How to use credit card rewards points

If you have a rewards credit card and are making a big-item purchase, consider using or redeeming your rewards to help pay for it. Depending on the type of credit card or reward program you’re enrolled in, there may be ways for you to use those points to earn discounts.

How are reward points earned?

Credit card reward points can be earned in the following ways:

  • New card member bonus promotions
  • Cash back promotions
  • Purchases in select categories
  • Participating in loyalty programs

What can reward points be redeemed for?

Some options for redeeming credit card reward points include:

Gift cards

Reward programs typically include gift cards as a flexible redemption option. You may find gift card options ranging from restaurants to department stores to entertainment services.

Statement credit

Your reward points can be redeemed as statement credit.

Travel

If you’ve earned points through an airline or hotel credit card, then you might be required to redeem points directly with the brand. Points and cash back earned through traditional credit cards can also be redeemed for travel through select booking websites.

Depending on the card, customers may be able to request their cash back in the form of a check or direct deposit.

How do I redeem reward points?

Reward points can usually be redeemed through your credit card reward portal or mobile app. If you are actively working to earn and accumulate points, don’t forget to check if there are any expiration dates associated with your earned points.

Published: September 19, 2011

How to use credit card rewards points

Summary

If you’ve had the same card for a few years, happy to be collecting a few hundred points here and there, we have two words for you: Wake up

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Essential reads, delivered weekly

Subscribe to get the week’s most important news in your inbox every week.

Your credit cards journey is officially underway.

Keep an eye on your inbox—we’ll be sending over your first message soon.

Leff, co-founder of frequent flier community Milepoint.com, says credit card rewards have never been better. Maximizing your points is just a matter of paying attention and making the right choices. Do you pay for everything possible with your credit card, including your nanny and your yard guy? Do you look for opportunities to double and triple your points? “It’s free money,” Leff says. “It’s like the banks want you to fly internationally in premium cabins for free.”

We asked Leff and other savvy reward chasers for their favorite — and most creative — tips for racking up credit card rewards. Remember, none of these tricks is worth pursuing unless you pay off your card every month; otherwise, interest charges cancel out any gain.

How to use credit card rewards points

1. Sign up for four to six cards a year. Competition has really pushed up the value of sign-up bonuses, which are often worth hundreds of dollars, if not more, in points or miles. “I remember I got excited when Chase offered a 20,000-mile bonus,” Leff says. “Now it’s a totally different world. Fifty thousand miles is the new 15,000, and we’re seeing 100,000-mile sign-up bonuses with some regularity. It’s incredible.” With that many miles, you can get two coach tickets to anywhere in Europe, worth several thousand dollars. Many credit card gurus have found that signing up for four to six credit cards a year, and then canceling them once the rewards have been issued, has had only a small impact on their credit scores. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to do that if you know you’re going to refinance or apply for a big loan like a mortgage soon.

2. Lend money to someone in Kenya. Through Kiva.org, an international micro-lender, you can use your credit card to loan money to a screened applicant from one of 60 countries. The borrower pays you back over time, and Kiva claims a low 1 percent default rate. “You get the points, and you know you’re doing something worthwhile,” says Rick Ingersoll, who blogs about credit card rewards at FrugalTravelGuy.com. “Is it 100 percent guaranteed? No. But I’ve been doing it two and a half years, and I’ve never had a problem.”

3. Transfer money to a friend or family member. Offering to put dinner on your card when you go out with friends is a no-brainer, but you can also use your card to pay friends back by using a payment service such as Amazon Payments, PayPal or Venmo. Some rewards buffs report in travel forums that they take that to the next level, using payment services to regularly pay a family member large amounts and then get reimbursed, just to get the reward points, though some experts say that tactic is questionable.

4. Register your cards at iDine. Register up to five credit cards with this program and you can earn miles or cash for eating out at participating restaurants. Get up to 15 miles or 15 percent cash back per $1 spent, depending how often you eat out and whether you’re willing to fill out surveys about your experience. “This is a really good way to earn rewards with very little effort,” says Gary Steiger, webmaster of Freefrequentflyermiles.com. “Sometimes you don’t even realize the restaurant is included, especially if you’re traveling, and you get points anyway.”

5. Segregate your spending. Some cards give you extra points for gas; others give you a bonus when you use them for groceries or travel. Make sure you’re making a conscious choice about which card to use where. “Everybody should have three or four or five cards in their pocket,” Ingersoll says. At restaurants, use one that pays extra points for dining out, at gas stations, use the one that gives you back more for gas, and so on. “And if you’re buying an airline ticket, use the one that gives you 1 point per purchase plus 1 point for every mile you fly.”

6. Use shopping portals. Never go directly to a store’s website, the experts say. Always check first to see if it’s listed at the shopping portal of the bank, airline or hotel associated with your credit card. If it is, you’ll earn the typical reward for your spending, plus additional points, miles or cash back, depending on the program. Many retailers even ship straight to the store for you so you don’t have to pay shipping. One caveat: Comparison shop before pushing the portal’s “buy” button. Some portals’ prices far exceed the retail value of items, making your extra points very costly.

7. Get reimbursed manually from your flexible spending account. If you pay your medical expenses out of a flexible spending account, don’t use the card they give you, says Daraius Dubash, who blogs about traveling using miles and points at Millionmilesecrets.com. Pay for those expenses with one of the Best Rewards Credit Cards instead, and then manually file for reimbursement. “It’s slightly more time consuming, but the points add up quickly,” says Dubash, who together with his wife has 3.8 million miles.

See related: Getting the most value for your hotel rewards points, How to keep track of all those rewards points, 8 ways to maximize your credit card rewards points, Great credit score means you should reap rewards

We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. And while our site doesn’t feature every company or financial product available on the market, we’re proud that the guidance we offer, the information we provide and the tools we create are objective, independent, straightforward — and free.

So how do we make money? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which products we review and write about (and where those products appear on the site), but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Here is a list of our partners.

Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards: How to Earn and Use Them

How to use credit card rewards points

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here’s how we make money.

If you have an eligible Wells Fargo credit card, you can earn rewards on your purchases in the form of Go Far Rewards points.

Here’s what to know about those points and the rewards program itself.

Go Far Rewards: The basics

You earn Go Far Rewards points by paying for purchases with an eligible Wells Fargo credit card, by shopping through the Wells Fargo online bonus mall (known as the Earn More Mall), or both.

You can access the Go Far Rewards site by logging into your online Wells Fargo bank account, or directly via the Go Far Rewards site itself. You can redeem points for:

Cash back or statement credit

Digital rewards (software, games, etc.)

You’ll also have access to limited-time offers as well as “auctions,” where you can bid on featured items.

Generally, Go Far Rewards points are worth 1 cent each, but see the “How to redeem” section below for exceptions and more information.

Cards that earn Go Far Rewards

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

Earn 1.5% cash back on purchases (cash back comes in the form of Go Far Rewards).

Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa Card

Earn 3% cash back per dollar on gas, grocery and drugstore purchases for the first six months (cash back comes in the form of Go Far Rewards).

Earn 1% cash back per dollar spent on virtually all other purchases.

Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Credit Card

Earn 5 points per dollar on up to $12,500 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores in the first six months after opening the account.

Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Points take on 50% more value when redeemed for airfare.

Wells Fargo Rewards® Card

Earn 5 points per dollar on up to $12,500 spent at gas stations, grocery stores and drugstores in the first six months after opening the account.

Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Wells Fargo Propel World American Express

Earn 3 points per dollar spent directly with airlines.

Earn 2 points per dollar spent on hotel bookings.

Earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card

This card is no longer accepting applications.

How to redeem Go Far Rewards

The Nerds recommend cash back, statement credit and travel as ideal redemption options. Generally, you can count on your points being worth 1 cent each regardless of what you redeem them for — although a notable exception is the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Credit Card , which offers cardholders boosted value when redeeming points specifically for airfare. (Read the “for travel” bullet below for more on this option.)

For cash back: A big plus with Go Far Rewards is that if you have a Wells Fargo debit or ATM card, you can redeem points for cold, hard cash that you can hold in your hand that day. You’ll just need to find a Wells Fargo ATM. You’ll also need at least 2,000 points first (points redeem this way in $20 increments).

For statement credit: You can redeem by phone or online via the Go Far Rewards portal, but this must be in $25 increments, which can be applied directly toward your Wells Fargo checking, savings or other qualifying Wells Fargo account (or you can request that a paper check be mailed to you). Log into your Go Far Rewards account, hover over “Use your rewards” at the top, select “Redeem to account” and follow the prompts.

For travel: Log into your Go Far Rewards account, hover over “Use your rewards” and select “Travel.” You’ll be taken to a site where you can search for flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages and more. As with cash back, points redeemed for travel are generally worth 1 cent each, unless you happen to have the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Credit Card . With this card, Go Far Rewards take on 50% more value when redeemed for airfare through the Wells Fargo portal, making a point worth 1.5 cents when used this way. That rate increases to 1.75 cents per point if you spend $50,000 or more in a year on this card.

Other redemption options

Gift cards, merchandise, etc.: For any of these options, log into your Go Far Rewards account, hover over “Use your rewards” and navigate to the appropriate category. Gift cards will net you a value of 1 cent per point, although cash will be more flexible than gift cards . When it comes to merchandise, you may find that redemption values can vary when compared to their cost on other websites. In some cases, you might snag a good deal. In other cases, you might be better off taking a cash redemption and buying the item on your own.

The fine print

Go Far Rewards can be pooled with family members or friends who also earn the rewards currency, and they can be gifted to other Wells Fargo customers, assuming that the recipient has a Wells Fargo credit card that earns Go Far Rewards.

However, if you fail to make card payments when they’re due, your rewards account will effectively become suspended. This means you can’t redeem or transfer points, and any points you earn will be “held” until you get current. You’ll lose unredeemed rewards if you close your account.

Also keep in mind: Some Wells Fargo credit cards set no limit on the number of Go Far Rewards points you can earn, and those points don’t expire. But this is not the case for every Wells Fargo credit card, so check your card’s terms and conditions.

Information related to the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card , the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa Card , the Wells Fargo Visa Signature® Credit Card , the Wells Fargo Rewards® Card , the Wells Fargo Propel World American Express and the Wells Fargo Propel 365 American Express® Card has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

About the author: Robin is a former credit cards writer for NerdWallet. Her work has been featured by The New York Times, USA Today, Business Insider and other media outlets. Read more

Many or all of the products here are from our partners. We may earn a commission from offers on this page. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

If you have a good credit score, it’s smart to think about how to get more value from your credit cards. Credit card rewards are a popular option, as they’re one of the most valuable features card issuers offer. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to maximize your credit card rewards.

How do I make the most of my rewards credit card?

Maximizing your credit card rewards is achieved through using your rewards card on all your spending and paying the bill in full every month

Here are a few guidelines to make the most of your rewards credit card:

  • Use your rewards card for every purchase: You’ll earn rewards whenever you make a purchase with your card. As such, you should use it for all your spending. If you pay with cash or a debit card, you’re leaving potential rewards on the table.
  • Don’t overspend to earn more rewards: Some consumers use rewards as a justification to spend more. This isn’t a good idea. Imagine you spend an extra $100 at restaurants this month because your credit card offers 5% back on dining. After that $5 back, you’re still down $95. It’s better to follow your budget and not adjust your spending habits to gain credit card rewards.
  • Pay your credit card bill in full: Interest charges can reduce or wipe out the value you get from credit card rewards. Rewards cards also tend to have higher interest rates than other types of credit cards, making this even more of a problem. If you pay your card off every month, you won’t be charged credit card interest.
  • Redeem your credit card rewards regularly: Rewards won’t usually increase in value, but they can get less valuable over time. For that reason, it makes sense to use credit card rewards promptly.
  • Watch for new credit card options: The best rewards credit cards change often as credit card companies add benefits and launch new cards. Check out the rewards cards that are available every six months to a year. You may find there’s a card available that will work better for you.

To qualify for the rewards cards with the most benefits, you’ll generally need good or excellent credit. If you need help raising your credit score, you can learn how in our credit score guide.

What issuer has the best credit card rewards program?

Chase has the best credit card rewards program because it has several quality travel partners and it offers the best rates when you use points for cash travel bookings.

Chase rewards program

Here’s how you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to save big on travel:

  • Transfer points to travel partners: Chase has a great roster of airline and hotel partners, including United Airlines, Hyatt Hotels, and Southwest Airlines. You can transfer Chase points to partners to book award airfare or an award hotel stay. Let’s say you want to book a ticket with United for 30,000 miles. You could transfer 30,000 Chase points to United. Those points would become United miles you could use to book the ticket.
  • Redeem points with the Ultimate Rewards travel portal: Chase also lets you use points to make cash travel bookings through the Ultimate Rewards portal. Your points are worth $0.0125 each if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. They’re worth $0.015 each if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For example, if you have 10,000 Chase points, you could use that to buy either $125 or $150 in travel, depending on which Chase rewards credit cards you have.

The Chase Ultimate Rewards program ranks at the top, but there are a couple of other great rewards programs you may want to check out.

American Express Membership Rewards

American Express also offers quite a few travel partners in its popular rewards program. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to over 20 different partners. That includes domestic airlines, international airlines, and hotels. The Membership Rewards program provides so many options that American Express rewards credit cards work well if you like to shop around for the best travel rewards deals.

Citi ThankYou Rewards

Citi is another card issuer to consider as you shop for rewards credit cards. It has over a dozen travel partners where you can send your Citi ThankYou points. Most of these travel partners are international airlines. If there are any international frequent flyer programs you like, Citi rewards credit cards could be just what you need.

Bank of America Preferred Rewards

Bank of America rewards credit cards are ideal if you already use its banking or investment services. Through the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program, you can get bonuses of 25% to 75% on all your credit card rewards. To qualify, you need to meet minimum balance requirements that start at $20,000.

Unlike the card issuers above, Bank of America doesn’t offer transfers to travel partners. Instead, it offers cash back rewards and fixed-rate travel redemptions depending on which of its cards you have.

Which is a better option: Cash back or credit card rewards programs?

Credit card rewards programs are generally the better option if you travel multiple times per year. The top rewards programs give you ways to redeem points for a high value when you use them to book travel. Transferring points to travel partners, in particular, is one of the smartest ways to maximize credit card rewards.

Cash back is the better choice if you aren’t a frequent traveler. It’s also the way to go if you want the simpler credit card rewards option. There can be a learning curve to credit card rewards programs as you figure out how to best use your points. With cash back, you don’t need to deal with that. Cash back credit cards are easy to use and can work for anyone.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers the best rewards. It earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to airline and hotel partners or use to book travel in cash. This Chase credit card also has a big sign-up bonus and a reasonable $95 annual fee.

Points are typically the best type of credit card rewards, because they have the most potential value. This is especially true with Chase, American Express, and Citi points. All three credit card companies allow you to transfer points to travel partners, which can get you more value than any other type of redemption.

To make the most of your rewards credit card, use it for every purchase so you earn as many credit card rewards as you can. Make sure you follow a budget so that you don’t overspend, and pay off your credit card bill in full every month to avoid interest charges.