Wednesday, October 26, 2011

RBC Visa Infinite Avion Review

Below you will find the complete review of the card as seen on the main Rewards Canada site.

One of the first travel rewards cards to offer any flight anytime potential, the RBC Visa Avion has been a mainstay in the travel credit card market for many years. It is definitely one of the most popular cards in Canada and as such we give it the "Rewards Canada review" treatment as we expand our review process beyond newly released cards to include existing cards on the market.

Overview
The Infinite version of the RBC Visa Avion came a few years after the release of the original Visa Platinum Avion card from RBC. Adding extra insurance coverage, slightly better earning on travel purchases and some other benefits typically associated with the Infinite brand this card is the flagship of RBC's credit card portfolio. The card falls into our "Hybrid Card" category which means it gives you the best of both worlds in the sense of travel rewards credit cards in that it offers points that can be used towards any travel or you can covert those points into a frequent flyer program.

Costs
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion comes with a $120 primary card annual fee which is the same as most cards that offer a similar level of rewards and benefits. The card offers a 15,000 welcome point bonus which is enough for a short haul flight with a maximum value of $350. Supplementary cards run $50 which is the same for almost all of the Infinite/Platinum/Gold travel credit card offerings from other banks. The interest rate on the card is 19.99% which is also inline with most of the cards at this level.

Earning
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion earns 1 point for every dollar spent on the card for all purchases except travel. On travel purchases the card earns 1.25 points per dollar spent.

Redeeming
Being a 'Hybrid Card', the RBC Visa Infinite Avion has two primary forms of redemption, the first is redeeming the RBC Rewards points via RBC for travel, merchandise and more and the second is transferring those RBC Rewards Points to one of three frequent flyer programs. While you can redeem your points for virtually any travel via RBC Rewards travel the card provides the best return when you redeem for flights via the Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule. The schedule which is similar to a Frequent Flyer redemption chart sets point limits for flights to various regions such as Short Haul (neighbouring province/state), Long Haul, Europe, Asia etc. Unlike a frequent flyer program howvever the rewards are not tied to one airline, you can pretty much book any airline or seat in economy class via RBC Rewards Travel as long as the actual cost of the flight falls under the dollar limit for each region. For example, a short haul flight will cost 15,000 RBC Reward Points for a ticket with a maximum dollar amount of $350. If the ticket costs less then $350 you still have to redeem 15,000 points, if it goes over then you have to redeem the 15,000 points and then you can redeem 100 points per dollar for every dollar over the region dollar limit. The dollar limitation per region is based on the base ticket price and does not include taxes and fees. Those taxes and fees can either be paid for with RBC Rewards points at the 100 points per dollar rate or with your credit card. In addition to be able to take advantage of the Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule rates you have to book your flights at 14 days in advance otherwise you have to redeem at the 100 points per dollar rate. In general if you do use the Air Travel Redemption Schedule you can get a rate of return anywhere from 2 to 2.33% if your ticket comes out at the maximum price level, anything below or above the maximum price level your rate of return diminishes. It does appear that sometime in the near future you will be able to redeem your RBC Rewards Points for any travel via Travelocity.ca. This appears to be RBC's answer to cards like the American Express Gold Rewards Card, Capital One Aspire, TD Infinite First Class and Diners Club which offer the ability to book any travel how you like,when you like and from whom you like. Without knowing more, at this time it is hard to determine whether this will be a good option or not as you will still be forced to either book via RBC Rewards Travel or Travelocity, so still not as wide ranging as the other cards plus in my personal experience I have Travelocity.ca to be more expensive on occastion for hotels and vacation package then say Expedia.ca

The other main option for redemption with the RBC Visa Infinite Avion is converting your RBC Rewards points to a frequent flyer program. To convert you have to be an Avion cardholder (non-Avion RBC cardholders cannot convert their RBC Rewards points) and a member in either the American Airlines AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club (soon to be Avios) or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles program. All three programs are free to join and once you are a member you can transfer your RBC Rewards points on a 1:1 basis with a minimum of 10,000 points per transfer for BA or CX, 5,000 for AA. One of the features that has made this card stand out with frequent flyers and in our credit card rankings is the semi-annual 50% transfer bonus to British Airways. This recurring offer which has been around for many years can make really good use of your points if you are willing to abide the rules of a frequent flyer program. Why is the bonus offer so good? Take for example a redemption of 100,000 RBC Reward Points, you would recieve 150,000 Avios Points which is enough for three economy class tickets from Canada to Europe on British Airways. The same three tickers would require at least 195,000 RBC Reward points if you redeemed via RBC Rewards.

Features and Benefits
The RBC Visa Infinite Avion comes with a whole host of features and benefits, the majority of which are standard for the Infinite brand of Visa cards. It has the standard Travel Accident, Flight Delay, Lost Baggage and Car Rental insurance, however it is miissing one that a few of the card's competitors have: Trip Cancellation. While I am not a huge fan of Trip Cancellation Insurance due to the heavy restrictions that is usually carries, it can be the tipping point for some people in choosing a card. The card does include out-of-province/country medical insurance which is nice to have. A question that does come up a lot in the emails I receive is medical coverage for those over the age of 65, the Visa Infinite Avion offers 3 days coverage for those over 65. It's not the most offered in the market but it also not the least as some cards do not provide coverage over 65. One insurance benefit it does have is Hotel Burglary insurance, in fact only RBC and American Express offer this benefit on their premium cards.

What is good about this card
The Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule is generally a good feature of this card particularily when you can book tickets at or near the maximum dollar levels in each category which can translate into a 2 to 2.33% rate of return on your spending but it does have some limitations (see below). Also see our Travel Anywhere card chart for an idea of how much you have to spend to redeem for tickets. The 1.25 points on all travel purchases is also nice bonus although not a deal breaker when compared to some other cards. By far, the best thing about this card is the semi-annual transfer bonus to British Airways, if taken advantage of properly, Visa Infinite Avion cardholders can see returns well in excess of 10% on their spending if they redeem for Business or First Class flights via British Airways.

What is not so good about this card
The limited flexibility of the Air Travel Redemption schedule is probably the biggest drawback with this card. While you can virtually book any flight, you can lose on your rate of return if the price goes over or is well under the maximum limit plus add in the fact you have to book at least 14 days out the get the good redemption rates makes the card less flexible then cards like the American Express Gold Rewards Card or TD First Class Infinite Visa. The issue of taxes and fees also comes up as you can only redeem points at a 100 to $1 ratio (a 1% return) versus 1.5% on the TD First Class, 1.7% on Diners Club or up to 2% on American Express Gold Rewards card. You are also limited in your booking options as you have to use the RBC Rewards Travel centre or soon Travelocity.ca, again when compared to the cards above it is a lot less flexible then them.

Conclusion
This mainstay in the Canadian travel rewards credit card market is a decent card and I would actually give it an above average score based primarily on the British Airways Transfer bonus. In all other regards, the card is in the middle of the pack in terms of earning and burning. There are cards that offer more flexibilty in terms of redeeming points in the 'Any Flight, Anytime" marketing category but when used properly the RBC Visa Infinite Avion card can achieve returns of 2 to 2.33% which is higher then most of the cards it competes against, but the key word is "used properly" which means redeeming for tickets at or near the maximum dollar value in each category. So if you are looking for a good hybrid card and can make the most of the Air Travel Redemption schedule, are a frequent British Airways (or oneworld alliance) flyer, or a RBC customer who wants a good card from their bank, then the RBC Visa Infinite Avion is a good choice for you.

Related Links:
RBC Visa Infinite Avion on RBCRoyalbank.com
Rewards Canada's Canadian Travel Credit Card Comparison including the RBC Visa Infinite Avion

Other cards to consider if you are looking at this card:
American Express Gold Rewards Card
BMO World Elite Master Card
Capital One Aspire Travel World MasterCard
CIBC Aventura World MasterCard
CUETS Platinum Class MasterCard
Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard
TD First Class Infinite Visa

30 comments:

  1. One of the biggest drawbacks to this card is the fact that fuel surcharges are NOT covered as part of the cost of the ticket. Often this can make up the largest part of the price of the ticket, meaning that if you want to buy a ticket for $1200, and $600 of that is fuel-surcharge + other taxes and fees, your points (a tidy amount) will only cover $600 of the cost. Perhaps most egregious is that RBC Avion will do this even for airlines that advertise that they do NOT change fuel surcharges (or list this with online fares), resulting in a shocking (and costly) surprise when trying to book tickets. In my opinion, this drops the return on this card by nearly 50% in many cases, making it far less compelling.

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  2. Just tried to book a flight with my Avion points, not impressed with the pricing they have. A flight to Europe through RBC Rewards has a max price of $1300. I checked KLM airlines and they had a flight for $1425 including taxes. I expected that I would pay the extra $125 and we're good right? Well no actually, according to RBC rewards their pricing does not always reflect the latest discounts so I would have to pay an extra $500 per ticket. So in reality RBC ticket price is $1800 while KLM Price is $1425 for the exact same flight.

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  3. I'm ready to dump my Avion card. I thought using Travelocity to book my own tickets would be an improvement, but a week ago they stopped showing any flights from Air Transat or Condor (perhaps other airlines too.) I'm trying to book tickets to Europe but the Fuel Surcharges cost more than the tickets. In reality a ticket to Europe will cost 65 + 55 = 110K for each return flight. Buying a ticket with Air Transat using 1 mile =$1 would be cheaper, but that option is now gone - even if you call in (and as of April 1 pay $30 per ticket booking fee.) This card only gives a 1% return - I'm switching to Capital One's World Mastercard.

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  4. Some other options to consider are also the TD Travel Visas, American Express Gold Rewards Card and when it becomes available again the Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard. These other options provide the utmost in flexibility for these whole suite of 'Travel Anywhere' credit cards.

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  5. I've had my Avion card for a numbe of years and been fairly satisfied with it, it seemed on par with the other cards out there. I am now reconsidering. I just booked a flight and had very bad service. The woman I spoke with was unpleasant, unhelpful and ignored my questions. It seemed she just wanted me off the phone as quickly as possible. When it came to seat selection, I was told to go to the WestJet site to do this. Inconvenient, but sure I can handle that. But the info she gave me was incorrect. I wasted time trying to figure out how to do seat selection on the WestJet website and when I finally called WestJet, was told that it couldn't be done online after a booking (that was after waiting on hold another 10 minutes). Fortunately WestJet has amazing service, got my seat selected and sent me on my day with a smile. I've complained to the RBC travel rewards center, but the whole situation wasted enough of my time and was such a bad customer service experience that it's made me consider changing cards. The RBC travel center did confirmed the fact that their center can no longer select seats (which it could do before) since they changed systems. So from now on, i'll have to redeem my points and book my flight, then go to the airline carrier to do a seat seletion. Yup, that's some great service.

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  6. Anonymous February 2012

    We have had the Avion card for many years and in past years have booked flights without any problem. This past month we had nothing but trouble....agents that cut us off and never returned the call thus resulting in a much higher ticket price when we called back. After about 8 calls reaching agents from Halifax to Vancouver we finally got an explanation....the ticket prices change drastically during conversations. I have complained about the service and the inconvenience of my time spent and the need to reorganize our flight to an earlier time to get the price we were first offered. We have now switched to another card and will cancel our Avion.

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    Replies
    1. I've just had a similar experience speaking to an RBC "Travel Agent"....and was referred to the RBC website to book the trip online - to save another $30 charge if done on the phone. The website offers no help at all as to WHERE I'm supposed to be able to book a trip. I've tried for over an hour to find a spot on the website where I can do this. What kind of service is RBC offering????

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  7. Hi..... I have noticed and am alarmed to discover that on the RBC Avion Card web site and all pages (save but one), there is no longer a mention of the transfer of Points to the Frequent Flyer programs of the participating airlines.

    Telephone enquiries to RBC have be met with "surprise" on the part of the person answering to not knowing a thing about any changes. Efforts to learn why the change on the website have not produced ANY results.

    It might be only a co-incidence but it seems to coincide with the announcement of the revise RBC British Airways Card.

    Might there be any news that anyone out there has heard or read?

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  8. As far as I know RBC has not removed the airline transfer feature from the Avion cards. They would lost a lot of customers especially if they pulled BA and the 50% bonus that is run every 6 months or so. However with that being said, RBC has launched a new version of their BA card and they probably want to try to steer people to that card if they are interested in the BA Avios points instead of the Avion. The bread and butter for the Avion cards is not the exchanges to airline programs (these have lower profit margins) than their redemption schedule for redeeming flights via their travel agency because RBC makes money off of all the bookings (airlines, hotel, car rental commissions) plus if you call in to redeem you are subject to a booking fee. I would imagine this is another reason of burying those details of the airline mileage transfers as RBC wants to be able to make the most money possible on these cards.

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  9. just had a really painful experience with Avion - changing one segment of a four-part journey cost $500 because they book the entire trip as one unit. So even though the trip cost was still well under the cash amount allocated for the journey, the fact that I had amended the trip meant I had to pay $400 fare difference + $100 'change fee' + all the taxes, surcharges etc. all in all, I'd been better off buying it myself. switching to a new card v. soon.

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  10. Does anyone have an opinion on the redemption value (good or bad value?) if one chooses to redeem them for shoppers drug mart points?

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  11. I have both Avion and BMO World cards. I went with BMO as I already had an AirMiles BMO card and just switched programs.
    To show the difference between Avion and BMO I just booked a flight from Regina to Comox and then Nanaimo to Regina.
    The ticket came to 573.95 plus 113.66 taxes and fees. I had to use the agent as it was a multiple flight not returning from the same airport. The total BMO points were 36190 to pay for all costs.
    I called Avion and checked out the same flight at the same cost. I would have been 35000 Avion points for the fare plus 11366 for the taxes and fees for a total of 46366.
    This is why I have switched to BMO. I would love to stay with the Avion but until they give a competitive reward point redemption I will stick with BMO. BMO also offers a bonus on car rental with National that I take advantage of and we are looking forward to using the Priority Passes when I don't fly AC as I am a SE MM member.

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  12. I want to redeem points to fly to the Cook Isls, and am at 84,000 points vs the 100,000 required. A friend is willing to transfer the points to me, but Avion says this cannot be done.... any suggestions?

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    Replies
    1. Other than spending some more money on your cards I cannot really provide any suggestions to get to that 100,000 level. If you can $1000 more on your card you could always redeem the 85,000 and purchase points to top up as RBC allows you to that when redeeming:

      "RBC Avion cardholders can purchase additional points to use towards air travel. You must have at least half of the required points for your desired zone booking in order to purchase additional points. The minimum amount of points to purchase is 1,000 and maximum is 15,000, and every 1,000 points costs $40 plus applicable taxes."

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  13. I've had my Avion card for a number of years and planned on using 130000 of my 150000 points for 2 tickets to europe. With a maximum value of $1300 per ticket and a ticket price of about $1250 each I thought I would be in good shape. .... Not! The flight from Vancouver will cost 130000 points and $1080 in taxes and fees.
    So I booked a flight to europe leaving from Seattle. Cost 130000 points and $180 in taxes.
    So long Avion card. I'll just keep the Rewards Preferred card.

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  14. Unsatisfactory experience. Booked one return flight for myself Toronto - Costa Rica with Aeroplan points, tried to get equivalent for my wife using Avion points. The trip was Air Canada there, USAir back. RBC Rewards had the Toronto to CR leg(cost 38,756 points one way), but not the return portion on US Air. RBC Rewards told me to book through an agent and they would reimburse. Their reimbursement would cover only a bit over $400 of the$624.99 fare, and cost me additional 45,000 points. They said I had to book the entire return trip through an agent to be reimbursed, and I don't remember that wording in the directions I was given (their CSR's facility with the language wasn't that good anyway). When I asked whether they had heard the recording of our conversation, they referred to notes covering that exchange. I ended up paying the entire fare myself, and not using another 45000 points.

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  15. I have just had another experience that shows how far Avion has fallen behind BMO World Elite and others.
    I tried to book 2 one way tickets for my Grandsons from Calgary to Saskatoon in August.Because the Avion schedule only allows a return trip it forced me to use the 1% redemption. Therefore a total tickets price of $407 meant 40700 Avion points.
    The same tickets with BMO were just under 22000 points! That meant an additional $18000 in spending for the same ticket.
    The Avion model of short haul/long haul etc as well as return trips is about 15 years old! I have no idea how this card can be rated so high. Maybe at one time but not now.
    I am just running my account down and not using the card but it is a challenge because of the value I am not getting.
    Anyone else feel the same? I would stay if they got up to the 1.9 or 2% return that would include fees and taxes like the others.

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    Replies
    1. I feel the same. I just left the avion card for the same reason. Tired of paying the taxes seperate. Also never getting the full value from the points. I took about 7 free flights from winnipeg to vancouver. To buy the ticket is around $500 with tax however I use $750 worth of points each time and pay taxes above that. I have gone to Capital One myself $120 for two cards is great. Along with insurances like trip cancelation, extra with the avion and bonus renewal amd sign up. Just to many other options out there. I even wrote a letter to RBC in short they said no changes in the forseable future. Until they change and update there program I am gone.

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  16. Just got my avion, it appears that I am doomed with what I read about the reviews here...Its a shame that a big bank like RBC will allow things to get bad like this!

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    Replies
    1. You may not be doomed but to make the most of your card you'll want to leave some flexibility in your booking options (or take advantage of the 50% bonus on transferring RBC Rewards Points to British Airways Avios when the offer comes around)

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  17. Consumers "BEWARE" the baggage delay insurance is NOT as it appears...my luggage was left in Rome and on trying to claim baggage insurance.. it ONLY covers your baggage while on Vacation. IT DOES NOT COVER your baggage on your return flight to YOUR HOME LOCATION. I am so sorry i did not pay for my flight on CIBC infinite aerogold Visa..which covers you until your final destination..
    And ..YES ..the customer service is even worse in trying to understand. My VERY LAST time for booking flights with RBC Infinite Vias ..thank the lord for other cards like CIBC AEROGOLD VISA

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  18. The 14 days redemption schedule makes this card very unappealing. 5 or 6 times have had technical issues booking on the last day before the deadline of 14 days passed and had to spend over an hour in every occasion trying to redeem at the regular rate.

    I highly recommend going with the TD Infinite or CBC Aventura cards over this card. Much better redemption schedules.

    Major plus for this card- the ability to transfer points and upgrade classes for British Airways and Cathy Pacific

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  19. Just applied for the Avion card but after reading all of the reviews I
    am nervous

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    Replies
    1. In general the card is still a great option, it is just best to know some of issues beforehand so you are prepared when you book your travel etc.!

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  20. I have about 250,000 Avion points and plan to book 4 tickets to Europe next year. However I am trying to figure out the cheapest option: 1. use Avion points, 2) transfer to British Airways with 50% bonus or 3)transfer to AA?

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  21. Are you planning on traveling in Economy Class or Business Class? You'll need 260,000 points for 4 economy class tickets via Avion (max value of tickets is $1,300 before taxes and fees). With BA you will only need 160,000 to 200,000 Avios + taxes and fees depending on where you live in Canada to fly to the UK, you'd need more to Continental Europe (this is for economy class) so you would only need to convert around 135,000 Avion points maximum leaving a lot of points for you to use another time. With AA you'll need anywhere from 160,000 to 480,000 AAdvantage Miles total but more than likely 240,000 miles for the four tickets and if you are flying on AA metal your taxes and fees won't be very high. That also means you'll need more Avion points however. If you are planning on flying to the UK then the transfer to BA is probably your best option (subject to availability of course!), to continental Europe your best bet is AA but you'll have to transfer in the U.S. on your flights. If you want the utmost in flexibility go via Avion for direct flights etc.

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  22. I am so frustrated... I always pay for advanced seat selection and when I went to redeem my points with RBC for flights to Vancouver, I also pre-selected my seats. What I didn't realize, is that even when you 'select' your seats on the screen and receive a confirmation from RBC travel that you have seats selected, this means you have only "requested" those seats. They are not actually 'confirmed' as the RBC rep just told me. Moral of the story, she says that a customer must go to the specific airline and pre-pay the seats there. Hmmm..... Strange how a travel company cannot provide the service of selecting seats for their customers. Very upsetting as my kids will be separated on the oversold flight since their seats were not pre-paid for. I am getting rid of this card, I feel as though I have been completely duped and have been misled. Don't get caught in the same situation as me.

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  23. Try asking some one to switch after you get on. When that's happened to me I just have asked passengers if they WANT to sit next to my unaccompanied 5 year old :-)

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  24. We had to cancel our trip in Feb due to an emergency and now wanted to rebook new flights with RBC Rewards as we had credit with WestJet. Called them, first waited for about 20 minutes for an agent and after going over everything with her, she hung up on me instead of putting me on hold. I waited to see if she would call us back. Nothing. Called back and spent over two hours on the phone with a rep to book the new flights. She was on hold with her "support desk" for almost an hour. Our itinerary was supposed to be emailed within 2 hours. 24 hours later, nothing. Called again, spent another half hour waiting for an agent only to be told he cannot find us in the system and will have to call us back after he calls his "support desk"....no phone call back yet. Worst customer service and no one seems to know anything and blames the airline for issues with rebooking. Also, please note that if you have to cancel and have a credit with WestJet through RBC Rewards, if your new booking costs less than the initial flight, you will loose the difference. The rep told me it was WestJet's new rule that a credit is a one time use only.(I will call WestJet and verify) We've been using RBC Avion Visa and Rewards for years but the service for the last few bookings has been getting worse. We have 4 Avion Visas for business and they will all be cancelled shortly. Not worth the fees and the high interest.

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  25. RBC card is good and it's service is also great like Travel Accident, Flight Delay, Lost Baggage and Car Rental insurance that is good to know. And this card have limited drawback. ANd lots benefits with respect to others. I always prefer cheap flight tickets to Winnipeg and this card help me a lot while traveling.

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