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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Price increase coming to WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard companion vouchers, base level card voucher to be expanded to include the U.S.


One of the most popular benefits on Canada's number one airline credit card will be taking a hit come April 1. The coveted Companion Voucher benefit on the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard will become more expensive for two of three options starting on April 1st.

Screenshot from WestJet


Here is the current companion voucher pricing:
  • round trip travel in Canada and Continental U.S.: $99 plus taxes & fees
  • round-trip travel to/from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Hawaii: $299 plus taxes and fees
  • round-trip travel to/from rest of WestJet network: $399 plus taxes and fees
As of April 1st the pricing will be as follows:
  • round trip travel in Canada and Continental U.S.: $119 plus taxes & fees
  • round-trip travel to/from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Hawaii: $399 plus taxes and fees
  • round-trip travel to/from rest of WestJet network: $399 plus taxes and fees
As you can see flights within Canada and to the U.S. will be jumping by $20 but a much larger hit takes place for sun destinations as those are going up a full $100 to be the same as Europe flights at $399 each. So we are seeing 20% to 33+% increases in those categories - those are pretty significant!

None of us like to see rewards or benefits devalued - especially when it is one of the most popular benefits but I suspect that is what has led to this increase. The vouchers and this credit card are a victim of their own success. The two most popular redemption options are costing WestJet and they need to recoup some of that money. Based on what reward programs tell us in terms of reward popularity we can safely assume most companion passes are redeemed for travel within Canada and to the continental U.S. which means that WestJet will now earn 20% more cash on those voucher redemptions. Closely followed by Sun Destinations - WestJet does serve many sun destinations so again another popular redemption channel for the vouchers but a 33% increase? That's big and will really make some people reconsider the card if this is the main redemption option they look at. Many times you can get round trip flights to sun destinations that have a base fare at or below that $399 level so it may not make sense to even redeem a voucher for those flights. Europe of course is unaffected as the frequency of flights and number of destinations makes up such a small portion of WestJet's network that voucher redemption volume would match this - and add in the fact that WestJet has shifted their European pricing that the base fare is always quite low to begin with that it may not make sense to redeem the voucher for Economy class flights.

All that being said I still see some big value in the vouchers. That value comes from last minute bookings and premium class bookings. If you are someone who only books seat sale fares or months ahead of time the vouchers will definitely have less value to you now. However if you are like the Rewards Canada family and tend to be spontaneous and book flights on whim at last minute - the vouchers can provide some huge savings. In the past they have saved us literally four figures on last minute flights since both my wife and I have our own cards meaning two vouchers to use. We pay $1000 each for our tickets but our two kids flew those same tickets for $99 plus the taxes and fees.  Now that will jump to $119 for the same situation but I'll gladly pay $119+fees for a $1,000 ticket.

Recommended reading: Why my wife and I each grabbed our own WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercards


The other valuable option for the voucher that remains and this is for all of the options like North America, Sun Destinations and Europe is redeeming the voucher for Premium Economy. The price you pay with a companion voucher doesn't change if you book Premium Economy so this is where the vouchers can really come in handy. With flights to Europe or Maui on WestJet's 787 Dreamliner easily pricing over $2,000 round trip in Premium Economy getting that second ticket for $399 can provide significant savings.


On a plus note - the base level WestJet RBC Mastercard is seeing it's voucher benefit get better come April 1st. The benefit that was just added to the card last year has been available for flights within Canada only and that is being expanded to the continental U.S. as well come April 1st. The price of $199 for the companion does not change with this enhancement.

 
Ultimately it's really unfortunate that we are seeing this change to the vouchers from the World Elite version of the card and I suspect some of you may really consider dropping the card now - primarily those flying economy class to sun destinations - but don't forget that the card does have other benefits, namely the first checked bag free which is a huge $$$ saver as well for the lower fare class buyers.

What do you think of these changes? Will it make you reconsider having the card? Let us know in the comments below!

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