Consider your options when a new program is announced

In June, grocery giant Empire Company Ltd. — which owns brands such as Sobeys and FreshCo — announced that they would be parting ways with the Air Miles loyalty program. The move was being introduced because Empire was becoming a co-owner of the Scene+ program.

While there's no denying that Scene+ is more flexible than Air Miles, it presented consumers with an interesting situation. They could sign up for a Scene+ account and continue to earn points at Empire-owned grocery stores, or they could switch grocery stores and earn different loyalty points.

Changing where you shop may seem a bit far-fetched, but with the right loyalty program, it can be worth your while. PC Optimum is the loyalty program for Loblaw Companies Ltd. and includes brands such as Loblaws and No Frills. You can also earn PC Optimum points at Shoppers Drug Mart and Esso gas stations. Normally, you would only earn points on in-store and targeted offers. However, if you signed up for a PC Financial Mastercard, you'd earn points on every purchase.

Making the switch would allow you to earn the same loyalty points at multiple retailers. That could have a huge impact on your bottom line.

Good credit is important for your financial health, and Borrowell can help you take a turn for the better. Sign up for Borrowell to get your credit score and credit report for free!

Sign up

Watch out for devaluations

No consumers reasonably expect loyalty programs to remain the same forever, but some devaluations are worse than others. When this happens, it would be natural for you to consider your options.

Back in 2020, WestJet — Canada's second-largest airline — announced that they were updating their Member Exclusive Fares. Under the old system, you could purchase select fares at a fixed price. For example, you could redeem 125 WestJet Dollars for a one-way journey within Canada and the U.S. The catch was that only a limited number of these fares were available per flight, and you had to pay the entire fare with your WestJet Dollars.

Under the new system of Member Exclusive Fares, discounts would be available on every eligible WestJet flight, which sounds good. There's just one problem, the new discount was hardly worth it since it was typically less than 10% off. That’s not a great value proposition for customers.

For an airline trying to compete against Air Canada, you would think it would make its loyalty program more appealing. While Air Canada's loyalty program, Aeroplan, has seen a few devaluations over the years, the program's flexibility is still incredible. They have hundreds of retail partners, more than a dozen credit cards where you can earn Aeroplan points, and you can use your points on any seat available on an Air Canada flight.

See what else is available to you

Most people who collect general travel rewards points will do so through their bank. This is the natural thing to do since your financial institution will usually give you the option to get a travel rewards credit card as part of your banking package.

Here's the thing, not every bank travel rewards program is the same. American Express Membership Rewards is often viewed as one of the best programs since you get great redemption options and you can transfer your points to airline and hotel partners. On the other end of the scale, BMO Rewards isn't as popular with loyalty enthusiasts since you have fewer earning and redeeming options.

Your current credit card may not be ideal if you want to maximize your points. Ideally, you want a card that gives you an increased earn rate at merchants where you regularly shop, such as grocery stores and gas stations.

In addition, since there's usually a welcome bonus — which is typically worth a few hundred dollars — available when signing up for a new credit card, it's always worth seeing what the current offers are.

Get a $25 bonus when you open and fund your first Wealthsimple Investment account* (min. $500 initial deposit). Trade and Cash accounts are not eligible. Sign up now to take advantage of this special offer.

Get started

Making the switch is easier than you think

Regardless of where you shop or how you travel, you should be signing up for every loyalty program available so you can earn points on your purchases. That said, concentrating on two to three programs will help you rack up those points quickly.

Generally speaking, credit cards will always be the quickest way to earn points since you'll get something for every purchase you make. However, some people don't realize that you can get a credit card from a different financial institution than the one you do your day-to-day banking with. For example, you could get an RBC credit card even if you bank with TD.

Yes, applying for a new credit card and closing old cards will affect your credit score negatively. However, if you're using your new card responsibly by paying your bills on time, your credit score will go back up over time. One or two new credit applications a year won't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but the rewards you earn by not being loyal to just one card can be worth quite a bit.

You're 5 minutes away from the best mortgage

Searching for your perfect mortgage shouldn’t be hard.

Homewise is an online brokerage that will negotiate on your behalf with more than 30 big banks and other lenders, completely free, and it only takes five minutes to apply.

If you're in the market for a new mortgage, or if you're looking to refinance before interest rates rise again, go to Homewise now and answer a few simple questions to get started.

About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi

MoneyWise.ca Contributor

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances. When he's not educating people on how to be smarter with money, he's earning and burning miles and points for luxury travel.

What to Read Next

Disclaimer

The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.