WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard review: good value for semi-frequent flyers

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard is a relatively straightforward card attached to a straightforward loyalty program. It’s for people who travel on WestJet, and the card has some potentially compelling value.

Main benefits

This card has an annual fee of $119 (up from $99 in November 2017). The supplementary card fee is $59, but keep in mind that the checked bag benefit and companion fare voucher are only for the primary cardholder.

As a 1-time sign-up bonus, you get 250 WestJet dollars.

Every year, shortly after your sign-up anniversary date (and including the initial sign-up), you get an annual companion fare of $99 plus taxes and fees (which can add up to more than $99 dollars on their own) within Canada and the continental USA. This means that you have to pay the normal price for 1 ticket, but pay the $99 plus taxes and fees for your travelling companion (who can be anybody). The companion fare also applies to destinations outside of Canada and the continental USA but for a higher price: $299 plus taxes and fees to Hawaii, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean; and $399 plus taxes and fees for all other WestJet destinations.

With the card, you get the first checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 companions on the same flight. This applies to flights wholly operated by WestJet, not code share flights. The first checked bag usually costs at least $30 per flight direction, which really adds up on multiple flights and multiple travellers.

You earn 1.5% back in WestJet dollars on non-WestJet purchases made on the card, and 2.0% back in WestJet dollars on WestJet purchases (flights and WestJet Vacations packages).

WestJet dollars can be redeemed in any amount over 15 WestJet dollars against the base fare of a flight, including code share flights. 1 WestJet dollar is equal to $1. They can also be used for Member Exclusive fares, which I’ll explain shortly.

I’ve had this card for a few years, and personally I think it’s worth keeping the card beyond the first year if you fly at least a few times per year. With that minimum travel frequency, you can still keep your options open to fly on other airlines who might have a cheaper flight or more desirable route. (I always check options with a tool such as Google Flights first.) After all, you don’t want to choose a more expensive flight or one with less desirable timing or stopovers just so you can “benefit” from the card. If you don’t travel frequently, then you can always cancel the card after the first year and then consider re-applying in advance of your next flight. Just plan far enough in advance, since it can take 4-6 weeks after your first purchase on the card to get the WestJet dollars welcome bonus and companion voucher.

If you’re a super frequent WestJet traveller, you might already be getting some of the main card benefits such as free checked bags and companion vouchers.

WestJet vs Aeroplan / Air Canada credit cards

The WestJet credit card is not as popular as Aeroplan-affiliated cards, not just because Air Canada is the bigger airline and Aeroplan is the bigger flight network, but also because 1) there are just so many other Aeroplan-affiliated cards; and 2) there are more ways to earn and convert to Aeroplan points.

Compared to Aeroplan / Air Canada cards, I think the WestJet card is more generous. For example, with the lower Aeroplan-affiliated cards, you get the first checked bag free on rewards flights only. With the higher end Aeroplan-affiliated cards, you get the first checked bag free on all flights (up to a maximum cap in 1 case), but only for the primary cardholder. However, with Aeroplan it’s easier to accumulate many points fast by signing up for multiple credit cards with generous sign-up bonuses.

Insurance

If you’re under 65 years of age, the card provides out of province and country emergency medical insurance for trips of up to 15 days long; or for 3 days if you’re 65 or older. There is also flight delay insurance, hotel/motel burglary insurance, car rental insurance, and more. A missing travel insurance is trip cancellation insurance.

Member Exclusive fares

WestJet’s Member Exclusive fares are available to WestJet members in general — it’s not a feature specific to the credit card. However, it’s worth mentioning since you must be a WestJet member to benefit from the credit card, and having the card helps you to earn WestJet dollars.

In short, you can sometimes get much more than a $1 per WestJet dollar value when using Member Exclusive fares.

Member Exclusive fares are a bit of an under-advertised feature because WestJet doesn’t publicly post an “award chart”. You can see a bit of a breakdown in this blog post. I’ve definitely found that the hidden award chart is not a fixed number of dollars — certain flights and dates are more than the minimums listed in that post.

With Member Exclusive fares, you must have enough WestJet dollars to cover the entire 1-way fare (excluding taxes and fees) — in other words, you cannot do partial redemptions, although the fares are split into 1-way segments. For example, you must have at least 125 WestJet dollars in your account if the Member Exclusive fare is $125 (before taxes and fees).

These fares sometimes provide great value, but the system runs a bit contrary to the simplicity of the WestJet dollars system; outside of these fares, you can apply any number of WestJet dollars against your travel. The lack of a fixed award chart probably prevents this from being a more popular feature as well.

Other notes

An unexpected benefit I’ve used is that you get 3 cents off per litre at Petro-Canada gas stations if you link your WestJet credit card to your Petro-Points card. This applies to most RBC credit or debit cards.

The WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard has a minimum personal income of $80,000 or a minimum household income of $150,000. If you don’t meet these requirements or don’t want to pay such a high annual fee, you can consider the WestJet RBC Mastercard (basically, the non World Elite version), which has a $39 annual fee, a 50 WestJet dollars welcome bonus, and a 1.5% WestJet purchases / 1.0% “everything else” earn rate. It doesn’t have a “free checked bag” benefit or annual companion fare.

After the first year of using this card, I felt a bit uneasy about continuing to pay for it. Sometimes a WestJet flight makes sense, and sometimes a different flight makes sense. However, especially with a few flights per year for my business, I’ve been able to factor in the card’s benefits when deciding which flights to take. The card has so far realized more than enough value for me to keep holding it.

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