Last Updated on January 19, 2023
Welcome to another Rewards Canada Clash! Today's match up doesn't have us comparing credits cards head to head in our typical fashion where we compare all the benefits, earning etc. Instead, we have our third Clash of the Reward Charts! This is where we take the reward chart from two credit card issuers or reward programs and compare them against each other!
In this clash we have the American Express Membership Rewards Fixed Points for Travel chart going up against the CIBC Aventura Airline Rewards chart in the RC Arena. When comparing reward charts it really comes down to a few simple factors - the earn rates, the redemption rates and the value offered between the two. It is absolutely critical you do this value comparison- you cannot look at one or the other on their own and make a decision or claim that one of the reward charts is better.
With that being said, both American Express and CIBC have numerous card options with a variety of earn rates. Thus, to be sure the contenders are as equal as possible going into the RC Arena we will be using their most popular everyday cards for the comparison. Those cards are the American Express Cobalt® Card and the CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite* Card
Now onto the clash!
When you look at the requirements on the redemption charts, they appear quite similar in terms of points required. CIBC does appear to have the upper hand though by having a range of points required and higher maximum ticket values:
|Flight Redemption||Amount of points needed with the American Express Fixed Points for Travel Chart||Amex Maximum Ticket Value||Amount of points needed with the CIBC Aventura Airline Rewards chart||CIBC Maximum Ticket Value|
|Short Haul - select routes in Canada and Canada to U.S. (this is from the Amex chart)||15,000||$300||10,000 to 20.000||$400|
|Short Haul - Canada Within or to an adjacent province or state||20.000||$300||10,000 to 20,000||$400|
|Canada/US Long haul (Except Hawaii or Alaska)||40,000||$700||25,000 to 35,000||$800|
|Sun Destinations & Alaska
(Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean)
|50,000||$800||40,000 to 60,000||$1,000|
|Europe||60,000||$900||50,000 to 70,000||$1,300|
|Rest of world||100,000||$1,700||75,000 to 125,000||$2,000|
What makes the comparison somewhat difficult is CIBC providing a range of points for each redemption category. If the ticket you are purchasing is quite a bit lower than the maximum price you'll redeem less points and when the ticket price approaches the maximum ticket value you'll be redeeming at the higher points rate. For example, if you are looking at a ticket to Singapore that costs $1,000 CIBC may only charge you 75,000 points but if the ticket costs $2,000 it would be 125,000 points. With Amex there is no range - you want a $1,000 ticket you are redeeming 100,000 points. For a $2,000 ticket you also redeem 100,000 points and pay an extra $300 since Amex only covers tickets up to $1,700. So for the lower priced ticket CIBC seems the better option, but is it? If you only compare this part of the two credit card's reward options it can prove to be an expensive mistake. Continue on reading the next section to learn why.
When you look at both sides of the equation there is a whole different story to be told. Let's look at what it takes in actual credit card spending (your points earning) to get each card's rewards.
The American Express Cobalt Card earns 5 points per dollar spent on eats and drinks (Grocery, dining, take out, bars, coffee shops etc.), 3x points on select streaming services and then 2x points on travel, transit, taxis & ride sharing. All other spending earns 1 point per dollar spent.
The CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card earns 2 points per dollar on travel booked via CIBC Rewards and eligible purchases made on Apple.ca. Then it earn 1.5 points per dollar spent on gas stations, grocery stores and drug stores. Any other spending will earn 1 point per dollar spent.
So let's see how that plays into how much you have to spend to get your flight rewards via these charts:
|Flight Redemption||Amount of points needed with the American Express Fixed Points for Travel Chart||Amount of points needed with the CIBC Aventura Airline Rewards chart||Amount of Spend Required with the American Express Cobalt Card||Amount of Spend Required with the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card|
|Short Haul - select routes in Canada and Canada to U.S. (this is from the Amex chart)||15,000||10,000 to 20,000||$3,000 to $15,000||$5,000 to $20,000|
|Short Haul - Canada Within or to an adjacent province or state||20,000||10,000 to 20,000||$4,000 to $20,000||$5,000 to $20,000|
|Canada/US Long haul (Except Hawaii or Alaska)||40,000||25,000 to 35,000||$8,000 to $40,000||$20,000 to $60,000|
|Sun Destinations & Alaska
(Mexico, Hawaii, Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean)
|50,000||40,000 to 60,000||$10,000 to $50,000||$20,000 to $60,000|
|Europe||60,000||50,000 to 70,000||$12,000 to $60,000||$25,000 to $70,000|
|Rest of world||100,000||75,000 to 125,000||$20,000 to $100,000||$37,500 to $125,000|
Let me pose this question to you: Would you rather spend $3,000 or $4,000 on your credit card versus $5,000 to get a short haul flight? Or how about $12,000 versus $25,000 to get a flight to Europe? I think you may be starting to get the picture. Yes I am only looking at the highest earn category for each card but those low spend levels for the Cobalt Card are extremely achievable. For the lowest spend rates on the CIBC card all your spend would have to be made on travel booked via CIBC Rewards which can be done, but is highly unlikely for most cardholders. The Cobalt's 5x point on eats and drinks are so easy to earn by any Canadian and CIBC's equivalent easy earn rates are the 1.5 points on gas stations, groceries and drug stores. This means the chart weighs heavily in favour towards the Cobalt Card spend being closer to the lower amount versus CIBC's which would lean more towards to middle to higher end of the spend required.
Now you might say: but wait what if I am buying a short haul ticket from Edmonton to Regina that costs exactly $400? The CIBC Card will cover that full amount for 20,000 points while the Cobalt Card will also run 20,000 points but only cover $300 of the ticket. That leaves you with $100 that you still have to pay. Let's do the math. With CIBC you need to spend a minimum of $10,000 to get that ticket. With the Cobalt card you'll need to spend a minimum of $4,000 to cover the first $300 of the ticket and then you can pay cash for the rest, which would be $100. That makes your minimum spend $4,100 with American Express. You can even choose redeem points at a rate of 1,000 points to $10 to cover the $100 - so that would require 10,000 points or $2,000 more in spending for a total outlay of $6,000. That's still $4,000 less in spending than on the CIBC Aventura card!! Personally If it was me I'd just pay the $100 difference and save the points for another redemption if using the Cobalt card.
What about a flight to Asia? Again, let's price that ticket at the max that CIBC allows - $2,000 before taxes. With CIBC your minimum spend required would be $62,500. The Cobalt's minimum spend is $20,000 (which still falls into Cobalt's 30K cap on spending for 5x points annually) however you are only covered for a ticket cost of $1,700. That means you will have to pay the extra $300 with cash and now you've spent $20,300 versus $62,500!! Or, if you went all points with Cobalt you'd be looking at $26,000 in spending. Even if you took a mix of spending at various points earning levels on these two cards you'd probably end up only having to spend $40,000 on the Cobalt card versus $80,000 or more on the CIBC card to get to the exact same redemption.
And that $1,000 flight to Singapore example we mentioned earlier in the article? CIBC may only charge you 75,000 points, so at the very least $37,500 in spending on your card. Amex will charge you 100,000 points which requires only $20,000 spending. This is a classic example of why you have to look at both the earning and redeeming portions of reward programs.
If you have a different Amex card in your pocket, such as the Platinum Card or Gold Rewards Card the Clash would be much more closely matched. These cards have lower multipliers than the Cobalt Card but still offer 2 to 3 points per dollar spent in popular categories. With those multipliers and depending on the card user's spending habits the American Express Fixed Point Travel Chart would be equal to or slightly better than the CIBC Aventura chart.
Our third reward chart clash appears to be closely matched based on points requirements and maximum ticket values. However once you take into account the earn rates from the two most popular cards, it isn't very close at all. Just like our first Clash of the Reward Charts where American Express Membership Rewards delivered a knockout blow to RBC Avion Rewards, we see the program deliver a knock out punch to CIBC Rewards.
2023 Overall Top Travel Rewards Card
• In your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember, you can earn 2,500 Membership Rewards® points for each monthly billing period in which you spend $500 in net purchases on your Card. This could add up to 30,000 points in a year. That’s up to $300 towards a weekend getaway or concert tickets
• Transfer points 1:1 to several frequent flyer and other loyalty programs
CIBC Aventura® Visa Infinite* Card