The RBC Avion program has been leaning heavily into seasonal promotions in recent years, and we’ve seen them put on special deals for Black Friday, Boxing Day… and now Valentine’s Day.
Until 23:59 Eastern Time on Friday, February 14, you’ll be eligible to get 20% points back on round-trip flights booked via the RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule.
Note that this deal is styled as “20% points back” rather than “20% off”, so you’ll still need to have the full amount of points in your account in order to book. Afterwards, 20% of the redeemed points will be returned to your account within 4–6 weeks’ time.
While the Air Travel Redemption Schedule is often overlooked in favour of transferring Avion points to its frequent flyer partners (such as British Airways Avios and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles), there are definitely situations when the in-house redemption option makes the most sense, so let’s take this opportunity to look at a few killer deals that might arise from this Valentine’s Day promotion.
The RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule
The pseudo-geographic award chart that determines how many RBC Avion points you’ll pay for a round-trip award is as follows:
Every “zone” charges you a certain number of points to cover a round-trip flight within that region whose base fare (i.e., excluding taxes, fees, and carrier-imposed surcharges) is up to a certain maximum.
You’ll notice that some of the redemption levels are defined in rather unorthodox ways: for example, “Holiday Destinations” covers a trip from the Western Canada to Hawaii, Mexico, and Alaska but not from the Eastern Canada to those places – that would be priced at the higher “Take a Vacation” level.
The roles are reversed for trips to Bermuda, Central America, and the Caribbean – Eastern Canada residents benefit from a lower redemption price point to those destinations.
Similarly, a short-haul North American trip is defined as a trip to an “adjacent” province, territory, or US state, which would appear to be defined as whether or not the two jurisdictions share a border. As a result, Ottawa–Minneapolis would be priced as a short-haul “Quick Getaway”, while Ottawa–Boston would fall into the long-haul “Explore North America” category, even though the former is almost three times as far as the latter.
If we do some quick math between the redemption price and the maximum ticket price, we see that the greatest value is achieved when you redeem 15,000 Avion points for a short-haul flight whose base fare is as close to $350 as possible, thus achieving a value of 2.33 cents per point (cpp) under normal circumstances.
However, since you’ll receive 20% points back under the Valentine’s Day promotion, you’re only effectively paying 12,000 Avion points, and are thus unlocking a value of 2.92cpp, which is a pretty amazing return on Avion points – especially for an economy class ticket!
The full list of discounted rates are as follows (keep in mind that you’ll still need to pay the full rates, before receiving the 20% points back 4–6 weeks later):
When Does the Air Travel Redemption Schedule Make Sense?
There are a few particular types of trip for which I think it’s especially prudent to consider redeeming RBC Avion points directly, rather than necessarily transferring out to a frequent flyer transfer partner.
The first is the short-haul North America category that we discussed above. Being able to pay just 12,000 points for this kind of short-haul trip is quite satisfying, especially if the base fare is edging close to that $350 threshold, netting you that outstanding value of 2.92cpp for your Avion points.
Next, I think the major concentration of value for this redemption chart lies in the “Holiday Destinations” and “Take a Vacation” levels, which cover the popular leisure destinations of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Alaska (okay, the last one is probably a different kind of leisure destination from the rest).
Depending on where you’re originating from (Western or Eastern Canada, of which the delineation presumably lies as the Manitoba/Ontario border), you’ll pay either 45,000 or 55,000 Avion points for the round-trip, which would cover up to a maximum base fare of either $900 or $1,100.
You might think, “Well, I could just go ahead and redeem 40,000–45,000 Aeroplan miles for a round-trip to most of these places, so that’s not really a good deal.” But here’s the thing: in my experience, the availability situation for these types of trips on Aeroplan is almost never ideal (especially when you’re looking to bring the whole family of three or more people, when the availability controls really start to kick in).
You’ll often have to suffer through long travel days involving overnight layovers somewhere in North America just to get to your destination, and then the same ordeal on the way back. Sure, you’ve redeemed a nominally lower number of miles, but you’re still paying extra in the form of your time, energy, overnight hotel, etc.
In these situations, it can often be a lot more palatable to use a fixed-value program like the RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule (or CIBC Aventura or Amex Fixed Points Travel), where you aren’t subject to any award availability controls – simply find the desired flights with the ideal schedule that you would otherwise purchase with cash, and then use your Avion points to cover the base fare up to the maximum.
Throw in the 20% points back promotion for Valentine’s Day, and you’ll only effectively be paying 36,000 or 44,000 Avion points for the round-trip to one of the popular leisure destinations, achieving a very respectable value of 2.5cpp if your underlying base fare reaches the maximum.
Finally, note that the RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule is sadly not very useful at all for the other two zones: Europe and Rest of the World.
That’s because, just like with award redemptions, these tickets typically come with a hefty fuel surcharge in addition to the base fare. When you simply buy tickets outright, you don’t really notice it, but since the RBC Avion points will only cover your base fare, you’ll still end up paying a few hundred dollars out of pocket when you make these redemptions, which really cuts into any value that you attain.
If you’ve earned lots of Avion points by riding the RBC locomotives (especially in light of the recent record-high offer of 35,000 points), the 20% points back promotion is a short-lived opportunity to get elevated value out of your points when you redeem via the RBC Air Travel Redemption Schedule.
While transferring to frequent flyer partners is definitely a more popular use, you shouldn’t overlook the option of redeeming Avion points directly for round-trip flights, especially if you’re travelling to a popular leisure destination with your family and prioritizing a convenient schedule above all else.
If you’re planning any such trips in the near future, make sure to take action before tomorrow evening and get your 20% points back!