It’s 2020 and in this economy, we’re looking for every possible way to tighten our budgets and stretch our donation dollars. Luckily for those of us with travel credit cards, as the times change, so do credit card rewards. Since we’re not really traveling anywhere except from the couch to the kitchen, travel credit card companies have adjusted their rewards to reflect the state of the world. From donating your points to Unicorn Riot to saving a bit on home improvement projects, ahead, we’ve got the details for how best to spend your travel rewards when you can’t travel.
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Instead of taking a vacation, donate your points. This is a great option for those who may not have extra liquid cash right now but still want to give to organizations supporting Black Lives Matter or other important causes. For most points-generating credit cards, the easiest way to do this is by redeeming your points for cash-back and then donating that cash directly, especially if you’re interested in donating to a political campaign. Credit card expert Sara Rathner of NerdWallet suggests this method because it has “more value and flexibility and you decide exactly where the money goes.” Donating cash-back is also the only way to guarantee the donation is tax-deductible.
If you have any American Express card, you can donate your points directly through their partnership with JustGiving. American Express allows cardholders to choose from over a million charities. For those with cards through Discover, JetBlue, American Airlines, Hilton, and United Airlines, you can only directly donate your points to their partnered organizations, which include charities such as American Red Cross, Guide Dogs Of America, and Make-A-Wish.
Chase Sapphire, Ink, and Freedom also allow you to redeem points towards donations using their Pay Yourself Back feature. Done through the Ultimate Rewards hub, Chase allows you to donate to a wide variety of charities, such as NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Habitat For Humanity.
If you’re struggling to earn points on your travel credit cards right now, make sure your card is connected to any delivery apps you use. Chase Sapphire cards give 2-3X points on all dining purchases, including delivery, as well as a complimentary DoorDash DashPass. Chase Sapphire cardholders can also earn 3-5X points on Instacart purchases as well as a statement credit for Instacart Express. If you’d rather drive to the grocery store, you can also earn 3-5X points on gas purchases with Chase Sapphire. Meanwhile, American Express cardholders earn 2X points on all Grubhub and Seamless purchases through the end of the year.
If you’re looking to use up some points, many credit cards now allow you to redeem points for food. Chase Sapphire, Ink, and Freedom cardholders can now redeem their points for culinary experiences with Chase’s new dining platform, Tock. This new features allows cardholders to redeem their points for multi-course meals (both dine-in and take out, depending on regulations) from over 4,000 restaurants across the country.
Chase cardholders can also use their points for groceries and dining through their program Pay Yourself Back, though it’s a bit more complicated (but ultimately more lucrative). Once you make a grocery or dining purchase you can redeem your points for a statement credit worth 25-50% (depending on your card). This means if you spend $100 at the supermarket you can use your points at 25-50% more to pay your bill after the fact. Currently, Pay Yourself Back is running through April 2021.
For Capital One Venture and VentureOne cardholders, you can now redeem your points through DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Postmates as well as directly with select restaurants — a program that will run through the end of the year.
If you need to do a home improvement project, Chase Sapphire allows you use points at 25-50% more for a statement credit at 25-50% for any home improvement purchases, or you can use points to purchase gift cards at various home improvement stores. If your home improvement is tech or plant-focused, you can use your Citi points for a statement credit towards any Best Buy or 1-800-Flowers purchase.
And, if you must buy from the giant that is Amazon, you can use points for that, too. For Amazon-branded and Discover cardholders, you can shop directly with your points on Amazon with a $1 to one point ratio. You can also use your points to shop on Amazon for a slightly smaller ratio with a plethora of cards from companies such as Chase, Capital One, Citi, and American Express.
If you were planning to cut a streaming service charge from your budget, consider that Capital One Venture cardholders can temporarily redeem their points for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Disney+, and Kindle Unlimited. Meanwhile, Chase Sapphire and Freedom cardholders can get statement credits for Spotify purchases and Wells Fargo American Express Propel cardholders can get 3X points for eligible streaming purchases from Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Sirius XM Radio, and Spotify. Chase Sapphire cardholders can also earn 5-10x points on streaming services, such as Spotify and Netflix.
When all else fails, you can use your points for some quick cash. In a time when unemployment rates are historically high, we could all use a little extra dough. Most credit cards will allow you to exchange your points for statement credits, allowing you to either pay off credit card bills or give yourself a bit of a buffer to get groceries.