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ScoreCard Points: Why They’re Rarely Worth the Hassle

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This point program is commonly attached to credit union rewards credit cards. It’s decent for travel: the best way to redeem your points is for airline flights. However, if you want gift cards or merchandise, you’re out of luck. ScoreCard Rewards require you to accumulate a ridiculous number of points before you get a good rate. We’re talking 20k+ points before you see a decent redemption – that’s $20k spent! ScoreCard Rewards are one of the worst point programs we’ve ever come across, due to the inability to trade points for goodies in reasonable increments. Most point programs allow you to swap points for gift cards or cash at a near 1 cent per 1 point rate in increments as low as 2,000 points.

Credit cards tied to ScoreCard Points earn 1 point per $1 spent. If you redeem for travel, your rewards rate can (but may not be) greater than 1%, because travel rewards can be worth slightly more than 1 cent per point. If you want merchandise or gift cards, your rewards rate is less than 1%.

With ScoreCard Points, your redemption options are pretty much limited to travel, toaster ovens and widgets. Among the only gift cards available are the $25 iTunes card for 3,000 points, which means points are worth less than 1 cent each. The only way to get full value is by racking up a ton of points and using them for airfare.

Using ScoreCard rewards for airline tickets

First, let’s talk about travel redemptions. If you’re trading in your points for plane tickets, you’re in luck. Maybe. You can redeem your points for a ticket anywhere in the contiguous states, but you have to book through ScoreCard, and their prices can be higher than those listed on discount sites like Kayak and Expedia. You’re also subject to booking restrictions, limited space and so on. Not to mention you’re on the hook for the 9/11 security fee and fuel surcharges, and your tickets are non-refundable. You can purchase what amounts to a $325 credit on any airline, but you’ll have to fork over a $25 fee (which in itself is worth 2,500 points). So, in conclusion, you can get a good value for your ScoreCard rewards by redeeming for travel. It just requires a lot of navigation.

Using ScoreCard rewards for merchandise and gift cards

Given that 1% is the industry standard reward rate, and you can get a 1% cash back card with very mediocre credit, we don’t understand the popularity of this rewards program.

Let’s take a look at some of the most “popular” items on the ScoreCard Rewards website as of Feb 3, 2011.

Popularity Rank Item $ Value Point Cost Value of Point, Upon Redemption
1 iTunes Gift Card $25 3,000 0.83 Cents
2 Fandango Two Movie Tickets About $22, depending on where you live 2,500 0.88 Cents
3 Zippo Classic Wine Bottle Cap $9.44 on Opentip 1,300 0.73 Cents
4 Hoover Cordless Hand Vacuum $29.00 on Amazon 5,000 0.60 Cents
5 Colby 19″ LCD Hdtv $150.95 on Amazon 22,500 0.67 Cents
6 Westinghouse Outlet Grounded Wall Adapter $6.38 on Amazon 1,300 0.49 Cents
7 Black & Decker Toaster Oven $29.99 on Amazon 6,900 0.43 Cents
8 Swift Stick Vacuum $22.92 on Amazon 5,000 0.46 Cents
9 Colby 8GB MP3 Player $46.95 on Amazon 6,900 $69 can actually buy you an iPod Shuffle
10 12 Mile 2 Way Radio $19.99 on Amazon 4,300 0.46 Cents

Want something simpler?

As an alternative to the cat-and-mouse of Scorecard points, consider a cash back credit card – nothing’s easier to redeem than the world’s reserve currency. Some of our cash back favorites include:

The Chase Freedom® – 5% cash back on bonus categories, up to $1,500 spent every quarter, and an unlimited 1% elsewhere. Plus, the card has a signup bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That’s better than most credit union cards you’ll find out there.

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card – A full 1.5% cash back on all purchases: no caps, no bonus categories, no hassle.