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Travel credit cards are a great way to travel for free. However, there are a variety of non-travel credit card points redemptions and other unique ways to use airline frequent flyer miles as well. Since travel won’t be the same for awhile because of the pandemic, credit card points could be an untapped “savings” account for many. Let me breakdown a few options.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Redemptions
Among the main credit card points, Chase points are the most valuable for non-travel redemptions. Why? Because Chase has redemption options worth more than one cent/point.
Chase points can be used to purchase a wide variety of gift cards. Many gift cards can be purchased using 20,000 Chase points for $20 in value, and store options include Amazon, HelloFresh, Lowe’s, and various chain restaurants. Considering these redemptions equal one cent/point, this is a fair redemption value.
However, Chase offers 10% off discounts on some gift cards, so instead one cent/point, they redemption value increases to 1.10 cent/point. And the best part is that these discounted gift cards are to actual stores and websites that most people can actually use. Currently this discount applies to gift cards to CVS, Grubhub, Panera Bread, and Buffalo Wild Wings, just to name a few. This presents one of the best non-travel redemptions available using credit card points, and it’s one that is fairly flexible given the variety of eligible stores.
Another, more straight forward redemption option is to convert your Chase points into cash. Each Chase point is worth $.01 in cash, so my 32,378 points will convert to $323.78.
That’s much easier and simpler than redeeming gift cards, so unless you can buy the gift cards at a discount, cashing out might be your best bet.
If you buy a lot of items on Amazon (and who doesn’t these days?), you may have already seen that when your eligible Chase credit card is in your Amazon profile, you will be given the option to pay for your Amazon purchase with your current stash of Chase points.
This is never a good redemption! When using Chase points during your Amazon checkout, the value of your points is only .8 cents/point. So you’re MUCH better off redeeming for cash and then paying for charges that way. Why would Chase/Amazon even give this as an option? Probably because they figure people will spend more points when it’s already incorporated as a payment option during checkout. Little do people know they could make their Chase points stretch much further with other conversation options.
*Limited Time* “Pay Yourself Back” Option
One of the perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is the ability to redeem Ultimate Rewards points for travel expenses at 1.5 cents/points. It’s a solid return, and that kind of redemption gives the cardholder much more flexibility than searching for airline award space.
However… people aren’t traveling these days. Which makes the Chase Sapphire Reserve card less attractive if you signed up for the card because of its travel perks.
Chase came up with a short-term solution called “Pay Yourself Back.” Through April 2021, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents each towards purchases at restaurants, grocery stores, and home improvements stores. Usually this type of redemption would only apply to travel purchases, but because of the coronavirus, Chase is making it much more flexible.
Another key temporary benefit: if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, your Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for 1.25 cents towards dining/grocery/home improvement purchases.
It’s great to see Chase be willing to adapt and offer some unique redemption options, even if they are just temporary.
American Express Membership Rewards Points Redemptions
American Express (AMEX) Membership Rewards points are another very popular credit card currency. While AMEX offers non-travel points redemption options, they aren’t nearly as good as the offers from Chase.
Like Chase, you can redeem your AMEX points for gift cards. However, unlike Chase, the redemption values vary between .85-1 cents per AMEX point, well below Chase’s range of 1-1.1 cents/point.
Gift cards with a .85 cents/point valuation include Panera Bread and Subway. Gift cards with a 1 cent/point valuation include Olive Garden, Chili’s, and California Pizza Kitchen.
What’s also a disadvantage when compared to Chase is the limited variety of gift cards. There aren’t nearly as many gift card option with AMEX, and since they might cost more, Chase is the clear winner here.
Pay Your AMEX Credit Card Bill
If you have a hefty AMEX credit card bill due, you have the option to pay for some or all of your charges using your AMEX points.
While this can be a great way to pay your bill and is a convenient option, it comes at a high price. When using points to cover your AMEX credit card charges, each point will only be worth .6 cents/point.
You’ll see in my example that a $15 charge will cost me 2,500 AMEX points. Not ideal at all, but hey, it’s an option.
Pay With Points (Amazon and Grubhub)
Just as you can redeem Chase points for Amazon purchases, you can also use AMEX points on Amazon.
AMEX also partners with a few other retailers to give you the option to use your points instead of spending cash for purchases. Food delivery app Grubhub is one of these businesses, so you could order takeout and pay for dinner with AMEX points.
The downside to these redemptions is that these AMEX points are only valued at .7 cents/point. So while it’s better than paying for the charges already on your AMEX bill, you’ll still better off purchasing gift cards for a better value.
Citi ThankYou Points Redemptions
Citi is a distant third in term of popularity for credit card points collectors, but they offer a few decent options for non-travel redemptions.
Yes, just like Chase and AMEX, Citi also allows you to redeem your credit card points for gift cards. The gift card selection isn’t as vast as Chase, but there is a little more variety than AMEX. A few to highlight include CVS, Panera Bread, Subway, and Starbucks. All of the credit cards can be redeemed for one cent/point.
Yes, also like Chase and AMEX, you can use your Citi points to pay for purchases on Amazon. The redemption rate is .8 cents/point, so it is slightly less valuable than redeeming for gift cards.
It’s not a great value, but you can also cash out your Citi ThankYou points altogether. The redemption rate is .5 cents/point, which means 10,000 ThankYou points are worth $50.
Pay with Points
In addition to gift cards or paying with points, Citi also allows you to pay off your credit card charges using ThankYou points. This option has a surprisingly decent rate: .8 cents/point. Given the limited gift card options and the poor redemption rate with cash back, paying with ThankYou points might be your best option.
Capital One Points Redemptions
Despite having a ton of commercials talking about their credit card “double miles,” Capital One is actually fairly new to the transferable credit card points game. Still, Capital One has been a major player in the credit card world for a variety of other reasons and thus, you might have a stockpile of their points that you’re looking to burn.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Capital One temporarily disabled the ability to redeem their credit cards points for gift cards. Luckily, Capital One reinstated gift cards as a redemption option, and you can now purchase gift cards for .8-1 cents/point. The gift card selection is similar to Citi, which means it’s not as good as Chase but still better than AMEX.
One of the sweet spots for Capital One gift cards used to be purchasing certain hotel gift cards for 1.4 cents/point, but those hotel brands are no longer available. At least for now… let’s keep our fingers crossed that they come back as an option.
Amazon is evidently quite savvy in making partnerships with credit card companies, and you can easily redeem any of your credit card points for your Amazon purchases directly on the website. Like Chase and Citi, the redemption rate is .8 cents/mile. Not fantastic, but also not a horrible option for Capital One points.
Like Citi, you can redeem your Capital One points for cash for .5 cents/point. This is not the best way to redeem your points, but at least it’s an option and having cash is much more flexible than having store-specific gift cards.
Pay With Points – Food Delivery and Streaming
The one bright spot with Capital One points is the bank’s temporary offer: you can pay for food delivery charges (DoorDash, Uber Eats, Postmates) or streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Spotify) for one cent/point. Usually this “pay with points” option is only for travel charges, but in response to everyone’s lack of travel, Capital One changed the eligible charges to reflect the current quarantine reality. It’s a nice gesture (and smart marketing), but the special redemption is only available until June 30.
Redemptions with Frequent Flyer Miles
Credit card points are nice, but what if you have been hoarding a specific airline’s frequent flyer miles? Well, you have a few non-travel points redemption options… but none of them are very appetizing.
The good news… you can redeem your United miles for lots of different gift cards! From Walmart to Home Depot to Grubhub, United has an impressive variety. The bad news… your United miles are only worth .3 cents/mile when redeeming for gift cards. Talk about brutal.
And sadly, this is probably the most advantageous non-travel redemption for frequent flyer miles. I could think of many other things to do with 166,665 United Airlines frequent flyer miles, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Delta is leading the way in making their frequent flyer miles more into a real “currency,” and this is also reflective in their non-travel redemptions. The airlines has a whole shop with various electronics, home decor, and gadgets that you can purchase with Delta SkyMiles. I personally place very little value in SkyMiles anyway, so spending money on items you actually need might not be a bad way to burn through your miles. It’s hard to nail down an actual redemption rate, so you’ll have to judge each item separately.
For what its worth, you can also use your Delta SkyMiles to purchase magazine subscriptions. I guess we all need more reading material during the pandemic, right?
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but there aren’t any good options for redeeming your AA miles for non-travel expenses. The only real option is to purchase newspaper subscriptions. Yes, newspaper subscriptions. And oddly enough, there aren’t a ton of different newspapers to choose from. For my home address, the only option is the Financial Times. And for DC residents, the options include the Washington Post, Financial Times… and the Dallas Morning News? What??
With everyone’s travel plans taking a backseat because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to highlight a few non-travel redemptions you can use with your credit card points.
Overall, my ranking of credit cards points for non-travel points redemptions are:
- Capital One
- American Express
As far as frequent flyer miles are concerned, none of the “Big 3” U.S. airlines have recommended redemptions. But if I had to rank them, I’d say:
- United Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- American Airlines
These are tough times, and hopefully, we can return to some sense of normalcy soon. But until then, we can look at all of the other uses of our credit card points and frequent flyer miles. If you need help maximizing your points or choosing the right credit card, you can sign up for our travel concierge and get unlimited consultation for one year.
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