Crazy credit card rewards
We all know the standard rewards a good credit card can provide – discounts on gas and
groceries, free hotel stays, free flights (or upgrades and companion tickets),
and good ol’ cash back.
But if you take the time to
peruse the merchandise and reward packages your points can buy, you may be
surprised at the bounty you’re missing out on – from kitschy to luxurious to
Here’s a taste of what your points and miles can buy:
The straight poop. Citi Thank You Rewards has an entire section
devoted to pets. A mere 2,200 points will buy you a plastic poop-bag dispenser
that attaches to your dog’s collar. (“When doody calls, don’t be without this,”
the description reads.) Another 2,600 points allows you to go green with
biodegradable doo-doo bags. If you’re taking your pup into the wilderness, you
can also spring for the recycled fleece dog jacket (10,600 points).
Outdoor adventure. Chase
Ultimate Rewards program offers endless enticements for thrill seekers. You can
score a bungee jump in Angeles National Forest in California (7,800 points), take scuba diving
lessons in Michigan (7,900 points) or go
paragliding in Georgia (10,900 points). Capitol
One will trade 106,000 miles for a private hot air balloon ride with champagne
for two, or 61,000 miles for a tandem skydive from a two-mile altitude.
Chase cardholders who prefer
their adventures peril-proof can try indoor skydiving in New Hampshire for
11,400 points or a ride on a military flight simulator in Anaheim, Ca.
For 9,900 points, they can live out their fighter pilot fantasies without ever
leaving the ground.
Rapper’s delight. If your
fantasies run more to 8 Mile than Top Gun, you may prefer a
one-hour private lesson at New York City’s Scratch DJ Academy, founded by Jam
Master Jay of Run DMC. Spend $144 on your Chase card and you can learn to
scratch vinyl on turntables, mix, sample, beat juggle, and come
away with some music theory, of a sort.
Virtual fun and games.
Since American Express partnered with Zynga in November, card holders
can use their reward points to pay for limited-edition physical and virtual
game cards for Zynga games such as CityVille, or they can try
their hands at virtual-designing FarmVille manors and windmills, Café World
fountains and stoves and YoVille roadsters and robots.
Exotic travel. Among the
myriad journeys listed under American Express Travel ‘Exclusives’ is a 62-day
cruise of the Mediterranean and Black Sea (priced from $10,499) on the ms
Prinsendam, which combines “the feel of a classic yacht with the
spaciousness of a cruise ship.” Passengers depart Ft. Lauderdale and stop at
Madeira, Seville, Valetta, Istanbul, Odessa, Athens, Santorini, Venice,
Barcelona, Tangier, and Lisbon – in between spa treatments, Vegas-style shows
and gambling, and meals prepared by guest chefs who offer demos and wine pairing
Join the glitterati- or at least sparkle like them. AmEx Platinum card members can redeem
points on haute designer labels from the “First Collection” rewards, including
Jimmy Choo shoes, Bottega Veneta fashions, and Tag Heuer watches.
Personal concierge service. Ever
since American Express launched the mysterious and exclusive Centurion Card,
better known as the “Black Card,” many have coveted the VIP treatment that
results from flashing the carbon – especially the 24-hour concierge service.
One phone call to this service will supposedly get you inside the velvet rope
at an exclusive nightclub or seated at a sold-out restaurant. Of course, the
Black Card requires proof of outrageous income and a $2,500 annual fee. So it’s
no surprise that the concierge services of more accessible cards don’t always
measure up. Both the AmEx Platinum and the newer Visa Black Card, for example,
offer 24-hour concierge service for a $450 and $495 annual fee, respectively.
Rumor has it that the Platinum card’s concierge is somewhat more effective, but
while these services may save you some time lining up theater tickets and golf
tee times, don’t expect true Black Card treatment.
Eat, pray, love. For the
yogis among their customers, Capitol One offers one-hour classes in yoga, tai
chi, Pilates, meditation and Reiki for 11,000 miles, to be held at qualifying
yoga centers across the U.S. Foodies may prefer to save up their miles
(143,000) for a gourmet dinner party in their own homes, hosted by a professional
chef who will show up with pots, pans and groceries to perform a two-hour
cooking demonstration for guests, then serve a three-course meal.
Your wish is their command.
With competition for choice credit card customers heating up, card issuers are
going to great lengths to make their rewards programs irresistible. Citi Thank
You Rewards has a category called “Your Wish Fulfilled,” where members with at
least 10,000 points can contact a “wish specialist” who will help them find
their dream reward among the millions listed.
Capitol One recently began
conducting quarterly customer surveys dubbed the Rewards Barometer. Popular
requests by cardholders include Apple merchandise (especially iPads, iTunes and
iPhones), housecleaning services, spa treatments, health insurance, and NASCAR
A few have also requested
Botox, cowboy hats and boots, a personal chef, a balcony view of the running of
the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and dinner with Lady Gaga.