Back in June I wrote about a great way to unlock up to $850 in travel rewards for free from CIBC. In summary, you had to apply for the CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite Card, the CIBC Aventura for Business Card, and the CIBC Aventura Gold Visa Card.

After meeting the minimum spending requirements you could earn 73,000 Aventura rewards points, plus a $120 travel credit. Best of all, each of the cards included a first year annual fee rebate which cancelled out any fees. The scheme sounded too good to pass up, so I applied for all three cards with my sights set on earning $850 in free travel.

But that’s not what happened.

Here’s my CIBC Aventura adventure:

CIBC Aventura

I’ve never banked with CIBC nor owned one of its credit card products. When I applied for the Aventura Visa Infinite Card and Aventura for Business Card online in June I immediately knew something was wrong. I wasn’t approved instantly, instead a message stated that CIBC would get in touch with me within 10 days.

A few weeks later I received a letter in the mail stating that there was a problem with my applications when they did a credit check. The name on my application did not match the name on my credit report. This didn’t make sense to me. I have successfully applied for dozens and dozens of credit cards over the years and have never had this issue.

Credit bureau issues

I called CIBC and a representative said that I’d have to clear up the error with the credit bureau. I looked into doing that and it would involve a pile of paperwork and weeks of waiting for answers – plus the fact that I didn’t think anything was wrong with the credit file.

I set the issue aside until I received another letter from CIBC informing me that my application had once again been denied. Apparently they thought I would have cleared up the credit bureau issue and they went ahead and did another credit check. I called and asked them to cancel the application and that I would reapply if and when I got this issue sorted out.

Fast-forward to August and I decided to apply in-person at a CIBC branch. Everything was good and the advisor sent off my two applications to head office for approval. The advisor also confirmed that the bonuses from June were still available, which was great news.

Two weeks later and I still had not received any word from CIBC about the cards. I called the advisor and she said to be patient as they should have been sent out. When I did not receive anything the next week she ‘cancelled’ the original card applications and re-applied. Finally, 10 days later, I received an email from CIBC ‘welcoming me’ to the Aventura program. Still no cards though.

Added insurance without consent

Another week goes by and I get a letter from CIBC in the mail. But when I opened it I didn’t find a credit card package inside – no, instead it was from Canadian Premier Life Insurance Company explaining how the balance protection insurance on my card works(!).

I did not consent and have never consented to putting balance protection insurance on a credit card. It’s an expensive, borderline scam of a product that charges the cardholder monthly premiums on their statement balance, whether they pay it off in full or not.

So I call the insurance company and explain that I never signed up for this insurance and to kindly remove it from my credit card.

Earning and Redeeming Aventura Points

Finally, another week later (now the end of August), I receive two CIBC credit cards. I quickly reached the minimum spend thresholds on each card and on the first statement I see what I’ve been waiting for – those sweet Aventura points, plus two $120 travel credits (one on the personal Aventura side and the other on the Business side).

I decided to combine my Aventura points, thinking it would make more sense to have them in one account (they were split 22,000 on the personal card and 25,000 on the business card). CIBC allows you to combine the points into one account, so I moved the business card points over to the personal card side.

That was a mistake. Here’s why:

I called the CIBC rewards centre to make a hotel booking and use up my points and travel credit. I read somewhere that you could use your credit and points in the same transaction, but only if you call in and speak with an agent.

So I found out that’s only partly true. The agent told me she could only combine points with a travel credit on the business credit card…not the personal card. My hotel booking came to just over $500, so I could use 47,000 points but I’d still be short about $50 that I’d have to pay out of pocket.

Now that I’ve used up my Aventura points I’m left with two separate $120 travel credits that I cannot combine into one booking. Not the end of the world, but slightly inconvenient for booking future travel.

Final thoughts

Obviously your mileage may vary when it comes to applying for CIBC credit cards and redeeming Aventura points and travel credits. This was a frustrating experience for me and enough of a hassle to probably stay away from CIBC cards in the future. I’m not going to bother with the Aventura Gold Visa Card.

That said, I did (eventually) get to redeem $470 in travel for free and still have another $240 in travel waiting to be redeemed for future trips. Still a pretty lucrative adventure in Aventura point collecting.

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