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Clash of the Reward Charts!
American Express vs. RBC
Posted on November 30, 2020

 

Welcome to next Rewards Canada Clash!

If you listened to our podcast New window from June entitled Clash of the Credit Cards - you'll know that we've changed our Showdown features to Clashes. The reason why is that lots of sites and blogs are using Showdown now, some are using battle so we wanted to continue to be unique so our comparisons are now Clashes!

In this clash we aren't comparing credits cards head to head in our normal fashion where we compare all the benefits, earning etc. Instead this a Clash of the Reward Charts from two credit card issuers! In this case we take a look at the RBC Avion Airline Reward Chart versus American Express's Fixed Points for Travel Chart. The reason behind type if clash this is two fold - one I've had it in the back of head for quite some time that I should do it and it also stems from an article I recently read on another points and miles blog (PoT) about family travel that kicked my initial idea into high gear. There was a part of the article that struck me as odd - especially from this blog that is known for some really good in-depth content. What struck me as being the odd was the statement that the author finds the RBC Avion "redemption chart more favourable" than Amex's Fixed Points for Travel Chart. (Also I do find it odd there is reference to using Air Canada's buddy pass for a vacation trip to Whistler just as we had posted days before...) The author states the reason why it is more favourable is that RBC's chart for the most part has lower points requirements and higher base ticket values. Now, if a newcomer or novice person in the points and miles world came across this they might automatically jump for RBC over American Express and that's not a good thing. Now don't get me wrong - the RBC Visa Infinite Avion is not a bad card, if fact we've always ranked it high in our rankings but not for the Avion chart - rather for its transfer options and bonuses when you convert RBC Rewards points to programs like British Airways Executive Club and WestJet Rewards while having that flexibility of also using the RBC reward chart. And as we are known as the points and miles resource for the everyday Canadian I can say it is these any airline any flight reward charts that appeal to vast majority of our population, not the conversion options to other programs and that's why I think that statement in the other blog's post is not a good thing. As I’ve been to known to say for years on end here on our website, in countless media interviews and even when presenting at loyalty industry conferences - you have to look at both sides of the equation. And in the points and miles world that means the earn and the burn sides. That statement on other blog makes the mistake of only looking at one side of the equation - the burn side and thus alludes to RBC being better. But you can't do that. Especially to novices who may be reading the article.

If you want to learn more on the topic I recommend that you also read this article that I still send a lot of people and traffic to even though it is from 2013: Remember people it's all about the EARN and the BURN

Now onto the clash!

Yes, when you look at the numbers on the redemption charts, the RBC Rewards Avion award chart does look better. A good portion of the flight categories on RBC's chart do require less points and have higher dollar value limits (before taxes and fees) than the Amex Chart.. See the chart comparisons here:

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 RBC Avion Reward Chart RBC Maximum Ticket Value
Short Haul - select routes in Canada and Canada to U.S. (this is from the Amex chart) 15,000 $300 15,000 $350
Short Haul - Canada Within or to an adjacent province or state 20.000 $300 15,000 $350
Canada/US Long haul (Except Hawaii or Alaska) 40,000 $700 35,000 $750
Sun Destinations
- Western Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska
- Eastern Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean
(this is from the RBC chart)
50,000 $800 45,000 $900
Sun Destinations
- Eastern Canada/U.S. to Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska
- Western Canada to Bermuda, Central America, Caribbean
(this is from the RBC chart)
50,000 $800 55,000 $1,100
Europe 60,000 $900 65,000 $1,300
Rest of world 100,000 $1,700 100,000 $2,000

However 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 to get each card's rewards:

Let's set the stage between the American Express Cobalt Card and the RBC Visa Infinite Avion Card by looking at their earn rates. This is pretty simple, the Cobalt Card with its 5x points on eats and drinks and 2x points on travel, transit, and gas blows the RBC Avion card earn rates out of the water. The RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card earns 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases except travel where it earns 1.25 points per dollar. The only advantage RBC has here is more acceptance thanks to being a Visa card. So let's see how that plays into how much you have to spend to get your flight rewards via these charts:

Related: American Express Cobalt Card Confirmed Multiplier Locations

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 Visa Infinite Avion 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 $50,000
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


Let me pose this question to you: Would you rather spend $3,000 or $4,000 versus $12,000 to get a short haul flight? Or how about $12,000 versus $52,000 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 the spend levels for the Cobalt Card are way more realistic to achieve than the Avion card. Cobalt's 5x point on eats and drinks are so easy to earn by any Canadian whereas RBC's best earn rate is 1.25 points on travel purchases - the rest are only 1 point per dollar. This means the chart weighs heavily in favour towards the Cobalt Card spend being closer in reality to the lower amount required versus RBC's which would lean more towards the high end. This is especially more so true now that there is very little travel happening.

Now you might say but wait what if I am buying a short haul ticket from Edmonton to Regina that costs exactly $350. The RBC Card will cover that full amount with 15,000 points while the Cobalt Card will cost 20,000 points and only cover $300 leaving you $50 that you still have to cover. Let's do the math. With RBC you need to spend a minimum of $12,000 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 $50. That makes your minimum spend $4,050 with American Express. You can even choose redeem points at a rate of 1,000 points to $10 to cover the $50 - so that would be 5,000 points or $1,000 more in spending at a minimum for a total outlay of $5,000. That's still $7,000 less in spending than on the RBC Avion card!! Personally If it was me I'd just pay the $50 difference and save the points for another redemption if using the Cobalt card.

What about a flight to Asia? Again let's price it at the max that RBC allows - $2,000 before taxes. RBC your minimum spend is $80,000 on the credit card. Cobalt minimum spend is $20,000 (and this still falls into Cobalt's 30K cap on spending for 5x points annually) but you are only covered for $1,700. So you pay the extra $300 and you've spent $20,300 versus $80,000!! 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 $90,000 or more on the RBC to get to the exact same redemption.

Even if you have a different Amex card in your pocket, like the Platinum Card  New window or Gold Rewards Card  New window- their multipliers on spending will still make the American Express Fixed Point Travel Chart more valuable than RBC's. I must also mention that if you have RBC's Ultra Premium Avion Visa Infinite Privilege Card which earns 1.25 points on all purchases, you can easily plug that into the chart above. It simply would be the minimum spend requirements shown for the RBC Avion Visa Infinite Card with no spread to the maximum. Take our spend examples from above and the Cobalt Card still provides the TKO against the Infinite Privilege card. Even the other Amex cards would do better against it. So remember you always have to look at both sides of the equation. Not just one or the other. You must look at the earn and the burn.

The winner of this clash is: The American Express Fixed Points for Travel Chart

One final note, this article just further solidifies why I have ranked the American Express Cobalt Card  New window as the overall number one travel rewards credit card in Canada!  New window



Continued reading and related articles:

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