Redeeming your rewards often requires delayed gratification, whether you’re redeeming for a flight to be taken months down the road or redeeming cash back into a bank account to be spent later.
Some cards, however, let you spend points in real time by using them as currency at checkout on partner shopping sites.
Before you take advantage of your card’s “shop with points” feature, read on for some benefits and stipulations. And check out our chart comparing popular cards that offer this benefit.
How “shop with points” works
This perk is generally attached to cards with rewards portal programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards from American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner). It’s just another redemption option in addition to travel, merchandise, etc.
To use the feature, you’ll need to link your card to your shopping account at the partner retailer (or to a third-party service that links your accounts). In other cases, simply having your rewards card details saved with the partner retailer is enough to automatically link your cards:
Whatever the case, the end result is the same: You’ll fill your online shopping cart, proceed to checkout and select the option to pay with your points. If you don’t have enough points to cover the entire purchase, you can usually pay the remainder with your card. The points will automatically get deducted from your rewards balance.
It can be practical or a splurge: Rewards card fans often fall into two camps: Those who want no-fuss cash-back rewards they can put in the bank, and those who want to redeem for fun stuff.
This perk can go either way. Shopping online for things you need anyway (like work clothes or school books)? Use your points to offset the cost. Splurging on jewelry, sports equipment and gadgets? Paying with points becomes like using a gift card to treat yourself.
It’s seamless: Once you’ve set things up, using your points becomes a one-step process. There’s no buying something and then having to remember to redeem for a statement credit later. As soon as you hit the online checkout, you can see how many points you have and use them immediately.
There’s (usually) no minimum: Rewards cards often have redemption minimums you have to meet before you can cash out your points. Yet those minimums are often waived when you shop with points, making this feature a good way to use left-over points – and keep you from waiting too long to redeem if you’re a low spender.
You don’t always get the highest value: A value of at least 1 cent per point is generally what you should shoot for when redeeming, and some cards offer less than that if you shop with points. Of course the flexibility and convenience may be worth sacrificing some value.
There are restrictions: Most of the cards that have a “shop with points” feature partner with Amazon. But before you get excited, realize that you can’t always use your points to pay for digital downloads (that includes Kindle downloads) or groceries.
Compare your options
If the pros outweigh the cons for you, use our chart to find a card that lets you pay with points.
|Credit card "shop with points" programs|
|Eligible cards||Partner retailers||Worth||Minimum||Exclusions|
|Chase Ultimate Rewards||Freedom, |
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink
|Amazon.com||0.8 cents/point||None||MP3s, Instant Video, Kindle downloads, AmazonFresh, game/software downloads, cellphones and service, Amazon Prime membership and pre-order items.|
|American Express Membership Rewards||Everyday cards, Premier Rewards Gold, Platinum||Amazon.com, Ticketmaster||0.7 cents/point (Amazon); 0.5 cents/point (Ticketmaster)||None for Amazon, at least 2,000 points for Ticketmaster||Amazon:
Some digital goods, Kindle downloads, AmazonFresh, pre-orders
Ticketmaster: re-sale tickets
|Citi ThankYou||Prestige, ThankYou cards, Chairman, Citi Forward, Citi PremierPass Expedia card||Amazon.com, Live Nation||Varies (starts at about 0.8 cents/point)||None||Digital downloads, Kindle downloads, AmazonLocal, AmazonFresh, pre-orders|
|Discover||Discover it, Discover it Chrome||Amazon.com||1 cent per point||None||Kindle downloads, Subscribe and Save items, AmazonFresh, orders containing Pre-order items|