Please note: this post has been edited to reflect changes to certain credit card names, images, and earning structures.
The great part about rewards programs from banks such as American Express and Chase is their points can be redeemed for statement credits or gift cards — essentially saving us some money.
We generally get more bang for bucks — er, points — when redeeming them for travel.
But we get one cent per point when redeeming them for credit or gift cards.
Tough economic times and huge unemployment numbers are upon us. And it sure looks like things can only get worse before they improve.
So are you thinking of redeeming your points for statement credit or another cash alternative?
Keeping My Amex Points — Until I Must Cash Them In
Even at a very conservative estimate, MR are worth one cent each for travel.
Outside of that, Membership Rewards points are very disappointing.
Gross. In the words of Biz Markie: Don’t gimme that! Don’t even gimme that!
What about getting some Amex gift cards with our Membership Rewards points?
So maybe I’m playing into their little trap but not using mine now.
(One option some really make work is the Schwab Amex Platinum card, which allows you to cash out MRs at 1.25 cents each to a Schwab account.)
It hurts me to say this because I love Amex. But I’m more than happy to put more spend on my Chase cards right now.
A Winner: Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards Points
Similar to Membership Rewards, transferring points to an Ultimate Rewards travel partner for an award booking is generally the preferred way to go.
Or if you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can book travel through the Ultimate Rewards site and receive 1.5 cents value per point. (Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Preferred cardholders enjoy 1.25 cents per point.)
But if you need to redeem points for statement credit — or even transfer cash to your bank account — Chase will give you a cent each. Far better than what Amex offers.
Credit or Cash?
Statement credit is fast and easy. If you simply must eliminate some credit card charges, it’s a good way to go.
Bank deposits can take a couple of days. But if you have some patience and don’t desperately need the money, cash gives you more flexibility and options. (Save it, invest it, pay other bills, etc.)
While travel is generally the best use of points, there may come a time when we need to redeem them for money.
And that’s okay.
As long as you’re earning something for your credit card purchases, that’s what counts. Even if it’s gross Membership Rewards redemptions.
Many of us can replenish our points balances just before or when travel becomes more regular . Until then, using some points to pay bills might become more and more practical.
What Are You Doing?
Have you redeemed points for statement credit or cash? If not, do you think you will? Please share your thoughts in the below Comments section.
(Featured image: iStock.com/MilanMarkovic)
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