As we close out 2023, we continue with our year-end series of grading the wish list from our first post of the year. This report card is a continuation of the mid-term report back on Canada Day (July 1st of every year).
Keep in mind that all wishes are a win/win/win scenario for everyone involved (credit card issuer, customer and third party loyalty company), so that it is fair across the board. In some cases it is just a win/win because one party is not involved (e.g. a credit card company who offers an in-house loyalty program and the customer as the only other party).
Before we get going, below is a recap of the grading system:
- A+ Exceeding expectations with nothing more to improve on (almost impossible to achieve this grade, but I listed it to put some perspective on the spectrum)
- A Awesome job
- B+ Good job
- B Decent, met expectations
- C Acceptable
- D Better than nothing
- E Nothing changed, no improvements
- F Fail, went backwards
Now, onto grading how we finished the year.
1) Either a new co-branded airline or hotel loyalty credit card
As of September 2023, the grandfathered MBNA Best Western and Alaska Airlines cards were discontinued. Furthermore, we close out the year with a break even with Cathay Pacific co-branded card. RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum card was discontinued, while Neo Financial added its Cathay Pacific co-branded card.
Furthermore, HSBC closed out new applications to its line of cards. Granted HSBC did not have a direct co-branded airline or hotel loyalty card, it did have transfer partners to: British Airways Executive Club, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. Existing cardholders are still grandfathered for the time being. So if you have any of their cards, I strongly suggest to keep them while you still can.
Overall, unfortunately, this year was a big fail, as we went quite a bit backwards on this item.
2) Overall enhancements to train service in Canada
On October 13, 2023, the Federal Government announced the launch of the Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP process will run until summer of 2024. Following the evaluation period, the Government of Canada will select the group who will become the developer partner to work with VIA Rail to design and develop the High Frequency Rail project.
For the time being, it looks like this is still ways away, but I am glad to see some progress on this front. I still firmly believe that high speed rail is the way to go in Canada. This is such a large country, getting people around quicker on rail can help reduce cars on the road, which offers multiple benefits.
3) Major upgrade to an existing loyalty program
BMO bailed out Air Miles, so that evaded a possible major downgrade to their rewards program. Air Canada’s Aeroplan continued to expand their program to make it even more valuable (e.g. Journie Rewards). The Scene+ program has seen minor upgrades to their program, included adding Home Hardware as a new partner. RBC had some minor upgrade to their various internal rewards programs. Furthermore, VIA Rail’s VIA Preference program also went through some enhancements.
No program made any major upgrade, but the combination of all the upgrades across the board merits a decent score.
Historically I have had more items on the list. But this past year, I narrowed it down the three items because these are really important to me and I wanted to give each of them more emphasis. The co-branded airline or hotel credit cards has been getting worse year after year. At this point, any improvements will only inch us closer to where we were, rather than forward progress. Train service badly needs an upgrade in Canada to move passengers across the country more quickly. While Canadian only has a handful of competitive loyalty programs and has become increasingly top heavy.
Tomorrow, I will post my new wish list, which will be expanded back to the usual five items instead.
What are your thoughts on the progress of my wish list items? Did you have your own wish list for this year? Please let us know in the comment section below!