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This post comes to us courtesy of a new Canadian TPG Contributor named Ola who tells us about the ins and outs of one of the best credit cards on the market, RBC’s Visa Infinite Avion card, for you Canadian readers looking to maximize your credit card strategy.
Brian talked in a previous post about the Best Canadian Cards for Miles and Points, and he mentioned RBC’s (Royal Bank of Canada’s) Visa Infinite Avion. I personally carry the Visa Infinite Avion because I was already an RBC customer and was looking for a card that would maximize the value of my points for travel. Here is a thorough review of the card based on my experiences which will cover earning and redeeming options, the card’s main benefits and drawbacks, and which consumers the card is good for.
As one of the RBC “Avion” brand cards, the RBC Visa Infinite Avion is one of the most popular travel cards in Canada thanks to the many redemption options it offers. The card has a $120 annual fee, and $50 for additional cards and is aimed at consumers with CAD$60,000 minimum personal income or CAD$100,000 household.
The Visa Infinite Avion is both a fixed-value points-earning and a transferable-points credit card. As Brian mentioned in this post, fixed-value cards are best for travelers who need the flexibility to book an economy class ticket on any flight with no blackout dates, just like paying in cash, and for travelers who value elite status since you still earn it on flights and hotels booked using them.
Transferable points are best for travelers who want to book business class travel with relatively low amount of miles and want to use their points on Oneworld alliance partners in this case.
-Earn 1 RBC Rewards point for every $1 spent using your card.
-Earn 25% more on all travel-related purchases (rental cars, hotels, etc.).
-Convert Esso Extra (gasoline) points to RBC points for free with a minimum of 2,500 Esso Extra points per transaction.
Redemption options fall into three categories:
-Merchandise: Merchandise, Gift Cards/Certificates, RBC Financial Rewards® vouchers, Charitable Donations, Experiences by RBC Rewards through the RBC rewards website. Points’ value varies depending on what you redeem for. Most merchandise from the RBC catalogue has a best value for points of 100 points per dollar ratio (1 point per cent). The RBC Visa Gift card, on the other hand, has the worst value for points (170 points per dollar ratio).
-Gas: Convert your points to Esso Extra with a minimum of 1,500 RBC points per transaction, and then in increments of 300 RBC points afterwards. Every 300 RBC points convert to 500 Esso Extra points, so 1,500 RBC points will get you 2,500 Esso Extra points, which can be redeemed for free gas, car washes and more. You can redeem as low as 1,800 Esso extra points for a $10 Esso Gas gift card. Again, not the best redemption (even worse than the RBC Visa Gift card), but if you need those gas rewards, this could be the option for you.
Transferable Option: Convert RBC points to one of the three participating frequent flyer programs: British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and American Airlines AAdvantage Miles on a 1:1 ratio, with a minimum of 5,000 points per transfer for AA, 10,000 for BA or CX. This feature is exclusive to the Avion brand cards at RBC.
Fixed-Rate Option: Redeem for virtually any travel, including hotels, car rentals, package holidays, cruises, tours, and air travel as well as flight taxes via RBC Rewards travel at a rate of 100 points per dollar. You can redeem by calling RBC Rewards Travel by phone, or using the online booking system, powered by Travelocity, or through Carlson Wagonlit Travel. The nice thing about Carlson Wagonlit Travel is that you Earn bonus RBC Rewards points when you book travel using instantly redeemed RBC Rewards points.
The Hybrid: Redeem for air travel using the Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule, which assigns points on a fixed-rate system for flights to various regions such as short haul, long haul, Europe, etc. as long as the cost of the flight falls under the dollar limit for each region. This is where one of the program’s true value propositions lies.
For example, a short-haul flight costs 15,000 points for any economy class ticket that costs under $350. If the ticket costs more than that amount, you can pay the rest using 100 points per dollar. So theoretically, you could use your 15,000 points to get as close to the $350 maximum as possible, at which ratio, your points would be worth 2.33 cents each. Not bad. In order to redeem your points for Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule you can only book online or over the phone with RBC Rewards Travel as you would using the fixed-rate option.
-Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule: You can get a rate of return anywhere from 2 to 2.33 cents per mile if your ticket is at the maximum price level, anything below or above the maximum price level will lower the value of your points. For example, a ticket to the Maldives that costs $2,000 can be redeemed for 100,000 points using the redemption schedule (2 cents per point), compared to 200,000 on other eligible RBC Reward Visas. However, a ticket to Egypt that costs $1,200 would be redeemed for 100,000 points as well, yielding only a value of 1.2 cents per point. We’ll get into the Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule in more detail in a later post.
-Semi-Annual Transfer Bonus to British Airways: This is a recurring offer of 50% transfer bonus that has been around for many years. If you are looking for low-price business or first class flights with British Airways and are willing to abide by their rules, you can make really good use of your points; for Visa Infinite Avion user, it equals a 10% rate of return on their spending. For instance, you can convert 100,000 RBC points to 150,000 Avios Points, which is enough for three economy class tickets from eastern Canada to Europe on British Airways.These three tickets would cost 195,000 points (65,000 each) if redeemed via Avion’s redemption schedule.
-Partnership with Esso Extra: The ability to convert Esso Extra points to RBC points can earn you RBC points much faster while doing everyday shopping. That can almost double the points you earn for each dollar. I’ll get to the partnership with Esso Extra in more detail in another post.
-15,000 welcome points, enough for a short haul flight.
-No expiration, no limits. Points don’t expire, there’s no cap on the miles you can earn, and there is no minimum spend requirement.
-No blackout periods or seating restrictions. Using the points is like using cash.
-Elite status. Unlike most co-branded airline cards, when you redeem RBC Visa Infinite Avion points on flights or hotels, you still earn airline miles towards elite status.
-Concierge service. The card has a Visa Signature Concierge service to help you plan your trip and make any reservations you need.
-Premium insurance such as emergency medical and protection for your trip, hotel, rental vehicle, and purchases.
– Luxury Visa Infinite benefits such as first-in-line service for exclusive events and hotel and dining exclusives via www.visainfinite.ca.
-You must book at least 14 days in advance when using the Air Travel Redemption Schedule. Otherwise, you can book using the fixed-rate value of one cent per point.
-Redemption schedule is only good for economy class tickets. However, you can redeem your points up to the allowable Maximum Ticket Price from the Air Travel Redemption Schedule and then redeem your points at 100 points = $1.00 CAD for the business class value, though that could be a very expensive proposition!
-Paying taxes at a rate of 100 points per dollar (a 1% return) is pretty low if you compare it to other cards such as TD First Class (1.5%), Diners Club (1.7%), or American Express Gold Rewards card (up to 2%).
-Limited flexibility when it comes to booking anywhere you want; you can only book through RBC Rewards Travel (by phone or online), or Carlson Wagonlit Travel. The online booking system at RBC Rewards Travel, however, is powered by Travelocity, which means that you get the same deals that you find on Travelocity.ca and you can book them instantly.
Bottom Line While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.
RBC Visa Infinite Avion would be a good choice for you if you can make the most of the Air Travel Redemption Schedule or need the flexibility fixed-rate points give you, or if are a frequent British Airways (or Oneworld alliance) flyer who can take advantage of the semi-annual transfer bonuses.
While this premium card has one of the highest annual fees on the market, it has several valuable perks that could make it worthwhile, depending on your travel patterns. These include a $200 annual airline rebate, lounge access, free Hilton Gold status and free Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status.