Reader Q: How to Best Use RBC (Avion) Rewards

Reader Q: How to Best Use RBC (Avion) Rewards
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This is part of a series where I answer readers questions. This question comes from reader Alex and wants to know about how to get great value from his RBC Avion points before he closes the card.

 

The Skinny

Alex has a stash of RBC Rewards points that he received from spending on his RBC Avion card. He has 3 trips coming up for himself, his wife and 2 kids. This is how I would suggest to get the best value out of his RBC Rewards for his upcoming trips:

Route Suggestion Cost (Actual) Cost (RBC Rewards)
Toronto – Dallas Roundtrip Transfer RBC Rewards to British Airways Avios 20K British Airways Avios + $55 tax / person 13.3K RBC Rewards + $55 tax / person
Toronto – Chicago Roundtrip Transfer RBC Rewards to British Airways Avios 9K British Airways Avios + $55 tax / person 6K RBC Rewards + $55 tax / person
Toronto – Calgary Roundtrip Pay Revenue Ticket or use the Air Travel Schedule $675 ($485 fare + $190 taxes) / person 25K RBC Rewards + $190 tax / person

Here are my suggestions on the best ways to travel from Toronto to US Destinations and to Canadian Destinations

Overview:

Hey Al,

We are a family of 4: Myself, my wife, a toddler and a 3 month old. We are making some trips this year and were hoping to get your help to maximize our points. We currently have 137,704 RBC Rewards that I earned from my Avion card. Basically, here is what we’re doing in terms of trips this year. Obviously we know that we will not be able to use our points for all of it and the priority in getting free tickets is in order of our trips. For either trip in the US we are not opposed to fly from Buffalo if need be.

  • Trip 1: To Dallas (June 4 – 10)
  • Trip 2: To Chicago (Oct 9 – 13)
  • Trip 3: Calgary (Dec 25 – Dec 28/29 flexibility on departure date)

Thanks,

Alex

 

Thanks Alex for your interest. I’ll do my best to help. I love that you are planning out your next few trips and can strategize where to allocate your points / miles to get the best value out of them. This is something that Milenomics talks about with a Demand Schedule. I also think that we will be able to use your points for a good chunk of it, although likely not all of it. Ironically, I think your best savings on going to Buffalo will be on your trip to Calgary.

The Situation

First, let me make sure I understand what your situation is:

Current Situation:

  • 135K RBC Rewards from the Avion card
  • Not earning more Avion points as you use a different card

Would like:

  • Use your miles for the trips to Dallas, Chicago and Calgary
  • Based in Toronto
  • 3 passengers
  • Looking to get the best value from your 140K RBC Avion points
  • Open to flying from Buffalo if significant savings are there

 

My Suggestion

From first glance, referring to my articles on how to travel from Toronto to US destinations and Canadian destinations, I know that using British Airways Avios is the best way to do the Toronto – Dallas route, as well as the Toronto-Chicago route. It also happens that Avios is a transfer partner of RBC (Avion) Rewards if you have an Avion card.

My suggestion would be to look at transferring your RBC Rewards to a frequent flyer program (British Airways Avios) during a transfer promotion and use those points to book your travel.

It so happens that there is currently a transfer promotion until June 30, 2014. During this promotion, customers who carry a premium RBC card, such as the Avion can transfer at the following rate:

1000 RBC Rewards points = 1500 British Airways Avios.

rbc-avion-transfer-to-british-airways

Toronto – Dallas: You should book using 20K British Airways Avios + $53 / person (assuming there is availability)

Toronto – Chicago: You should book using 9K British Airways Avios + $53 / person (assuming there is availability)

Toronto – Calgary: You should keep an eye out for a fare sale and book it using cash / revenue ticket. This is not a good use of your RBC rewards

RBC Rewards

RBC Rewards is the currency of many of the RBC credit cards. RBC Rewards are designed to be used for travel redemptions. There are a few ways that you can trade your RBC Rewards to pay for your travel.

Avion Cards

If you carry one of the Avion cards, which are RBCs premium card offerings, you can transfer your RBC Rewards to a few airline rewards programs, including:

Air Travel Redemption Schedule

Link to Schedule

In addition to the frequent flyer transfer options, you have the ability to use your points to purchase travel according to the flight rewards schedule. In this case, you can book any flights you want. The schedule, however, limits the value you can get from your points and does NOT include the taxes. Those would need to be paid separately, either as a charge to your RBC Avion card or as a redemption of points at a rate of 1 pt = $0.01 (very poor use of points).

The flight redemption schedule can return you up to 2.3 cents / RBC Avion point, assuming the flights you redeem your points are very close to the limits of each zone in the schedule. In fact, if you are able to find flights that are above the limit, you will get the best value for your points.

rbc-avion-air-travel-redemption-schedule

To maximize the value of your points, you could flight a trip between Toronto and Vancouver at a peak travel time. Let’s say this flight cost $850 round trip. You could redeem 35,000 RBC Rewards for the first $750 of the ticket. The remaining $100 outstanding would be charged to your RBC Avion card (Redeeming more RBC Avion points for the remaining $100 only yields 1 cent per point so should only be done if you don’t mind redeeming your points for poor value). This would give you a redemption value of 2.14 cents for each RBC Avion point.

Standard Cards

The standard cards have a slightly different use of RBC Rewards. In this case, RBC Rewards have an exact value of $0.01 each when used to redeem against a travel purchase. This is significantly less than what can be achieved from the RBC Rewards if you have an Avion card.

My Thoughts on RBC Rewards

If you have an Avion card, I think the best value comes from transferring your RBC Rewards to either British Airways Avios or American Airlines AAdvantage. There are often transfer bonuses for these 2 programs (as is the case currently). I also find that, for Canadians, there are many more opportunities to get great value from both of those programs.

I find that transferring to Westjet is generally not a good value of your premium RBC (Avion) Rewards. Westjet dollars have a fixed value of exactly $1. This means that your RBC Rewards would be worth $0.01 each when transferring them to Westjet. If you are interested in pursuing this option, I would suggest that you consult the flight schedule and simply buy the same Westjet flight using the flight schedule. You would probably use less rewards this way. I would suggest that if this is your strategy prior to earning rewards, you could do better with a high earning cash back card, such as the BMO World Elite or MBNA World Elite card seen on our Best Canadian Credit Cards article.

Summary

Alex wants to use the points he has earned from his RBC Avion card for a few upcoming flights. The best uses of RBC Rewards are transferring them to British Airways, transferring them to AAdvantage or using the flight schedule.

Check out the other articles for details on how I would suggest getting these specific trips done with RBC Rewards.

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23 comments on “Reader Q: How to Best Use RBC (Avion) Rewards”

  1. Jay says:

    As I am regularly checking Avios availability, I have an option for them that might be possible.
    It is available as of now, May 26, pm.
    Detroit – Dallas – 7 available right now both ways on those dates June 4 – June 10.
    Best part is – only 15,000 Avios per trip and $5.00 in taxes!
    So…you save 20,000 Avios (1 free flight at least, 2 free short hauls) and $200 total.
    You have to ask yourself – do I want to drive to Detroit (airport not in bad area lol) to save 20,000 Avios and $200?
    Check out our site for these scenarios and our summer flight series out of Detroit.
    borderfreetravel.com

  2. thepointster says:

    That is a great idea!

    Actually, I love the looking for edge cases. My favorite situation is going to be going to Miami, but flying into FLL instead of MIA.

    YYZ-CLT is 4500 (one way)
    BUF-CLT is 4500 (one way)
    CLT-FLL is 4500 (one way)
    CLT-MIA is 7500 (one way)

    If you do YYZ-CLT-MIA it would be 12000 miles and $55

    If you do YYZ-CLT-FLL it would be 9000 miles and $55

    If you do BUF-CLT-FLL it would be 9000 miles and $5!

    I definitely understand your position. Ultimately everyeone is going to decide on what they value. In this case, driving to Detroit is a bit of a way to save “only” $200 and 20K miles. At least, it is definitely not a “no brainer” given then Detroit is still a good 4 hours drive away.

    Thanks for the insight. Great site. Thanks for the link.

    • Jay says:

      Yes, I like that FLL theory instead of going a little farther to MIA.
      You know what has even more availability than FLL?
      West Palm Beach (PBI) a little more North, and same Avios as FLL.
      At least when I’m looking PBI has shown more.

      A had a choice a couple months back to go either Detroit – Miami – 20,000 Avios x 4 = 80000, or drive the extra 2+ hours to Cleveland and spend 15,000 Avios x 4 = 60000 to Miami.

      So we saved the 20,000 Avios – smaller airport, saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and banked a flight or 2 for next time.

      http://borderfreetravel.com/

  3. Farzeen says:

    Awesome article (as usual)! Thanks so much!

    I missed the last promo period for Avion to Avios transfer but I recall there being another promo typically offered in the fall. Any ideas when that might happen (or when they have happened in the past)?

    Thanks!

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Farzeen,

      There is usually a promo every few months. The past 2 years, I have seen transfer bonuses to British Airways Avios in the Spring / Summer. I have seen transfer bonuses to American AAdvantage in the Winter.

  4. Ela says:

    We would like to travel more than we have. I have a RBC gold reward visa credit card that does not require any annual fee. Unfortunately we have been using airmiles up to now. We are wondering how much better we could do with this card or maybe another card. I do not like the annual fees.

  5. Donna says:

    Hi, I am interested in your recommendations for my situation. My daughter has just moved to Sheffied, England for the next four years. I have 105,000 RBC avion points accumulated and would like to use them to maximum advantage for my husband and myself to travel to England and use her home base to see other parts of Europe. We are thinking of traveling next spring.

    Thanks, Donna

    • Donna says:

      I should mention, I live close to the Detroit, U.S. Border

    • thepointster says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for the request.

      I think teh best articles we have that relates would be:
      https://www.creditwalk.ca/air-miles-credit-card-to-extreme-earners/
      https://www.creditwalk.ca/whats-the-best-credit-card-for-europe-travel-factors-to-consider/

      Now, given that you want to fly to Europe and you have an RBC Avion, my suggestion will be to transfer those to American AAdvantage (when you are ready or when there is a transfer bonus) and use those American AAdvantage miles to book travle to Europe. Aadvantage reduces the cost to 20k/way during off peak times (anytime that is not the summer) to Europe. However, be sure that when you redeem you redeem for flights operated by US Air, American and Air Berlin. If you redeem for flights on British Airways, you will get hit with some friendly fuel surcharges drastically reducing the value of your miles.

      Using DTW, you can connect in any number of places to get to your Europe destination.

      If you are very daring, another option would be to try to thread a needle and get into Boston using 4500 BA Avios / way. Then use 12,500 BA Avios to get from Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus. From Dublin to get to Sheffield will run you another 4500 BA Avios for a total of 21,500 Avios. IF you can get this to work out for you, that is another option for you. Remember, the key here is the BOston-Dublin flight on Aer Lingus as that is just under the threshold for distance.

      Good luck.

  6. Rob says:

    Hi there, I was confirming if you could use your points for only a portion of the flight ticket. I.e. if your ticket price (not including tax) is $400, could you use your 15,000 points to pay for $350 of the ticket price and then fork out $50 out of pocket for the rest of the ticket and then the tax?

    • thepointster says:

      Hi,

      I believe that is how it works. If your ticket is say $500, and it should only be 15K for the first $350, then I believe you would be charged 15K for the first $350, and then the balance you would charge to your RBC Avion card. That is my understanding of it. I have no personal experience with it. The next time I talk to someone at RBC, I’ll ask this.

      Thanks

      • Brenda says:

        Hello,
        I want to fly from Vancouver or any closest airport to Riga (Latvia), I have RBC Avion points, any ideas? I lost in all these programs and offers, could you please suggest the best? I see now American Airlines have bonus offer to buy miles, but it’s not about transfer. British Airways has offer from RBC 50% transfer points, but I am not the BA club member yet, can I do it right away? (AA asks your account to be at least 14 days old to use it for offers). Then I can’t really find how much AA miles or BA avios will cost my ticket to compare it it’s better that using RBC Avion schedule. Please advise. Thanks.

        • thepointster says:

          Hi,

          I suggest you open your account with British Airways asap. Then you have options to transfer your points, even if you don’t want to do that right now.

          In terms of getting to Latvia, using AA miles or BA miles, you are going to be accessing the same award inventory. What I mean is that if there is a flight operated by American that you want to use (and there is space on it for award ticket) then both BA miles and AA miles will be able to buy it.

          Secondly, consider that AA miles charge you based on the zone and BA miles charge you based on the distance. At that point, since you are flying a very large distance, relatively to the average distance for those zones, you should be better off with American miles.

          You can see the award chart for American Airline miles here:
          https://www.aa.com/i18n/disclaimers/aadvantageAllPartnerChart.jsp

          All prices are for 1-way travel. For North America (Vancouver) to Europe (Latvia), it will run you 20K or 30K AA miles / way (depending on which season you go) for the cheapest available seats (you should really only use it for those lowest tier seats).

          I would suggest you look on aa.com and try to find a flight that works for you. Some things to bear in mind are that you will want to avoid flying on British Airways operated flights as those come with very heavy fuel surcharges (often more than a cash fare would have cost you). If it were me, I would be looking to fly the following route:

          YVR/SEA – JFK operated by American or Cathay
          JFK-Helsinki operated by Finnair / American
          Helsinki – Riga operated by Helsinki

          You can read up on how I suggest finding availability for OneWorld availability based on my article on Alaska Airlines and Vancouver / Portland here:
          https://www.creditwalk.ca/portland-flight-booking-savings/

          Just change your origin and destination to YVR / SEA and Riga, Helsinki etc.

          I hope this helps.

  7. Audrey says:

    Totally confused. Help. Flying from Vancouver to Barcelona, sir flights are about $1000 each. Is it better to buy than use the avion points.

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Audrey,

      If you have a lot of RBC Avion points, then you have to see wat you are going to use them on to get the value out of them.

      In your situation, you basically have a few options for your Avion points:

      1. Pay for the ticket $1000 cash
      2. Pay for hte ticket with 65K RBV Avion points (by schedule) + tax of an unknown amount
      3. Transfer your points to BA Avios (1 RBC Avion = 1 BA Avios) and pay using the BA Avios Award chart
      4. Transfer your points to AA points (1 RBC Avion = 1 AA Advantage point) and pay using the AA Advantage award chart (assuming there is space)

      The best option for Canada – Europe would be the 4th one, where you transfer your Avion to AA and then book your flights using AA miles. This assumes that you are (1) willing to fly on the flights that are available, (2) able to avoid British Airways operated planes (since they have exorbitant taxes) and (3) are able to fly in the October to April when it only costs 20K AA / way from North America to Europe. Use the AA.com to find the dates there is space (as I mention in this article).

      If those 3 are not the case, then you would be better off with one of the first 2 options (by schedule or by cash). If you go with the schedule, then you will want to call up RBC and find out how much they are going to charge in you “taxes”. Once you do that, then you have all the elemnts to figure out how much you are “selling” your RBC Avion points back for.

      65K RBC Avion Point + “Taxes” = $1000……or……($1000 – Taxes)/ 65K = Value of RBC Avion Point

      When you earned the RBC Avion points, you had a value in mind that you thought you wanted to sell them back for. If you the number you get from teh calculation is less than your initial required value, then pay cash. If your calculated value is more then your initial required value then use the schedule.

      Personally I would value an RBC Avion point close to 2 cents, because you used this card to pay for something when you could have earned say 2% cashback instead by using a MBNA World Elite or BMO World Elite. By taking the RBC Avion point instead, you “bought” the RBC Avion point for 2 cents (you didnt take 2 cents, but took an RBC Avion poitn).

      I hope that makes sense.

      Summary:

      – check if you can find a flight using AA miles as per this article
      – if the number of AA + taxes is reasonable and you find an itinerary that works for you, then go with that

      – if not, then do a quick calculation and decide if you want to use Avion points or cash for this ticket (as I suggest)

      I hope that helps.

  8. p liddar says:

    Is there a way around avois.blackout days for BA business class?

    • thepointster says:

      I was unaware of any blackout days for Avios Business class.

      Could you please send me a link to the blackout dates you are talking about?

      Thanks.

  9. WILBERT BEAUGARD says:

    SIRS OR MADAM- PLEASE INFORM ME IF I CAN USE MY AVION POINTS FOR THE PURCHASE OF A TICKET FOR A GOOD FRIEND .THE TICKET IS FROM ABIDJAN IVORY COAST ,TO EDMONTON ,ALBERTA.IHAVE MORE THAN 100,000 POINTS.THANK YOU.

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