 17, 17
- 50% Avios Discount when you redeem for an award ticket on Iberia between Madrid and Basel. More... Register & book by Feb 17, 17
- 1,000 Bonus Avios on all Avis rentals of 3 or more days Worldwide. More... Until Mar 31, 17

La Quinta Returns
- 250 Bonus Returns Points on qualifying rentals of 3 days or more at participating Avis locations in the U.S. and Canada. More... Until Apr 30, 17
- 350 Bonus Returns Points on qualifying rentals of 3 or more days at participating Budget locations in the U.S. and Canada. More... Until Apr 30, 17

Philippine Airlines Mabuhay
- 1,000 Bonus Mabuhay Miles on your first hotel stay booked via Kaligo. More... Book by Mar 31, 17

Starwood Preferred Guest
- Various Bonus Starpoints or Free Nights when you complete eligible stay(s) at Starwood Hotels Worldwide. More... Targeted Offer - may not work for everyone Feb 15 - May 15, 17

Follow Rewards Canada:
LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google+ YouTube Instagram RSS Newsletter

Miles & More Award Ticket Sale - Save 50% on Economy Class award tickets between Toronto & Austria!

As we do each month we bring you the latest set Miles & More "Meilenschnaeppchen" discounted mileage awards!  This month it is 50% off economy class tickets between Toronto and Austria on Austrian Airlines.! This is a great offer and below we'll even show you how to get these for just an annual credit card fee (outside of the award ticket taxes/fees)

These offers are good for travel until Mar 31, 17

You can redeem Miles & More miles for round trip tickets on Austrian from Toronto to Austria for only 30,000 miles. This is a 50% discount off the normal Economy Class award ticket price of 60,000 miles.

Here are the offers:

As we mention every time they have the 50% off economy offer is that you could in theory get the  tickets with grabbing a couple of credit cards and a $120 annual fee! - there aren't many cards that will get you a round trip flight to Europe for that amount of spend! How so? As we usually mention in this post you can boost your Miles & More account with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. Currently the card comes with a 20,000 Starpoints sign up bonus. When you convert those 20,000 Starpoints to Miles & More SPG will award you an additional 5,000 miles. Which gives you 25,000 miles. Yes but I need 30,000 points for the ticket right? Right then you get yourself the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa card with the 30,000 or 50,000 point sign up bonus. You can then convert those to SPG at a rate of 3:1 so you have now added 10,000 to 16,000+ more Starpoints to you account. So now you would convert 25,000 Starpoints to Miles & More as they'll give the 5,000 extra for that 30,000 miles and still have 5,000 to 11,000 Starpoints left over. Now you have about a month and 3/4 to book these offers so if you don't have these cards get them right now so you could potentially travel in March but chances are you won't get all the points from these credit cards in time. You can still grab them now to see what offers will come out next month or beyond

Simply book the offers seen here by March 31st.
Full details on this offer can be found here

Hilton Honors: 500 Extra Points for bookings made via the Hilton Honors App

Just last week the newest systemwide bonus from Hilton was launched offering 2,000 bonus points per night on every stay. Now you can tack on additional 500 points per stay if you make your booking via the Hilton HHonors app. This app bonus runs all year long so not only can you tie it into the current 2,000 point bonus you'll be able to tie it in with future bonuses as well. You do have to register for this promotion and can do so via the link below  HT One Mile at a Time.

Offer details
500 Bonus Honors Points for each eligible stay at any Hilton Hotels Worldwide that you book via the Hilton Honors app. Full details and online registration (Registration is required) Until Dec 31, 17

Find many more Honors bonus offers here

Monday, February 6, 2017

Receive 15% Bonus dollars when you convert RBC Rewards Points to WestJet Rewards

Today sees the return of the RBC Rewards transfer to WestJet Rewards. Those RBC Rewards points collectors who hold a RBC credit card can transfer their points to WestJet Rewards and receive a 15% bonus on the total dollars deposited. This means for every 100 RBC Rewards Points transferred you'll receive $1.15 WestJet dollars. This is the same bonus we saw last fall and spring, it runs until Mar 20, 17

Offer Details
15% Bonus WestJet dollars when you convert RBC Rewards Points to WestJet Rewards. Full details Until Mar 20, 17

February 6 Update: Hertz & Aeroplan parting ways, 22 Marriott ebreaks hotels in Canada, Podcast Episode 16

News, Tips & Tricks
Episode 16 of the Rewards Canada Weekly Round Up Podcast came out today and it is the first time we feature an interview. We sat down and chatted with Marshall Wilmott, WestJet's Senior Vice President of Marketing & Digital to discuss the changes that launched today with the Elite Status tiers of WestJet Rewards. Find out more and listen to the podcast here.

I was really surprised to see this news (actually it came out early January) but Aeroplan and Hertz are parting ways! As of March 2nd you will no longer be able to earn Aeroplan miles on Hertz rentals. This has always been a good way to earn more miles (see our post Earning Stories: 2,500 Aeroplan Miles on a Hertz SUV rental in Maui) and now I'll have to rethink where I credit my Hertz rentals to. This leaves Avis as the only Aeroplan car rental partner at the moment as they cleaned house on partners years ago when they went with just Avis and Hertz.  (Source: Aeroplan)

Hertz isn't the only partner that Aeroplan is losing. Expedia CruiseShipCenters stopped being an earning partner on February 2nd. (Source Aeroplan)

Posts since our last update:

Travel Deals
Marriott's ebreaks for stays this weekend features a whopping 22 hotels in Canada that are 20% off. There are 2 hotels in B.C., 4 hotels in Alberta, 1 in Manitoba, and 15 in Ontario. These are great offers for last minute weekend getaways! Find out more here.

Jet Airways has launched a business class seat sale for their flights out of Toronto to Amsterdam, Mumbai and Delhi. Book between Feb 7 and 10. Find out more here.

Canadian Bonus Offers

Other Bonus Offers
Air France KLM Flying Blue
- 1,000 Bonus Flying Blue Miles when you complete your first hotel stay booked via Rocketmiles. More... Book by Mar 31, 17

Amtrak Guest Rewards
- Double Guest Rewards Points+ a free day on Hertz rentals of 6 or more days at participating locations in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. More... Until Jun 30, 17

British Airways Executive Club
- 35% Bonus Avios when you convert hotel points from Starwood, Marriott, IHG, Hyatt, Shangri-La, Club Carlson or Hilton Honors to British Airways Executive Club. More... Until Mar 8, 17
- Triple Avios when you subscribe to The Economist. More... Until Mar 31, 17

La Quinta Returns
- Earn up to Triple Returns Points for stays at participating La Quinta locations in the U.S.. More... Until Mar 2, 17

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Earn up to 1,000 Bonus Flying Club Miles for stays at Marriott Hotels in Europe. More... Until Mar 26, 17
- Double Flying Club Miles on rentals with Enterprise in Europe & North America. More... Until Feb 28, 17

Follow Rewards Canada:
LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google+ YouTube Instagram RSS Newsletter

British Airways Executive Club: 35% Bonus Avios when you transfer hotel points until March 8

British Airways Executive Club has brought back their transfer bonus for moving points from hotel programs into Avios. The bonus is 35% and is good for most major hotel programs: SPG Starpoints, Marriott Rewards points, IHG Rewards Club points, Hyatt Gold Passport points, Shangri-La Golden Circle Award Points, Club Carlson Gold points and Hilton HHonors. With Starwood, when you transfer 20,000 Starpoints they'll automatically throw in 5,000 more Avios which will give you 33,750 Avios with this bonus!

Offer details:
35% Bonus Avios when you convert hotel points from Starwood, Marriott, IHG, Hyatt, Shangri-La, Club Carlson or Hilton Honors to British Airways Executive Club. Full details. Until Mar 8, 17

Earn even more Avios! Find the most BA Executive Club Bonus Offers here! 

WestJet Rewards elite tier status tweaks went live today & our interview with WestJet about it!

Back on December 1st we let you know about changes coming to the WestJet Rewards Elite Status tiers and those changes officially went live today.

We had the pleasure of talking to WestJet’s Senior Vice President of Marketing & Digital, Marshall Wilmot about these changes and the future of WestJet Rewards on today's podcast. You can access the interview via our podcast page at with links to iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud where you can download and listen to the episode!

As of today these are the requirements to earn status as well as the new earn rates for each level:

First off you can see that now to reach Silver Elite status you only need to spend $3,000 with WestJet on flights within a 12 month period. That's down $1,000 from the current requirement. This should allow more people to hit the lower elite level status sooner.

Teal or regular WestJet Rewards members are the ones who take the loss with these new changes. Gone is the increased WestJet dollars earn rate after hitting $1,500 as is the 35 WestJet dollars bonus when hitting the $1,500 Milestone award level.

Silver Members also see a reduced earn rate of 3% instead of 5% leaving only Gold members earning 5% on spend. There is one big caveat with this however, when you have Silver or Gold Status and you hit your 12 months reset date on spending you earn rate will not drop down to 1% anymore. As long as you have Silver status you will always earn 3% and if you are Gold you will always earn 5%.

WestJet provides the following chart showing the reduced 3% earn rate will actually earn you more since you earn it on all spend and not just on the portion above $4,000 in the current requirement:

This in reality only works well for those in that $4,000 - $5,500 range, spend more than that and you'll actually earn less until you hit that Gold Elite status at $6,000.

For example if you spend $5,800 with WestJet, current Silver members would earn 180 WestJet dollars while under the new earn rate you would earn 174 WestJet dollars. This means a small portion of people in that $5,500 to $5,999 range will earn slightly less.

The good news is that if you were already a WestJet Rewards member that joined before February 6, 2017 they are extending the current earn rates if you are Teal or Silver:
To show our appreciation to our valued members and transition them into the new earn rate structure, we will be temporarily honouring the higher earn rates on WestJet flights for members enrolled in the program prior to February 6, as follows:
  1. Effective February 6, 2017 and until January 31, 2018 Teal members with qualifying flight spend between $1,500 and $2,999 will receive 3% earn on that portion of spend, which is the earn rate they would have received had the change not occurred.
  2. Effective February 6, 2017 and until January 31, 2018 Silver members with qualifying flight spend between $4,000 and $5,999 will receive 5% earn on that portion of spend for their current qualifying year, which is the earn rate they would have received had the change not occurred. Silver members who requalify for Silver when their qualifying year ends will automatically earn the constant 3% under the new program rules instead of the 1% they would have previously started with had the change not occurred.
Members who enroll any time after changes come into effect on February 6, 2017 will be immediately subject to the earn rates.
Overall these changes are primarily good as the constant higher earn rate when you hold Elite status will mean you will be earning more WestJet dollars towards those future redemptions (except for that 5,500 to 5,999 spread for Silver) and the fact that you can hit Silver status with only $3,000 in spending will definitely see the ranks of that level expand and more people should enjoy the benefits of Silver like first checked bag free, 4 airport lounge vouchers and 4 advance seat selection vouchers. However a good proportion of flyers who won't reach those elite levels will take a hit as Teal member if they are in that 1,500 to 2,999 spend range with the loss of the Milestone benefit and the increased earn rate. To me it looks like a move to get those semi-frequent WestJet travellers who won't hit elite status to get on board with the WestJet RBC MasterCard as it provides some of the benefits seen in Silver (first checked bag free). Heck they even put it in the FAQ of these new changes:

As a current Gold Elite member I am looking forward to keeping my earn rate at 5% for the whole year. How about you? What do you think of the changes?