What do you use your Visa rewards points for?
March 28, 2013 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I've just recently been alerted to the fact that there's such a thing as reward points on my Visa. I checked into my account for the first time and found out I have about 35,000. I have no idea how to use them.

From my brief research, it appears that getting cash back is the worst return... for the same amount of points, you get $20 in cash but $25 in a store gift card, for example. The only store on there I regularly shop at is Banana Republic, and I don't eat at many of the restaurants. I haven't researched much of the travel and hotels yet, but I almost would just like to take the cash back, even though I know it's the worst deal. What do other people do with their points?

And are there other credit cards with better rewards programs?

posted by madonna of the unloved to Work & Money (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ours go to Amazon and we use them ALL THE TIME. I don't know if Visa is capable of that (our points come from Discover) but if it is, I highly recommend it.
posted by cooker girl at 7:11 PM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Useful article from Lifehacker about this.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:17 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Family BlahLaLa saved our Amex points for YEARS (they don't expire) and then got three round trip tickets to Paris. That was a total score. If yours don't expire, save 'em up for something BIG that you like.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:26 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check what you could get by spending larger amounts of points. With my credit card, once I have 25000 points I can cash them in for a $250 check or a $250 gift card at various stores. But in the smaller amounts it's like your example where the gift card offerings are more valuable.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 7:29 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

My card lets me set a once-a-year redeem points automatically thing, if it's applied to my bill (if I want a check or gift card or merchandise or miles, I have to do it manually), so I have mine automatically applied as cash to my bill once a year in November and I get a pleasantly low Christmas-shopping bill.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a rewards Visa-- I generally just every so often apply the rewards to my CC bill for the month. I figure that given the choice between $20 in cash vs. $25 to, like, Applebees, the money will be more useful to me even if its absolute value is less in one sense.

If getting the gift card is going to make you spend money where you wouldn't have spent it otherwise, then you're not really saving money by going that route.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:38 PM on March 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

It being a 'Visa' is not really the important attribute when talking about the rewards program. The rewards program will vary by bank and sometimes even between cards at a bank: I have a Visa card with Bank of America that is associated with my Alaska Airlines account and can use the points for flights, but I have another Visa card with my credit union where I use the points for Amazon vouchers.
posted by jacalata at 8:16 PM on March 28, 2013

Thanks everyone. I'll just get the gift cards at stores I already buy things from and I forgot all about Amazon! I buy so much from there. And then maybe I'll just get cash for the rest.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 1:07 AM on March 29, 2013

Our rewards CC cut back on its Amazon options a few months back, but offers gas cards which are just as good since we're buying gas anyhow.
posted by jon1270 at 2:24 AM on March 29, 2013

If giving gift cards to others is ever part of your routine or there are stores that you would shop at for the people on your gift list, you can lay in a stock of gift cards and either give them out directly or use them to shop for your recipients yourself.
posted by drlith at 3:30 AM on March 29, 2013

My card lets me apply the points to my student loan at the same rate as for gift cards. They just send me a check made out to the lender and I put the account number on it and mail it in.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:38 AM on March 29, 2013

Travel. But that's my indulgence.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on March 29, 2013

On my Amex, the Amazon points don't go as far as the restaurant gift certificates but I use them at Amazon anyway since that is where I know I will shop for sure.
It is ok not to maximize every cent/point if what you get in return is more convenient or better for you (--is what I tell myself)
posted by rmless at 10:11 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Keep one thing in mind - examine the offered "deals" for reward points very carefully. I have an AmEx Gold Rewards Plus card. Every month, they try to get me to buy various products with my reward points - except all those products I can get for way cheaper on my own. What is the point of getting a product with points, which I can purchase for 20% less on my own? Instead, I use the points to pay off parts of my monthly AmEx bill - it is theoretically less efficient than buying the products they offer, but that only holds if I were to accept the absurd prices for those "deals".

The way it works is that AmEx makes a deal with the companies offering their products, and those companies have no incentive to keep prices down because people figure they're not really paying for the products because they're using points - which is of course wrong, as you *earned* those points and are way better off using them differently. I have made it kind of a grim game to always examine the so-called "deals" offered, and I have yet to find one that isn't outrageously overpriced. It is a wretched ploy to get you to buy overpriced goods/services, where the only beneficiary is the CC company and their merchant co-conspirators.

Bottom line, before you go for one of their featured "deals" (restaurants, trips, electronic goods, hotels etc.), make sure that cannot get a better deal by shopping around without using points, and use your points instead on something much more concrete, like paying off a portion of your monthly CC bill, or even just getting cash for it.
posted by VikingSword at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2013

As long as you're looking into what to do with your rewards points, you should seriously look into whether or not your card is doing a good job of rewarding you for using it.

THEY WANT YOU TO USE THEIR CARD. Make sure they're giving you something in exchange.

I ditched my Visa card a few years ago because the rewards were dumb. Thousands upon thousands of points = $25? Lame. People fall for those gimmicks because the big number of points sounds good. I once had a card that needed enough miles to fly to the moon before I could trade them in for a 200 mile flight. Lame.

I use Discover. The rewards are actual dollars that can be used any way I want, including spending them on Amazon or using them to pay the balance on my card*, or they can be cashed in for store cards that turn $20 into a $25 gift card or $40 into a $50 gift card.

*I pay for EVERYTHING with plastic. I have two credit cards and I pay them off each month. ALWAYS. That means the cards pay me to use them, but they never make money off of me by charging me interest.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:46 PM on March 29, 2013

I use them for gas.
posted by whalebreath at 2:35 PM on March 29, 2013

One thing to note is that it makes the most sense to convert them to statement credits rather than a gift card (assuming there's an equivalent conversion). This is because the purchase you'd be making with the gift card could be made with your credit card, and you'd earn more points on that purchase.
posted by RyanAdams at 6:28 PM on March 29, 2013

I always opt for statement credit. But I admit that I sometimes fail to follow RyanAdams advice and buy stuff from amazon with points.
posted by pwnguin at 1:51 PM on March 30, 2013

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