5 extraordinary ways to redeem your rewards points this summer
By Tracy Brackman | Published: June 13, 2017
The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy
Discovering the best ways to maximize credit card rewards can be difficult. After working so hard to determine which credit card offers the highest sign-up bonus, with the best rewards value and the lowest annual fee, you want your rewards to be – well – as rewarding as possible.
Instead of redeeming your hard-earned miles and points for a flight upgrade or hotel stay, why not try an exciting new experience – something that you would never try if you had to pay out of pocket with cash?
In addition to the typical line up of travel rewards and merchandise, many rewards programs allow cardholders to use points to purchase or bid on experiences, such as private dinners with celebrity chefs and personal tours through foreign cities.
While we generally recommend airfare and hotel stays as the best use of rewards points, we also realize that it’s hard to put a price tag on everything. Depending on your tastes, you may find a unique, personalized experience to be equal to the value of a plane ticket.
We’ve put together a list of some of the ways your rewards points can take you far off the beaten path this summer.
1. Throw out the first pitch of the game
Calling all baseball fans! What’s more exciting than watching your favorite baseball team play this summer? How about throwing out the first pitch of the game in front of 40,000 fans? For the right amount of Starpoints, you can do just that.
SPG Moments, a program that allows Starwood Preferred Guest members to purchase or bid on exclusive experiences and VIP access using points, is offering the opportunity for members to throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the following games this summer:
- Cleveland Indians vs. Baltimore Orioles, June 22, 2017 (current bid: 29,000 points)
- St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs, July 22, 2017 (current bid: 33,833 points)
- Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers, Aug. 1, 2017 (current bid: 14,500 points)
- Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs Aug. 5, 2017 (current bid: 59,500 points)
After throwing out the first pitch, you and a guest can take your seats to enjoy the remainder of the game.
2. Take a trip on a private jet
Have a million or more credit card points sitting around? If so, you can fly private this summer – thanks to a limited-time promotion from private jet charter service, JetSmarter. Through July 1, 2017, JetSmarter is offering a free, three-month “Simple” membership to frequent flyers who have elite airline status or at least 1 million miles or credit card points.
The Simple membership comes with several perks, including one complimentary seat on select flights and one complimentary seat on last-minute flights. Members can enjoy on-demand access to an entire private charter for family and friends, or on-demand access to shared charters to popular cities, such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
To qualify for the offer, the million miles must come from a single account or rewards program. For example, if you have 500,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards and 500,000 Delta SkyMiles, you are not eligible for the promo.
3. Go sailing on an America’s Cup yacht
Sail the seas in the famous America’s Cup Challenger – the same racing yacht used by Oracle Team USA in the 2003 America’s Cup. For 50,000 Marriott or Ritz-Carlton points, you and a guest can set sail in the high-speed yacht for two and a half hours on the San Francisco Bay. The sailing experience, which lets you act as the skipper, help with the hoist or just sit back and enjoy the views, is available from Memorial Day through Oct. 31, 2017. Tickets are valued at $140 per person.
The Marriott rewards program offers a variety of exciting experiences for points redemption, including culinary, sports and entertainment events. For a full list, visit the Experiences Marketplace.
4. Spend two days with retired elephants in Thailand
Adventurous Chase cardholders can spend two days and one night as a mahout, or elephant caregiver, at the Elephant Retirement Park in Thailand. The unique experience, which allows visitors to take an active role in the elephant conservation movement, includes learning about the medical care and day-to-day life of elephants. Participants also help feed the elephants fresh fruit and sugar, administer Thai herbal medicine and trek with the elephants to a waterfall in the park.
The price of this excursion is 15,434 points per adult ticket (valued at $154.34), and 7,717 points per child ticket (valued at $77.17). Transportation to and from the park, food and lodging for one night are all included in the ticket price. Visit the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to view more exotic experiences.
5. Attend the U.S. Open like a VIP
Redeem your JetBlue TrueBlue points for tickets to the U.S. Open during the second week of the tennis tournament. The package covers four days and three nights for two at the Grand Hyatt New York Hotel in Manhattan, daily breakfast and all hotel taxes. You will also receive two tickets to your choice of any two sessions of the U.S. Open. To bid on this package, visit the True Blue Shop, log in to your JetBlue account and hit “bid now.” The highest bid is currently listed at 43,500 points.
Accessing once-in-a-lifetime experiences
Watch one Arizona Cardinals fan get up close and personal to his favorite players using points from his Bank of America MLB Extra Bases Mastercard:
See related: Citi Sound Vault gives access to exclusive music experiences, Mastercard ramps up exclusive privileges for Affluent cardholders in Asia Pacific, Chase and Southwest boost sign-up bonuses to 60,000 points
- Is Amazon Prime worth it? – We crunched the numbers for seven Amazon Prime perks to help you figure out if the benefits outweigh the $99 fee ...
- Venture card from Capital One raises sign-up bonus to 50,000 miles – New Venture cardholders can now receive a one-time 50,000-mile bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card membership ...
- Blue Cash Everyday versus Blue Cash Preferred: Which is best for you? – The Blue Cash Preferred and Blue Cash Everyday cards both offer high rates of cash back on gas and groceries. But if you’re avoiding the Preferred version due to its $95 fee, we think you should give the card a second look ...