Most Canadians opt for travel when using rewards points, with 57% redeeming for flight options, well ahead of merchandise (30%) and gift cards (27%), according to Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) poll of Canadian travel rewards cardholders. This article is copyright 2011 The Best Customer Guide.

Despite this finding, 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% expressing frustration at having to book months in advance.

Among those booking a flight, 40% have been unable to book the flight or dates desired and almost one-third (29%) had to fly on an alternate date or were forced to choose an indirect flight (31%). All travel rewards cardholders (99%) 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 for RBC.

Exactly half of survey respondents (50%) are saving up their rewards points for a big item such as a flight or a new television. Almost one-quarter (24%) prefer to use their rewards for mini-vacations once a year and 18% regularly reward themselves to smaller items such as gift cards and movie tickets.

The poll also found that many respondents (62%) would like the option to redeem for financial rewards vouchers to use toward 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%) and a visit to a winery (39%) as the most popular choices. One-in-three (33%) opt for a massage or spa appointment and 26% are interested in snorkelling on their next vacation.