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Why RBC Avion Must Not Be Overlooked Ricky December 4, 2018

Why RBC Avion Must Not Be Overlooked

It was recently pointed out to me that I don’t give RBC Avion the attention it deserves on this platform, and upon reflection I’d tend to agree. After all, we don’t have many flexible, transferrable points currencies here in Canada, so we gotta cherish and maximize the ones we do have. American Express Membership Rewards is the leading player in that arena, but RBC Avion delivers solid value with a very respectable selection of transfer partners as well. 

What Is RBC Avion?

“Avion” is the name for RBC’s line of premium travel credit cards. It includes the RBC Visa Infinite Avion, as well as the Visa Platinum and Visa Infinite Privilege versions of the card (targeted towards lower- and higher-income segments of the population, respectively). 

The actual rewards program that the credit cards are associated with is technically known as RBC Rewards, although pretty much everyone calls it “RBC Avion” or “Avion points” as well.

While it’s true that Canada’s Big 5 banks don’t exactly enjoy a reputation of delivering tremendous value in their rewards programs, there are certain qualities that make RBC Avion a cut above the rest…

Generous Signup Bonuses

For the longest time, the RBC Visa Infinite Avion was the Canadian rewards credit card that never had a decent signup bonus.

TD, CIBC, BMO, and Scotia were mixing things up with first-year fee waivers and eye-popping bonuses of 25,000 or even 30,000 points, and RBC would always sit idly by with its standard offer of 15,000 Avion points for $120 in annual fee, complacent in the fact that its supposed leading reputation would entice enough people to become “Avioners” as it were.

That’s changed in recent years. Around 2017 was when RBC first upped the ante when it came to their flagship credit card product, launching an offer of 25,000 Avion points with the first year free. Since then, promotional offers have come and gone at a regular pace.

At the moment, the best available offer is for a total of 20,000 Avion points: you’ll get 15,000 points upon first purchase, and then a further 5,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The annual fee of $120 is waived for the first year. Click here to access it.

Good for Product Switching

What makes the world of RBC credit cards even better is the bank’s generosity when it comes to product switches and holding multiple cards at once. 

If you aren’t familiar with the practice of product switching, read this article to brush up on it. Basically, product switching allows you to switch your existing credit card to a different product from the same financial institution while maintaining your existing account on your credit file, thereby avoiding a new credit inquiry and preserving the account’s contribution to your overall credit health.

RBC is one of the most friendly issuers when it comes to product switches. You can freely switch back-and-forth among the RBC Visa Infinite Avion, the WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard, the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite, and the RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum to obtain a wealth of signup bonuses for no additional credit hit.

RBC-Westjet
RBC-BA
RBC-Cathay

Better yet, there are many data points of being able to hold more than one of the same RBC credit card at once – and being able to execute the product-switching sequence on both accounts. Consider that a single new application is giving out 30,000 Avion points with a first-year fee waiver at the moment, and you can see how the more relentless points collectors among us might be able to rack up quite the fearsome Avion stash. 

Wide Range of Transfer Partners

This is what truly elevates the work of the marketing team at Royal Bank Plaza above their more run-of-the-mill counterparts over at TD Centre or First Canadian Place: the ability to transfer points from RBC Avion to frequent flyer programs. In particular, RBC Avion points can be transferred to:

  • British Airways Avios at a 1:1 ratio

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio

  • WestJet Rewards at a 1:1 ratio (1 RBC Avion point = $0.01 in WestJet Dollars)

  • American Airlines AAdvantage at a 10:7 ratio (10 RBC Avion points = 7 AAdvantage miles)

Taken together, this set of transfer partners can be quite powerful if you know which program best fits your travel goals. British Airways Avios is perhaps the most useful program of them all, since there are so many “sweet spots” nestled within its unique distance-based redemption structure.

Based in the West Coast? Vancouver to Tokyo in Japan Airlines economy class for 25,000 Avios one-way is a sweet bargain, as is Seattle or Bellingham to Hawaii on Alaska Airlines for just 12,500 Avios one-way. 

Torontonians can fly to Dublin for just 13,000 Avios off-peak in economy class or 50,000 Avios in business class, while Quebec residents enjoy one of the greatest Avios sweet spots of all starting from next August, when the new Montreal–Dublin route can be booked for as little as 31,750 Avios in business class.

Moreover, Avios is one of those currencies that you can never have too many of, since they’re useful no matter where in the world you’re travelling, particularly in Oneworld strongholds such as Latin America (LATAM), Western Europe (British Airways/Aer Lingus/Iberia), the Middle East (Royal Jordanian/Qatar Airways), Australia (Qantas), and East Asia (Cathay Pacific/JAL). Starting at just 4,500 Avios for a short-haul one-way flight, you never know when you might need to use your Avios to book a regional flight or two. 

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is a program that’s unnecessarily complex in many ways, but there are a few sweet spots that are worthy of attention.

Their Oneworld multi-carrier chart is one particular gem; while following the below award chart, you must include either two Oneworld carriers excluding Cathay Pacific OR three or more Oneworld carriers including Cathay Pacific, and you get to have up to five stopovers and two open-jaws.

Cathay-Pacific-Oneworld-Chart

That’s right – five stopovers and two open-jaws. These routing rules put even the Aeroplan Mini-RTW to shame, although of course there are several intricacies that need to be studied in order to book something as well. This is definitely worthy of its own dedicated post, so look out for one soon.

WestJet Rewards provides coverage for travel within North America, since WestJet Dollars can be redeemed 1:1 towards the cost of a WestJet ticket. You can also use WestJet Dollars towards the program’s Member Exclusive Fares, which are discounted fares on WestJet’s partners (Delta, Air France/KLM, and Qantas) that can only be booked using WestJet Dollars.

Lastly, American Airlines AAdvantage is a major US frequent flyer program that we Canadians don’t have much access to. Indeed, besides transferring RBC Avion points at a 10:7 ratio, the only other way to earn AAdvantage miles would be through US credit cards or by transferring points through Marriott. 

AAdvantage’s sweet spots have mostly been killed off over the years in a series of devaluations, and the ones that do remain tend to be accessible through Alaska miles as well, which are much easier for Canadians to earn. Nevertheless, AAdvantage is still a key program for the aspirational flyer, since it’s one of the best ways to book to some of the world’s most luxurious flight experiences, such as Qatar Airways QSuites and Etihad Airways’s First Class Apartments.

Qatar-Airways-QSuites-1750px-5.jpg

On the whole, RBC Avion’s four major transfer partners open up a wealth of possibilities. Whether you’re travelling domestically or internationally, and whether you’re looking to gallivant around the world or chase after premium cabins, you’re certain to find some compelling use for RBC Avion points through their airline partners.

Outside of transferring to frequent flyer programs, other uses of Avion points are less compelling. Nevertheless, you can head over to my dedicated guide to the RBC Avion program to discover more about these options, such as RBC’s proprietary flight redemption chart.

Up to 50% Points Transfer Promotions

To sweeten the deal even further, RBC routinely puts on promotions in which you get an extra chunk of points when transferring to partners. This is most frequently seen with British Airways Avios and WestJet Rewards.

Conversion bonuses to Avios seem to arrive at least twice a year, and most often they fall in the 30% range. In fact, one such promotion is ongoing right now and lasts until the end of the year. So if you applied for the current signup bonus of 20,000 Avion points, you could convert those into 26,000 Avios, which is enough for a round-trip between Toronto and Dublin on Aer Lingus!

RBC-Avios-Promotion

We occasionally see conversion bonuses to Avios of up to 50% as well, although those are rarer – the last one was two years ago in December 2016.

WestJet Rewards also gets the occasional transfer bonus, which tend to be more modest in the range of 10% to 20%. Generally speaking, I’d say the relative strength of the Avios program means that their transfer bonuses provide much better value than the WestJet ones, but if you do travel frequently with WestJet then the extra WestJet Dollars during these promotions would certainly come in handy as well. 

As far as I know, we haven’t seen a transfer bonus to American Airlines AAdvantage in a good five years or so, while Cathay Pacific Asia Miles has never seen a transfer bonus in the past. There’s also the occasional bonus for transferring RBC Avion points to other rewards programs like Hudson’s Bay Rewards, but those don’t make up for the relatively poor value of redeeming your Avion points that way in the first place. 

Conclusion

While American Express Membership Rewards is no doubt the leading transferrable points currency in Canada, RBC Avion is a great diversification option as well and shouldn’t be overlooked. The Avion-branded credit cards routinely offer higher signup bonuses these days and are conducive to product switches, while the breadth of airline transfer partners and the regularity of Avion and WestJet transfer bonuses make Avion points a surprisingly versatile currency to hold. 

Top Offers

RBC Avion Visa Infinite

15,000 RBC Avion points
upon first purchase

  • 1.25x points on travel purchases
  • Transfer points 1:1 to WestJet, Avios, Asia Miles
  • Frequent 30–50% transfer promotions
Signup bonus
15,000 RBC Avion points
Annual fee
$120
39 Comments
  1. Avatar
    susan

    Hello, I see this is a bit older post, but going to ask anyway. I have held a Avion Infinate for about 10 years now. (UG).Yes, long before I knew what churnning was. So, If I product switch, will I receive the "bonus" to whatever I may switch to. And if I comeback to the Avion , or reapply seperately, to get that bonus, how long should I wait for that ?

    1. Avatar
      Andrew

      Hi Susan,

      Ricky discussed the idea of product switching in this article which confirms that the bonus is typically received.

      If you wanted to reapply, this would be considered a churn and you’d want to wait the normally suggested 3-6 months. You’ll want to double check the terms of the offer you’re applying to since some offers will exclude existing cardholders. Ricky did a great video on the idea of churning if you wanted to learn more: https://princeoftravel.com/blog/new-video-the-credit-card-churn

  2. Avatar
    susan

    Hello, I see this is a bit older post, but going to ask anyway. I have held a Avion Infinate for about 10 years now. (UG).Yes, long before I knew what churnning was. So, If I product switch, will I receive the "bonus" to whatever I may switch to. And if I comeback to the Avion , or reapply seperately, to get that bonus, how long should I wait for that ?

  3. Avatar
    Muhammad

    FB has an offer of 25,000 WB and FYF after $1k MS. Offer expires i Jan 2.

  4. Avatar
    Muhammad

    FB has an offer of 25,000 WB and FYF after $1k MS. Offer expires i Jan 2.

  5. Avatar
    Alex Moschopoulos

    Hi Ricky just clicked on your link to apply for the avion…. Is it possible the offer has expired? I only show 15k welcome points, nothing about waiving 1st year fees or additional 15k point after spending 1k
    Visa Avion
    Special Open modal window
    Sign up now for 15,000 bonus RBC Rewards® points1

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Looks like the offer has been pulled. I’ve updated the article to reflect the best currently available offer, which would be the 20K FYF offer via Rewards Canada.

  6. Avatar
    Alex Moschopoulos

    Hi Ricky just clicked on your link to apply for the avion…. Is it possible the offer has expired? I only show 15k welcome points, nothing about waiving 1st year fees or additional 15k point after spending 1k
    Visa Avion
    Special Open modal window
    Sign up now for 15,000 bonus RBC Rewards® points1

  7. Avatar
    Ethan

    I currently hold the RBC Avion Visa Infinite (applied in June) and am thinking of doing the product switch. Should I do a product switch to a no-fee rewards card or can I switch to the Avion Visa Platinum? If it’s the visa platinum, would I be able to get the fee waived + get the 15k signup bonus?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I don’t believe you’ll get the bonus if you switch to the Avion Visa Platinum, since it’s in the same product family. Try switching to the WestJet MasterCard.

      1. Avatar
        Ethan

        Thanks Ricky.
        Another question I had was, if I downgrade it to the no fee rewards card and upgrade it back to Avion in future, will I still get FYF + welcome bonus?

        1. Avatar
          Ricky

          You should get whatever public offer is available at the time – that’s been most people’s experience. Note that certain special offers aren’t designated as public but are instead offered through specific affiliate channels, in which case a product switch wouldn’t be eligible.

          1. Avatar
            Y Lai

            @Ricky, recently RBC changed their terms already. Per few DPs indicated, it’s used be working pretty well if you switching from that way: RBC Platinum Avion =>RBC Rewards Visa Preferred=> RBC Infinite Avion(adding an intermedium), you will get both sign-up bonus for Infinite and Platinum Avion card. Now seems the chruning gate is already shut down. I did similar switching route like that, but end up with no sign-up bonus for RBC Avion Infinite(I only got sign-up for Platinum and Visa Preferred, means totally 15000+2500).

            I already called RBC Customer resp to review my case and they clearly noted there won’t be any sign-up bonus for my RBC Avion Inifite switching even i could switch it 6 months later……. Now i am really thinking about to switch to either of travel rewards cards(Cathay/Brtish Airways/Westjets).

            And one last things i aware of , if you switch a another product and you are only eligle to it’s sign-up bonus AND not their minimum spending bonus. This could be very sad news both for Cathay and British Airways card.

            1. Avatar
              Ethan

              that’s not good… so… would the best thing to do be, transfer out my points to BA Avios, close the avion, and wait a couple of months to re-apply?

              1. Avatar
                Ricky

                That’s what I’d do. Or you could switch the Avion to a WestJet card and reapply for the Avion later on if you don’t want to fully close the account. Then, wait for there to be a public Avion offer (rather than one through affiliate channels) and switch back to the Avion then.

  8. Avatar
    Ethan

    I currently hold the RBC Avion Visa Infinite (applied in June) and am thinking of doing the product switch. Should I do a product switch to a no-fee rewards card or can I switch to the Avion Visa Platinum? If it’s the visa platinum, would I be able to get the fee waived + get the 15k signup bonus?

  9. Avatar
    Steven

    Thanks Ricky for an easy to apply link. Hope you get some sort of referral as you’re doing excellent work! Used this for my first Avion card as I think the product switching is compelling.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      No referral this time around, but I appreciate the thought 🙂

  10. Avatar
    Steven

    Thanks Ricky for an easy to apply link. Hope you get some sort of referral as you’re doing excellent work! Used this for my first Avion card as I think the product switching is compelling.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      No referral this time around, but I appreciate the thought 🙂

  11. Avatar
    Alex

    I am not sure if anyone is aware but I have used the following to get around paying the credit card annual fee.

    Sometimes RBC visa credit cards have a hidden offer where if you have a competing visa credit card (like the CIBC visa infinite) they will waive the annual fee for you for that year. I have gotten this about twice in the last 7 years. This doesnt work every year but if you do it every 2-3 years it does work.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Great tip Alex. I used this to waive the annual fee on an Avion card a while back too.

  12. Avatar
    Alex

    I am not sure if anyone is aware but I have used the following to get around paying the credit card annual fee.

    Sometimes RBC visa credit cards have a hidden offer where if you have a competing visa credit card (like the CIBC visa infinite) they will waive the annual fee for you for that year. I have gotten this about twice in the last 7 years. This doesnt work every year but if you do it every 2-3 years it does work.

  13. Avatar
    Jerry

    Great post Ricky. Can you provide how long does RBC points transfer to each program take approximately (WSD, AM, AA, BA)? As you know, MR transfer to Aeroplan is instant. For award booking, time is very crucial when you see an award seat so I would like to know about it before apply one of Avion card. Thanks:)

    1. Avatar
      Alex

      I have transferred from Avion points to WSD and it took about 3/4 business days all 3 times that I have done it in the last 2 years.
      Hope that helps

      1. Avatar
        Jerry

        Much appreciated, Alex:)

  14. Avatar
    Jerry

    Great post Ricky. Can you provide how long does RBC points transfer to each program take approximately (WSD, AM, AA, BA)? As you know, MR transfer to Aeroplan is instant. For award booking, time is very crucial when you see an award seat so I would like to know about it before apply one of Avion card. Thanks:)

    1. Avatar
      Alex

      I have transferred from Avion points to WSD and it took about 3/4 business days all 3 times that I have done it in the last 2 years.
      Hope that helps

  15. Avatar
    Kyle

    The 30k link on reddit and the one in your article (assuming you got it from reddit) are no longer showing 30k FYI. It now shows 15k and no FYF.

    Also, many reports of those on reddit, myself included, showing $120 AF in our RBC account which didn’t previously happen with Avion sign up. Would love to hear if you’re experiencing the same.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      The link seems to redirect to a landing page that shows 15K / no FYF, but once you click Apply Now button it shows the 30K language on the application form.

      I’m waiting for my card to arrive, and will update as to what happens once it does!

      1. Avatar
        Kyle

        Ah I missed that. Good eye!

        Apparently the 30k was targeted and some people are being told not to expect the points. Hopefully that’s not the case

  16. Avatar
    Kyle

    The 30k link on reddit and the one in your article (assuming you got it from reddit) are no longer showing 30k FYI. It now shows 15k and no FYF.

    Also, many reports of those on reddit, myself included, showing $120 AF in our RBC account which didn’t previously happen with Avion sign up. Would love to hear if you’re experiencing the same.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      The link seems to redirect to a landing page that shows 15K / no FYF, but once you click Apply Now button it shows the 30K language on the application form.

      I’m waiting for my card to arrive, and will update as to what happens once it does!

  17. Avatar
    Bon

    Which switch are not eligible? And what time frame would you recommend for switch? 3, 6 month?

  18. Avatar
    Bon

    Which switch are not eligible? And what time frame would you recommend for switch? 3, 6 month?

  19. Avatar
    Jian

    Ricky, you overlook something, not all the switch is eligible for signup bonus.

  20. Avatar
    Jian

    Ricky, you overlook something, not all the switch is eligible for signup bonus.

  21. Avatar
    Mike

    Etihad F is one of my favourite use of RBC rewards. 62.5kAA or 70.4kRBC during transfer bonus is pretty reasobable since you can add segments for free at either end…. think MLE. Try the A380, A330, and F lounge at AUH in one award. Very low YQ

    Avios bonus is 30% 2x per year
    AA bonus is 20% 1x per year (as far as i know, and most recent was this past spring)

    Great insight to Asia Miles. Never transfered to CX yet because I am not familiar with the program rules. Looks worth investigating further.

  22. Avatar
    Mike

    Etihad F is one of my favourite use of RBC rewards. 62.5kAA or 70.4kRBC during transfer bonus is pretty reasobable since you can add segments for free at either end…. think MLE. Try the A380, A330, and F lounge at AUH in one award. Very low YQ

    Avios bonus is 30% 2x per year
    AA bonus is 20% 1x per year (as far as i know, and most recent was this past spring)

    Great insight to Asia Miles. Never transfered to CX yet because I am not familiar with the program rules. Looks worth investigating further.

Ricky

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