6 Times You Shouldn’t Cash In Your Travel Points

When you have travel rewards credit cards, you can earn all sorts of points that make it easy to obtain rewards for everything from hotel and spa points, to travel miles and even flexible trip credit. While you can choose to spend your points wisely, plenty of Americans redeem valuable rewards for some decidedly wasteful items. While the best purchase can give you upwards of two cents per point, some of the worst give you less than half a cent in value. This isn’t wrong, but it just means you aren’t making the most of your money and earned rewards. So, here are a few redemption options you should avoid or think twice about, the next time you want to use your points to pay.

1. Swapping Miles For Stays

As tempting as it may be to exchange your points for hotel stays, you may not want to choose this option right away. Use it as your final option to avoid letting your points lapse if you must, because otherwise, you won’t get much value in return. Redemption values are not usually significant in this case, and you’ll probably get a higher amount if you cash in your miles for flights instead.

2. Low-value Transfers 

While high-value airline transfers can be a great deal, not all of these programs are created equal. It may be easy to transfer points to your card issuer’s airline partners and get at least two cents per point on redemption in most cases. But, there are some cases where the transfer ratios are terrible and not worth the trouble. Sometimes it can make sense to lose points to transfer and use up your point balance but not at the cost of thousands of points just for the privilege. You’re better off looking for a different travel area to use your points for better value.

3. Cheaper Merchandise

As tempting as it may seem to use free points for smaller merchandise, we recommend banking them for a higher value item instead. Many reward currencies even let you cash in your points at rewards portals where you have a range of great options to choose from and get far more for every point spent.

4. Gift Certificates

Cashing in your travel rewards for gift cards is possibly the worst idea, as they probably give you less than one cent per mile in value even with some of the best flexible programs.

5. Annual Magazine Subscriptions

While many airlines push their partnerships with yearly or two year contracts of magazines like People and The Wall Street Journal in exchange for miles, there are far better uses for your miles. Getting a digital subscription might be a lot more useful and cheaper especially if you travel a lot.

6. Low-value Flights

The best way to understand this is to ensure you get at least one cent per point in value. Drop the idea if this isn’t the case. You’re probably better off paying cash or flexible travel credit and saving these points for a future and more expensive flight where you are more likely to get anywhere between 1.5 to 2 cents per mile in value. Finally, remember this – travel rewards are worth the most when you use them to get the most for your travel instead of any of the other fringe stuff on offer.