8 Ways to Use Up Travel Rewards Points and Miles



To get the most value from travel rewards programs, it's often best to save up for a big trip. But sometimes you need to use up a smaller amount of points before they expire, or before you close the credit card account associated with the program. Or if it's taking you a long time to save up, you may want to use the points up before the program devalues the points, which happens often in the travel rewards world.

Here are eight ways you can use up your remaining points and miles, and still get something valuable in return.

1. Points plus cash awards

While you might not have enough reward points or miles for an award flight or for a free night's stay, many hotel programs and some airlines allow you to use a small amount of points or miles toward your reservation, and pay for the rest in cash. For example, the World of Hyatt program has a Points + Cash option that starts at just 2,500 points plus $50. (See also: Which Credit Card Should You Use to Get Free Hotel Stays?)

2. Transfer points to top off an account

What good are 2,000 frequent flyer miles when you need 25,000 for a round-trip airfare? If you also earn points in a transferable credit card rewards program, you can often make use of these small balances. For example, if you had 2,000 United MileagePlus miles, but plenty of points from a credit card that transfers points to United, you could transfer 23,000 credit card points to your United Account, and redeem all 25,000 miles for a round-trip, domestic award flight in economy class. (See also: Best Credit Cards That Transfer Points to Airline Miles)

3. Consider one-way awards

If you don't have the 25,000 points needed for a round-trip flight, but you have 12,500 points in at least one account, you may still be able to use them for one-way reservations. For example, you could book an award with one airline out, and another back, or you could use an award one way, and cash the other. (See also: Best Co-Branded Airline Credit Cards)

4. Combine rewards among your own accounts or those of others

There are some reward programs that let you combine your points or miles between accounts. For example, some credit card rewards programs let you combine points between any of your accounts from that issuer, plus those of your spouse, domestic partner, or employees. Others allow you to transfer points to anyone with an account. JetBlue offers family pooling of its airline rewards, and Starwood lets any household members combine their points. (See also: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards)

5. Try Points.com

This is like a currency exchange company that deals with points and miles from different companies, instead of currencies from various countries. But where you might expect to pay a few percent commission when changing currencies, you're likely to take a major loss when moving your points and miles around. Nevertheless, it can be an attractive option when you are hoping to gain some value from points and miles you were never going to use. (See also: Best Tools for Tracking Your Rewards Miles)

6. Donate your points to charity

Many airline and hotel programs offer some way to donate rewards points to charity, and often you can select which organization you would like to receive them. But unlike cash donations, you can't deduct anything from your taxes when you donate your points and miles.

7. Magazines

Many airline and hotel programs allow you to redeem your points and miles for magazine purchases, starting at around 500 points or miles. For example, the Miles for Magazines website offers you the chance to redeem your rewards from Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Spirit, and United.

8. Redeem for merchandise and gift cards

Most reward programs allow you to redeem your points or miles for merchandise and gift cards. If you have just a few miles left, this can be a great option. For example, most programs will allow you to redeem 2,500 points for a $25 gift card to a major retailer. Many programs also offer small purchases, such as media downloads, for less than 1,000 points. Finally, many programs will allow you to combine cash and points for a merchandise or gift card reward, allowing you to receive at least some value for your leftover points or miles, no matter how few. (See also: The 7 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Redeeming Credit Card Rewards)

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