Mar 10 , 2010

RBC launches WestJet MasterCard

By Robin Arnfield, News Editor

RBC Royal Bank of Canada has become the first Canadian bank to take advantage of the lifting of a ban on Canadian credit card issuers offering both MasterCard and Visa cards.

In partnership with RBC, WestJet Airlines Ltd has launched the WestJet RBC World MasterCard and the WestJet RBC MasterCard. With each credit card, cardholders earn WestJet dollars on everyday purchases. These dollars can be redeemed as part payment for WestJet flights or vacations, with no redemption grids, blackouts or minimum spend requirements.

The Competition Bureau, the Canadian government’s competition regulator, lifted the ban on credit card duality in November 2008, following Visa and MasterCard’s conversion from bank-owned card associations to public companies.

So far, apart from RBC, only two other Canadian credit card issuers are on both the MasterCard and Visa platform. Canadian Tire Financial Services and Chase Card Services Canada, both of which are long-established MasterCard issuers, now offer Visa cards as well.

RBC and WestJet originally announced plans to launch the two co-branded cards in August 2009. “The delay in launching the cards was caused by WestJet having to upgrade its reservation system,” Sean Amato-Gauci, vice-president, Credit Cards at RBC, says.

The WestJet RBC World MasterCard offers rewards of 1.5% in WestJet dollars, as well as premium travel insurance, hotel discounts and upgrades, for an annual fee of C$79. The other card pays 1% in WestJet dollars for an annual fee of C$39. Both cards provide a 0.5% bonus in WestJet dollars for WestJet flights and vacations purchased on the card.

Robert Palmer, Manager, Public Relations at WestJet, says that currently WestJet is taking applications for the cards. “There aren’t any cards in circulation yet,” he says.

“Since we issued the news release about the cards on Monday March 8th, there’s been a tremendous response from consumers,” Amato-Gauci says. “The call centre has had thousands of people phoning to apply for a card. In advance of the launch, we had already started pre-marketing the cards online. Over 10,000 people gave us their email address so we could notify them about the card launch.”

Palmer says that during March RBC and WestJet will roll out a full multi-level advertising and marketing campaign including print, electronic, outdoor promotions for the cards.

WestJet previously had a credit card relationship with Air Miles and BMO Bank of Montreal.

“RBC is a strong, well-known and well-respected Canadian brand,” Palmer says. “Like WestJet, it has also been named as having one of Canada’s most admired corporate cultures. Corporate culture is extremely important to WestJet; our culture is a fundamental building block for everything we are and everything we do. Consequently, when we look for partners, finding organizations that value corporate culture as much as we do is imperative.”



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