Here is this week’s roundup of travel-related news stories, including a great development for Marriott members. And it is now Air Transat’s turn to get its long-awaited taxpayer bailout—which will finally end their illegal travel credit/voucher scam.
Here are the details.
Transat gets 700M bailout and finally offers refunds
About a year later than almost every other country in the world (fitting for our federal government that has been so slow and incompetent with everything travel-related), Air Canada was the first to receive its bailout, a $5.879 billion bailout.
Now Montreal-based leisure airline Air Transat has as well.
The main positive impact of this 700 million bailout is that the airline will finally stop illegally confiscating travelers’ money, which the federal government has been complicit in… despite Canadian general contractual law being very clear (and other countries’ laws being even more clear).
Better late than never, but they deserve absolutely no goodwill since they don’t care about disobeying the law and forcing you to be in the business of providing interest-free loans to mega-corporations.
As I’ve said many times, it’s understandable that they tried this, but it doesn’t make it right. And it’s not understandable that the federal government let it happen (while both the US and EU required refunds right away).
The government deserves almost all the blame for letting passengers be the ones to pay the price (literally and figuratively) and suffer financially while Air Transat kept millions. And they got an assist from many travel agents’ associations who pushed for travel credits to protect their commissions instead of defending travelers.
Anyway, we’ll have a much more detailed guide about refunds very soon now that this other major hurdle has been cleared, we’re just waiting on Sunwing now (WestJet has been already offering refunds for a while—kudos to them for doing the right thing before their competitors, not that consumers ever seem to remember anything anyway).
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But just know that you can start the Air Transat refund process here and it seems more straightforward than my experience with Air Canada.
Marriott’s amazing certificates extended
The Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card is the card that all Canadian travelers should definitely have (although maybe you should get the American Express Cobalt Card first, depending on your situation).
Apart from giving you a welcome bonus that currently is at its highest ever (up to 10 completely free hotel nights in beautiful destinations like Bali), it also comes with an amazing free night certificate every year (with thousands of luxury hotel options to choose from, like a beautiful Marriott in Fiji).
It’s literally one of our favorite credit card benefits.
Well, the certificates are usually valid for only 1 year (unlike Marriott points for the free nights; which effectively never expire).
But now Marriott has once again done the right thing and extended all of them to January 3rd, 2022 due to the pandemic.
You can read our detailed post about Marriott’s extension of free night certificates.
2 new Marriott Bonvoy Card offers
On the same topic, since so many of you have gotten the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card as part of the over half-a-million dollars in travel rewards Flytrippers readers have gotten with welcome bonuses alone, there are 2 new Amex Offers for the card.
If you are not familiar with Amex Offers, they are a great benefit on all Amex-issued cards: you get valuable discounts and bonuses all year long (but you always need to opt-in in just a few clicks online or in the app first). I’ll have a detailed post soon.
Anyway, right now, there are 2 Amex Offers… that might not be as great as they seem:
- Get 5X the points on groceries
- Get 25,000 bonus points
Amex Offer on groceries
First, the 5X food deal is very good. Unless you also have the American Express Cobalt Card, which always earns 6 Marriott points per dollar on food. You can read our long-awaited post that compares the Marriott Bonvoy Card and the Cobalt Card.
If not, then getting 5 Marriott points per dollar is still pretty amazing (a ≈ 4.5% return based on our Flytrippers Valuation). You can read our post with the grocery stores that accept Amex cards in Canada.
The regular earn rate is 2 points per dollar everywhere (one of the best base earn rates in Canada—which means for all purchases that aren’t in any category bonuses on any of your other cards).
The Amex Offer gives you an extra 3 points, for 5 points in total. It expires July 22nd.
Also, it is capped at 4,500 bonus points, which means only $1,500 in grocery purchases. That should be easy enough to reach, but if not, buy gift cards to other retailers at your grocery store (it will be almost enough to unlock another 5,000 bonus points by stacking this with the other Amex Offer below, giving you an easy 12,500 point bonus).
For comparison, the American Express Cobalt Card earns 6 Marriott points per dollar on food and groceries with a much more generous $30,000 annual cap.
Best credit cards for
American Express Cobalt® Card
Bonus: spend $500/mo for 12 mos. + $3k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $943
Card Fee: $156
Marriott Bonvoy™ American Express® Card
Bonus: spend $1.5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $657
Card Fee: $120
Marriott Bonvoy™ Business American Express® Card
Card: non-employment income required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $720
Card Fee: $150
American Express Business Edge™ Card
Card: non-employment income required
Bonus: spend $5k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $594
Card Fee: $99
American Express® Green Card
Bonus: spend $1k in 3 mos.
Welcome bonus: $119
Card Fee: $0
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Amex Offer for more spending
Second, the 25,000 bonus is good—if you are not going to be getting a new card. But you really should: using your spending to unlock welcome bonuses is the key to maximizing your rewards.
(No one who earns a lot of rewards does it by getting regular points on their purchases; no one.)
The offer gives you 5,000 bonus points every time you spend $2,000 on your card, up to 5 times. It might be interesting to unlock one, to stack with the $1,500 grocery promo above.
But after that, it’s mostly a bad idea!
Spending $4,000 would give you 18,000 points (5,000 bonus + 5,000 bonus + 8,000 regular earn rate). That’s worth ≈ $162 based on our Flytrippers Valuation.
Instead, you could use your spending of $4,000 to unlock the BMO eclipse Visa Infinite Card‘s $327 welcome bonus AND the Scotiabank Gold American Express Card‘s $230 welcome bonus for example. That’s $395 more rewards for the exact same spending.
Or a return of 14% instead of 4% with the Amex Offer. Getting new cards will also improve your credit score (as long as you pay everything on time of course).
Welcome bonuses are the key, we can never repeat it enough.
So check out our ranking of the best credit cards in Canada regularly, and get your welcome bonuses!
Aeroplan Buddy Pass conversion
Another offer that is interesting for some travelers is the Air Canada Buddy Pass.
It is essentially a 2-for-1 deal: you buy an Air Canada flight and get a 2nd one free (well, you must pay the taxes as for most airline reward programs).
It is valid only in North America, Hawaii included. Depending on whether or not you buy a ticket that is expensive, it can be worth a lot. That’s the beauty of variable-value rewards: they offer outsized value and unlimited value. But in this case, because you need to pay for the first one in cash, it’s not as appealing as reward flights paid with points.
Our Flytrippers Valuation of the Buddy Pass was ≈ $350, since that is a very reasonable amount you can save (and easily a lot more for peak period flights).
But now, there is a much better option: the Buddy Pass can be converted to Aeroplan points. This is almost certainly the better option for most travelers, as you’ll get 30,000 Aeroplan points instead and they will not expire.
Those 30,000 Aeroplan points are worth ≈ $450 based on our Flytrippers Valuation, but again, it can be worth a lot more. And you won’t have to buy another ticket with cash to use the points.
For example, 30,000 Aeroplan points are enough for 3 one-way flights from Montreal/Toronto to Miami on United Airlines (or to most of North America). Or almost enough for a one-way flight from Montreal to Lisbon or from Vancouver to Tokyo. Or exactly half of the points required for a one-way business class from Montreal to Lisbon if you prefer luxury.
The sky is the limit.
The Buddy Pass conversion deal initially expired on April 30th and May 28th, but it has now been extended indefinitely.
The Buddy Pass is offered on these cards:
- American Express Aeroplan Card (no minimum income)
- CIBC Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card (min. income of $60,000)
- TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card (min. income of $60,000)
Our ultimate guide to the new Aeroplan program is coming soon.
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Those are a few of the travel-related news stories that got our attention in the past week.
What do you think of these developments? Tell us in the comments below.
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Featured image: Ávila, Spain (photo credit: Wei Hunag)
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