If you’re new to booking flights on travel points, you may end up being disappointed when you learn that you still have to pay for taxes and other fees with cash. Most fixed-point level travel rewards programs don’t include taxes, but some of them do. Before you go all-in on a rewards program, it’s important to understand how they work since you’ll likely want to apply for a travel rewards credit card that will help you maximize your earning potential. Which fees are covered by Aeroplan, AIR MILES, Aventura, Avion and WestJet? See below:
|Airline Program||Cover Base Fare?||Cover Fuel Surcharges, Taxes and Other Fees?||How to Pay for What’s Not Covered|
|Aeroplan||Yes||No||Cash or Points|
|RBC Avion||Yes||No||Cash or Points|
If you use an Aeroplan credit card:
- Fixed miles amount (e.g. short haul = 15,000 miles) only covers the base ticket price
- The miles amount does not cover fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees
- Fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees can either be paid with cash or with points
If you use an AIR MILES credit card:
- Fixed miles amount covers the base ticket price and fuel surcharges for flights within North America*
- For flights outside of North America, the miles amount does not cover fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees
- No matter which flights you choose, the miles amount does not cover taxes and other fees
- Fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees, if applicable, have to be paid with cash (you cannot redeem more miles)
If you use a CIBC Aventura credit card:
- Book on any airline, every flight, every seat
- Use points for taxes and fees
- Points never expire and there are no booking fees
RBC Avion (RBC Rewards)
If you use an RBC Avion credit card:
- Fixed-point amount only covers the base ticket price
- The points amount does not cover fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees
- Fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees can either be paid with cash or with points (at a rate of 10,000 points = $100)
If you use a WestJet Rewards credit card:
- Your WestJet Dollars only cover the base ticket price
- You cannot use your WestJet Dollars to pay for fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees
- Fuel surcharges, taxes and other fees must be paid for with cash
As you can see, AIR MILES is the only travel rewards program (of Aeroplan and AIR MILES) that includes fuel surcharges in their fixed-mile amount for certain flights. However, over the years, AIR MILES has increased the miles required for flights within North America so you may not actually be getting good value.
AEROPLAN may be more appealing, but Air Canada already announced that they’re pulling out of the program in 2020, so you may not want to collect those points unless you can use them fast.
WestJet Rewards has improved their tiers recently but the value of WestJet Dollars remains the same at a 1:1 conversion ratio. Although you can only redeem them on the base fare, there’s just a minimum redemption of $25 which you can use at any time.
Things get interesting when you start looking at rewards programs offered directly from one of the big banks. CIBC Aventura is one of the few programs that allows you to pay for your base fare, taxes, and fees with points which is obviously appealing. Despite the fact that RBC Rewards only allows you to pay for the base fare, it’s still a decent program and their credit cards offer good insurance
The key point to remember with all of these programs is that, no matter which credit card you decide to use, you will never really get a full free flight, as there will always be taxes and other fees on top of it. That doesn’t mean these aren’t some of the best credit cards in Canada – it just means you should do your research before you sign-up.