How to Turn Unused Credit Card Rewards Into Holiday Gifts

You may be able to use rewards or credits to cover food, charitable donations, streaming services, exercise programs and more.

Kimberly PalmerNovember 10, 2020
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If you’re celebrating the holiday season at home this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, then you probably aren’t using up your travel rewards points. Instead of watching those points languish, consider turning them into holiday gifts — you can stretch your budget while taking advantage of new offers from credit card issuers.

Amid the pandemic, many card issuers are offering more flexibility when it comes to points redemptions, as well as extra statement credits. With 1 in 3 holiday shoppers who accrued credit card debt last holiday season still paying it off, using credit card rewards to finance gifts can be a great way to celebrate the season while avoiding additional debt.

Here are some examples of limited-time offers you can take advantage of this year.

Send a meal

Through the end of the year, holders of the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card can use their miles to cover restaurant delivery and takeout purchases at a 1:1 rate. That means instead of using your miles to fly home to see family, you can use them to send them a nice holiday takeout meal. You could even join them for it over Zoom.

Capital One isn’t the only issuer offering points-for-food conversions: Bank of America® is too. Through the end of the year, holders of the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card and the Bank of America® Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® credit card can redeem points for grocery store, dining and takeout purchases for 1 penny per point. And if you have the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, you can earn a $50 statement credit to use toward those same categories, also through the end of the year.

Make a donation in someone’s name

On an ongoing basis, holders of the Chase Freedom cards — the Chase Freedom®, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ — can redeem points (for 1.25 cents each) for statement credits to cover donations to qualifying charitable organizations. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is offering the same perk, but only through April 30, 2021.

It's also an option for holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve® through April 30, 2021, but at a rate of 1.5 cents per point.

Treat a friend to coffee

Holders of the Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card received 150 bonus Stars earlier this year as part of Chase’s efforts to help consumers during the pandemic.

That equates to a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait — so if you haven’t redeemed them yet, consider putting them toward a (socially distanced) holiday date with a friend.

Gift a streaming service

Eight months into the pandemic, we're still looking for new ways to keep ourselves entertained indoors. For a limited time, with The Platinum Card® from American Express, you earn up to $320 in statement credits toward certain streaming services, including Netflix, Spotify, Disney+ and more. Terms apply.

That means you could earn the credit by purchasing one of those streaming services for a loved one.

Buy a family member a computer

In addition, for a limited time, holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express can get $100 back if they make a Dell.com purchase of $100 or more. This offer runs through Jan. 31, 2021. Terms apply.

Cover someone's exercise program

For a limited time, holders of The Platinum Card® from American Express can purchase a membership to at-home fitness program Variis by Equinox and earn $25 back every month. Holders of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express will receive $10 back each month. (For both cards, the offer ends June 30, 2021.) And other eligible AmEx cardholders will receive $10 back each month for the first three months of Variis membership, through April 1, 2021. Terms apply.

If Peloton is more your speed, both the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are offering limited-time statement credits toward eligible memberships. The Preferred card will grant cardholders up to $60 in statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access memberships through Dec. 31, 2021. The Reserve will offer up to $120 in statement credits on Peloton Digital and All-Access memberships, also through Dec. 31, 2021.

Give yourself a gift

Through April 30, 2021, Chase is offering a “Pay Yourself Back” feature that allows some cardholders to redeem points for statement credits against purchases made at grocery stores, restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and home improvement. Holders of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can make those redemptions for 1.25 cents per point. For holders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it’s 1.5 cents per point. Usually, cardholders enjoy those higher rates only on travel purchases made through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal.

If you’re spending more to get ready for the holidays, this benefit can offset some of your costs.

Get cash

Some cards also let you redeem travel points for cash back at the same rate.

It’s not always the best redemption option. But at a time when travel may be limited, it can help decrease some of the costs of the holidays and even reduce your chances of accruing credit card debt from all that additional spending, which is a real gift to yourself.

Information related to the Chase Freedom® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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