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 Miles or Points Toward Travel
  3. Donate Points to Charity
  4. Redeem Rewards for Cash or Statement Credit
  5. Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
  6. Discover Rewards FAQ

1. Pay With Rewards or Points

If you are searching for a way to maximize your spending, perhaps during the holidays, look no further than a rewards card. For example, 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 or when you pay with PayPal*.

2. Apply Miles or Points Toward Travel

Redeeming your credit card rewards for travel can save you money on airfare or hotels. However, depending on the credit card issuer, the need to accrue lots of miles or points before redeeming, blackout dates, and other travel restrictions can make travel redemption frustrating.

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 or as a statement credit towards a travel purchase.* In addition, Discover Miles never expire*, so saving up to help offset the cost of a dream vacation is a real possibility.

3. Donate Points to Charity

Another option to consider is donating your points to a charity of your choice (if your credit card issuer allows this). For example, Discover works with various charitable partners so that cardmembers can donate their Cashback Bonus®. 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 Rewards 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. Maximize Your Credit Card Reward

  • 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. If you do have an outstanding balance, 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.
  • Focus your spending. It’s easy to become impulsive when it comes to earning rewards. 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. 
  • Look for bonus offers. If you are only 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. The Discover it® Cash Back card allows cardmembers to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.* Plus earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 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, like those from Discover, 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.

6. Discover Rewards FAQ

  • How can I join the Discover card rewards program?

While you automatically can start earning rewards once you become a Discover cardmember, you do have to activate quarterly 5% categories (if they’re available for your card) to earn 5% cashback at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum.

  • Is there an expiration date on my Discover Miles?

No, you’ll never need to worry about an expiration date on your Discover Miles since they never expire*.

  • How can I pick the best rewards card for me?

The best rewards card for you is one that matches your lifestyle and spending. From travel rewards to cash back, Discover has plenty of options so you can find your best rewards fit.

Published February 10, 2015.

Updated July 22, 2021.

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.

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

PayPal: PayPal, the PayPal logo are trademarks of PayPal or its Affiliates. Listed merchants are in no way sponsoring or affiliated with this program

Starting at 1 Mile, you can redeem your Miles as a credit to your account to pay for all or part of your bill, for cash as an electronic deposit to your bank account, or for a credit for Travel Purchases made on your statement within the last 180 days. Travel Purchases include airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuter transportation, restaurants and gas stations.

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.

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.

Applies to all categories:  Certain digital wallet transactions qualify for 5%, for more information see Discover.com/digitalwallets. Purchases made through third-party payment accounts, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology will not be eligible if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details for rewards qualification. 5% Cashback Categories: In accordance with standard industry practices, merchants are assigned a merchant category code (MCC) typically based on their line of business, or the type of products and/or services they primarily sell or provide. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Even if you make purchases at a merchant of items that appear to fit in a rewards category, the merchant m ay not have an assigned MCC in that rewards category. Only purchases made from merchants located in the United States are eligible for 5% Cashback Bonus. Rewards are added to your Cashback Bonus account within two billing periods. See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information about your rewards.