Pooling your credit card spending with friends and family members can help you amplify your rewards earnings. But joining forces with a loved one to turbocharge your rewards can also backfire. These tips will help you share rewards without getting stiffed or harming your relationship.
But be careful: Joining forces with a loved one to turbocharge your rewards can also backfire – especially if you add someone else to your credit card account or pay a friend or family member’s share of a bill.
According to a recent survey by Bankrate, for example, a number of people admit they’ve paid other people’s portion of a bill so they could scoop up more rewards; but, in many cases, they wound up losing money because other members of the group never paid them back.
Similarly, a substantial number of respondents to the Bankrate survey who co-signed a loan or lent a credit card to someone else said it ultimately harmed their relationship. In addition, people reported losing money from the arrangement and damaging their credit scores.
A survey by CreditCards.com also found that lending a card to someone else can have unintended consequences. For example, many people who lent their credit cards to others, such as friends, family members and co-workers, said their borrowed cards were lost or stolen, or the debt people incurred was never repaid. Some respondents also ran into trouble when other people overspent on the borrowed cards.
Rather than rely on trust, you’re better off using separate card accounts that let you pool the rewards you’ve independently earned. Also, consider putting safeguards in place before sharing a bill – such as asking for cash right away – in order to avoid getting unexpectedly stiffed.
Here are some tips for safely pooling rewards card spending so that you can supercharge your earnings:
5 tips for pooling credit card rewards spending
- Use cards that let you pool rewards points with other cardholders
- Consider pooling air miles or hotel points instead
- Consider cards that let you limit authorized users’ spending
- Carefully divvy up your household spending
- Only cover a bill for a friend or co-worker if they can pay you back within minutes
1. Use cards that let you pool rewards points with other cardholders
You don’t necessarily have to share a card in order to pool your credit card rewards. A number of issuers allow you to combine points or miles with other cardholders.
Some issuers, such as Chase, will only allow you to share points with a member of your household. Other issuers, such as Wells Fargo, Capital One and Citi, allow you to share points with anyone as long as their account is from the same bank.
Make sure you read the card’s fine print, though, and know when your newly pooled points expire. Some issuers set tight limits on points that have been combined from multiple accounts.
For example, Citi only gives cardholders 90 days to use up combined ThankYou points. It also caps the number of points you can combine.
2. Consider pooling air miles or hotel points instead
Some card issuers, such as American Express, don’t allow you to pool points with other card members at all. But if an issuer lets you transfer your points to frequent flyer or hotel rewards programs, you may be able to pool those rewards instead.
Several hotel brands, including Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton and IHG, allow you to pool miles with other travelers. Some airlines also allow you to pool air miles. However, they often charge hefty fees in exchange. JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines and SunCountry Airlines are among the few airlines that let you pool miles for free.
3. Consider cards that let you limit authorized users’ spending
You can also pool rewards by adding someone as an authorized user. However, that can be a dangerous strategy if the other cardholder overspends and causes you to rack up more debt than you can afford. You can limit your risk, though, by capping the authorized user’s spending.
4. Carefully divvy up your household spending
You can also maximize your household spending by drafting a budget and splitting expenses between different cardholders.
For example, one member of the household who owns an everyday spending card can cover all the groceries until they’ve maxed out the card’s supermarket bonus. Then another member of the household can begin covering groceries until they’ve spent the same amount. That way, you’ll continue to earn maximum rewards throughout the year.
This strategy only works, though, if you’re a couple with joint accounts or if you can trust your family members or roommates to pay you back for their expenses. If you can’t trust that the other person will stick to the plan or pay you back when necessary, then the extra rewards points probably aren’t worth the risk.
5. Only cover a bill for a friend or co-worker if they can pay you back within minutes
If you have a card that offers a substantial amount of cash back on a joint expense, such as a restaurant tab or Uber ride, it may be tempting to pick up the bill for other members of your group.
But if your friends don’t pay you back, you’ll not only lose more money than you likely earned in rewards. You may also threaten the friendship if guilt or resentment bubble up, long after you paid the bill.
Only agree to pay a bill on a friend or co-worker’s behalf if they can pay you back in cash right away or if they can immediately send you money through a peer-to-peer payment app, such as Venmo or Square’s Cash App.
Pooling rewards spending is an effective strategy for boosting your rewards earnings or claiming a reward more quickly. But it also comes with significant risks. It’s wise to tread carefully when teaming up with others and sharing your expenses.