RBC Rewards: Maximizing Return

Thursday 25th, September 2014 / 08:21 Written by
RBC Rewards: Maximizing Return
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The Skinny

Karim wants to cancel his RBC rewards card while getting the most value out the 39,000 points he has.

I’ve got four options to consider when deciding how to get the most value for those points.

Option Return for each RBC Rewards (maximized)
Get RBC Avion Card, transfer to BA Avios or AAdvantage 1.5 cents – 3 cents when optimized
Redeem points for travel 1 cent
Best Buy purchase 1 cent (will vary by product)
Gift Cards 0.83 cent

Reader Question:

Im going to be canceling my RBC Student rewards card since I got my new MBNA credit card.

I had a questions regarding RBC rewards points: what do you think is the best way to use them? I only have 39000 points. I was thinking that since my mom and dad need a new TV I would convert 30000 points to a $250 Best Buy or Future Shop gift card and 6000 points for an additional $50 gift card and then use the remaining points for something small like a gas card. Do you have any better suggestions or better way to convert my points?

BTW, I live in Toronto and generally travel once / year internationally.

Karim – Thanks for the question. I hope to help you get the best value from your points.

Situation

Let’s just quickly assess the current situation, and what we’re hoping to achieve here.

Current Situation:

  • RBC VISA Signature card
  • No Annual Fee card
  • Current points balance of 39K RBC points
  • Has stopped using this card in favor of another card

Goal:

  • Get the most value out of the 39K points already earned

If I understand you correctly, we want to maximize those 39,000 points before you cancel the card.

Off the top of my head, I think you should average about 1 cent of value per point you’ve acquired. However, if we look for strategies to extract the maximum value from each point, I think we can probably beat that.

Options

I think there are 4 options here for you. These are in order of value you will receive from your points. I would suggest going with the first option, if possible.

  1. Increase the value of your points by getting an RBC Avion level card
  2. Redeem your points for travel at 1 point = 1 cent
  3. Use your points for to buy your TV at Future Shop / Best Buy Canada through RBC Retailer Redemption
  4. Get gift cards or statement credits

1. Increase the Value of Your Points

Any time you earn a point on an RBC card, that point is placed into a single pool. That means that you can redeem those points with any RBC card. What you can redeem the points for is based on the card you redeem them with, not which card you earned them with.

Having the best card that RBC offers allows you to get the most value out of the points that you’ve already earned. Out of all of the RBC card options, the RBC Avion card provides you with the best point redemption value. It also comes with a number of benefits that give you more flexibility with your points.

Exchange Programs

If you’re already a member of another airline rewards program, the Avion card allows you to transfer your points to a few different programs. Best of all, it allows you to transfer at a credit rate of 1:1. So, you can trade every RBC point you’ve got for equivalent points from:

  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • British Airways Avios
  • Westjet Dollars

If you’re not in a hurry, it can also pay to wait for the best deal on transferring miles. About twice a year, RBC will have a promotion where you can get increased bonus miles by transferring your points to another program. A typical bonus is either:

  • 1 RBC Reward Point : 1.35 British Airways Avios
  • 1 RBC Reward Point : 1.25 American Airlines AAdvantage

So, if you’re willing to be patient, waiting for one of these deals can really boost the value of your points.

Best Value

Out of all of these, you can probably extract the most value from British Airways Avios points if you’re careful about how you redeem them. As previously mentioned, an RBC point is probably worth about 1 cent, but if you take advantage of the best redemption offers, an BA Avios point is worth closer to 1.5 – 2 cents.

Please see the writeups on using RBC Avion points effectively here:

Avion Options

So, the message here is that if you apply for an Avion card before you cancel your current RBC card, you will have the option of redeeming your currently earned points under the Avion program.

In addition, by signing up for an Avion card, you will be able to take advantage of the bonus programs RBC utilizes to recruit new cardholders. At the time of this writing, that was 15,000 bonus points.

However, be aware that the Avion card does come with a $120 fee. You can choose between the Visa Infinite Avion, or the Visa Platinum Avion card when signing up for the program.

RBC visa infinite avion Rbc platinum avion
Annual Fee $120.00 $120.00
Rewards 1 Dollar Spent = 1 Point1 Dollar Spent on Travel = 1.25 Points 1 Dollar Spent = 1 Point
Minimum Income $60,000.00 None

2. Redeeming Points For Travel

When you redeem RBC points for travel, your points are worth about 1 cent each. Therefore, for every 100 points, you earn a dollar towards your travel costs.

If you’re not going to use a transfer program to increase the overall value of your points, then the best way to utilize them is towards travel.

With RBC rewards, you can redeem your points for a statement credit against travel. However, this can’t be used retroactively, meaning you can’t apply them to previously purchased travel. You have to book through the RBC booking engine in order to take advantage of your points.

Hotels are often available cheaper using the discount hotel search engines such as Priceline and Hotwire. However, other vendors aren’t able to offer as significant of discounts on airfares. You’ll get good value for your points by spending them on airfares that come in around the $400 price point.

See my writeups on the discounting hotel stays here:

3. Redeeming Points for Best Buy or Future Shop Purchases

RBC reward points can also be redeemed through Bestbuy.ca and Futureshop.ca, two of the leading Canadian electronics retailers. If you travel to those websites through the links provided at the RBCRewards.com website, you can see the price in points of the various items for sale

In the past, you usually got a transfer rate of 1 point to 1 cent when using your points at Bestbuy.ca. However, there is no written policy that states that this is universally true. Therefore, it is worth taking your time to shop around on the site to see if there might be deals that give you a better rate.

Also, when you buy something through these websites with your RBC Reward points, you will gain warranty protection as if you purchased the product with your RBC credit card.

My Commentary

When shopping for electronics, Bestbuy.ca is usually more expensive than its competitors. If you’re a loyal Best Buy customer for whatever reason, then using your points in this fashion could make sense. If you’re looking for the best deal though, there are better options.

In 2014 at the time of this writing, my experience is that buying electronics in the United States is the best way to get the most value for your dollar. If you shop wisely in the U.S., it is possible to save as much as 20% on electronics, even when taking things like the exchange rate and and import taxes into account. This option is definitely not the most convenient option for people, and may not be feasible for many Canadians. However, if you live in Toronto (as I do), Vancouver or Montreal, where where US cities are easily accessible, this could present an opportunity to save some money.

4. Exchanging Points for Gift Cards or Statement Credits

You should trade your RBC Rewards points for gift cards only as a last resort. The value is much worse than the other options. You get approximately .83 cents per point when you trade for gift cards.

If you absolutely want gift cards, there are many options available. Mcdonalds, Target, Canadian Tire, Esso and Best Buy are just a few of them. However, all of these gift cards are affected by the worse point to dollar value exchange rate.

All of the gift cards appear to have the same redemption schedule as Esso.

Exception:

There is one gift card that seems to be the exception to the rule above. Carlson Wagonlit Travel gift cards are available at a rate of 1:1 making them as good of a deal as the other ways of redeeming your points.

Summary

In conclusion, you will get the absolute best value for your points by applying for Avion card and then taking advantage of one of the occasional deals that will boost your overall point value when transferring them to another loyalty program.

If you really want to use your points for a TV, you would do better to redeem them directly at the website as opposed to cashing them in for gift cards. When you access BestBuy.ca through the RBC Rewards portal, your points will be worth about 1 cent each. If you traded them for gift cards, they would only be worth about .83 cents each.

Avoid cashing in your points for gift cards except as a last resort, as this will result in you getting the least value for your accumulated points.

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2 comments on “RBC Rewards: Maximizing Return”

  1. Jack Norman says:

    Greetings- have around 100,000 points on RBC Avion Signature cc. Would like to use it for some summer travel with my family but have specific dates and destinations and wondering if it is better to cash it as options for travel seem limited.. RBC said that the cash value is approximately 100 points to the dollar, but I see that it varies if I try to use it for travel. In general, is it better to use the points for travel or as a cash value (applied toward credit card??). As we now live in the States, we also have RBC Bank visa cards, and thought it would be good to pool them but realize they redeem at a rate of half of their face value..
    Jack

    • thepointster says:

      Hi Jack,

      IF you live in the US, then the points that you can transfer to from this card are going to be more valuable than if you were in Canada.

      My suggested usage of RBC Avion points is transfer them to American AAdvantage or BRitish Airways Avios. Those are going to give you the best bang for your buck, especially if you transfer them during a transfer bonus which comes around about 2x / year. I believe last year in June there was a transfer bonus to AAdvantage but I could be wrong.

      Now, if you are unable to find flights that you like using AA miles / BA miles, then you are going to have to go with the flight schedule option. Personally, I believe that is a poor use of RBC avion points, but if you already have the points and need to get value out of those, that is going to be the best way assuming you dont have the ability to use AAdvantage or BA Avios. Prospectively, if you are earning more points on your RBC Avion and you are intending to use those points against flight schedule, you would be better off with a different card, like a World Elite (MBNA, BMO or Capital One).

      I would never redeem your RBC avion points for cash at 1/2 of their value. That is a very poor return on your points.

      I hope that helps.

      This article might help you.
      https://www.creditwalk.ca/best-use-rbc-avion-rewards/

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