Clash of the Credit Cards!
American Express Cobalt™ Card vs.
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card

Last Updated on May 26, 2022
First posted on May 26, 2022

Cobalt vs. Avion

This has been a Clash in the making that many of our readers have asked for! Here we have two cards we have compared in other fashions on Rewards Canada but never as a head to head battle like this. In this Clash we have one of Canada's most popular travel cards that is in the wallets of many, the RBC Avion Visa Infinite heads into the ring with the card that Rewards Canada considers to be the best overall card in Canada , the American Express Cobalt™ Card.

Click here to see all the other Rewards Canada clashes

In this match up we look at over half a dozen criteria to compare the cards against one another along with a head to head detailed table comparison.

Annual Fees

The annual fees for both these cards are no longer equal like they used to be - the American Express Cobalt Card charges $12.99 per month for an annual amount of $155.88. The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card is lower with a $120 annual fee. Supplementary or additional cards have no charge with the Cobalt card while on the RBC card each additional card is $50. In this category RBC has the slight edge in savings for those who only need a primary card and no additional card but as soon as you add in an extra card the edge goes to the Cobalt Card.

There are differences as well when it comes to the minimum income requirements for these cards. The American Express Cobalt Card has no minimum income requirement while the RBC Avion card requires $60,000 personal or $100,000 household income.

This category we'll call a draw as both cards have pros and cons here.

Welcome Bonus

For the standard sign up bonus there are some slight differences between the cards. The standard bonus on the Cobalt Card is 30,000 points but that is divvied up as 2,500 points per month in each month you spend at least $500 on the card in the first 12 months of having it. Miss a month of hitting $500 and you don't get the bonus that month. The standard bonus on the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card is 15,000 points when you are approved for the card. This means you can achieve the RBC welcome bonus much sooner however it's value is less than what can be achieved on the Cobalt card. Those are your standard sign up bonuses for these cards.

Currently the RBC card has an increased welcome bonus - it is offering up to 55,000 points that is broken down into two parts. The first part awards 35,000 RBC Rewards points when you are approved for the card and then an additional 20,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months of having the card.

If we were comparing standard bonuses the Cobalt Card would be on top however RBC's current limited offer that is easily achievable in a short time frame means it wins this category right now.

Rates

The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card has a slightly lower purchase interest rate when compared to the American Express Cobalt Card while the Cobalt Card has a slightly lower rate on cash advances. Since most people who do carry balances do so on purchases this category also goes to the RBC card.

Bonus Features & Benefits

Both cards don't offer a lot of bonus features or benefits like some other cards but those that they do offer are notable. Both card issuers have their 'Offers' programs. That is Amex Offers from American Express and RBC Offers from RBC. These are typically statement credits, discount or bonus points that are offered throughout the year for using your card at select merchants. We've seen bonuses and credits for Amazon.ca, Chapters Indigo and many more. Rewards Canada has an entire guide to Amex Offers which you can check out here and RBC Offers you can check out here. Speaking from experience, as Rewards Canada has both Amex and RBC cards in our wallets we can say that the Amex Offers tend to provide more timely, relevant and usable offers. RBC has been making some strides with their program but have yet to catch up with Amex in the 'Offers' space.

RBC has a limited time offer for a complimentary 12 month Door Dash DashPass subscription that normally costs nearly $120 and provides $0 delivery fees on orders of $12 or more.

RBC also has partnerships with numerous other programs where you can earn extra points or receive discounts. Namely those are with Hudson Bay Rewards, Petro-Points and Rexall's Be Well program.

The Cobalt Card has one additional benefit and that is Amex's refer a friend bonus. This is where cardmembers can refer other people to get the card and once they do you'll receive bonus points for the referral.

This category is close and we have to call it a draw again. Some Canadians will find the Cobalt refer a friend bonus and the better Amex Offers more valuable to them while others will prefer RBC's Door Dash partnership, the extra points from partners and savings such as 3 cents off per litre at Petro-Canada.

Advertisement







Points Earning & Redemption

This is the round that most people care about and there are some big differences between the cards here where one card really puts the other card to shame.

Points earning is very different on the two cards and that leads to big differences on the redemption side as well. The American Express Cobalt Card earns 5x points on eats and drinks (dining, groceries, food delivery, coffee shops, convenience stores etc.) points per dollar on select streaming services, 2 points per dollar on travel, gas and transit purchases and then 1 point per dollar on all other spending. The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card earns 1.25 points per dollar spend on travel and then 1 points per dollar on all other spending. Those are some big differences in earn rates but as we always say earning is only on side of the equation. You have to look at the other side of the equation which is the redemption side.

Recommended reading: American Express Cobalt Card Confirmed Multiplier Locations

On the redemption side, the RBC Avion Card is most famous for it's RBC Avion Air Travel Redemption schedule. This is the most popular redemption option on the card where you redeem a fixed amount of points for travel to a certain area. Most people are familiar with this as it is the 'Reward Chart' style redemption that most frequent flyer programs used to use. The American Express Cobalt Card also has this same travel option and they call it Fixed points for Travel. If you compare the charts side by side, the RBC chart appears to be better as they have some lower points requirements and/or higher maximum ticket values. However you can't be fooled by that on its own. By looking at both the earn and burn side of the equation you'll quickly see that those lower points or higher maximum ticket values don't give the Avion card the advantage. Here are the reward requirements compared along with the spend required (thus the earn rates) on each card:

Flight Redemption Amount of points needed with the American Express Fixed Points for Travel Chart Amount of points needed with the RBC Avion Reward Chart Amount of Spend Required with the American Express Cobalt Card Amount of Spend Required with the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Short Haul - select routes in Canada and Canada to U.S. 15,000 15,000 $3,000 to $15,000 $12,000 to $15,000
Short Haul - Canada Within or to an adjacent province or state 20.000 15,000 $4,000 to $20,000 $12,000 to $15,000
Canada/US Long haul (Except Hawaii or Alaska) 40,000 35,000 $8,000 to $40,000 $28,000 to $35,000
Sun Destinations
- Western Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska
- Eastern Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean
50,000 45,000 $10,000 to $50,000 $36,000 to $45,000
Sun Destinations
- Eastern Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska
- Western Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean
50,000 55,000 $10,000 to $50,000 $44,000 to $55,000
Europe 60,000 65,000 $12,000 to $60,000 $52,000 to $65,000
Rest of world 100,000 100,000 $20,000 to $100,000 $80,000 to $100,000

 

You can quickly see that RBC's 1 to 1.25 points per dollar earn rate are no match for the Cobalt Card's 1 to 5 points per dollar spent. So while some of those categories Amex needs more points it takes a lot less spend on the Cobalt Card. You can realistically get a flight within North America after you spend $8,000 on the Cobalt Card. The Avion card will take at least $20,000 more spending for the same flight. The sheer difference in required spending is huge! You have to remember as the Cobalt Card's 5x points is on eats and drinks, these points are easily achievable and the required spend will skew to lower side of what is shown in the chart above!

Recommended reading: Clash of the Reward Charts! American Express vs. RBC

The next travel redemption option that both cards provide is the any travel any time option. American Express does this better as it is a true any travel any time reward. That is you can go out and book any travel you like on the Cobalt Card with any provider, be it Air Canada, Expedia, Via Rail, you name it and once that charge shows up on your account you can redeem points against that charge. The redemption rate is 1,000 points to $10 and you can choose to do partial or full redemptions. That is if the travel cost $500 and you $200 in points you can redeem for $200 off that charge. If we take the Cobalt Card's 1 to 5x points earned that translates to a 1 to 5% return on your spending when you redeem in this fashion. The RBC Avion card also allows you to redeem in this way however that travel has to be booked via RBC Rewards Travel so you are more limited in your options. The redemption rate is 100 points to 1 (the same as Amex) which means you are receiving a 1 to 1.25% return on your spending. Technically speaking you can go out an buy any travel on the RBC card and then redeem points for it but they call that the Points for Credit option and it works to about a 0.58% to 0.73% return on your spending.

The final travel redemption option you see on both cards is one that is a favourite of points and miles enthusiasts and that is the ability to convert points to other programs. You can convert the points from the American Express Cobalt Card to six airline and two hotel programs including Air Canada Aeroplan, British Airways Executive Club and Marriott Bonvoy. The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card's points can be converted to four airlines including WestJet Rewards and British Airways Executive Club plus Hudson's Bay Rewards. The conversion rates on both sides are very similar however if we take into account the earn rates, the American Express Cobalt Card does much better here once again. If we compare one of the programs that both cards feature as a transfer partner, British Airways Executive Club, the Cobalt Card earns the equivalent of 1 to 5 Avios per dollar spent versus the RBC Avion's 1 to 1.25 Avios per dollar spent. On top of that the Cobalt Card has Canada's most popular frequent flyer program, Air Canada's Aeroplan and with the points converting 1:1 the Cobalt Card is actually the best card in Canada for earning Aeroplan points. By having more conversion partners, the ability to earn more points and miles for those partner programs and by having Aeroplan as one of those partners the Cobalt Card easily takes this portion of the round.

Airline or Hotel Program American Express Cobalt Card
Miles/Points earned per dollar spent
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Miles/Points earned per dollar spent
Air Canada Aeroplan 1 to 5 points N/A
Air France KLM Flying Blue 0.75 to 3.75 miles N/A
American AAdvantage N/A* 0.7 to 0.875 miles
British Airways Executive Club 1 to 5 Avios 1 to 1.25 Avios
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles 1 to 5 miles 1 to 1.25 miles
Delta SkyMiles 0.75 to 3.75 miles N/A
Etihad Guest 0.75 to 3.75 miles N/A
Hilton Honors 1 to 5 points N/A
Marriott Bonvoy 1.2 to 6 points N/A
WestJet Rewards N/A 0.01 to 0.0125 dollars

* Technically you can earn American AAdvantage miles by converting the Cobalt's points to Marriott and then onto American Airlines.

Recommended reading: Loyalty Lesson: Is a 30% return on credit card spending possible? Yes, it sure is!

Both cards also offer cash back redemption options. The American Express Cobalt Card allows cardmembers to redeem 1,000 points for a $10 credit towards any non-travel purchase made on the card. That works out to a 1 to 5% return on your card spending. The RBC Avion Card also has a cash back redemption option which works out to approximately a 0.58% to 0.73% return on your spending.

After the travel and cash back you have numerous other redemption options with these cards including financial products, gift cards and merchandise.

There you have the earn and redeem side of things where there is a clear winner in this the most important category, the American Express Cobalt Card

Insurance

Both cards offer a variety of travel insurance and other insurance coverage but one card has a slight edge in this category. The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card offers a slightly more comprehensive suite of travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and interruption insurance, both of which the Cobalt Card does not have. The RBC Card's Out of Province Emergency Medical Insurance also provides 3 days of coverage for those 65 and over, the Cobalt card does not. With that slight difference the insurance category goes to the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card.

TIP: The Cobalt Card may be weaker in the insurance department but you could easily buy annual trip cancellation/interruption coverage for a few hundred dollars to cover what the RBC card provides and still save a boatload of money due to being able to spend so much less on the card to be rewarded.

Conclusion

The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card has three things going for it over the Cobalt Card. The current welcome bonus offer, it’s insurance coverage and overall acceptance as Visa is accepted at more locations than American Express. However these three things aren’t enough to bring down Canada’s number one credit card. They do put up a good fight but the much better earn and burn value, a decent insurance package and more flexibility in rewards with the Cobalt Card provide the one two punch to knock the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card out in this Clash!

The winner of this clash is: American Express Cobalt Card


Key factors in the Amex Cobalt's win:






International Loyalty Programs

 The Cards Head to Head


Here is a direct side by side comparison of the two cards in this clash!


Basics

American Express Cobalt™ Card
American Express Cobalt™ Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Card Type Hybrid Hybrid
Annual Fee $12.99 per month ($155.88/year) $120
Limited Time Annual Fee Offer N/A N/A
Additional Card Fee $0 $50
Interest Rate 20.99%
Purchase †

21.99%
Cash Advance †
19.99%
Purchase

22.99%
Cash Advance
Foreign Transaction Fee 2.5% 2.5%
Income Requirements Not applicable $60,000 personal or $100,000 household annual income

Points Earning

American Express Cobalt™ Card
American Express Cobalt™ Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Standard Welcome Bonus 30,000 points 15,000 points
Welcome Bonus Value* $300+ $150+
Limited Time Welcome Bonus N/A Up to 55,000 points
Limited Time Welcome Bonus Value* N/A $550+
Renewal or Additional Bonus 5,000 bonus points for approved referrals to the card (up to 75,000 points annually) N/A
Travel Purchases 2 points per dollar spent 1.25 points per dollar spent
Grocery Purchases 5 points per dollar spent^ 1 point per dollar spent
Dining Purchases 5 points per dollar spent^ 1 point per dollar spent
Entertainment Purchases 1 point per dollar spent 1 point per dollar spent
Gas & Transit Purchases 2 points per dollar spent 1 point per dollar spent
Streaming Services Purchases 3 points per dollar spent (in Canada only) 1 point per dollar spent
All Other Purchases 1 point per dollar spent 1 point per dollar spent
^ Annual cap on bonus category spending $30,000 N/A
Value of points per $1 spent* 1 to 5 cents 1 to 1.25 cents
*Valuations are based upon redeeming the points for the any travel redemption - see the next section for cash back and other redemption options

Redemption/Exchange Options

American Express Cobalt™ Card
American Express Cobalt™ Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Miles/Points deposited to Membership Rewards Avion Rewards
Travel Redemption Value 1,000 points = $10
for any travel booked with any travel provider
or
a 1.5% to 10% return for travel booked via Amex's Fixed Points for Travel program
1,000 points = $10
for any travel booked with Avion Rewards Travel
or
up to a 2.91% return for travel booked via the Avion Air Travel Redemption Schedule
Exchange Options Convert points to:
6 airline programs and 2 hotel programs
Convert points to:
4 airline programs and Hudson's Bay Rewards
Cash Back Redemption option 1,000 points = $10 statement credit 17,200 points = $100 statement credit
Value of points for cash back redemptions 1 % to 5% 0.58% to 0.73%

Benefits

American Express Cobalt™ Card
American Express Cobalt™ Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Annual credit No No
Limited Time Partner Offers Yes - Amex Offers Yes - RBC Offers

Insurance

American Express Cobalt™ Card
American Express Cobalt™ Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card
Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance $250,000 $500,000
Flight Delay Insurance 4 hours
$500 in total
4 hours
$250 per person / $500 in total
Delayed Baggage Insurance 6 hours
$500 in total
4 hours
$500 per person / $2,500 in total
Lost / Stolen Baggage Insurance Yes
$500 in total
Yes
$500 per person / $2,500 in total
Damaged Baggage Insurance Yes
$500 in total
None
Trip Cancellation Insurance None $1,500 per person
(up to $5,000 per trip)
Trip Interruption Insurance None $5,000 per person
(up to $25,000 per trip)
Travel Medical Insurance up to 64 years old 15 Days 15 Days
Travel Medical Insurance 65+ None 3 Days
Auto Rental/Loss Damage Insurance 48 Days
Up to $85,000 MSRP
48 Days
Up to $65,000 MSRP
Hotel / Motel Burglary Insurance Yes
Up to $500
Yes
Up to $2,500
Purchase Protection 90 Days
up to $1,000 per occurrence
90 Days
Up to $50,000 annually
Price Protection No No
Extended Warranty Plan Yes
Up to 1 extra year
Yes
Up to 1 extra year
Mobile Device Insurance Yes
Up to $1,000
Yes
Up to $1,500
Link to Apply