Prince of Travel reader Mike has been a part of the furniture around here for a long time now, and his recent post in the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group caught my eye.
In particular, we were discussing the usefulness of RBC Avion points, and he left the following comment:
I was pretty intrigued by this possibility, and so looked into it further, and it turns out that the ability to redeem RBC Avion points at a rate of 2 cents per point (cpp) is an exclusive perk of the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege and the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business Card, both of which I haven’t given much attention to thus far.
In this article, then, I’ll take a look at how this special perk on the higher-end RBC Avion cards works, when you’d be able to take advantage, and why it might be a perfect complement to the more traditional frequent flyer programs we talk about.
In This Post
- Book Business & First Class at 2cpp
- A Few Examples
- Is This a Good Use of RBC Avion Points?
- Getting the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege & Visa Infinite Business
Book Business & First Class at 2cpp
If you hold the regular RBC Visa Infinite Avion, then you might be familiar with the Air Travel Redemption Schedule, which allows you to book economy class flights up to a certain maximum ticket price at a prescribed number of points.
While this redemption option is generally considered less useful than transferring Avion points to frequent flyer partners, it does have its strengths, such as being able to book any open seat on any flight without worrying about award availability.
Well, if you hold either the Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or the Avion Visa Infinite Business, then you also have access to a similar program that allows you to redeem Avion points towards any business class or First Class airline ticket at a fixed rate of 100 points = $2, which is equivalent to 2cpp.
You’ll find the details of this redemption option on the RBC Rewards FAQ page, under “Can RBC Avion cardholders redeem for a first or business class seat?”:
As it turns out, Mike has already done extensive research on this redemption method, which he has documented on his own website Maximum Miles Travel. I’ll therefore paraphrase his findings below, with full credit to him:
You must be an RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business cardholder
You can pool Avion points across all of your personal and business Avion cards to book premium flights at 2cpp
The 2cpp pricing is valid for one-way, round-trip, and multi-city itineraries
Some segments can be in economy, but the ticket must have at least one segment in business class or First Class to be booked at 2cpp
As long as there are business class or First Class seats available, you may book it at 2cpp
If the phone agent (or website) cannot find your desired itinerary, the trip can qualify for a Statement Credit at the same rate of 100 points = $2
Since the ticket is booked under revenue fare buckets, you still earn full elite credits and redeemable miles by using this method
These rules are pretty generous across the board, and allow you to book pretty much any premium fare out there – no matter the route, airline, fare rules, or fare price – at a rate of 2cpp.
Moreover, you unlock this ability just by having either the Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or the Avion Visa Infinite Business, so even if you earned the majority of your Avion points via the standard-level RBC Avion card, you’d still be able to apply those at 2cpp towards a business class fare.
A Few Examples
Let’s take a look at a few illustrated examples of when redeeming Avion points for business class at 2cpp would be advantageous.
For Canadians, a common benchmark when thinking about business class redemptions might be the Aeroplan program and how many miles Aeroplan would charge for a similar itinerary, so let’s go ahead and use that as our point of comparison.
Let’s say you’re based in Vancouver and looking to travel to Asia. An Aeroplan redemption would cost you 150,000 or 155,000 Aeroplan miles, depending on the destination, as well as a couple hundred dollars in taxes and fees. If you decide to look at the cash fares for business class, though, you might find a Vancouver–Bangkok fare for $2,717 all-in, which you could book for only 135,850 Avion points at the 2cpp rate.
Remember that the 2cpp redemption covers every single cent of taxes and fees as well, meaning that you’ll truly pay $0 in fees on top of the points you redeem.
Okay, so cash fares to Asia are probably lower across the board at the moment because of the coronavirus situation – what about flights to other parts of the world?
Europe is slightly trickier to extract value from, because the business class cash fares tend to fluctuate in the $3,000–$4,000 range, but they sometimes do dip lower.
For example, here’s a Toronto–Moscow fare on British Airways and Finnair for $2,728, which would be bookable for 136,400 Avion points at the 2cpp rate – that compares decently against the 115,000 miles that Aeroplan would charge after you factor in the taxes and fees on the latter.
A savvier approach to Europe trips, especially for those that see themselves travelling to Europe at least twice a year, might be to search for cash fares originating from Europe headed to North America, which are often much cheaper than the other way around.
Airlines like Aer Lingus and TAP Air Portugal are known for offering very affordable business class fares, often less than $2,000 for a round-trip. For example, here’s Dublin–Toronto round-trip for $1,833 or only 91,650 Avion points at the 2cpp rate.
There was recently a Oneworld fare sale that brought the price of British Airways Club World down to around $1,500 round-trip from Paris to the US, and that’s the fare that Mike was referring to in his comment above. If you’re based in North America, you’d use this type of fare for two separate Europe trips: the outbound flight would actually be the return leg of your first trip, while the return flight acts as the outbound leg of your second trip.
What about other destinations? Copa Airlines offers Montreal–Panama City–São Paulo for as low as $2,008 or 100,400 Avion points, again lower than the 110,000 miles that Aeroplan would charge.
Remember that multi-city itineraries are valid for this type of redemption as well, so if the fare rules allow for a stopover (these rules will vary from fare to fare), then you can even add a stopover at an intermediate point for no extra charge.
In general, premium fares from North America to Africa and Oceania are quite expensive across the board, so the 2cpp redemption isn’t quite so appealing compared to the flat-rate option of redeeming 150,000–160,000 Aeroplan miles (or other frequent flyer miles).
However, fare sales do occur regularly throughout the year, so you should always keep your eyes peeled and remember the option of redeeming Avion points directly at 2cpp in the back of your mind.
In all of the above cases, the number of Avion points you’ll pay will fluctuate based on the cash fare itself, so it helps to develop some familiarity with the best ways to track down favourable cash fares. My preferred search tool is Google Flights, which allows you to search across a range of destinations, dates, and trip durations to find the best price for a given trip in a given class of service.
Is This a Good Use of RBC Avion Points?
While we’ve looked at quite a few compelling use-cases for the 2cpp RBC Avion redemption, the value is still always going to be fixed at 2cpp, which raises the question as to whether this is a good use of Avion points or whether you can still achieve even better value by transferring points to frequent flyer partners.
In my view, it’s definitely possible to extract higher than 2cpp value when transferring Avion points to British Airways Avios, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, or American Airlines AAdvantage; however, there’s no denying that 2cpp is an outstanding baseline redemption value.
Moreover, because of its sheer flexibility, this redemption option would be highly useful for someone who wants to fly in business class or First Class but also doesn’t want to spend too much time delving into the nitty-gritty details of all the individual programs.
With the 2cpp Avion redemption, you aren’t constrained by airlines’ award availability, and can book any open business class or First Class seat. You also don’t need to worry about fuel surcharges or airport taxes and fees, since those are already included in the price of the ticket.
Finally, one huge benefit that we haven’t touched upon yet is that you’ll still earn status miles and redeemable miles when you credit the ticket to a frequent flyer program of your choice, which can quickly translate into a very useful status level like Star Alliance Gold, Oneworld Sapphire, or Alaska Airlines MVP Gold if you fly a handful of these tickets every year – all while redeeming points, instead of paying cash, for your tickets in the first place.
Sure, if you really want to squeeze out a crazy 10cpp or 15cpp in value from your Avion points, then you can take advantage of the frequent flyer conversion bonuses and book an Avios multi-carrier award or an Etihad Apartments flight via American AAdvantage.
But for the average traveller who’s just looking for a balance of comfort and convenience in business class, the ability to book any available premium seat with your Avion points at 2cpp is going to be very valuable indeed.
Getting the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege & Visa Infinite Business
What’s the catch here? Well, in order to book premium tickets at a rate of 2cpp, you’re going to need either the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business, and neither card comes cheap.
The Visa Infinite Privilege has an annual fee of $399 and a minimum annual personal or household income of $200,000 (or a minimum total investable assets of $400,000). While I’ve never been asked for proof of income every time I’ve applied for the regular Avion Visa Infinite or the WestJet World Elite MasterCard, my guess is that they may be a little more strict on the income requirement for the higher-end product.
Meanwhile, by most data points I’ve heard, RBC is relatively more strict on the documentation required for business credit card applications, and not anyone can simply waltz into the branch and apply as a sole proprietor, as is the case at TD or American Express.
Therefore, the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business Card is probably only well-suited to actual business owners (if anyone has experience to the contrary, I’d love to be proven wrong!) The annual fee here is a more palatable $175, which I think is a very fair price to pay to unlock the 2cpp redemptions.
If you do manage to get your hands on one of these products (and I’m not saying it’s impossible if you don’t meet the requirements, just that it may involve some protracted sweet-talking of your local RBC branch representative), then you’ll be treated to a very generous earning rate of 1.25 Avion points per dollar spent on all purchases on both cards – combine that with the business class redemptions at 2cpp, and you’re looking at a spectacular 2.5% return on your daily spending here.
The ability to redeem Avion points at 2cpp for business class and First Class flights as a Visa Infinite Privilege or Business cardholder is just one of the many under-appreciated sweet spots within the overall RBC ecosystem.
While it won’t allow for the crazy outlandish routings in premium cabins on Aeroplan or British Airways Avios that’ll result in those sky-high 15cpp+ valuations, the sheer versatility of the 2cpp redemption, as well as the fact that it books into revenue buckets and earns you even more miles as a result, makes it highly attractive nonetheless.
I fully intend to get myself one of the Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or Avion Visa Infinite Business cards sometime soon and try this out for myself at an opportune time, and will definitely report back when I do so.