Canadians love earning credit card rewards, so it’s no surprise that some of the largest programs out there today are run by Canada’s big 6 banks. In recent months, I’ve reviewed the rewards programs offered by both Scotiabank and BMO. Today it’s RBCs turn. In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about RBC Rewards and the Avion program. I’ll also show you how to get the most out of your rewards points.
How to Earn RBC Rewards Points
Since this is a credit card rewards program, you’ll need to use one of 6 personal RBC credit cards to earn points. They also have a couple of business credit cards included in the rewards program. Here are the three most popular cards, at a glance:
RBC Rewards+ Visa: No Annual Fee, $1=1 point on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases.
Signature RBC Rewards Visa: $39 annual fee, $1=1 point on all purchases.
RBC Avion Visa Infinite (Best Pick): $120 annual fee, $1=1 point on all purchases, +25% on eligible travel spending. In addition, RBC Avion Rewards are worth more when redeemed for travel, which is a major distinguishing feature of this card, and something I’ll get into in more detail further down.
RBC Points Value
If you’re wondering how much your RBC Rewards points are worth, it’s a bit of a tricky question to answer. That’s because the RBC Rewards points dollar value varies, depending on how you plan to use them. For example, to get $100 of value when using points for travel, you’ll need to redeem 10,000 points. But to get a $100 value as a Visa statement credit, it’ll cost you more than 17,000 points. Generally speaking, the best value comes when you redeem the points for travel.
I should point out that, throughout this article, I’ll compare the value of a single RBC rewards point, for different redemption options. This will be expressed as cents per point, or CPP. For example, you receive 1 cent per point when you redeem points for travel, but an RBC Visa statement credit will garner you approximately .58 cents per point (CPP).
What Can I Do with My RBC Rewards Points?
While many RBC customers will use the points towards travel, there are a variety of ways in which you can redeem RBC Rewards points, and I have to say, a couple of the options are pretty interesting:
- Travel bookings directly through RBC Rewards
- RBC Visa statement credit
- Financial Services
- Gift Cards
- Charitable Donations
RBC Travel Rewards
Redeeming your points for travel through RBC Rewards can be a bit confusing. What you need to understand is that there are two levels of points redemption. Through the regular RBC Rewards program, you can use your points to book travel anytime, anywhere. RBC has its own travel portal, where you can book flights, hotels, car rentals, even cruises and vacation packages.
When you redeem your RBC points, you’ll receive 1 cent per point, or CPP. So, 10,000 points will be equivalent to $100 worth of travel, which is pretty good.
One downside is that you can’t book the travel, and then redeem your points against the balance after the fact, which is a feature of some other travel rewards programs.
Avion cardholders receive more value for the points they redeem towards travel, by booking through something called the Air Travel Redemption Schedule. I’ll explain exactly how that works further down, but if you book wisely, you can earn up to 2.33 CPP with Avion, almost 2.5X the regular redemption value.
Statement Credit (RBC Credit Card)
If you’re carrying a balance on your RBC credit card, you can redeem your points as a statement credit. It’s not the best use of your points, as you’ll only get about 58 cents per point, but if it saves you from paying card interest rates, it might be worth it.
Financial Services (Investments, Mortgage or Line of Credit)
You can convert RBC Rewards points into credits, which you can use to add to your investment accounts with RBC or apply as a payment against your RBC mortgage, or line of credit. This is a really creative use of points, and at a CPP of .83 cents, it offers a decent redemption value.
Merchandise (Including Apple & Best Buy Products)
You can choose from a huge selection of merchandise through the RBC rewards portal. The point value will vary depending on the product, however. For example, the point value for a Hamilton Beach Iron was .94 cents per point, while you’ll only get about .65 cents per point when you redeem for an Apple iPad. Still, if travel isn’t your thing, or you’re wanting an affordable way to buy gifts for family members or friends, this is a great way to use your RBC rewards. I should point out that your points won’t cover the cost of sales tax.
Unlike merchandise, all gift cards are of equal value, when it comes to the number of RBC Rewards points you’ll need to redeem. Choose from a selection of gift cards at over 60 leading retailers, including Amazon, Starbucks, and The Keg.
Make a Charitable Donation
This is a unique option for spending your rewards points. When you donate to one of 4 designated charities, each point will be worth 1 cent, which is favourable to Visa statement credits and merchandise. Not only that, but you’ll get a tax receipt in return. Currently, the four charities that are supported by RBC Rewards, are Hope Air; Own The Podium; Ronald McDonald House Charities; and The David Foster Foundation.
RBC Avion Points Conversion
Avion cardholders can transfer points for travel on other airlines:
- American Airlines – 10,000 RBC points = 7,000 AAdvantage miles
- Cathay Pacific – 10,000 RBC points = 10,000 Asia Miles
- British Airways – 10,000 RBC points = 10,000 Avios miles
In addition to the RBC Avion points conversion, RBC allows cardholders to convert all RBC rewards points to the following programs:
- Westjet Rewards – 10,000 points = $100 Westjet dollars
- HBC Rewards – 10,000 points = 20,000 HBC points ($100 value)
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card
The best way to maximize the RBC Rewards program is with the RBC VISA Infinite Avion credit card. You can earn rewards with other cards, but this one is the most generous. Here’s a full list of features & benefits of this card:
- $120 annual fee
- Welcome bonus of 15,000 points
- 25 rewards points/dollar spent on travel
- 1 rewards point/dollar on all other purchases
- Earn 20% more rewards points and 20% more PetroPoints on Petro-Canada purchases
- .03/L discount on fuel purchases at Petro-Canada locations (must link your credit card to your PetroPoints account)
When compared to the premium travel credit card offerings at other financial institutions, the points earning capability of the RBC Avion Infinite is pretty standard, in other words, it doesn’t stand out.
But when you consider the added value you get when you redeem points, especially if you’re an RBC customer, the rewards can really add up with this card. One way to maximize your rewards under the Avion program is by using booking travel using the RBC’s Air Travel Redemption Schedule.
Understanding the Air Travel Redemption Schedule
Avion members can use the Air Travel Redemption Schedule (ATRS) to get more bang for their buck when they redeem points for travel. For example, under the regular program (available to all RBC Rewards members), 10,000 points would give you $100 off of the price of an airplane ticket, or a hotel. Pretty straightforward.
But using the Air Travel Redemption Schedule, flight categories are priced at a set number of points. For example, any short haul flight (between neighbouring provinces or states) would only require 15,000 points. The maximum price of a flight in this category is $350, so in that case, 15,000 points is worth $350. Under the regular program, 15,000 points is only worth $150. That’s an increase of 233%. If the flight was more than $350, you could cover the excess at the regular ratio of 100 points = $1.
Here’s a snapshot of the full Air Travel Redemption Schedule:
- 15,000 points = up to $350, or 2.33 cents per point (CCP)
Includes Short-haul flights (Canada & US, between neighbouring provinces or states)
- 35,000 points = up to $750, or 2.1 CCP
Includes long-haul flights within Canada and the US (excl. Alaska & Hawaii)
- 45,000 points = up to $900, or 2 CCP
Flights from Western Canada, to Mexico, Alaska Hawaii, Caribbean, and Central America
- 55,000 points = $1100, or 2 CCP
Flights from Eastern Canada to Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean, and Central America
- 65,000 points = $1300, or 2 CCP
Flights to Europe (from a major Canadian or U.S. hub)
As you can see, booking through the Air Travel Redemption Schedule can really increase the value of RBC Rewards points, which is why having an Avion Visa card is so beneficial.
A Travel Alternative – The RBC Westjet World Elite Mastercard
If you love earning credit card rewards for travel, but the RBC/Avion Rewards program isn’t cutting it for you, may I suggest the RBC Westjet World Elite Mastercard as an attractive alternative. I happen to have this card myself, and it’s considered to be one of the best travel rewards cards in Canada.
In my opinion, 3 particular features of this card make it really stand out:
- $250 Welcome Bonus – When you sign up for the RBC World Elite, you receive $250 Westjet dollars, which can be redeemed for travel through Westjet. It’s a generous bonus that’ll have you earning free flights in no time.
- Annual Companion Voucher – Every year, cardholders receive a companion voucher at a greatly reduced rate when they book a round trip flight, either within Canada and the continental U.S. ($99), Mexico, the Caribbean or Hawaii ($299), or other international destinations ($399). It’s a fantastic discount that I take advantage of every year.
- Free checked bag for the primary cardholder and up to 8 guests – With airlines charging for just about everything these days, free checked bags can add up to a huge savings over time. Imagine a family with 2 or 3 kids not having to pay a cent to check their luggage on a flight.
Features of the WestJet RBC World Elite Mastercard:
- $250 WestJet Dollar sign up offer
- Annual companion voucher from $99 CAD
- First checked bag free for the primary cardholder and up to 8 guests
- Earn 2% back when booking WestJet flights or vacation packages
- Earn 1.5% back on everyday purchases
- Preferred travel insurance options
- Save on fuel and receive bonus Petro-Points through Petro Canada
- Multiply your rewards when you book with your Mastercard, and link to your WestJet Rewards ID. Up to 10% in total credit.
- Standard 19.99% purchase interest rate
- $119 annual fee, $59 for additional cardholder
For more information on the RBC World Elite Mastercard, check out my in-depth review of the Westjet Rewards program.
Is RBC Rewards the Right Program for Me?
If you’ve read this far, there’s a good chance you’re either looking to join a loyalty rewards program for the first time, or you already belong to at least one, and want to know how RBC Rewards compares to what you already have. The easy answer is that this program is best suited for existing RBC customers. Of course, since RBC is Canada’s largest bank, that will apply to an awful lot of people.
What I like about this program are the many ways in which you can earn and redeem points. The travel benefits are, of course, the most valuable, but RBC also entices members with gift cards and merchandise, as well as some unique redemption options, ie. investment credits, and charitable donations.
If you love to travel, the RBC Avion Visa Infinite card is the best pick. Otherwise, there are better travel rewards programs out there. Overall, RBC Rewards is a comprehensive program that millions of RBC customers can benefit from, and is comparable to similar offerings from Canada’s other major banks.