You should redeem credit card rewards as often as possible, whether they’re points, miles, or cash back. It is important to redeem often because credit card rewards can be devalued or expire, depending on the type of rewards they are.
The longer credit card rewards earnings stay in your account unredeemed, the more time they’re subject to devaluation, the more likely they are to expire, and the less you actually get to benefit. Rewards don’t get you anything until you put them to use, after all.
Reward Expiration and Devaluation
Just because you earned your credit card rewards fair and square doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll retain their value, or that they’re yours forever. Some credit card rewards expire after a certain amount of time if you don’t redeem them. In fact, some credit card terms state that other events, such as a late payment or even prolonged account inactivity, can put your rewards in jeopardy. So it’s a good idea to read the terms closely.
However, making sure you’re aware of everything in the card’s terms may not be enough. Many credit card companies have language in their terms allowing them to change the rewards structure at any time. They can change rules that govern which purchases earn rewards, how much your miles or points are worth, and anything else about the rewards program. For example, a credit card company can decide your 30,000 points are worth $250 rather than $300.
Redeem Rewards Often
The possibility for change in credit card rewards programs is reason enough to redeem your rewards often. Rewards from cash back credit cards are considered the most stable rewards, because they can’t be devalued by credit card companies. That doesn’t mean they can’t expire, though. And due to possible devaluation or expiration, miles and points should also be redeemed as often as possible.
Frequent Travelers May Want to Save Up
Miles and points can definitely serve people better when they’re saved up to redeem for travel. But expired or devalued miles and points won’t take you anywhere. That’s why it’s a good idea to pay for travel with a combination of points/miles and cash, if the rewards program allows it.
If you can’t pay for your travel accommodations partly with rewards and partly with a normal credit card purchase, stockpile points or miles with caution, and only after determining exactly when they could expire. Plus, if you’re not in a position to redeem points or miles regularly, you might get more value and enjoyment from a cash back credit card instead.
At the end of the day, knowing when and how to redeem credit card rewards to get the best value can be tricky, considering the obstacles of devaluation, expiration, and varying redemption rules. For instance, many credit card rewards programs have minimum redemption thresholds, meaning you can’t redeem your rewards until you collect a certain amount of them.
But there are solutions to such problems, and applying them to your situation can be very valuable. For example, some credit cards have the option to auto-redeem once your unused rewards hit a certain threshold. Doing that is a good idea if you don’t want to redeem for travel. That way, you’ll know your rewards won’t be sitting in your account, waiting for the rules to change.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.