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Why Now Is The Perfect Time to Use Your Credit Card Points and Miles

Ashlyn Jackson  |  July 6, 2020

Whether you're looking to make a getaway, pay some bills, or give back, we've got a rundown on the best ways to use your credit card rewards right now.

Maybe you’re the type who barely pays any attention to your credit card rewards points. It’s possible you signed up and just let them accumulate from your day to day spending, not thinking twice about your rewards. Or perhaps you’re the complete opposite, constantly tracking each new milestone, and always in the know when it comes to your precious points. 

Whether you have a little or a lot, you’ve earned them and they can (and should!) be put to use. Surprisingly, now may be the perfect time to redeem your hard earned perks and get the most out of them. 

With the onset of COVID-19 many people found themselves with plenty of time and nowhere to go. But now with travel starting to tick back up again, and resorts, casinos and theme parks offering serious perks, you could be looking at the cheapest vacation you’ve ever taken. Alternatively, you and your family may be in dire need of cash just to make it through this difficult time. Whether you’re looking to make a getaway, or just get by, we’ve got a rundown on some of the best ways to use your rewards right now.   

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Convert Your Credit Card Points To Cash

Versatility may be what your family desperately needs right now. If you’re like many Americans with a credit card, then it’s likely you’re receiving cash back on a percentage of your purchases. Depending on your account and spending habits, you could be looking at a couple of hundred dollars or more to redeem. This extra cash could be used to replenish your emergency fund, start an emergency fund, pay off or pay down bills, or simply have a little extra cushion in your monthly spending. 

If coronavirus taught us anything, it’s the lesson of uncertainty. Having an emergency fund for you and your family allows for breathing room during uncertain times such as these. A good rule of thumb with emergency funds is to have at least 6 weeks worth of expenses saved for unexpected happenings at any given time. 

Avoid Booking Hotels or Rental Cars

Many airlines with dedicated credit cards offer several ways to cash in your miles — you don’t have to book a flight. Instead, you could book a rental car, or a hotel.  But experts advise against trading airline miles for anything other than flying. Why? Because the trade off gives you less bang for your buck. “Be sure to use the points/miles as intended — many airline reward programs offer redemptions such as magazine subscriptions or purchasing merchandise. Avoid these options as they will value your points at a very low rate,” says Lending Tree travel expert Brett Holzshauer. 

Book a Trip in Advance

These days, many travelers aren’t looking to jump on a plane any time soon, but there’s no rule against booking for the future.  One option to consider (especially if you have some miles or points expiring) is to book a trip in advance. 

Many airlines offer the option to book around 300 days (or about 10-11 months) in advance. Plus, some airlines have the added bonus of cancelation protection if your trip doesn’t come to fruition. Before you book, just make sure you find out what happens to your points if you have to cancel. “Before moving forward on any trip, MAKE SURE to understand your credit card policies, any changes that the issuer has made to its policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how you can best comply with those policies,” explains Mason Miranda, a credit specialist from Credit Insider

Sell Your Miles for Money

Yes, selling your miles is a thing, and it’s often as simple as finding the service that fits your needs. While some services have minimum miles such as Flip My Miles which has a 70,000 mile minimum to get started, others have no minimum. A few other popular sites include Cash for my Miles, and Sell My Rewards. Just keep in mind that the exchange of miles to money is still not on an equal playing field — you’ll only receive a percentage of what they would be worth if you had used them to fly. 

Donate Your Miles To Charity

Alternatively, if you’re looking at miles that are about to expire, or miles that you know are going to go unused, you always have the option to donate them. Every airline has a partnership with a charity such as The American Red Cross or Make-A-Wish Foundation, and you can donate your miles to charity where they’ll be used by families flying to visit sick loved ones, and for other essential purposes. Just be advised that the IRS does not view mile donations as a deductible expense for a tax write-off, it’s viewed as a gift.

Continue To Stack Those Points

With the uncertain and difficult times we’re facing, many of us may be spending less, but don’t slack off on earning your rewards. Be intentional about your credit card usage. Take advantage of monthly incentives when your bank offers more cash back on certain spending. Whatever you do, keep earning. The only way you can use them later is to keep earning them now — we promise you will get to put those miles/points to good use eventually! 

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