Credit card reward programs offer many ways to save you money on purchases and a number of ways to redeem the points or rewards you earn. But, how do you decide what’s right for you? Consider these tips to help you make the most of your credit card rewards.

  1. Pay With Rewards or Points
  2. Apply Toward Travel
  3. Donate to Charity
  4. Redeem for Cash or Statement Credit
  5. Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

1. Pay With Rewards or Points

If you are searching for a discount on your next purchase, or simply trying to save cash during the holidays, look no further than your rewards card. As an added perk to cardholders, some credit card issuers offer the ability to shop online at select retailers and pay for your purchase with all or part of your reward points or cash. For example, Discover cardmembers can pay with Cashback Bonus at Amazon.com and with PayPal.

2. Apply Toward Travel

Redeeming your credit card rewards for travel can save you money on airfare or hotels. However, the need to accrue lots of miles or points, blackout dates and other travel restrictions often make travel redemption frustrating. Because mileage conversion rates change frequently, a good rule of thumb to avoid missing out on travel rewards is to redeem your miles or rewards points early and often. Check to see what travel sites partner with your issuer.

Discover cardmembers have options when they decide to redeem the rewards on their Discover it Miles card. While they earn 1.5 Miles per $1 spent on all purchases, Miles can be redeemed as cash back or to credit travel purchase from your statement.2 In addition, Discover Miles never expire, so saving up to help offset the cost of a dream vacation is a real possibility.

3. Donate to Charity

Whether your points or miles are about to expire or you’re switching credit cards, consider donating your points instead of spending them on something you don’t need. During the holidays and in times of crises or natural disasters, using your rewards points to donate to charity is an extra way to help without having to spend more out-of-pocket. If you plan on making a charitable donation, check to see if your issuer requires a minimum number of rewards points to donate.

4. Redeem for Cash or Statement Credit

Getting an electronic deposit to your bank account or a statement credit is a practical and straightforward way to make your reward points work for you by paying your bills and improving your overall bottom line. You could use your rewards to pay down existing debt or transfer the money into an interest-bearing savings account, retirement account or college savings fund.

5. Tips to Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards

  • Pay off your balance. Avoid the temptation to spend more than you are able to pay back immediately simply to accumulate more rewards. The more you pay in interest each month, the less valuable your rewards become.
  • Focus your spending. It’s easy to become impulsive when it comes to earning rewards. The more credit cards you are using, the fewer rewards you will be able to accumulate on each. Concentrate your spending on a card that offers the best value in categories where you spend the most, rather than spacing out your purchases across several cards and making it more difficult to earn enough rewards on one card to truly help you. You may be able to calculate the interest and payoff time of any credit card with online tools, like the Credit Card Interest Calculator from Discover.
  • Look for bonus offers. If you are earning one point for every $1 spent, you could be missing out on rewards. For example, some issuers offer an increased rate in special categories, up to a specified dollar amount. Several credit card issuers offer bonus offers through their website, such as earning double or triple cash back by shopping through their online rewards mall.
  • Estimate your rewards cash value. If your card gives you points, you’ll want to calculate the cash value of those so you can determine the best possible return. You can do this by dividing the cash reward you are trading in for by the number of points it takes to trade in for it. On the other hand, some cards, such as the Discover it card, offer cash back, which needs no point-to-cash conversion.

With any credit card program, it’s important to always read the fine print. Check to see if your rewards program has a spending cap, redemption restrictions or an expiration date. With careful thought and some extra planning, you can find the credit card rewards that are right for your needs and may add up to valuable savings.

Published February 10, 2015.

Updated June 10, 2020.

Amazon is not a sponsor of this promotion. Amazon, the Amazon.com logo and the smile logo are trademarks of Amazon or its affiliates.

Redeem Miles: Starting at 1 Mile, you can redeem for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account or for a credit for Travel Purchases on your statement made within the last 180 days. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites and commuter transportation. Redemption may not be available for approximately 24-48 hours if your card is reported lost or stolen.

Miles Never Expire: We will credit your account with your rewards balance if your account is closed or has not been used in 18 months. See Miles Terms and Conditions for details.

Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.

Use Rewards at Amazon.com: For complete details on how to Pay with Cashback Bonus at Amazon.com see Amazon.com/CashbackBonus. Amazon is not a sponsor of this promotion. Amazon, the Amazon.com logo and the smile logo are trademarks of Amazon or its affiliates.

Use Rewards at PayPal: For complete details on how to Pay with Cashback Bonus at PayPal see PayPal.com/Discover. Pay with Rewards will be available for eligible credit cards on eligible purchases. All reward redemptions are subject to Discover’s reward program terms.