You may have noticed that more retailers are letting you use your credit card rewards when you make a purchase, especially if you frequently shop with Amazon. This offer enables you to exchange your points or cash back to cover the cost of your purchase. It seems like a good deal. After all, it’s always good to save money where you can. But is it the right choice?
It can be tempting to take advantage of this offer. After all, it’s basically like getting your purchase for free. But the truth is that these deals may not be all they’re cracked up to be. You could risk losing valuable benefits for a later purchase. Or, you could keep yourself from earning more points for said purchase.
Before you exchange your rewards at checkout, make sure you check out these tips from the Ascent.
You Won’t Get As Much Value From Your Rewards
Perhaps the most significant reason you shouldn’t use your credit card points to checkout with a retailer is that you might not get as much value from your rewards. More often than not, you’ll get 0.01 cent for every point you exchange — and in some cases, not even that. That’s not exactly how you get the most value out of your rewards.
For example, suppose you use a travel rewards card. In that case, you usually get the most benefits when you exchange your miles for travel when you book through your card company’s rewards portal or rolling them over to a partnering airline or hotel. Doing this ensures you get the most out of your rewards. Depending on the card issuer, you could get as much as 0.04 cents back for every point.
You Won’t Earn Points For That Purchase
Here’s another reason you shouldn’t use your rewards to pay for something at a retailer: opportunity cost. When you use your points to cover the cost of something and not your credit card, you’ll miss an opportunity to earn cash back or other benefits.
You might not care about getting 0.01 cents vs. 0.04 cents back for your points if you carry a cash back card, but you’ll probably short yourself by overlooking potential rewards opportunities. Instead, you may want to consider redeeming your cash back for statement credits. By doing so, your rewards cover your purchase in a roundabout way, but you can still receive extra points that you can use for something else.
Should You Ever Use Your Rewards At Checkout?
While the experts at the Ascent advise against redeeming your rewards for purchases, they admit that there’s always an exception — hotels and airlines. After all, the reason why you have a travel credit card is to save on your next hotel visit or airline purchase.
Of course, you will need to do some numbers crunching before redeeming to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck since some travel rewards are better than others.
If you have a standard rewards credit card, you are better off using some of your rewards to get a considerable discount on your purchase. For instance, American Express often extends 40% discounts to cardholders when they shop at Amazon. If you have a card from American Express, you can use your points to cover a portion of your purchase.
The best way to ensure you can enjoy the full benefit of offers like these is by reading the fine print. This way, you know how many points you need to qualify for the discount. For the AmEx offer, you just need to use one of your Membership Rewards points to get the whole discount — a small price to get nearly half off your order.
Of course, your points can come in handy if you have no other means to pay for your purchase. It’s been a challenging year for most people. Depending on your situation, you might be better off using your points to pay for necessities.
Although you could research alternatives that could give you more value from your points, like statement credits, using your credit card rewards at checkout could be the best way to save when money’s tight.
- Myers, Brittney. “Why You Shouldn’t Pay With Points at Checkout.” The Motley Fool, 28 Oct. 2020, www.fool.com/the-ascent/credit-cards/articles/why-you-shouldnt-pay-points-checkout/.