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 packages your rewards points can get you, you may be surprised at the bounty you’re missing out on — from kitschy to luxurious to downright bizarre.
Here’s a taste of what your points and miles can buy:
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 downright bizarre.
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, Caf\xe9 World fountains and stoves and YoVille roadsters and robots.
Exotic travel. Among the myriad journeys listed under American Express Travel \u2018Exclusives’ 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 seminars.
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 items.
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.