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Can You Get A Good Deal Shopping With Credit Card Points … |

Can You Get A Good Deal Shopping With Credit Card Points …


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Getting free stuff with rewards credit cards is fairly effortless, provided you pay your balance in full each month and you don’t let your points expire. One of the major perks of many rewards cards is the option to redeem your points however you want.


That means trading them for cash or a statement credit, booking flights and hotels, purchasing gift cards and even buying things like hair dryers and barbecue grills.

While the cash-back rewards and travel redemption features are often touted by credit card companies, shopping with your points for merchandise isn’t advertised all that much.

The reason for this is clear: the deals are not good.

Spend some time price comparing how much products cost in points marketplaces, such as Delta’s SkyMiles Marketplace or Chase Ultimate Rewards, versus retailers, and you’ll quickly see how far your points will not go.

Often, the products you can buy with points cost well more than the average retail price.

For example, United Mileage Plus charges 38,200 points for the All-Clad 6-quart Electric Pressure Cooker with Steam. United Mileage Plus Points are worth 1.5 cents, making this item $573. If you were to buy it at Williams-Sonoma, it would cost you just $299.95.

In fact, of all the 19 products we price-compared, there was only one that was a better deal. The Maximum Extraction Juicer by KitchenAid costs 34,400 points at Chase Ultimate Rewards. That’s equal to $344 since Chase’s merchandise points are currently valued at 1 cent per point. If you were to buy this item straight from KitchenAid, it would cost $499.99. At Bed, Bath and Beyond you would pay $399.99.

Using credit card points for merchandise

The only reason you should use your points to buy a product is if you stumble across a great deal. Given our sampling of of merchandise at four different points marketplaces, there are very few good deals to be had.

Even if your points are about to expire and you don’t have time to travel — you maximize their value through airfare — you can still get a gift certificate or even cash back.

A gift certificate beats buying the product through the marketplaces, but cash back may be the better choice as there are no restrictions on how you spend cash.

The best way to use points

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for getting the most value out of your rewards points. Maximizing your points’ value depends on the type of rewards credit card you have and its terms. Some rewards cards have a fixed value where the points are worth a certain amount, whereas others fluctuate depending on how you use the points and even reward you based on category redemption.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card demonstrates how point values can change depending on how you use them. Capital One Venture rewards points are worth a dollar per mile on gift cards and travel, so a $400 ticket would cost you 40,000 miles. On the other hand, if you were to get cash back on those 40,000 miles you would get just half the value or $200.

With the United Airline Mileage Plus rewards program, cardholders can get more for their rewards miles if they choose flights on United’s “Saver Routes,” which can save them 50 percent or more from the cost of their flights. For instance, an economy seat on a flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco for the same travel dates can cost either 10,000 miles or 25,000 miles depending on whether or not they choose a Saver Route flight.

In short, it pays to understand how your rewards redemption program is set up so you can maximize the value of your points. Generally speaking, the best way to use your points correlates with your card type. So, if you have a cash-back card, then typically you’ll get the maximum point value for cash back. The same goes for travel rewards cards.

When in doubt, do a little math to see how much your points are worth. This is an easy way help you determine whether or not you’re getting a good deal.

This editorial content is not provided or commissioned by any of the referenced financial institutions or companies. Opinions, analysis, reviews or recommendations expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any financial institutions or companies, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such entity. All products or services are presented without warranty. Bankrate.com is an independent, advertising-supported publisher and comparison service.

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