Traveling to the UK isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but back when Chase ran the 100,000 miles offer for the British Airways credit card, I applied because it was simply too good to pass up.
These BA miles (which have since been renamed Avios points) are quite flexible because they can be used not only on British Airways, but also partners like American Airlines. However one year later, I found myself still stuck with 100k (now 108k). Why? Because I didn’t have time time to go on vacation and don’t foresee my schedule clearing up anytime soon.
So I was contemplating ways to sell or trade these Avios points… and that’s when I came across Points.com. In a nutshell, it’s a website where you can trade (and buy) frequent flier miles, credit card points and rewards from other loyalty programs.This is my personal review of Points.com. I signed up there to give this thing a whirl. The initial enrollment was fairly painless, asking the usual questions like name, email, etc.
After you are logged in you are directed to the main dashboard screen…
As you see there’s kind of a lot going on in the screen and to be honest, it was bit overwhelming at first glance. But I quickly figured out what everything was.
Your Balances = If you want to track your miles and credit card points, you can use the “Add Programs” menu on the right and register the ones you participate in.
For the airline mileage programs, it looks like you will just have to enter your member number and password. For the credit cards, these are currently participating:
- Citibank Thank You Rewards
- Diners Club Club Reward
- Futura Rewards
- HSBC Rewards
- Wells Fargo Rewards
I only signed up to investigate the Points.com exchange rate and fees, so for now I won’t be registering any of my credit card programs.
Trade, exchange and redeem
This area can be accessed from the menu on the top of the page. And this is the whole reason I came here … to redeem or exchange my points!
Unfortunately I didn’t see British Airways/Avios points listed. However, there are plenty of other airline, hotel and retail reward programs participating. With some programs, you’re limited to exchanging for points in another program. With other programs, you can redeem for gift cards, subscriptions and, in a few cases, PayPal funds.
Points.com participating programs include:
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Amtrak Guest Rewards
- Asia Miles
- Audience Rewards
- China Rewards
- Choice Hotels Choice Privileges
- Club Carlson Gold Points
- Delta SkyMiles
- Esso Extra
- Frontier EarlyReturns
- Hawaiian Airlines Miles
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- Icelandair Saga Club
- IHG Rewards Club
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- La Quinta Returns (redeemable into PayPal)
- MeliaRewards (redeemable into PayPal)
- Saudi Arabian Airlines
- Speedway Speedy Rewards
- Starwood Preferred Guest
- Trident Hotels Trident Privilege Programme
- US Airways Dividend Miles
If you want to get rid of these points/miles, you select “move out of a program” and it will show you deals available for trade and exchange:
“Exchanging” means you’re swapping points among your own programs. “Trading” means you’re trading with other users. When you trade, apparently the oldest results are shown first. Here are some random trading examples for American Airlines …
Some trades offer fairly good conversions, others not so much. However the big drawback is the trade fee. On the Points.com it says “The trade fees are set by the loyalty programs” so I guess you can’t blame them… they are what they are. But it really turns what otherwise would be a good conversion to a not-so-good deal.
Give & Redeem
In addition to trading/exchanging/buying, you can also select the “Give & Redeem” tab from the top menu. Here you can convert your airline/hotel/credit card points into gift cards, memberships and, in a couple cases, PayPal funds (see list above).
With the gift card options, I tested several programs for conversion to $100 gift cards with partners, and the values I saw were below 1 cent per point.
Another option are the “low balance offers” which require a lower number of points. With these, it looks like Points.com is leveraging partnerships with companies to bring you memberships and other things at a discount. Example:
- Printrunner – 5% off any order and it’s stackable with existing discounts. The cost to get this offer is 226 miles or points. If you are placing an order with them for a couple hundred bucks, the savings would exceed 1 cent per point.
Verdict: Is Points.com legit?
Before I investigated the site myself, I did some Googling for Points.com reviews and the first thing I saw was a thread on FlyerTalk which alleged:
“This is a scam between the airlines and Points.com”
The funny thing was, the person who leveled that criticism admitted the following:
“I made a mistake by not paying attention to the loss in miles in this transaction, and got only 1,796 America West miles for 19,511 Alaska miles”
Admittedly he didn’t pay attention, and somehow that means Points.com is a scam? That makes no sense.
Points.com is not a scam. They disclose all the fees and exchange rates up front to swap, trade and redeem miles and points. So, while you may not get the kind of deal you’d hoped for, it’s unfair to call the site a scam.
But is Points.com a good deal? Well if you’re a regular reader, you already know my golden rule is getting at least 1 cent value per point. So in that aspect, the Points.com exchange rate for many offers isn’t the ideal situation.
However I do think it could be a good deal in certain situations:
- If you have miles that are about to expire, then getting something for them is better than nothing. If the airline doesn’t allow you to redeem for gift cards directly, you might as well redeem them through Points.com or an alternative site that offers the same service.
- If you only need a few more points in your loyalty program to book reward travel, then paying a premium for a few thousand miles might make sense. For example, if you need 200,000 miles for a big trip and only have 198,000, then buying 2,000 at a bad exchange rate will still probably be worth it.
Updated September 8, 2014