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Testimonial: Western Canada with points & miles

To the point Find out how Caroline saved a lot of money with her points & miles to take her family to visit Western Canada!
Milesopedia recommends this card from American Express Canada

This post is also available in: FR

We are always happy when readers take a few minutes to share their experience with us! To complete this article, here is a 6 day itinerary and budget provided by Annie.

A family trip to Western Canada with points and miles

Caroline T. is a long-time milesopedia reader, who members of the“milesopedia – Credit Cards and Rewards” Facebook group will surely recognize!

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milesopedia’s facebook group: milesopedia – Credit Cards & Rewards

Here is her “postcard” that she sent us:

This is my account of a June/July 2018 trip to Western Canada with my husband and our 2 children (ages 7 and 9)! I had a very clear goal in mind from the beginning and everything was booked in late October 2017 (so 8-9 months before). Note that I collected the points on my own, for 1 year, as my husband was reluctant to embark on the credit card / bonus subscription adventure. After this trip though… he changed his mind!

So Caroline took things in hand in her relationship! It is often like that (after all, Audrey lets me manage everything in our couple, and we could see in the milesopedia mini-convention that many couples have designated – automatically – a person in charge of the points and miles in the family)!

But once you’ve discovered the benefits and the substantial gains you’ve made… the other spouse joins in the fun!

If you want to discover Western Canada, we recommend this Ulysses guide!

Airline tickets with Aeroplan Miles

For her Western Canada itinerary, Caroline decided to arrive in Calgary and depart from Vancouver. So she booked a multi-city flight for a cost of 25,000 miles and $170 per person.

Here is an example:

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Example of a route

The cost for Caroline, her husband and their two children is 100,000 Aeroplan miles and $680. She was able to get those Aeroplan miles with 3 cards:

Prior to mid-2017, there were great offers for Aeroplan-affiliated credit cards. This is no longer the case, but we are hopeful that these offers will return in 2019 now that Air Canada, CIBC, TD and VISA have agreed to acquire Aeroplan.

American Express Membership Rewards cards are still the best way to earn Aeroplan Miles quickly.

Access to airport lounges with credit cards

Caroline was able to take advantage of different airport lounges during her trip to Western Canada.

Before boarding our flight to Calgary, we had breakfast in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at Montreal-Trudeau Airport with access to my TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Preferred Card. And this one wasn’t very busy!

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Note that it is also possible to access the National Bank lounge at Montreal-Trudeau Airport, whether it is for an international or domestic flight!

You can access it with the National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard® but also with cards offering Priority Pass access. The Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card offers 6 annual accesses for example!

On our return trip from Vancouver, we visited the Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic) located near gate B15 with our TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Privilege Card access. We took the opportunity to make a “product placement” 🙂

yvr lounge

Free hotel nights with points

Of the 10 nights on our course, 8 were paid in full with points. 2 were paid out of my pocket… even though I could have used points

Here is a summary of the hotel nights paid for in large part with points and certificates obtained with credit cards:

Hotel Points / Certificate / Money Nights Program
Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel Category 4
Cat 1-5 certificate – 25,000 points
1 Marriott Bonvoy
Pocaterra Inn Best Western Canmore In silver
461$
2 Best Western Rewards
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Vernon Category 3
Certificate 1-4 – 17,500 points
1 Marriott Bonvoy
Fairfield Inn & Suites Kelowna Category 4
Certificate 1-4 – 25,000 points
1 Marriott Bonvoy
Delta Okanagan Grand Resort, Kelowna Category 5
35,000 points + $20 resort fee
1 Marriott Bonvoy
Vancouver Marriott Pinacle Downtown Category 5
35,000 points
2 Marriott Bonvoy
Victoria Marriott inner Harbour Category 5
35,000 points
1 Marriott Bonvoy
The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler Category 5
35,000 points
1 Marriott Bonvoy
Total 140,000 points
3 certificates

461$

10

I used 2 category 1-4 certificates obtained when closing the Marriott Visa credit card. And also a category 1-5 certificate obtained during a Marriott winter promotion (1 night free after 2 nights).

When Chase decided to withdraw the Marriott credit card from Canada, Marriott Bonvoy awarded cardholders 1 night’s certificate for category 1-4 hotels.

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Lounge of our Marriott hotel in Victoria

To obtain these 140,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, Caroline signed up for 3 credit cards. The Marriott card – which no longer exists (50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) – and the two Marriott Bonvoy cards (which offered a different bonus at the time):

In a couple where each spouse takes both cards, that’s 200,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, easy to earn over the course of a year, for a total of $540 in contributions. Enough to ensure you can spend at least 2 weeks in hotels during the year!

The only hotel I spent money on was the Pocaterra Inn Best Western Canmore. With points, it would have cost me 36,000 Best Western Rewards points per night… and I didn’t have enough at the time! I could have gone to 2 Marriott hotels in Kananaskis to use points and make the trip without really “paying for anything” in a hotel, but it was too far and not very efficient for the little time we had.

At the Best Western hotel, I had Diamond Select status, but I didn’t see any difference…other than the extra points. My stay earned me 8,500 points (including Best Western Rewards MasterCard points) and a $20 promotional certificate for a future stay.

The Best Western Rewards MasterCard has a bonus that is very easy to earn with just one charge to the card. And the card is free, what more could you ask for? In addition, points can be combined into one account by simply calling Best Western Rewards.

This is one of the “easiest” cards to obtain and re-obtain. In a couple, you can get between 40,000 and 80,000 Best Western points per year… for free! And when you enter promotions like the one with 10,000 points per night, that’s several free hotel nights!

Calculations of earnings with points and miles

Let’s make a detailed point by recalling:

  • 4 plane tickets Montreal-Calgary / Vancouver-Montreal
  • 8 hotel nights paid with points
aeroplan logo2 8cf1130ff4ec1c01 marriott rewards logo
Points used 100,000 miles 140,000 points
Market value 3 055$ 2 500$
Taxes and fees paid 680$ $20
Cumulative contributions 399$ 270$
Total Paid 1079$ 290$
Net valuation 3,055 – 1,079
= $1,976
2,500- 290
= $2,210
Total 4,186 saved
with points and miles

Once credit card fees are subtracted and ancillary fees are paid (taxes / surcharges), I estimate that I saved close to $2,000 for the flights of the 4 of us.

As for the hotel rooms, the market value at the time of booking was $3,900 for the 8 nights.

And I finally estimate that I saved about $850 (and more?) on hotel/airport lounge meals and all the extras we got through status (gifts, free 1st checked bag, discounts, etc) during our trip.

We always advise you to calculate how much you are saving with your points and miles on expenses that you would have actually spent out of pocket. You might not have chosen to stay at a Marriott if an Airbnb fit your budget better. That’s why we adjusted the price of the hotel nights to $2500 instead of the $3900 indicated by Caroline… so that the valuation makes sense!

Bottom line

Caroline and her family were able to take a beautiful trip to Western Canada thanks to their points and miles: for 4 people, this trip cost $1,369 when it was worth $5,555!

The points and miles will have allowed them to save …. 75 %! Bravo Caroline!

Next destination in the summer of 2019 for the family: Australia… with points and miles! 🙂

This post is also available in: FR

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Audrey
Mother of two young children, pharmacist, travel hacker's wife and frequent traveller, Audrey shares her advices and destinations recommendations on milesopedia.

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