With Air Canada withdrawing from Aeroplan in June 2020 and launching their own program…

Is WestJet Rewards  and more specifically the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard  a worthwhile alternative?

Sure, Aeroplan is known as the airline program with the best rewards and credit cards. But since things are up in the air and there are no details on either program after that dreaded date – let’s do a deep dive on Canada’s other airline. Let’s look at:

How do WestJet Rewards work?

WestJet Rewards is WestJet’s loyalty program. Members earn WestJet dollars based on how much you fly with WestJet and spend at westjet.com. At the base tier you have the following earn rates on the following:

  • 1% on airfares (not including taxes and fees)
  • 0.5% on WestJet vacation packages
  • 1% on cars, hotels and travel insurance (booked at westjet.com), and
  • Varying amounts when you fly with partner airlines Delta, KLM, Air France and Qantas. Note that WestJet has many other airlines they codeshare with, but these are the only four airlines where WestJet rewards can be earned and used.

Westjet Rewards Tiers

Fly with WestJet a lot and you can reach higher tiers in the program. The higher tiers have increased earn rates along with WestJet specific perks.

Once you have enough collected dollars, you can use them for the following:

  • Flights – WestJet Dollars can be used to pay for the base air fare only (you always have to pay the taxes and fees), a minimum of $15 is required per one way booking. Your dollars can also be used to purchase flights operated by partner airlines.
  • Vacation packages – WestJet Dollars can be used to pay for a vacation package (but not for the taxes and fees), a minimum $50 dollars is required to redeem.

It’s a straight forward program to earn and redeem your rewards. (You can read the full program details here.)

Now let’s look at the two credit cards they offer to boost the dollars you can earn.

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard Review

The is WestJet’s premium offering with the best earn rate and insurance package of their cards – and a few airline specific perks. Here is how you earn WestJet dollars on this card:

  • 1.5% on all spend – as part of the RBC partnership with Petro-Canada, you save 3 cents/litre at the pump when you use this card
  • 2% on all spend at westjet.com
  • Annual fee of $119, additional cards are $59
  • Welcome bonus of $250 WestJet dollars

As a premium travel card, it has a great set of insurance coverage for travel and purchases:

WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard: Deep Dive Review

Underwhelming Base Earn Rate

Looking only at just the spend return rates, this isn’t a top tier card.

Spending $2000 per month (not including any WestJet purchases or Petro-Canada savings), would get you $241 a year in dollars including the annual fee deduction – a net of 1% return on spending.

For no annual fee, you can get a return of 1.25% with the .
And for an annual fee of $99, the will give you 2% cash back on every purchase you make.

So why are we talking about this card?

The WestJet World Elite Mastercard Travel Specific Perks

RBC offers two big WestJet specific perks with this card that can amount to big savings:

1. Free checked bags on WestJet flights

One free checked bag for every person flying on the same itinerary as the card owner (up to a maximum of 8 bags). This perk is only available on flights fully operated by WestJet and not on their codeshare flights or partner airlines.

2. Annual round trip companion voucher

With an annual round trip companion voucher, you can book a flight for yourself and take someone else with you for just a little bit of extra money instead of paying the full fare. This voucher only cover the base fare, you will have to pay the taxes and fees and can only be used on flights fully operated by WestJet.

This voucher also works with plus fares (WestJet’s pseudo business class). Buy a plus fare and the voucher covers that same fare class, some examples:

  • $99 for a flight within Canada and the Continental United States.
  • $299 for Mexico, Central America, Caribbean and Hawaii; and
  • $399 to Europe (at the time of writing, WestJet only flies to the United Kingdom, Ireland and just recently announced service to Paris).

Sure, these WestJet specific perks can be valuable, but…

How much could you save using the voucher, exactly?

Average Savings on 26 WestJet Flights Surveyed

To determine a rough savings for the voucher, we did some research into various flights across the WestJet network (26 in total), with varying levels of competition to see how much the voucher would roughly save (details can be found in this PDF).

Here are the ground rules we used to determine the voucher savings:

  • All flight research was conducted between January 4 to February 1st (to include Swoosh’s debut).
  • We only had 2 people on a trip (after that, there are no additional savings beyond baggage).
  • Flight cost was determined at westjet.com.
  • Used Google Flights to find the cheapest flight available, regardless of airline. Schedule was taken into account, you don’t want to have to stop overnight somewhere to get to where you going, and while your preference is non-stop flights (if possible) one stop is acceptable. Red-eye flights were also acceptable.
  • We didn’t look at any flights where you could complete the drive in six hours or less.
  • For Toronto, New York City and London UK, we didn’t have an airport preference to fly in/out of. All flights in/out of Toronto is at Pearson airport unless noted otherwise in the sheet.
  • The difference between the total WestJet cost with voucher and the google flight cost is your savings.

Average savings of $131.35

Here is what we found. We surveyed 26 different flights at different dates and came to an average savings on our flights of $131.35.

The most saved was $461, while the worst was -$212 (yes the voucher actually cost more on some flights than what you could buy elsewhere). Some notes on where the savings were higher and lower:

  • Since the voucher is just for flying in a set zone instead of being based on distance, it should save more the farther you flew (in most cases). Case in point: flying to New York from Vancouver instead of Toronto made the voucher worth an additional $251.
  • Flights where only Air Canada and WestJet fly tended to offer the best savings (generally most routes inside Canada).
  • Flying to the United States had a mixed bag of results.
  • On routes in Canada where Flair Air flies & Swoop fly, Flair/Swoop was still cheaper even with the voucher (their fares are 40% less than what Air Canada & WestJet charge). Routes where Porter also flies only had a slight decrease in the savings.
  • While most flights to Europe were of good value, flying to London from Toronto using the voucher was more expensive. Flying to London using WOW air stopping in Iceland on route was quite a bit less than WestJet.
  • For your sun destinations & Hawaii, the same savings trend for Europe apply here. From Kelowna and Winnipeg the savings were great (I would assume this is the same for most airports), while flying from Toronto & Vancouver using the voucher cost you more than booking elsewhere.

Using these voucher savings, here is what can be expected on overall return in a year using this card. For the baggage, while you can get free bags for both passengers, we assume if you had to pay for baggage you would try and fly with one bag if possible to save on money. Hence baggage savings are for one bag only.

Increase on return on spending

Overall, on a $2,000 spend a month, your overall yearly return rate including the companion voucher perk is 1.79%.

  • Annual Rewards: $360
  • Voucher savings: $131.35
  • Baggage: $56.50 (baggage cost based on tax rate of 13%)
  • Annual fee: -$119
  • Total Savings: $428.85

Is WestJet World Elite Mastercard worth it?

It is – only if you can find use in the companion voucher every year. Otherwise, there are better cards out there than this one. The voucher, as seen in our research, has varying value depend on where you want to fly. The biggest downside to the voucher is it limits you to where WestJet can fly.

While most popular US destinations are served by WestJet (save for a few like New Orleans and Washington DC), it can’t be used for travel to Europe outside of the United Kingdom, Ireland & Paris, or the continents of Africa, Asia, South America & Australia. Service is expanding, especially to Europe but needs to be kept in mind.

Keep in mind if you are a completely loyal WestJet passenger, then your companion voucher value will increase because you’d be paying those higher WestJet fares even when other discount airline options exist. If you redeem it for maximum value every year, your total savings could jump up by hundreds of dollars.

Related: When A Travel Rewards Card Is Worth It – And When It Isn’t

Canada’s Ultra Low Cost Carrier

Another point for flights within Canada is the emergence of ultra low cost carriers (ulcc) such as Flair & Swoop (WestJet’s ulcc). We were able to look at some routes where Flair & Swoop also competed, and they was still substantially cheaper than WestJet with the voucher.

Swoop, unlike Flair, is flying out of Abbotsford and Hamilton instead of Toronto and Vancouver. Flair uses Abbotsford as a third option too though. I would expect both airlines to expand and lower prices for flights within Canada.

Maximizing WestJet perks

One strategy with this card if you can get enough value from the voucher and you travel with a family of four is for each adult to get a card. You get access to a 2nd annual voucher for an additional annual fee of $119. Say you were able to get $200 in savings for each voucher, this is what your savings would look like:

  • Annual Rewards (no change): $360
  • Voucher savings: $400
  • Baggage (2 bags each way, similar reasoning to above): $113
  • Annual fees: $238
  • Total savings: $635 – yearly return on $2000 monthly spend is 2.65%

The voucher would have to save you more than $119 otherwise you’re paying more this way.

Related: 17 Drool-Worthy Credit Card Perks Explained

Comparable Alternatives

While the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard is unique for its companion voucher, the also offers one.

Unlike the WestJet voucher, this one does not have an upfront cost to use, but you will still be required to pay any taxes and fees. This voucher also can only be used when booking an award flight, and you have to spend $30,000 per year to earn the voucher.

Similar to how the WestJet Dollars can be used to redeem on other airlines, this card earns British Airways Avios points, which can be used on any oneworld alliance member, however, similar to WestJet, the voucher can only be used with British Airways.A basic summary of what this card earns is as follows:

  • 1 Avios point per dollar spent,
  • 2 Avios points per dollar spent on British Airways,
  • Up to 50,000 point welcome bonus,
  • 9 types of insurance, and…
  • a $165 annual fee.

WestJet Mastercard Review

WestJet also has a basic Mastercard we will cover. This is what the earns you:

  • 1% on all spend – 3 cents per litre savings at Petro-Canada
  • 1.5% spent at westjet.com
  • Welcome bonus of $50 WestJet Dollars
  • $39 annual fee

Similar to the World Elite Mastercard, there are other cards out there that will earn you the same rate without an annual fee. But unlike the World Elite card, this one has none of the WestJet perks associated with it. I would pass on this one.

The bottom line

Based on looking at base earn rates, savings on free check bags and average savings on the companion voucher – the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard has great value if ALL benefits are used every year to make the annual fee worthwhile.

On the other hand, the basic WestJet Mastercard version leaves a lot to be desired.

Having said that, this is a good airline alternative in Canada – and with the upcoming changes coming to Air Canada and Aeroplan it’s nice to have another option for airline rewards.