I am supposed to be in Israel now as I write this post, but I am not. Instead I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Vaughan, Canada writing to you about what happens to your rewards points when everything you dreamed and planned slips through your fingertips. The life of a travel writer is not as glamorous as you may think. We do not get all our travel for free, and often our articles don’t get compensation at all, which makes the travel writing occupation expensive and complicated. Our passion for discovering new things and our desire to share the experience through our writing and photography fuels us to find ways to travel even with our limited budgets. So sometimes we are given complimentary passes, hotel stays or private tours, while other times we are given a special discount or “media rate” to experience new things. These things are not always available to every one of us so like many of you we turn to our travel reward cards. We collect points on everything we can, we choose credit cards with travel points, we shop at stores where we can swipe our travel cards and earn bonus points whenever we can.
First off I will start by saying I have no affiliation or sponsorship with Visa Canada, Royal Bank of Canada or their Infinite Avion Rewards Card. I do however have experience with a number of cards and these experiences have helped me determine my favourite Travel Rewards Program RBC Avion Rewards.
In Canada, not all travel rewards points are created equally.
The Limitations of Airmiles Rewards Canada: My experience with Airmiles is pretty good. I can accumulate points quickly due to the ease of shopping and collecting points at my favourite retailers (Shoe Company, LCBO, Metro) and from shopping online at the Airmiles Shops website. You need as few as 1200 points to get a flight with Airmiles – but here is the catch. Have you ever tried to actually cash in your points for a travel reward? Trying to get a flight is the most complicated process and you have to plan months in advance. There are limits like number of seats that can be booked with points, which airlines you can fly with, peak rewards periods where travelling during high season costs more points and on and on. You have to call into the call center – wait on hold for over half an hour and then listen to the operator as she gives you the options. You can’t see the flights online, and if you are a visual person like me who likes to browse online before I book – this is impossible to do with Airmiles.
The Limitations of Aeroplan Rewards Canada: I have an Aeroplan Canada card – I have very few points on it, because it is so hard to collect points on this card unless you have a dedicated gold credit card attached to it. Very few stores accept the Aeroplan card in store – usually you have to enter codes online to redeem them, or use the credit card to get bonus points. At one point the Aeroplan points actually expired! Making planning to save up for a big reward impossible. Redeeming the points requires a lot of points, is limited to select airlines, so unless you are a steady Air Canada flier through your business these points kind of suck.
My Number One Travel Reward Card – RBC Visa Infinate Avion Card
It was after an impossibly frustrating experience trying to cash my Airmiles rewards that I decided to rethink my travel reward card strategy. I had an RBC Infinite Avion Card through my bank but it wasn’t my primary credit card, however after my sign up bonus and from the few purchases I had made on it, I had already accumulated enough points to use for a flight. I was planning a trip to celebrate New Year’s eve in Vegas and without any issues or limitations, I called up Avion Rewards I told them the flight I wanted to be on and before I knew it I was on that flight. I paid $120 in taxes and cashed in (12000 points) and had an amazing trip.
That’s when I decided this is how a Travel Rewards card should actually work.
RBC Avion Rewards – Online Travel Booking
After accumulating more than 100,000 RBC Avion Rewards I was ready to plan a dream vacation. I planned a trip to Israel and went online to see how much tax I would have to pay on the flight. The RBC rewards online site now includes an easy to use interface where you can browse all flights online and it tells you exactly how many points are required and how much the taxes are per flight. It is so easy it is just like searching for travel on any online booking site! I was discouraged when I saw Air Canada’s flight to Tel Aviv was a whopping $765 in taxes. So I checked the other non-stop airline to Tel Aviv El Al. Only $110 in taxes, but there was an added option to use points to pay the taxes. I browsed the airlines availabilty on several dates and booked the entire thing taxes and all for 110,000 points. Who needs a free movie ticket! With RBC I got a FREE OVERSEAS FLIGHT with my credit card rewards!
When Things Go Wrong – How Does Your Travel Rewards Company Respond?
I could cry now, as I think about the amazing reps at RBC Avion Rewards who calmly explained to me the facts about my points and what happens to them if I cancel my trip. You see I had travel insurance hoping that in such a situation my points would be safe and I could cancel my trip without penalty. This is a whole other post (coming soon) but thankfully RBC rewards are flexible and understanding of these situations. Two days before I was to leave the FAA banned all flights to Israel – however my flight on El Al was not cancelled and left on time. I made the decision two days before to cancel my dream trip to Israel and I personally would hug my RBC Rewards Customer Service representative if I could. All I had to do was pay the El Al cancellation fee (which I now have to fight with travel insurance to get back) and all my points were refunded no questions asked.
Lessons Learned – When Cashing Your Rewards Points
I know now that travel insurance didn’t save my points, RBC Rewards policies saved my points. I know now to ask the right questions – what is the cancellation policy and how will my points be affected before I book my next flight. Since El Al had a simple pay the cancellation fee policy I was lucky and my points were refunded immediately (within 2 days they were back in my account).
So now I have 130,000 RBC Avion Rewards – Where will RBC and I Go Next?
I’m sticking with RBC Avion Rewards. With my RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card I have travel insurance when I book travel, I have their supportive customer care representatives in my back pocket, I have peace of mind as I hear the little “cha ching, cha ching” of my travel rewards points collecting and I have great Avion travel dreams. Every time I tap that card a little thought bubble rises out of my head – Sydney, Fiji, Vegas? Where will we go next? That’s #myavionlife!