How to Redeem Credit Card Rewards Points

You've worked hard to earn your credit card rewards points, and it's time to redeem them. While some cash-back credit cards automatically mail you a check, most credit cards make you select your reward online. Watch out for red tape when redeeming, especially travel rewards programs.

Options for Redeeming

Depending on your credit card, you can redeem reward points in various ways:

  • Online: Some credit cards put the onus on you to redeem your reward points. Typically you can redeem your points by logging into your online credit card account and choosing your reward.
  • Check: Some cash-back credit cards automatically send you a check once you've earned sufficient points. Oftentimes you'll receive it with your credit card statement in the mail.
  • Mail or Phone: Some programs let you speak with a customer service rep to choose your rewards. Sometimes you can complete and mail a redemption form, but it will take longer to receive your rewards this way versus online or over the telephone.
  • Catalog: Some credit cards allow you to select items from a catalog rather than get cash back.
  • Gift Cards: These credit cards let you choose gift cards when you've earned enough points.

Tip

Check expiration dates on your reward program and read the fine print of your credit card agreement to understand the rules of the game. There’s no point in spending months or years earning reward points only to have them expire.

Making the Most for Your Reward Points

Here are some ways to get the most for your reward points earned:

  • Only purchase what you need. Do not buy just for the sake of earning reward points. If you overspend and end up carrying a balance on your credit card, you are negating the rewards earned on your credit card.
  • Some credit cards offer a higher accrual rate for reward points for everyday purchases like groceries and gas. To maximize your reward earnings, always use your credit card for those purchases.
  • If you travel frequently, get a travel rewards credit card. These are ideal for people who travel at least one or twice a year. If you don't travel often, use a cash-back or standard reward points credit card.
  • Join at least a couple different rewards programs to maximize your earning potential, but don't spread yourself too thin.

Warning

Certain reward programs make it difficult to redeem your reward points. Travel reward point credit cards are notorious for this. Red tape and restrictions might include blackout periods when you can’t redeem your points for a flight. Some rewards programs impose costly fees when redeeming points. The fees can end up costing almost as much as the flight.

references