Trading in unused credit card rewards
Cathleen McCarthy is a journalist whose articles on travel, commerce and consumer topics have appeared in dozens of publications. She writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
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Dear Cashing In,
have a CitiForward card and am thinking about canceling it. I have about 11,000
points on the card. Are there any third-party websites I can go to trade my
unused points for cash or products? -- Connie
Points.com is the most established
third-party website for trading reward points and frequent flier miles, but you're
your points won't do you much good there because Citi ThankYou is not among the
programs represented. That site recognizes most major airline and hotel loyalty
programs, as well as American Express Membership, Diners Club, Futura and Wells
Fargo rewards -- but that's it for credit card-based rewards programs.
Even if your points were redeemable
there for cash or products, you probably wouldn't do any better there than you
would by redeeming your points directly through Citi. (Trading and redeeming
miles and points on Points.com is not known as the most generous return on
More importantly, your contract with
the Citi Forward card bans you from trading on third-party sites. Buried deep
in point No. 2 of the terms and conditions for Citi ThankYou Reward
is this statement: "ThankYou Points may not be assigned, transferred or pledged
to any third party except through the Transfer Points feature offered and
administered through Citi ThankYou Rewards. You have no property rights or
other legal interests in ThankYou Points."
If you're determined to cancel the card
immediately, one quick way to redeem those ThankYou points is for cash back,
but you'll only get .63 of one cent per point
if you do this. For comparison, the standard cash-back card delivers one cent
per dollar charged.
You'll get a better value -- between
.71 and 1 cent per point -- if you purchase a gift card with your points, which
means purchasing a cash card from Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express would give you a better cash-back return on investment than direct cash
By the way, if you happen to own a
house on which Citi holds the mortgage, you can apply your 11,000 points to
your payment at a rate of .8 cent per point. I realize that's unlikely, but
thought I'd throw it out there.
If I were you, I'd keep the card active
until you can find a truly satisfying way to spend those 11,000 ThankYou points
you earned -- which probably include the 10,000 sign-up bonus you received
after the first $650 spent. After all, it won't cost you anything to keep the
card. Citi Forward doesn't charge an annual fee. As long as you do the bare
minimum to keep your account active, you can benefit from the card's member
benefits, which include covering for loss or damage to your cellphone,
identify theft and travel protection (including car rental insurance, emergency
assistance and lost luggage services).
Who knows? Maybe as the holiday season
approaches, a killer ThankYou Rewards promo will appear and make you "thankful"
for a noncash way to stretch your shopping budget.
See related: If yo cancel a card, you often lose points immediately
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Published: June 5, 2012
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