Rewards/Points Programs

Recent posts related to rewards and points:

Reaping the Rewards of Miles, Points and Loyalty Programs:

If you do nothing else - pay attention to points and incentive programs.  Think of them as your 401k - once you get in the habit of the regular deductions (or regular use of a certain credit card or a points program), your wealth (or points) grow quietly and powerfully in the background.  The savvy spender not only looks for great deals but makes sure they get the additional credit they deserve through a variety of programs.

Here are some key tips for determining which program/card/membership is right for you:
  1. Expiration dates: Above all, make sure you understand the expiration date of your benefits.  Whenever possible, choose the program or company that does not allow points or credits to expire.  You earned them!  You deserve to keep them until you are ready to redeem.
  2. Earn exponentially:  If many of your shopping experiences are online, it is incredibly valuable to link to a site through your program's "mall" or "shopping website".  Often your purchase will earn double or triple points if you simply follow the link they provide to access the site and complete the purchase.
  3. Partner networks: Find out what programs have the best network of "partners"that will match your interests and needs.  Some programs, while attractive in their initial offerings, are unable to provide the ultimate value for the credits you earn because of their limited redemption options.  
    • Also, when traveling, don't sign up for individual accounts for every airline - choose one from each airline alliance and use your one account for all flights you book within that alliance.
  4. Value of fee-based programs: Consider the value of paid programs and the ultimate benefit it could provide.  For example, if you have a travel-intensive job, it is almost a no-brainer to pay an annual fee for a credit card that triples points earned by travel.  If they spend $10,000 on travel in a year and gain 30,000 points in the process, that often equates to $300 in gift cards or travel benefits.  WELL worth the annual $75 fee.
  5. Redeem wisely!: The most common mistake you can make is to buy gifts, gadgets, or wishlist items with points.  Nearly always the value of your points is lost by a third on these items versus redeeming your points for travel or gift cards.  To make sure the deal is a great one, the amount of the benefit should equal at least 1% of the total points used (5,000 points for a $50 gift card).
Wherever you choose to start, you will already be one step closer to growing your "classy not pricey" status.

Disclosure: My programs of choice are: American Express, United/Continental, HHonors, Avis, Sephora, REI, PerformanceBikes, and Bed Bath and Beyond gift registry.