2019 has just begun and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy new year! Before we take a look back at the different programs with a retrospective of 2018 and what to look out for in 2019, let’s remind ourselves of various tips to get this new year off to a good start!
Start the year on the right foot
January is often the time for “good resolutions”!
Try to start the year off on the right foot by setting goals and concocting a game plan to achieve them.
An essential step for any points & miles hunter is the definition of goals:
- short-term (1-6 months): these will often be hotel points for foreseeable use in the next few months, cash back on important upcoming expenses
- medium-term (6-12 months): a more important strategy of accumulating hotel points for a long stay or bank points to cover travel expenses will be implemented
- Long-term (12-18 months): this is often intended for long trips, where you want to use miles for airline tickets, hotel points for stays and bank points for other travel expenses (car rentals, cruises, etc.)
The game plan to achieve them
Once you have established one or more goals, evaluate the range of loyalty programs and credit cards available to you to achieve them.
Personally, for 2019, here are my 3 goals and how I plan to achieve them:
- Short term: I want to earn Best Western Rewards points to fulfill my need for 2-3 free nights on trips that will be taken in early 2019.
- Medium-Term: I want to collect a lot of AIR MILES miles (about 20,000) to use for theme park admissions and/or short-haul airline tickets for short stays in the Maritimes or Northeastern U.S. during the summer of 2019.
- Long-term: I would like to earn Marriott Bonvoy points for hotel stays that I will make by the end of 2019 or 2020
A plan B
A game plan should be scalable… as are loyalty programs! What is valid on January 01, 2019, may no longer be valid on January 8, 2019… or July 1, 2019!
So you need to keep up to date with program news and changes! Nothing better than to follow regularly the articles published on milesopedia… and the interventions of the various members in the milesopedia facebook group!
Loyalty programs and you in 2019
What to expect from loyalty programs in 2019? I would say that we are in a period of transition.
After years of Aeroplan and AIR MILES dominance in Canada, other programs have increased their presence such as British Airways Executive Club and Marriott Bonvoy. Some programs have appeared like PC Optimum and the banking programs have all improved their offer.
All eyes are now on Air Canada and its future program, of which we still know… not much! **Update : Here is the new Aeroplan program.
Aeroplan and Air Canada
Air Canada, CIBC, TD and Visa have put their hands on Aeroplan and Air Canada is expected to have full control of the program by the end of January 2019(after Aimia shareholder approval on January 08).
Anything that has been announced in the past – such as the continuation of the existing rules until June 29, 2020 – seems to me to be an outdated announcement at this point.
Air Canada will be able to act as it wishes on the main lines of the program, including the fare structure.
However, I think it is unlikely that we will see any major changes before 2020, as all 3 companies (Air Canada, CIBC and TD) need to regain the confidence of Aeroplan members after more than 18 months of uncertainty.
But as caution is required in this kind of situation, I invite you to take advantage of the current system… and in particular of the famous “mini-tour of the world”, so much discussed in this topic in the facebook group!
And as I mentioned at the milesopedia mini-conference, I have a strong belief that we will see new Aeroplan-affiliated credit card sign-up offers from CIBC and TD in the first half of 2019.
With the uncertainty of Aeroplan, many Aeroplan members began to look at AIR MILES, which is very popular in Canada.
The main change in AIR MILES this year is the transition from TRANSAT to Red Tag.
Starting January 8, 2019, you can earn and use miles for vacation package bookings at redtag.ca.
As part of this new partnership, you can earn and use miles on vacation package bookings:
- Earn 1 mile for every $20 spent on vacation packages booked with redtag.ca
- For every 909 Dream Miles you use, you’ll earn $100 towards a vacation package at redtag.ca.
- Flexibility to earn and use miles: Use Dream Miles for dollar discounts on online bookings, and earn miles on the total value of your reservation.
As we often advise you, it is best to choose to collect your AIR MILES miles in “Dreams” as this is where you should get the most value.
And this is even more the case today since only Dream Miles can be used to book a vacation package on redtag.ca.
British Airways Executive Club
On the British Airways Executive Club side, there are two pieces of good news in this 2019:
- The introduction of the Montreal – Dublin flight of the Irish airline Aer Lingus in August 2019, on which it is possible to use avios miles.
Many milesopedia facebook group members have already booked their tickets, both economy and business class!
- American Airlines seems to have reopened its North American flight availability to members of other programs such as the British Airways Executive Club in recent weeks.
Flying Blue, the Air France-KLM program, is increasingly interested in North America:
- In the United States, a credit card linked to the program was introduced a few months ago
- In Canada, increasingly important links have been forged with WestJet.
Air France is sending more and more reconfigured aircraft to Canada, whose business class is top-notch, as Audrey saw on her recent flight from Montreal to Paris with Flying Blue miles.
We now hope that Flying Blue will become a transfer partner of the American Express Membership Rewards program in 2019! After all, it’s already a reality in other countries – like the U.S. – and it was, for a day, in Canada during the summer of 2018! Tests before an upcoming introduction? Fingers crossed! **Update: It finally happened in 2021.
WestJet is changing.
On the one hand, the company has introduced a low-cost airline – Swoop – and on the other hand, it is attacking the business market, which was previously the preserve of Air Canada.
Indeed, the company introduces in 2019 new aircraft, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, equipped with a high level business class… similar to the one offered by Air Canada!
On the loyalty program side, during the Aeroplan saga, we heard about Ampli, a joint loyalty program between RBC and WestJet. Since then, no more news…! Either this project has been put on ice… or we should see a launch this year!
This is a program that is regaining interest among Canadians.
In fact, via the American Express Platinum Card®, it is possible to obtain Hilton Honors Gold status which allows you to have, among other things… free breakfasts at almost all Hilton Group hotels!
This was an honor we also had on the Marriott Bonvoy side… and is now reserved for Platinum Elite members of the program.
Our dream for 2019? That a credit card affiliated with the Hilton Honors Program be introduced in Canada! In the meantime, we have to fall back on the American version. ***Update 2022: We are still waiting…
In the coming weeks, Marriott Bonvoy will change its name, which will act of the complete disappearance of the other programs: Marriott Bonvoy and Ritz Carlton Rewards.
Not everything went right when these other programs were migrated under the Marriott Bonvoy banner last summer: missing points, incorrect statuses… On top of that, a massive security flaw was discovered.
Still, the Marriott Bonvoy program remains the one that offers the most hotels worldwide (more than 8,000) and that Canadians can enjoy thanks to the two cards issued by American Express.
Perhaps we will see new offers?
Regardless, there’s still time to sign up for the current offers that remain attractive and are part of our 2019 game plan:
- the Marriott BonvoyTM American ExpressMD Card” href=”https://milesopedia.com/go/amex-marriott”>the Marriott BonvoyTM American ExpressMD Card
- Marriott BonvoyMD* Corporate Credit Card from American Express.
Best Western Rewards
No changes expected on the Best Western Rewards side in 2019. It’s still a simple program to approach, with the Best Western Rewards MasterCard making it easy to get at least one night free.
Watch for promotions like the 10,000 points per night promotion, though, which runs through January 15, 2019!
As said above, bank programs will tend to strengthen their offerings during 2019. Here is what to consider:
American Express Membership Rewards
milesopedia’s flagship member program… but one that has undergone many changes over the past year, especially on the referral bonus side.
I hope to see the introduction of new transfer partners (Flying Blue, WestJet Rewards?) to enhance the value of Membership Rewards points, and that an agreement will be reached between Air Canada and American Express to continue the transfer of points after the Aeroplan buyout.
On the select Membership Rewards side of the American Express Cobaltᵐᶜ Card, we should see many Cardmember-only offers throughout the year. This was the case in 2018 with some pretty outstanding promotions like the latest: 10 points / dollar on Amazon.ca.
So the Cobaltᵐᶜ American Express card remains my favorite card for 2019.
BMO has recently strengthened its offer for its major card: the BMO World Elite MasterCard, by adding a $100 travel credit to the already attractive sign-up bonus (free first year, 35,000 BMO points, 4 airport lounges access…).
With BMO having touched the value of the program early last year, we should not have any major changes this year.
Little change envisaged on the National Bank side.
The National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® promotion has been extended through March 31, 2019.
I would like to see NBC innovate by offering, for example, the transfer of its points to other programs?
CIBC has beefed up its Aventura travel card offerings by adding Priority Pass lounge access and Nexus credit.
However, CIBC is known to actively monitor its credit card sign-ups to ensure that it only issues the welcome bonus once, unlike its competitors.
HSBC surprised its world in 2018 with the introduction of great offers for the HSBC World EliteMD MasterCardMD. This has allowed many to discover its loyalty program and the ability to transfer their points to other programs including British Airways Executive Club.
I’m now waiting to see if HSBC will continue its conquest of the Canadian market with the introduction of new offers or cards in 2019!
Last year, Scotia stood out from the competition by introducing a travel points credit card with no foreign currency conversion fees: the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card. This card offers bonus points, 6 Priority Pass airport lounges, and excellent insurance.
However, few offers have been made to attract new incumbents. For example, I would love to see a great welcome offer for the Scotiabank Gold American Express® Card!
Not much new to expect from TD Rewards. The truth is, TD made a big bet with Air Canada in the Aeroplan buyout and will need to… attract new customers for Aeroplan-affiliated cards (and Air Canada’s future program).
So that’s where we’ll definitely see some offers appear in 2019!
RBC Rewards is one of the programs that allows you to transfer your points to other programs such as British Airways Executive Club or WestJet Rewards.
We should see seasonal offers on its major card, the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card.
milesopedia and you in 2019
I’m preparing some (very) big changes for 2019!
This will involve a complete overhaul of the site, but especially the introduction of new features that should, I hope, make you happy!
In the meantime, I invite you to join and actively participate in the milesopedia facebook group.
2019 will also be your opportunity to attend the events we will be doing throughout the year! The next one will be in Quebec City on January 26, 2019!
In short, a great year ahead for the milesopedia community!