What if you're a few points short of your plane ticket?

Buying extra points is costly, but you may be able to pay the difference in cash

Cashing In columnist Tony Mecia
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com

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Question Dear Cashing In,
I have 47,000 Wells Fargo reward points and want to purchase a flight for 49,000. Can I purchase the extra 2,000 in cash? – Tara

Answer Dear Tara,
It can be tough to be so tantalizingly close to a reward. You spend money on your card, then when it comes time to redeem your rewards, you’re just barely short of the points you need. 

The trend in recent years among reward programs has been to offer all kinds of easy ways to bridge the gap. As you mention, some reward programs allow you to buy the points, though usually at an expensive rate. Sometimes, you can earn those few extra points by signing up for marketing newsletters or shopping in a program’s shopping portal. 

When it comes to credit cards, Wells Fargo tends to fly under the radar. You don’t hear a lot about Wells Fargo’s cards. Its main reward cards are only 3 years old. Wells Fargo has a reputation of being less generous with rewards than some of the other players in the credit card business that offer hefty sign-up bonuses and are backed by big marketing campaigns. 

But on closer examination, they are competitive with a lot of reward cards on the market. The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa has no annual fee and earns an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, and it comes with a $200 bonus if you make $1,000 in purchases in the first three months. 

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express card also has no annual fee and earns reward points: 3 points per $1 at gas stations, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and 1 point on all else. If you have a Wells Fargo checking or savings account, you earn an extra 10 percent in rewards. The points, known as Go Far Rewards, can be redeemed for a wide variety of travel purchases and merchandise. 

If you are a little bit short to redeem Go Far Rewards points, though, there is not a way to purchase the difference, Wells Fargo spokesman Jason Menke told me. 

“While there is not currently an option for Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards customers to purchase rewards points, Go Far Rewards does allow the customer to apply their existing points and pay any remaining balance on their payment card,” he said in an email. “This benefit is available for all travel, as well as for merchandise and gift cards.”

That should solve your problem. In fact, it might even be better for you than if Wells Fargo allowed you to buy points, because often, banks charge a premium when they sell their points.

Remember that when banks or airlines offer to sell you points, it is typically at a very poor rate. You’ll often see this with airlines when you buy a ticket. They typically ask you if you want to pay more to earn additional miles. But if you do the math, you’ll see the extra points are usually not worth the cost. The only time that they might be is if you need just a few more miles to have enough for a trip.

Happy travels!

The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the story is accurate as of the date of the story. Check the credit card terms and conditions link on the issuing bank’s website for the most current information.

See related: Simple strategies for increasing your card rewards, 4 easy ways to stack your card rewards


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Updated: 01-18-2019