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Head-to-Head: Amex vs. RBC vs. CIBC Airline Reward Charts (Business Class)

A while back, we compared the fixed points reward programs of American Express, CIBC, and RBC for economy class flights, and the clear winner was RBC with the most value present in four out of five destinations.

Today, we use the same methodology to compare these three programs across their business class redemptions. 

The Methodology

As before, we’ll be comparing the three fixed-points travel programs by American Express, RBC, and CIBC. 

Here is the Amex Fixed Points Travel reward chart for business class. This chart is available to all American Express Membership Rewards cardholders.

Here’s the CIBC Aventura Airline Rewards Chart for business class. This chart is only available to CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege cardholders.

Finally, with RBC, things get a bit convoluted. There is no business class redemption chart; rather, they provide documentation in the form of an FAQ added to their regular economy class chart.

The FAQ states that you can use the economy chart’s maximum value for the destination you wish to travel to. If your base fare is over the maximum, you can “top-up” your redemption at 1¢ per Avion point.

Alternatively, you can choose to redeem straight up at 2¢ per Avion point if you hold the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege or the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Business. For the purposes of this review, we will assume that our readers hold one of these premium cards and can redeem for business class at a better value.

With each program being somewhat different in terms of the number of points needed to book based on your destination and the ticket’s maximum value, the easiest way to compare is to look at round-trip flights to a few sample destinations.

For easy comparative reasons, we will rank the winner of each destination based on a cents per point (cpp) valuation.

With Amex and CIBC, only the base fare is covered as part of the redemption. Both programs have an additional methodology to pay for taxes and fees, but they offer a poor value of 1cpp. 

Meanwhile, with RBC, redeeming points at 2cpp against a premium class ticket covers the base fare and the taxes and fees at a constant 2cpp value. 

1. Canada/US Short-Haul

Many people might not consider redeeming points for a business class short-haul flight, because these flights tend to be 1.5 to 2 hours at most, making it hard to get good value.

Nevertheless, it’s worth an examination, in case you have an abnormally large stash of points that are burning a hole in your pocket.  

Note that we’ll be picking a sample route and base fare for the RBC redemption in each category, since we’re redeeming Avion points directly against the fare at 2cpp. 

American Express

RBC

CIBC

Redemption limitations

Within or from a Canadian Province/Territory to an adjacent Canadian Province/Territory/US State (except Alaska)

Sample itinerary:
YYC–YVR for April 9–16 on Air Canada

Within a province or territory or US state or to an adjoining province or territory or US state

Maximum ticket value

$800

Sample fare:

$688

$1,000

Points required

50,000 MR points

34,400 Avion points

40,000

Aventura points

Cents per point

1.6¢

2.0¢

2.5¢

Verdict: CIBC Aventura wins for the most value for the Canada/US Short-Haul redemption, but we’ll take it with a grain of salt, as most travellers would not redeem for this type of award.

2. Canada/US Long-Haul

In this category, we begin to see the potential in redeeming your points for a business class flight redemption, especially if you are looking to fly a true lie-flat transcontinental route like Toronto to San Francisco.

Still, it’s a shame that Hawaii and Alaska are specifically excluded from these redemptions.

American Express

RBC

CIBC

Redemption limitations

From a Canadian Province/Territory to a non-adjacent Canadian Province/Territory/US State (except Hawaii and Alaska)

Sample route:

YYZ–SFO for April 9–16 on Air Canada

From a Canadian Province/Territory to a non-adjacent Canadian Province/Territory/US State (except Hawaii and Alaska)

Maximum ticket value

$1,800

Sample fare:

$1,973

$1,750

Points required

100,000 MR points

98,650 Avion points

70,000 Aventura points

Cents per point

1.8¢

2.0¢

2.5¢

Verdict: Even though Amex offers a higher maximum base fare, the CIBC Aventura program once again comes out on top of the other programs in terms of the overall redemption value, and by quite a large margin. 

3. Sun Destinations

When most casual travellers think about what they’d like to redeem their points on, the answer is often Hawaii or the Caribbean, so this redemption level is one of the most important in the eyes of many. 

American Express

RBC

CIBC

Redemption limitations

Canada to Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, Central America, Hawaii, or Mexico

Sample route:
YYZ–SJO for April 9–16 on American Airlines

From any location in Canada or US to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, Bermuda, Central America, or the Caribbean

Maximum ticket value

$2,100

Sample fare:
$1,064

$2,000

Points required

120,000 MR points

53,200 Avion points

80,000 Aventura points

Cents per point

1.75¢

2.5¢

Verdict: Amex’s maximum base fare is marginally higher, but CIBC wins on value once again, aiming for a clean sweep of the fixed points redemptions for business class. So far, it’s not even close. 

However, it’s worth noting that RBC’s 2cpp redemption option might be better in situations when your base fare doesn’t come close to Amex and CIBC’s maximums. In these cases, the straight-up 2cpp value means that you’ll pay fewer Avion points than MR or Aventura points.

4. Europe

Europe is probably one of the most likely business class redemptions that most travellers would consider saving up their points for, so it’s a very important redemption that deserves from careful consideration. 

American Express

RBC

CIBC

Redemption limitations

Canada to destinations in Europe

Sample route:
YWG-IST for April 9–16 on Air Canada and Lufthansa

From a major gateway in Canada or US to select destinations in Europe

Maximum ticket value

$2,500

Sample fare:
$4,209

$3,000

Points required

140,000 MR points

210,450 Avion points

150,000 Aventura points

Cents per point

1.79¢

2.0¢

2.0¢

Verdict: For the first time, CIBC has strayed from their traditional 2.5cpp valuation so far, and has come back down to earth with a standard 2cpp valuation, placing it in a tie with RBC for the best redemption value in business class to Europe.

In fact, RBC Avion may hold the edge in this category, as it covers the taxes and fees in addition to the base fare. Indeed, business class fares to Europe can often exceed CIBC’s maximum of $3,000, in which case RBC would be the clear winner.

5. Rest of the World

Lastly, we have the “Rest of the World” category of destinations, which includes most of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and South America.

American Express

RBC

CIBC

Redemption limitations

Canada to destinations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Middle East, New Zealand, South America, or South Pacific

Sample route:
YUL–CPT for April 9–16 on Qatar Airways

From a major gateway in Canada or US to select destinations in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Middle East, South America

Maximum ticket value

$4,500

Sample fare:
$6,809

$5,000

Points required

250,000 MR points

340,450 Avion points

250,000 Aventura points

Cents per point

1.8¢

2.0¢

2.0¢

Verdict: We once again have a tie between RBC and CIBC at a valuation of 2cpp, with RBC holding the edge because it covers the taxes and fees and can optimally accommodate higher base fares.

However, it must be said that the amount of points required for these types of redemptions can be out of the reach of many travellers besides high-volume spenders or the most dedicated points collectors. 

The Winners and Losers

Much like RBC Avion was a clear winner among the economy class fixed points charts, the CIBC Aventura program stands above its competition in the business class category.

The Amex Fixed Points Travel program was the clear loser in the trio of fixed points travel programs in both economy and business class, with consistently the least value per point derived.

However, Amex Fixed Points Travel is also the most accessible program for business class redemptions in that it’s available to any cardholder, not just premium Visa Infinite Privilege cardholders in CIBC and RBC’s case.

Plus, the more powerful earning options on Amex cards, like the American Express Cobalt Card with 5x points on eats and drinks, can also make it easier to bring the more expensive business class redemptions within reach. 

Overall, each of the three major programs have their own respective strengths and weaknesses in this comparison.

I am frankly a bit shocked that CIBC provides such good value in three of the five categories, and came in tied for the remaining two. I had never really looked too in-depth into the Aventura program before, but I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if its business class chart fits my travel needs in the future – and upgrading to the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Privilege if so.

Conclusion

While the fixed-points redemption schemes for most credit card points programs is a tad on the boring side, it certainly can provide excellent value when no award flights can be found through traditional award searches.

Although I do not recommend that people choose their program of concentration based solely on these valuations, they should absolutely be factored into the determination of which program offers you the best overall value. 

CIBC offers surprisingly good returns when we look compare the business class fixed-points redemptions, and it’s worth getting the associated premium credit card if the CIBC chart fits with your travel style.

8 Comments
  1. Adam

    It would be of great value to do these comparisons vs aeroplan. Thank you.

  2. Amy

    Can you use RBC Avion economy fixed point charts to redeem PREMIUM Economy ticket if the ticket price is lower than the maximum ticket price?
    Thanks!

    1. Jayce YYC

      Hey Amy, RBC does not specifically spell out Premium Economy tickets and how they are treated as part of this redemption regime. If I were to guess, you should be able to redeem for a Premium Economy ticket under the Economy redemption chart as long as you stay under the maximum but I would make a call to RBC before redeeming just to be sure.

  3. Mary

    Jayce,
    I have RBC Avion Infinite Visa. Use your above example, Maximum ticket price is $750, the business class ticket is $1,000. Can I pay the difference of $250 in cash instead of redeeming 25,000 additional points?
    Happy New Year

    1. Jayce YYC

      Hi Mary,
      Unfortunately RBC does not spell this out exactly but in other programs that I have seen, it is difficult to do a cash+points redemption so my guess is that you would have to make up the difference in points. Best to call RBC to verify but I’m 95% certain.

      1. Jayce YYC

        For further information, the FAQs state that if you go over the maximum amount, you are allowed to redeem points or purchase points to cover off the difference and the cost for points is $40 for 1,000 points. Based on this, I would say there is a 99% certainty that you CANNOT top up with just cash.

        1. steve b

          Hi, not to be “that guy” but you run the blog and want us to come for info- so as your comments here add value (if correct), wouldnt it be a good idea that POT team verify for the readers?

  4. Aaron

    Wow same here, but glad to hear it since I bank with cibc. I know where to go if amex screw me over haha *knock on wood*

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