RBC ION+ Visa Review

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The RBC ION+ Visa Card is a new credit card from the Royal Bank of Canada. It’s clearly aimed at students and those with a modest income.

What makes this card interesting is that it’s one of the few credit cards in Canada that’s actually designed for students and young adults. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of student credit cards out there, but they’re typically just entry-level credit cards with a basic earn rate and limited benefits.

With this card, students and young adults will get an increased earn rate on categories that will actually benefit them. Read my RBC ION+ Visa review now and find out why this card is putting other banks on notice.

RBC ION+ Visa Card

  • $48 annual fee ($4 charged monthly)
  • 12,000 Avion points on approval
  • Earn 3 Avion points for every $1 spent on groceries, dining, food delivery, rideshares, gas, daily public transit, EV charging, streaming, digital gaming and subscriptions
  • Earn 1 Avion point per $1 on all other purchases
  • Save 3¢/L on fuel at Petro Canada and earn 20% more points when you pay with a linked RBC card
  • Free 3-month DashPass subscription
  • Mobile device insurance

To begin, the RBC ION+ Visa card charges a monthly fee of $4 ($48 annually). While most student credit cards have a no or low annual fee, $4 a month is pretty reasonable. That said, if you have an RBC Signature No Limit Banking or RBC Advantage Banking for students account, the fee is waived.

If you’re approved for the card, you’ll instantly get 12,000 Avion points.

The earn rate for the RBC ION+ Visa card is quite generous. You’ll get 3 Avion points per $1 spent on groceries, dining, food delivery, rideshares, daily transit, gas, EV charging, streaming, digital gaming and subscriptions.

These categories are quite broad. For example, rides cover taxis, Uber and daily public transportation. With digital gaming, you would get an increased earn rate for things such as digital game purchases, including in-game purchases. Admittedly, this is a very niche category, but there’s no denying that students may be spending in this category, so the increased earn rate is a bonus.

All other purchases would earn you 1 Avion Reward point per $1 spent.

Beyond the earn rate, you do get a few additional perks with this card. When filling up at Petro Canada gas stations, you’ll save 3¢/L on fuel and earn 20% more points when you pay with a linked RBC card. For those that shop at Rexall, you get 50 Be Well points for every $1 spent when paying with your RBC ION+ Visa card and scanning your Be Well card.

You also get a 3-month free DashPass subscription with DoorDash. This subscription gives you unlimited deliveries with $0 delivery fees on qualifying orders of $15 or more when you pay with your eligible RBC credit card. Remember, you get 3X the points on food delivery, so this free subscription can be quite nice. Too bad it’s only good for three months.

RBC ION+ Visa insurance

So far, my RBC ION+ Visa review has focused on the earn rate and benefits. Now it’s time to go over the insurance perks that you get, which are as follows:

  • Mobile device insurance
  • Purchase security
  • Extended warranty

Many credit cards have started to include mobile device insurance over the years, so it’s nice to see that the RBC ION+ Visa has it too. When you purchase a mobile device with your card, it gets covered from loss, theft, mechanical failure and damage for two years up to $1,000. Depreciation needs to be factored in, but this is a sweet perk to have. Also note that if you’re getting a subsidized phone, you need to charge your monthly bill to your RBC ION+ Visa for the insurance policy to be valid.

Purchase security is a benefit you hope never to use, but you’ll be glad you have it if you ever need it. When you charge purchases to your RBC ION+ Visa card, they’re protected from loss, theft, and damage for 90 days.

As for the extended warranty, purchases charged to your card get the manufacturer’s warranty doubled, up to one additional year, to a maximum of five years.

How Avion Rewards works

Avion recently merged with RBC Rewards to become Avion Rewards. While this change was mostly cosmetic, there are now three different tiers of rewards within Avion Rewards.

Ion cardholders get the most basic version of Avion Rewards and get the following redemption options:

  • Gift cards: 140 points = $1
  • Travel: 172 points = $1
  • Pay with Points: 172 points = $1

When you do the math, that works out to a value of .71 cents per point (CPP) for gift cards and .58 CPP for travel and statement credits. This is important since your earn rate of 3X on select categories is actually a real value of 2.13 cents per dollar spent when redeeming gift cards. If you’re redeeming for travel or a statement credit, it’s 1.74 cents.

You do have the option of transferring your points to WestJet Rewards and Avion, which will increase the value of your points. The transfer ratio to Avion is 1:1, but you must have an Avion credit card. Once your points are transferred over, you can redeem 100 Avion points for $1 in travel. With WestJet Rewards, 100 ION Avion points gets you 1 WestJet dollar.

How the RBC ION+ Visa compares to others

To wrap up my RBC ION+ Visa review, I want to compare it to other cards to give you some perspective. While not entirely a fair comparison, many people will compare the RBC ION+ Visa card to the American Express Cobalt Card. That’s saying a lot since the Amex Cobalt is consistently one of the top picks for credit card enthusiasts. 

Both cards have a monthly subscription fee and higher earn rate. With the Amex Cobalt card, you’ll pay $12.99 monthly ($155.88 annually). As for the earn rate, you get 5 points per $1 spent on eats and drinks (includes groceries, restaurants, and food delivery), 3 points on streaming services, and 2 points on travel (includes rideshares and transit). All other purchases earn you 1 American Express Membership Rewards point per $1 spent.

The insurance included with the Cobalt card is also fantastic since it includes travel insurance along with mobile device insurance, purchase protection, and buyer’s assurance.

To be honest, it’s not a fair comparison. Avion points with the RBC ION+ Visa card are not as valuable as the American Express Cobalt Card. The Cobalt is a premium credit card, whereas the RBC ION+ Visa card is an entry-level card.

It’s better to compare the RBC ION+ Visa card strictly to other student and low fee cards in Canada, then it’s clear that it’s one of the better credit cards available on the market. This card is especially appealing for people who bank with RBC and have an account that will get the monthly fee waived for the card.

The other comparable card is the basic version of the RBC ION Visa card. With that one, there’s no monthly fee, but you get a lower earn rate and no mobile device insurance.

Final thoughts

My RBC ION+ Visa review is positive, For a relatively low fee, you get a decent earn rate and mobile device insurance. While this card can’t compete with premium credit cards, it’s one of the best student credit cards in Canada and is ideal for someone looking for a low fee credit card.

*Refer to RBC page for up to date offer terms and conditions

RBC ION+ Visa Review

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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