How You Can Quit Wasting Credit Card Reward Points
Rewards are often the bait that reel us into a credit card offer. The glittering promise of free round-trip tickets, hotel rooms with panoramic views and cash back give consumers the incentive to spend. But studies suggest that too many of us squander hard-earned credit card points.
Loyalty marketing research company Colloquy discovered that Americans neglect to redeem $16 billion worth of the $48 billion in rewards points they rack up annually. Consumer Reports also found that 75 percent of air miles go unused.
The question is—what gives? Wasting credit card rewards is essentially turning down free cash. It could be the fact that we’re anchored to so many reward offers that it’s hard to keep track of redeeming all of them. The New York Times reports that the average household boasts 18 loyalty programs, with many of these attached to credit cards.
Between reward roadblocks like expirations, blackout dates and minimum point requirements, monthly program updates from creditors may not be enough to ensure you’re using these points properly. Instead of balancing multiple rewards programs through different sites all with unique, it’s possible to streamline it all into one place.
Backed by secure encryption systems, consider how these sites might help you best capitalize on the rewards you have.
This rewards-tracking veteran has been around for more than eight years with more than 99,000 users. AwardWallet is a heavyweight in terms of reward compatibility, currently supporting 484 loyalty programs.
At its core, this free service lets you track the reward balances of three accounts condensed in one place. The only grunt work it requires from you is the process of entering all of your account information. But once this is filled out, the rest of your user experience is pretty breezy and intuitive.
Whether you use it on your laptop, iPhone or Android, it provides alerts regarding point expiration dates. AwardWallet is also unique in the fact that if you have more than three rewards account to track, you have to pay to add more, but you choose how much you want to pay.
AwardWallet comes with a drawback. It lacks a search tool providing flight or hotel information that could help you see what you can get for your points. But when you have multiple comparison travel sites that offer the convenience, this issue is mild compared to throwing away hundreds in potential free cash.
The moniker for this reward tracker website understates the fact that it can do a lot more than help you with your airline miles. It also manages credit card and hotel points as well as other loyalty memberships like Starbucks or Groupon.
UsingMiles offers a free service version as well as a premier service for $29.99 a year. The premier service gives you the added perks of expiration alerts and special offers. It also provides airline seat and hotel room availability notifications.
What makes UsingMiles stand out most is that it provides exceptional customized reward searches. Based on your miles the search tool provides comparison shopping that displays which flights are applicable to your unique points.
The tool can also make suggestions about if it’s more economical to redeem these points or book the flight with cash so you can continue to earn miles. This site function may help you avoid hours of unnecessary online research to figure out which flights will work with your miles.
Keep in mind that UsingMiles supports fewer rewards programs than some of its competitors—only about 100. Because American Airlines and Southwest don’t allow third-party sites to manage frequent flyer miles, you’ll also be limited in the airlines that you can comparison shop.
This up-and-comer rewards tracker debuted earlier this year. It supports approximately 270 rewards programs and anticipates adding more to the roster based on customer needs.
As a free web service and iPhone app, myRewardsTree allows you to track your rewards earnings and even set your own goals for how many points you want to earn. Once you come close to these rewards goals, it sends you alert notifications.
The site offers a user-friendly interface and you can add as many accounts as you want. From your “Dashboard” you can fill in your information and click “Connect” to get started. While myRewardsTree lacks the search features of a site like UsingMiles, its simplicity in allowing users to set or edit reward milestones can be handy especially for mobile users.
When Reward Trackers Might Not Make Sense
Just because you earn rewards doesn’t necessarily mean you need a tracker program to maintain your points. These sites are designed to ensure that consumers with multiple accounts don’t leave points suspended out in the open, poised to expire.
When you’re able to condense rewards tracking into fewer accounts, you have fewer cards to spend with. This gives your credit card rewards a fighting chance to rack up enough points to redeem, rather than having a few points on several cards that won’t translate into any usable miles, hotel stays or cash back.
Whether you choose the reward tracker route or opt to manage points through other means, know which method can give your financial situation the greatest reward impact.