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By Credit Card Company
RBC Visa Infinite Avion Review Posted on Oct 26, 2011

RBC Visa Infinite AvionOne 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.

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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 Travel™ World MasterCard ® , 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.

Care to comment? Do you agree or disagree with us? Tell us your experiences with the RBC Visa Infinite Avion on our blog

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

 

 

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