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 May 31, 2011
RBC Travel Rewards Poll Finds Twice As Many Canadians Choose Flights Over Any Other Reward Option

 Most Canadians opt for travel when using rewards points, with 57 per cent redeeming for flight options, well ahead of merchandise (30 per cent) and gift cards (27 per cent), according to an RBC poll of Canadian travel rewards cardholders.

Still, using points to book travel is not always an easy experience. Many reward travellers say they have faced obstacles when trying to travel on reward points, with 81 per cent expressing frustration at having to book months in advance. Among those booking a flight, 40 per cent have been unable to book the flight or dates desired and almost one-third (29 percent) had to fly on an alternate date or were forced to choose an indirect flight (31 per cent). All travel rewards cardholders (99 per cent) say it is important that points don't expire.

"Canadians are looking for flexibility and choice when it comes to travel. It should be no different when booking with rewards points," said Anna Judek, senior manager of Card Products, RBC. "The key is choosing a rewards credit card that allows you to treat yourself to a wide range of experiences that mean the most to you - whether it's a day at the spa, a weekend trip or an extended getaway."

Exactly half of survey respondents (50 per cent) are saving up their rewards points for a big item such as a flight or a new television. Almost one-quarter (24 per cent) prefer to use their rewards for mini-vacations once a year and 18 per cent regularly reward themselves to smaller items such as gift cards and movie tickets. The poll found that many respondents (62 per cent) would like the option to redeem for financial rewards vouchers to use towards their mortgage, lines of credit, RRSP, TFSA and RESP.

"Canadians fall into two types of point collectors; those who save for a long period of time to purchase a big-ticket item or family vacation and those who redeem points for small scale items or shorter trips," added Judek.

Among activities they would like to try on their next vacation, Canadian reward travellers list boat tours (44 per cent) and a visit to a winery (39 per cent) as the most popular choices. One-in-three (33 per cent) opt for a massage or spa appointment and 26 per cent are interested in snorkeling on their next vacation.

Judek offers five tips that travellers can use to maximize their rewards credit card:

Stick to one program - Make sure to focus on one or two reward programs you really believe in and align your spending accordingly. Focusing on just one program will allow you to collect points faster while consolidating your expenses into one monthly statement.

Be flexible - Look at reward programs that offer choice and cater to your lifestyle without restrictions or surprises. Check the fine print to ensure your points can be redeemed on any airline, with no seating restrictions, blackout periods or points expiry. Also look for reward options that offer a range of choices to suit your lifestyle including gift cards, merchandise and financial rewards vouchers, which can be used towards RRSPs, TFSAs or to pay down your mortgage or line of credit.

Look for deals - Take advantage of bonus offers and promotions to make sure that you're getting the most value out of your rewards credit card. Special enrolment offers and seasonal airline partnerships can give you bonus points on top of what you normally collect.

Make it automatic - Paying monthly expenses such as insurance premiums, fitness memberships and utility bills with your rewards credit card can help you automatically rack up points and simplify your finances. You can also sign up for automated payments, which pay a set amount on your credit card so you don't have to remember every month.

Check the extras - Many reward credit cards offer additional travel benefits such as extra insurance for flight delays, medical emergencies and baggage loss.