I was recently talking to my friend Shannon, who has absolutely no patience for saving up her points and miles to redeem on a big vacation. In her opinion, it’s an unattainable target and she doesn’t feel like she’s getting much value from a loyalty program until she can see tangible results - a flight is just too far away. There’s a solution for people like Shannon. By treating yourself to gift cards from stores or restaurants with your points and miles, you can enjoy the fruits of collecting much sooner.
You don’t have to go for instant gratification either — you can save up for higher-value gift cards. Plus, you’ll be saving money and getting something you really want. Here’s how redeeming points for gift cards works and how you can best take advantage of this rewards strategy.
Using credit card rewards
Since Shannon isn’t as focused on collecting points and miles to redeem on flights, I recommended that she rewards herself with gift cards. If this is your strategy, you can take advantage of certain credit cards that work better for gift card redemption. For example, through Discover’s Cashback Match™ program, you’ll earn one percent on purchases that you can redeem towards gift cards, e-certificates and Amazon orders. Many credit cards also offer statement credits in addition to or instead of gift cards, which can help shrink your credit card bills.
Chase Ultimate Rewards is another credit card rewards program that allows you to redeem your points for gift cards. As an Ultimate Rewards collector, you can redeem your points for gift cards at a ratio of one cent per point (for most retailers). So a $50 gift card could be yours by redeeming 5,000 points. Retailers include places like Home Depot, Target and Hyatt hotels.
Using airline-specific programs
Some airlines run their own miles-to-gift-card programs, which is a great way to redeem if you have miles to burn but don’t plan on travelling soon. For example, Hawaiian Airlines lets you redeem your HawaiianMiles for gift cards at partner retailers. Some are practical options for those who live locally, like a $25 gift certificate to Foodland grocery stores for 5,000 HawaiianMiles. But there are also several options with wide appeal, like $50 to Alamo, Avis, Budget or National car rental for 10,000 HawaiianMiles.
If you’re a SkyMiles Medallion member or have a Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express, you can shop for gift cards in the SkyMiles Marketplace, which is linked with a wide variety of retailers. Gift card redemption for stores like iTunes, Starbucks and Amazon starts at just 3,000 SkyMiles.
Go online & shop
For even greater flexibility with your points, platforms like the Points Loyalty Wallet enable you to redeem your points for a surprising variety of different retailers. The possibilities are endless, from gift cards for everyday purchases at grocery stores and gas stations, to your favorite clothing stores and restaurants. The Points Loyalty Wallet lets you redeem points and miles from these programs for gift cards: American Airlines AAdvantage, Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns, HawaiianMiles, Icelandair Saga Club, IHG Rewards Club etc.
For example, let’s say you’ve accumulated stacks of AAdvantage miles from credit-card signup bonuses and purchases. With wedding season upon us, you can cash in 24,600 miles in exchange for a $100 gift card to Bed, Bath and Beyond. The bride and groom walk away with a gift of their choice while you’ve stretched your summer spending just a little bit further.
Shannon and her husband Brian share a credit card. They can work towards smaller loyalty redemption goals. They’ll often redeem 6,500 miles in exchange for a $25 gift card to AMC Theatres, a fun date night that they can both enjoy. Here are a some other great ways that you can redeem your loyalty rewards for gift cards:
- $25 to Barnes & Noble in exchanged for 7,300 Icelandair points
- $20 to Amazon in exchange for 4,800 MeliaRewards points
- $50 to Macy’s in exchange for 32,000 IHG Rewards Club points
Put your points to good use
Redeeming points and miles for gift cards offers a quicker payoff for spending or an alternative to travel-based rewards. It can also be a way to make good use of points and miles that are nearing their expiration dates, or in a program you know you won’t be earning in again.
The most important element of redeeming your loyalty currency is that it works for you. The option to redeem for gift cards is just one more way loyalty points and miles offer you flexibility and value.