Since joining the PC Insiders program, I have become more and more interested in the PC Optimum points program and how I could earn more points to redeem against grocery bills. To take advantage of the additional earning power, we have also applied for the no free PC Financial World Elite Mastercard. As a PC Insider, one of the benefits is the annual $99 credit we can use when booking flights, hotels, vacations, car rentals, and cruises on PC Travel. As a result, I’ve been quite curious about PC Travel and whether it’s an effective travel booking site for Canadians compared to the other travel booking sites like Google Flights, Expedia, and Costco Travel. Unfortunately, with PC Travel, you can’t redeem your PC Optimum points (it would be awesome if you could). Instead, you can earn points when you book through PC Travel. Is PC Travel worth using for booking travel? Here’s my PC Travel review.
What is PC Travel?
PC Travel is a travel agency started by the President’s Choice/Loblaws brand in September 2014. With PC Travel, you can book flights, vacations, hotels, cruises, car rentals. From the initial view on the website, PC Travel appears to be a good travel booking alternative for Canadians.
One key thing to note is that you can only book through PC Travel if you hold a PC Financial Mastercard or if you are a PC Insiders subscriber. The website will ask you to confirm which Mastercard you hold or if you are a PC Insider. By using a PC Financial Mastercard, you can earn additional PC Optimum points when you make a booking through the website.
In case you’re wondering about the PC Insiders program, this is a subscription based membership program that President’s Choice/Loblaws started a number of years ago. You can be a PC Insider by paying a monthly or an annual fee. As a member, you can earn additional PC Optimum points on certain products like PC Organics, PC Black Label products, diapers, and formula. The biggest benefits as a PC Insider is that you can also order groceries online and pick them up for free (normally a $3-5 pick up fee depending on the pick up slot). Another perk you get if you pay for the annual $99 fee is an annual $99 travel credit for travel bookings through PC Travel. Essentially the PC Insider program is free if you account for the PC Travel annual credit. Check out my review of PC Insiders here.
Earning PC Optimum points with PC Travel
As a PC Financial Matercard card holder, you can earn different amounts of PC Optimum points when you make a booking with PC Travel.
- As a PC Financial Mastercard holder, you will earn 20 PC Optimum points per $1 spent on PC Travel.
- As a PC Financial World Mastercard holder, you will earn 20 PC Optimum points per $1 spent on PC Travel.
- As a PC Financial World Elite Mastercard holder, you will earn 30 PC Optimum points per $1 spent on PC Travel.
The nice thing about the PC Mastercards is that they have no annual fees. If you can meet the income requirements, the best card to apply for is the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard since you’d get 3% back on every dollar spent.
In case you’re wondering, for every 10,000 PC Optimum points you receive, you can redeem $10 off your grocery bills. This is essentially like getting cash back and the main reason why we like the PC Optimum program so much – the simplicity.
Now if you don’t have a PC Financial Mastercard but you’re a PC Insider, you can still make bookings through PC Travel. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get any PC Optimum points on your travel bookings. Since none of the PC Mastercards have annual fees, it really makes a lot of sense to have one to maximize your earning power.
How long does it take to receive PC Optimum Points with PC Travel?
According to PC Travel’s Books Terms and Conditions, it takes approximately three to five weeks following the date of purchase from PC Travel for PC Optimum points to be awarded. If there are any bonus PC Optimum points (i.e. when there’s a promotion for additional PC Optimum points booked through PC Travel), the bonus points will show up within the three to five week period as a separate transaction.
When we shop at Superstore, No Frills, or any other Loblaws stores, we’d see PC Optimum points show up in the PC Optimum app within minutes after the purchase. To me, it is extremely strange that it takes three to five weeks to see points when you make a booking through PC Travel. For PC Travel to be more popular for Canadians, I believe a faster points deposit time frame is needed.
PC Travel Flights vs. Google Flights
One of the things I’m curious about is comparing the prices between PC Travel and Google Flights. From my searches, both PC Travel and Google Flights provided the same flight prices for airlines like Air Canada, WestJet, and United when booking travels to the US. I do appreciate PC Travel showing me how much PC Optimum points you’d earn if I were to book the flight. This way I can calculate the “true” airfare price.
When I tried to search flights for domestic or international travels, I noticed that PC Travel does not include discounted airlines like Air Transat. So there were some price differences between PC Travel and Google Flights.
PC Travel Hotels vs. Marriott
Since I’m a Marriott Bonvoy Elite member, whenever I travel, I try to stay at a Marriott property as much as I can to accumulate points and earn status. How would PC Travel compare to Marriott’s website when it comes to hotel bookings?
Unfortunately, based on my searches, I am unable to draw any conclusion on which website is cheaper. One important thing to note is that if you book hotels through PC Travel, you won’t be able to earn any Marriott Bonvoy points and if you’re an Elite member, you won’t get recognized. Furthermore, the night stay won’t show up under your Bonvoy account. As a Marriott Bonvoy Elite member, unless PC Travel has really good hotel deals, I will most likely only book directly through Marriott’s site.
The same statement can probably be said when we compare other hotel brands too.
PC Travel vs. Costco Travel – Car Rentals
Given that PC Travel has a car rentals option, I figured I’d compare PC Travel and Costco Travel.
On my first search, renting a car from Vancouver International Airport, PC Travel came out ahead of Costco Travel. However, it is interesting to note that with PC Travel I’d rent a car through Dollar (never heard of them) whereas with Costco Travel, I’d rent through Budget. This doesn’t seem to be an apple to apple comparison. Since I’ve never rented with Dollar before, I would feel more comfortable renting with a more established brand like Budget.
When I did another search, renting a car from LA International, Costco Travel came out ahead when both websites showed me the car rental cost when renting through Alamos.
If you are not picky on which rental car company you rent your car with, PC Travel may show some cheaper rental car options depending on your pickup location. Generally speaking, prices for PC Travel car rentals seem to be more expensive than other choices. It’s not worth booking through PC Travel just to learn more PC Optimum points.
PC Travel vs. Costco Travel – Vacation
Since both PC Travel and Costco Travel have a search option for vacation packages, I thought it would be worthwhile to compare the two.
When I searched for a Maui vacation package, Costco Travel came out ahead by a mile. Interestingly, Costco’s vacation package includes car rental while PC Travel’s vacation package only includes airfare and hotel. If we account for the cost of the car rental, Costco Travel is definitely a better website for booking a Maui vacation package. After a few more searches on travel vacations, I concluded that prices for PC Travel vacations are way more expensive than other travel booking sites like Costco Travel and Expedia. While you will earn a lot of PC Optimum points if you book through PC Travel, I have concluded that it is not worth it.
PC Travel Pros
After doing a number of searches and comparing PC Travel with other travel booking sites, I concluded that PC Travel has a few benefits.
- If you sign up for the PC Insiders program and have the $99 annual travel credit, it makes sense to apply the credit towards flights, vacation packages, car rentals, hotels, and cruises. One thing to note is that the $99 travel credit can only be applied to hotel bookings of 3 or more nights. In other words, if you’re looking for a quick two night weekend staycation by booking a hotel in your city, you won’t be able to use the travel credit, unfortunately.
- If you are big into PC Optimum points, PC Travel allows you to earn more points.
- PC Travel has a Best Price Guarantee which gives PC Travel customers peace of mind. If you find a lower advertised Canadian dollar price than that advertised on the website at time of booking, and the rate is verified, PC Travel will match the lower rate and reward you with 25,000 bonus PC Optimum points on the booking. There are a number of terms and conditions you must meet.
PC Travel Cons
Other than taking advantage of the $99 annual travel credit that you receive as a PC Insider, I personally don’t think it makes sense to book through PC Travel as there are quite a few cons.
- All bookings are 100% non refundable according to PC Travel’s FAQ section. Since the payment is due at the time of booking, if you make a booking and need to change your plans, it can get problematic. The cancellation policies and penalties vary by travel providers, airlines, and/or tour operators. So you need to contact PC Travel Call Centre at 1-844-862-8466 to find out more.
- The full payment and non refundable policy can be tricky if you use PC Travel for hotels or car rentals and you need to make a change later. For example, if I were to book a hotel with Marriott, typically you can change your reservation. You can also cancel 48 hours prior to arrival without being charged. In this sense, PC Travel is not very flexible at all.
- PC Travel does not provide any guarantee to changes to your booking. You’d have to call the call centre to find out more details. This is not ideal if you need to change your itineraries.
- As mentioned, it takes three to five weeks for PC Optimum points to show up in your account. I don’t understand why it takes so long and it can be difficult to keep track of the points.
- Since the main draw of using PC Travel is earning more PC Optimum points, if you don’t shop at any President Choice or Loblaws stores, it makes very little sense to book through PC Travel. And if you don’t shop at PC or Loblaws stores, chances are you aren’t a PC Insider or have a PC Financial Mastercard, which means you can’t use PC Travel anyway.
- If you are booking flights with PC Travel and paying with a PC Financial Mastercard, it may be problematic if you face a trip interruption, flight delay, or baggage delay since none of the three PC Financial Mastercards have any sort of travel insurance coverage. Since we’ve encountered flight and baggage delays a few times when we travelled to Denmark, I would be very hesitant to book any major travels with PC Travel. Now if it’s a straightforward trip like going to Los Angeles with no checked-in luggage, it might be worth booking through PC Travel, especially if you are redeeming the $99 annual travel credit. Similarly, I wouldn’t rent a car with PC Travel and pay with a PC Financial Mastercard since there’s no rental insurance coverage with the card.
My Experience with PC Travel
When we first joined the PC Insiders program, my original plan of using the $99 annual travel credit was to book a hotel room in Vancouver for a weekend staycation with Mrs. T. But after finding out the minimum three night stay requirement, we quickly scrapped that idea. It’s unfortunate there’s a minimum three night stay requirement because that doesn’t give us much options to use PC Travel for a hotel booking and redeem the travel credit.
For FinCon’19, I used PC Travel to book my flights between Vancouver and Washington DC. I figured it was OK to book with PC Travel because I was doing carry-on luggage only, and I wasn’t going to change my itineraries. The flight was with Delta and the cost would have been the same if I were to book through Delta. The airfare for my Vancouver/Washington DC trip was $700 including taxes so I ended up getting 21,000 in PC Optimum points or an equivalent of $21 that I can take off when shopping at Superstore or No Frills.
As you may recall, we had plans to go to Disneyland after FinCon’20. Originally we were going to book through PC Travel and use the $99 travel credit again from our PC Insiders renewal. We decided against using PC Travel for this trip after we considered all the bonuses we’d get for signing up the WestJet World Elite Mastercard. We ended up booking directly with WestJet so we could use the WestJet Dollars and a compassion voucher. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we eventually cancelled our flights and received a full refund from WestJet. The cancellation and refund process was quite easy with WestJet as we simply logged into our accounts and clicked on “cancel flights.” There was no need to get on the phone, wait, and talk to an agent. If we were to book through PC Travel, we would have to call the PC Travel Call Centre and spend a lot of time talking to an agent and try to get a refund. We probably wouldn’t have received a full refund if we had booked our flights through PC Travel.
PC Travel Review – Is it worth using?
So what’s my opinion on PC Travel? Is it worth using this travel booking platform when there are tons of alternatives out there? Although my only booking experience with PC Travel was positive, I wouldn’t book anything with PC Travel unless I want to redeem our $99 PC Travel credit and if our travel plan was very straight forward (i.e. a direct flight, no check-in bags, etc). I would not want to use PC Travel for a trip that involves complex itineraries. The lack of travel insurance on the PC Financial Mastercard also means that I would not want to book any international flights, car rentals, cruises, or even vacation packages with PC Travel. If I book anything without having travel insurance, I would be worried if something happens. Therefore, the most likely scenario for me to use PC Travel would be booking a 3 night hotel stay and redeem the $99 travel credit. But the idea of staying for 3 nights and not accumulating any night count toward Elite status doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.
Even with the new PC Insider program and the extra earn rate of 5% as a PC Insider member, I would be hesitant making a travel booking via PC Travel. This is mostly because prices via PC Travel appear to be more expensive than other travel booking sites. While it is great to be able to earn PC Optimum points when booking through PC Travel. I honestly do not think it’s worth the hassle. You are better off booking directly with an airline, a hotel, or a car rental company. For vacation packages, PC Travel doesn’t seem to offer a great deal when compared to Costco Travel and other similar travel booking sites.
According to the Yelp review, many Canadians had bad experience with PC Travel, especially the cancellation and non-refundable policies. This does not surprise me at all.
For me, it is very unfortunate that PC Travel is so restrictive and doesn’t provide much value compared to other travel booking alternatives. For PC Travel to be more appealing to Canadians, the company needs to make the booking platform more flexible with a better cancellation policy while offering very appealing pricing.
Dear readers, have you used PC Travel? What’s your experience? What do you think about this PC Travel review?