How I Unexpectedly Got a Discount on VIA Rail Tickets

When I travel within Canada with my family we usually drive. We all like travelling by train but it gets expensive quickly if you have to buy fares for an entire family. If I’m travelling solo, though, I sometimes splurge and use VIA Rail so I’m always looking for ways to save money on my tickets; Recently I found a new one that saved me 10%.

Getting a Lower Rate on VIA Rail Tickets with a CAA Discount

UPDATE 2016 07 19: I have noticed that this summer, July-August 2016, only certain VIA Rail tickets are offered at a discount to CAA members. How annoying! Hopefully they will have a discount on all tickets again soon.

I’ve mentioned before that we use our Petro-points to buy a CAA membership. We then use CAA to save money on admission fees to interesting places like the Lunenburg Fisheries Museum.  (If anyone knows whether this summer’s mermaid purses hatched successfully this fall, please let me know!)

This fall, I was pricing VIA tickets for a quick trip to see relatives when I randomly decided to check the Fares and Products tab on the VIA site. Underneath that tab lurks a heading “Special Offers.” And there it was: an offer to save 10% off any fare by entering my CAA number!

Being a suspicious person by nature, I confess I did hunt around the VIA site first to see what was the best possible rate I could get for my trip. Then I went back to the “Special Offers” page and clicked on the CAA box. Next in the Membership text box, I typed in my CAA number. I answered the skill testing question, which is currently 4 + 0 = (great question!!!), then clicked on the Submit button. I then was in the regular VIA site to purchase tickets online.

You can also phone a VIA office and buy tickets by telephone using your CAA number. (I’m not sure if there is an additional cost for using that service or not.)

The offer currently says, on November 21, 2015, that tickets must be purchased by December 31 2015 to qualify but they may be for travel anytime before December 31 2016. I don’t know if they will extend the offer at the end of the year or not.

There is a short-term additional discount on the sleeper trains, the Canadian and the Ocean that you can read about on the VIA site.
When I was properly in using my CAA membership number, the fares were reduced the promised 10% before taxes. So I bought my tickets and enjoyed my trip.
You have to have your CAA membership card with you when you travel to show if the VIA staff requests to see it.

Getting a Lower Rate on VIA Rail Tickets with a Perkopolis Discount

Some large companies offer their employees a membership in Perkopolis either directly or through their Social Clubs. My husband’s company does this. So I read the monthly discount newsletter from Perkopolis, too.

In November’s news, they mentioned a discount on VIA tickets of 15%. Wahoo! Even better than CAA!

The general details are described on the Perkopolis website.

The website doesn’t state how long the offer is valid for or when the travel must be taken. That suggests that it may be a long-term offer, so I’ll give it a try the next time I plan a VIA trip.

You have to have government-issued id (like a Driver’s License etc.) that matches your proof of Perkopolis membership with you to show if the VIA staff requests to see it.

Why On Earth Does VIA Rail Have So Many Different Fares for the Same Train?

When you first look to book your seats, you may see quite a list of fare choices. There is one obvious difference in price: Business Class vs. all other classes. Business Class is what many people call First Class. The seats are more spacious, hot meals and beverages are included in the price on some routes and you receive priority boarding and extra assistance. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the train, though; You don’t have to be in Business Class to get it.

Other fares which are all seats in the regular train carriages include

  • Escape
  • Economy
  • Economy Plus

The differences are usually relating to the cost, if any, to cancel tickets and to re-book tickets. The more flexibility you want to change or cancel your tickets, the more you will have to pay.

According to an article in the Toronto Star VIA is using a pricing model similar to an airline. They raise rates on popular trains and drop them to get people aboard at less popular times. Rates can drop as low as 50-75% off full fare.

What Discounts Can You Get on VIA Rail Tickets Without a Membership?

Not everyone belongs to the CAA or Perkopolis, of course. There are some other ways to save a bit.

VIA Rail’s Tuesday Seat Sales

Starting at 7 a.m. Eastern Time, and continuing till 11.59 p.m. Eastern Time, VIA offers additional fare reductions on some routes for some seats. It’s basically a type of clearance sale on trains that aren’t full in the short-term. It doesn’t usually include good rates for trains that aren’t leaving in the next week or two.

Other VIA Rail Fare Specials

Be sure to keep an eye on the VIA website for other types of discounts.
For example, right now they are offering cheaper fares

  • for seniors
  • for children
  • for people buying a multi-use ticket for several trips between the same starting and ending points
  • for students at post-secondary schools

In the meantime, I enjoyed saving 10% using my CAA membership, especially since I bought that membership with reward points. Next time, I’ll try the Perkopolis rate if it’s still available.


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Have you found another way to get a good rate on VIA Rail? Please share your strategy with a comment.

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