Hurray! I’m Now A Free Agent! (Saving $1,500)

On average, we’re in eight different loyalty programs and some of them are costing us way more than the tiny benefits we (may) get.

For years, I’ve been a medium sized somebody with Air Canada (50K Elite) where I had lounge access, two free checked bags, priority boarding and no lineups at check in. This year I’m a small somebody and lost priority boarding and lounge access. Yet, somehow I adjusted. Sure I miss the lounge, but most connections are less than two hours, and I’m just fine.

In the next month I have about 10 flights to book. I wrote down roughly what that would add up to: Around $2,200. But I can’t stay a “somebody” unless I reach $3,000 (with Air Canada and Westjet – they’re both the same) and that’s on base fares excluding all the fees and taxes. So I’d have to book more expensive tickets by over $1,500 just to stay a somebody AND would HAVE to fly only Air Canada or Westjet, or I’d dilute my earnings and not make it in either one. That applies to most loyalty programs: To get the bigger rewards you can’t be a free agent and shop elsewhere.

That seems and is stupid. (That’s why vast numbers of business travels purposely wait until the last minute to book when prices have gone way up. It maximizes their bonus levels and it’s their company that pays the ticket and the price for that.) But when we try to do that, we don’t shop around, we stay blindly loyal because we want that reward level!

Instead, I checked Westjet on a flight to Victoria this month. Their flight gets in at 9pm vs. the Air Canada at 11:30pm. That’s almost three hours of extra sleep. I also checked the last Victoria to Edmonton flight the next day: Same price on both airlines, but Westjet can get me home at 10 pm vs. 1 am for Air Canada. On the other hand, the only lunchtime flight to Grande Prairie in two weeks (August 29th) is $140 on Air Canada vs. $284 on Westjet. So of course, I booked Air Canada for that one. Ahhhh….the joy of being a free agent and looking out for my wallet instead of others!

The same applies when we see the “bonus Airmiles” offers. We’re chasing the points, but in my experience, for the 10 most common things I buy (heads up that I’m a bachelor, so it includes cookies, Bolthouse juice, Tasters Choice, etc.) Safeway/Sobey is at least 30% more expensive than Presidents Choice or Walmart. So we get three or four bucks in Airmiles while possibly spending $20 more on what we’re buying!

We, and that includes me, can be so brainwashed or blindly loyal we’re constantly tripping over a loonie to pick up a dime! Your point earnings with every program are between one and 1.5 percent. That’s it! So make sure you don’t overspend by more than 1.5% at the register or you’re losing money!

Stay loyal to friends and family – just don’t extend that same loyalty to companies who brainwash you, and aren’t ever going to be loyal back to you!

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