Avion vs Aeroplan: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between Avion and Aeroplan is that Avion is a travel rewards program owned by Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) that requires signing up for an RBC credit card to participate, while Aeroplan is Air Canada’s loyalty program, without a need to apply for a credit card to enroll.

Avion and Aeroplan are frequent flyer programs that offer rewards and perks geared toward those who love travelling.

Both allow you to collect points on your everyday spending, which you can apply toward a wide range of great rewards, including flights to destinations worldwide.

But while the two loyalty rewards brands share many similarities, there are some differences.

Depending on your needs and preferences, these could be substantial enough to sway you into signing up for one program over the other.

In this guide, we review how both programs work and break down their benefits and drawbacks to help you choose the right loyalty program.

Avion

Pros
  • Points never expire
  • Lots of flexibility for redemptions
  • Ability to earn Avion points with debit purchases
  • Points are transferable to other loyalty programs
  • Access to an online shopping browser extension that helps find cash back deals and savings
Cons
  • Access to the loyalty program available only through RBC credit cards and banking products
  • Can take a long time to collect points as opportunities for earning bonus points, and the lack of partner brands

Aeroplan

Pros
  • Large selection of co-branded credit cards
  • Ability to pool Aeroplan points with your family and friends (up to eight people under one sharing plan)
  • Extensive range of flight options both domestic and international
  • No fuel surcharges added to reward flights
  • Ability to redeem points for flight perks like Wi-Fi, checked bags, and seat upgrades
  • Extensive range of retail partners
  • Ability to pay for rewards using a combination of cash and points
Cons
  • Fewer benefits if you don’t typically books fights with Air Canada
  • Points expire after 18 months with an inactive account
  • There is a $39 booking fee when flying with Star Alliance carriers
  • High redemption rates on long-distance flights
  • Offers less value for those who travel less and primarily want deals on retail spending

What is Avion?

Avion is a frequent flyer program owned and operated by RBC.

It was called RBC Rewards prior to being rebranded by the bank.

Under the Avion loyalty program, you can earn Avion points on all qualifying purchases you charge to an eligible RBC credit card.

Unlike some rewards programs, Avion is not affiliated with any other bank – the only way to collect points is through an RBC card.

You can also collect Avion points when you make debit purchases with an RBC chequing account, which necessitates enrolling in the Value Program.

There are plenty of options when it comes to converting your Avion points.

The most popular redemptions are flights, which isn’t surprising as Avion is a travel-oriented loyalty program. 

Other travel rewards include vacation packages, hotels, and car rentals.

If you’re not planning to head overseas any time soon, you can apply your points toward gift cards and merchandise, RBC financial products, and statement credits.

You can also donate them to a charity.

In addition, you can transfer your points to several other loyalty programs:

  • WestJet
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Hudson’s’ Bay Rewards 

Fun Fact!

Avion provides a nifty browser extension called ShopPlus, which helps you find solid cash back deals and discounts when shopping online.

Earn Rates

Avion earn rates vary based on the type of purchase you make and which Avion-branded credit card you use. 

Generally, you collect 1 point for every dollar you spend.

Travel-related purchases will earn you 1.25 points, depending on your Avion credit card type.

You can also collect bonus points when shopping at select retailers; RBC routinely offers promotional deals, which you can easily find by logging into your online banking account. 

RBC ION Visa credit cards (also part of Avion Rewards) offer the best earning rates: between 1 and 3 points per dollar spent on eligible purchases, depending on the type of card you have and the spending category.

On top of the standard credit card earning rates, RBC frequently offers welcome bonuses where you can earn thousands of Avion points when you open an account and achieve specific spending targets over a certain period.

Redemption Rates

An Avion point is worth roughly between 0.5 cent to 2.5 cents, depending on what you redeem them for.

Like most travel rewards programs, you’ll get the best deal when you redeem your points on flights and travel-oriented purchases.

Merchandise, gift cards, and statement credits offer considerably less value.

So how many points will you need to cover a flight? That depends on your destination.

Here’s a look at some current redemption rates for round trips:

Type of Flight Avion points required Point Value Based on Maximum Ticket Price
Quick Getaway (travel to or within neighbouring provinces and states, except for Hawaii and Alaska) 15,000 2.33 cents
Holiday destinations (North America, Central America 45,000 2 cents
Europe (departing from major gateway in Canada or the U.S.) 65,000 2 cents
All global destinations (departing from major gateway in Canada or the U.S.) 100,000 2 cents

As you can see from the chart above, an Avion point is 2 cents if applied toward a wide range of flights, which is an excellent rate. 

You have complete freedom to book your trip through any airline and choose from any flight.

There are no blackout periods or seat restrictions, even during peak travel periods. 

As mentioned, you can convert your points to other loyalty programs, which is a massive benefit of the Avion Rewards program.

Here are the conversion ratios:

  • 500 Avion points = 1,000 Hudson’s Bay points 
  • 100 Avion points = 1 WestJet dollar
  • 1 Avion point = 1 Avios point
  • 10 Avion points = 7 AAdvantage miles
  • 1 Avion point = 1 Asia mile

Avion Credit Cards

Since RBC owns Avion, you can only participate in the frequent flyer program by opening an RBC credit card account.

Here are a couple of credit cards to consider for collecting Avion points.

RBC Avion Visa Platinum

RBC’s Avion Visa Platinum offers a solid blend of perks and features at a reasonable annual fee of $120.

As a cardholder, you earn one point for every $1 spent on eligible purchases.

You can boost your earn rate by taking advantage of special offers from select merchants.

The card comes with a generous array of benefits to explore, which includes access to the Avion Collection, broad travel insurance coverage, fuel savings at Petro-Canada, car rental discounts at select Hertz locations, and zero-dollar delivery fees for up to one year at DoorDash.

RBC Avion Visa Infinite

If you’re big on lavish travel perks, you’ll want to check out RBC’s Avion Visa Infinite credit card.

Using this card, you’ll earn 1 point for every $1 you spend on eligible purchases and 1.25 points per $1 for travel-related purchases.

Like the Avion Visa Platinum, you get many of the same benefits, such as Petro-Canada fuel savings, car rental discounts, travel insurance and zero-dollar DoorDash delivery fees. 

However, The Avion Visa Infinite also offers a larger package of insurance coverage, and you get access to those highly coveted Visa Infinite perks.

What is Aeroplan

Aeroplan is a loyalty program created and owned by Air Canada, Canada’s premier airline.

It operated briefly as a subsidiary of the airline before being reacquired in January 2019.

As a member, you earn Aeroplan points when you spend on Air Canada flights (and its 50+ partner airlines) and other travel-related purchases, like car rentals, hotels, and vacation packages.

You also garner points when you shop with Aeroplan retail partners, of which there are over 200.

A convenient way to access many of these retailers is through Aeroplan’s eStore.

Like most loyalty programs, using a credit card is the best way to rack up Aeroplan points quickly.

Over a dozen Aeroplan-branded credit cards are available that will allow you to do exactly that.

Aeroplan is a flexible loyalty program with many redemption options.

You can apply your Aeroplan points toward a diverse range of domestic and international flights with Air Canada and any of its partner airlines. 

You can also use them to cover a wide range of travel expenses, like accommodation and car rentals, and even flight upgrades, such as in-flight Wi-fi and premium seats. 

Other redemption options include merchandise, gift cards, concert tickets, and charitable donations.

The new, refreshed Aeroplan is revered in Canada for providing excellent rewards, especially travel-related ones.

It’s also straightforward to understand and allows members to collect points in various ways through a wide range of partner brands.

You can even pool your points with family members and friends.

Earn Rates

The number of Aeroplan points you can expect to earn depends on the type of purchase you make and where you make it. 

Regarding flights, you’ll earn points based on the flying distance – the further your destination, the more points you’ll collect.

The earn rate also depends on the fare class you book.

For example, you’ll receive 150% of the miles flown if you purchase a business fare.

The same earning model applies to Air Canada’s partner airlines. 

For accommodation, you collect points based on a flat or set rate per dollar spent.

Typically, the earning rate is 250 to 500 points per eligible stay or 2 points per dollar spent at a partner brand.

Aeroplan-affiliated car rental agencies offer between 50 and 500 points per rental.

Retail partner brands generally provide between 1 and 5 points per dollar spent.

There are also opportunities to nab extra points through various promotional offers.

With an Aeroplan credit card, you can accelerate your points earning rate.

Aeroplan co-branded cards will net you up to 1.5 for every $1 you spend on select categories, such as gas and groceries.

Some also offer 2 to 3 points per dollar for any eligible purchases you make through Air Canada.

Redemption Rates

Aeroplan is primarily an airline loyalty program, so it’s worth focusing on flight redemption rates. 

Aeroplan employs a dynamic pricing model under four zones: North America, Atlantic, Pacific, and South America.

Every seat on every Air Canada flight is eligible for redemption.

There are no restrictions or blackout dates, and you can also apply your points on any of Air Canada’s partner airlines. 

The number of points you’ll need to gather for your desired flight is based on several factors, such as your departure city, destination, seat class, and miles flown.

For example, the further away your destination is, the more points you need to redeem.

One way to get acquainted with the flight redemption rates is to browse the Aeroplan Flight Reward Chart.

You can use these details to determine the most cost-effective flight destination, route, and class fare.

You’ll need to collect between 6,000 and 250,000 points depending on your travel plans.

Alternatively, you can use Aeroplan’s flight redemption calculator to get a more accurate estimate.

When booking a flight, you must still pay any taxes and applicable third-party fees, but you can also use your points to cover these costs.

However, no surcharges apply when you purchase a flight using your points.

Redemption rates for other rewards also vary widely.

Aeroplan Credit Cards

Currently, three financial institutions offer an Aeroplan co-branded card: TD, CIBC, and AMEX.

Here are two Aeroplan credit cards to consider if you’re looking to earn points fast:

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card

TD’s Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card is the ideal credit card if you’re looking to garner plenty of points from gas and grocery spending. 

As a cardholder, you earn 1.5 points on gas, groceries, and eligible Air Canada purchases and 1 point on all other purchases.

In addition, you’ll benefit from an assortment of lavish perks through Visa’s Infinite program.

American Express Cobalt Card

The American Express Cobalt Card earns you Membership Rewards (MR) rather than Aeroplan points.

Using this card, you receive 3 points per $1 spent on streaming services, 2 points per $1 spent on travel, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

What’s so appealing about this card is that you can transfer any MR points you collect to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio.

As a result, the Aeroplan earn rate on AMEX’s Cobalt card eclipses many of the top Aeroplan-branded cards.

Did You Know?

Aeroplan accepts points transfers from several loyalty programs, including Best Western Rewards, Wyndham Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

How to Choose Between Avion and Aeroplan

Having trouble deciding between Avion and Aeroplan?

If so, we don’t blame you, as the two loyalty programs share more similarities than differences.

Let’s say you’re already a loyal RBC customer.

In that case, you may instinctively lean toward Avion to keep all your accounts under one financial institution. 

The frequent flyer program offers tremendous redemption flexibility, so there might be little incentive to apply for Aeroplan membership.

Plus, if you have a qualifying RBC bank account, you can also collect Avion points through debit purchases.

However, Aeroplan has the edge if you’re looking to earn reward points quickly as it boasts a vast network of partners (over 150 retail brands), which Avion lacks. 

Flight booked with Avion points taking off into sunset

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I transfer Avion points to Aeroplan?
  • Is Avion better than WestJet?
  • Can you fly first class with Avion points?
Mark Gregorski

Mark is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.