I recently wrote about the annual passholder discount for the onsite hotels at Universal Studios in Orlando. The 3 hotels in the premier category offer the added perk of unlimited express access to many attractions in the parks. Upon finding 2 nights at the lowest rate, we made a speculative booking. We also booked a nearby Doubletree on Hilton points for the arrival night. A couple of days ago we went ahead and booked a flight.
When we first tossed around this trip idea we noticed there were no non-stop flights home to NS on the first Wednesday of December – our return date. We assumed this was unlikely to change. However, WestJet updated its schedule and a non-stop appeared. I know connecting flights are no great hardship but there is something nice about getting on a plane when your trip is over and heading directly home. Our outbound flight is yet to be determined but we took advantage of a good opportunity for the homebound journey.
What Are WestJet Member Exclusive Fares?
I was recently helping my brother decide on a mastercard. When I asked him if he knew what a WestJet Member Exclusive fare was he said it sounded self-explanatory – a discounted fare for WestJet Rewards members. You would think that’s what it would be. Maybe a modest percentage discount on airfare when you’re logged in to your account, similar to hotel loyalty program member rates. But that’s not the case. They are actually a way to use WestJet dollars at greater than normal value.
WestJet Member Exclusive fares are special fares that must be paid for entirely with WestJet dollars. Taxes are extra and vary by flight itinerary. In contrast, when you use WSD the regular way, you can use any amount toward your airfare starting at $15 WSD. So if you have $50 in WSD you can redeem those against the base fare of your ticket when booking.
There is no published chart for Member Exclusive fares but the lowest I can see is $125 WSD one-way. Flying out of the Maritimes, you can really maximize the value of your WSD by booking Member Exclusive fares for long distance or last minute flights in North America if they’re available. For more information on the topic check out the details on the WestJet website.
For example, I checked today and you could book this trip to the west coast…
Halifax – Vancouver
$125 WSD + $59.14
(current airfare $352.04)
And the flight home…
Vancouver – Halifax
$125 WSD + $47.95
(current airfare $340.85)
A total of $250 WSD + $107.09 in taxes is a great deal versus $692.89.
If you don’t have quite enough WestJet dollars, you can buy the remainder through Points.com. Even with the extra expense it can still be an outstanding deal compared to the best airfare available.
Note that you cannot combine a Member Exclusive fare with the companion fare that comes with a WestJet MasterCard.
How Much Did We Save?
Well, we weren’t flying home from Vancouver. Airfares to and from Florida are not too bad outside of school holidays. The flight was $218 Orlando to Halifax one-way. The Member Exclusive fare was $125 WSD + $17 USD.
Was It A Good Idea?
We think it was. Although we could’ve gotten more value from those WestJet dollars on a future trip, there is no such trip in the works or even in the daydreaming stage. Sometimes it’s better to pounce on the deal that presents itself. On our last trip to Florida we scored non-stop flights home on Air Canada for $169 but there are no guarantees that will happen again. And those WestJet dollars had been gathering dust for a while so it was nice to finally use them.
Another reason it felt like a sensible action is the fact that this trip is supposed to be a low cost getaway. Our park tickets are covered already (with the annual pass) and one hotel night is booked with points. The 2 nights at the onsite Universal hotel are heavily discounted. So there are just 2 puzzle pieces left: the outbound flight and the final hotel night. We won’t be renting a car.
Do You Want Some WestJet Dollars?
You can accumulate WestJet dollars by flying WestJet but a good way to get some relatively quickly is to apply for the RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard or the non-World Elite version.
Promotions for the WestJet credit card change periodically. Currently, if you google “RBC WestJet MasterCard first year free” one of the search results should be an RBC web page with a limited time offer that gives you $250 WSD upon first purchase, temporary silver status and waives the annual fee for the first year on the World Elite card. Otherwise, the regular offer will not waive the first year annual fee.
Similarly, if you hold a different RBC credit card you can consider switching to a WestJet card but I understand you will only receive the regular sign-up offer instead of any promotion. You can ask RBC for more details on changing cards or current offers.
If you collect RBC Avion points you can convert them to WestJet dollars. If you have lots of time before you need to book a trip, consider waiting for a transfer bonus promotion to come along.
Many of the best points and miles opportunities are those of which the general population might not be aware. If you want to save money you have to figure out the various angles.
This morning a WestJet seat sale email arrived. But I find those sale emails aren’t always legit. In fact, when I checked the fare it had not changed so either the sale did not apply to that flight or fares had been raised so they could be put “on sale”. I get the impression that airfare sales that include a promo code that must be entered are more likely to reveal a real discount.
We are relieved to have our flight home booked and very pleased to get better than the face value for the WestJet dollars. Now we just have to get there.
Today, August 22, there is a one-day WestJet sale that brings the Orlando – Halifax non-stop one-way flight we booked down to $176. At that price we probably would’ve paid cash and saved the WestJet dollars for a higher value redemption. Oh well.