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Canadian RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card Review

by on May 14, 2012 · 21 comments

in Canada, Credit Cards, RBC Rewards, TPG Contributors, Visa

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.

Overview
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.

Earning Options
-Earn 1 RBC Rewards point for every $1 spent using your card.

-Earn 25% more on all travel-related purchases (rental cars, hotels, etc.).

-Earn additional RBC Rewards points when you book travel with Carlson Wagonlit Travel or rent a vehicle at any participating Thrifty Car Rental locations in Canada.

-Convert Esso Extra (gasoline) points to RBC points for free with a minimum of 2,500 Esso Extra points per transaction.

Redemption Options
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.

-Travel:
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.

The Pros
-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.

Cons
-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
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.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Rewards Canada

    Wow looks like some parts of that review came straight from Rewards Canada’s review of the card:

    http://www.rewardscanada.ca/rbc-avion-review.html

  • The Points Guy

    This is original content. There are often similarities in card reviews because they cover the same topics and require a limited vocabulary of terms, but this post is not based on any others. If you feel differently, feel free to email us.

  • Stephan

    I have the Platinum Avion version of this card. Is there an advantage to switching to the Infinite Avion?version?

  • Rewards Canada

    The Infinite has more insurance benefits, the concierge service and the 1.25 points on all travel purchased vs. 1 point on the Platinum

  • The Points Guy

    Good question, any other readers have insight?

  • mevl

    This card used to give good value to Canadians when KLM hid their fuel surcharge in their fare. Now almost all flights to Europe cost 65K points and another $500 or more in taxes and fuel surcharges. Icelandair and Condor are the only exceptions I have found. I’ve had this card for year, but have switched to Capital One Aspire.

  • Ola Zeidan

    There are special benefits for visa infinite brand, you can find more details on http://www.visainfinite.ca/

    Also, in addition to the benefits mentioned in “Rewards Canada’s” reply, you get a minimum $5000 credit limit.

    Some of the Insurance benefits mentioned include: 15 day medical insurance if you’re under 65 years old and 3 day if you’re 65 or older, and trip interruption insurance.

    Mind you, there is no minimum requirement to be accepted for the Avion Platinum, but for the Avion Infinite there is a minimum of $60K personal income or $100K household income.

  • http://www.marriottgatewayonthefalls.com/ Smithdan

    I have this card and have got many points as rewards. All I can say that whenever you travel having a RBC Visa Infinite Avion is a must.

  • PRS12

    I am a Canadian who recently relocated to Denver and have 28,000 Avios points, 115K AA miles, and 39k BA miles (hopefully rising soon by 50k via Chase BA Visa offer). Also lots of Delta and Aeroplan miles. Future travel plans include Hawaii, France and continental US but not within the next 6 months. Would I be better off taking the current 20% transfer bonus from Avios to AA (expires June 15th) or waiting for the next Avios to BA 50% transfer bonus. When is the next BA transfer bonus expected?

  • PRS12

    Was just billed $120+$50 annual fee for Avion card and supplementary card. Decided to transfer to AA to get 20% bonus and close the account. Now that have Chase BA visa with no foreign transaction fees the Avion card is no longer needed.

  • Diana

    Correction with respect to the above, “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.”

    I didn’t like any of the options presented on Travelocity, so called RBC Avion Travel to find out the following, which I then did: you can book and pay directly on the airline’s website, then call RBC and they will refund your flight cost (excluding taxes) and deduct your points. We got 2 premium economy (woo hooo — 2 checked bags each! ) tickets to France for just under maximum flight cost of $1300 each. Was very easy and worked just as RBC said it would.

  • Marian VanLaar

    That’s good to know Diana. Thanks for passing this info on. Which airline did you choose, and how much were the taxes?

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  • Sue

    Can I change my BA Avios points back to RBC Avion, I converted them to BA earlier this year? We just tried to book business class tickets to the UK next summer and couldn’t get the dates we wanted.

  • John-Paul Cross

    I noticed that the Out of Province Medical Insurance is actually more generous on the RBC Cathay Pacific Card– 31 days to age 64 and 7 days afterward. Fewer points transfer options, but better medical coverage.

    Now if only there were a decent card without foreign transaction fees!

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  • Walkerforsale

    It is time for RBC to make adjustments to their “redemption schedule “. The last update was in the spring of 2009. Since then the costs of air travel has increased considerably. I find that the only time it is lucrative to use my points is when I travel at peek times such as thanksgiving , march break, and Christmas holidays . Any other times of the year you can usually find seat sales.

  • Stephnchuck

    I’m confused, we have enough points for one of us to travel, My spouse has the points and if we book a flight to London and back the 65,000 long haul points will be used to buy a ticket costing $620.taxes etcetera bring it up to $1251 but those taxes are not ticket prices, a long way from the $1300 the redemption schedule implies, why don’t they only charge points per dollar?

  • mikeincanada

    Just be careful which airline you book flights with. I just booked using points to London Gatwick. With Air Canada or BA the ticket price was about $600. Taxes and fees were $650 – so I would have paid $1300 extra for the 2 of us.
    With Iceland Air ticket price was $1000, taxes and fees $251. So we saved $800 between us by going through Reykjavik. It also gave us a chance to stop over there for 24 hours (no extra charge – except the hotel) and fit in a day tour.

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