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Points and miles are often seen as synonymous with travel, especially in this hobby. After all, that’s the reason we churn and manufacture spend right? Most of the time, yes. However, there is more to them than meets the eye. Underneath the sandy beaches, the aspirational flights, and exotic experiences, it’s just a currency. A plain jane currency that can be used for a number of non-travel related (and sometimes odd) purchases.
Don’t get me wrong, Non-travel related purchases aren’t a bad thing. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to redeeming their bits of these electronic currencies, which is totally fine. As long as the redeemer finds value in the purchase, that’s all the really matters. This is simply a list of non-travel related (or odd) uses for points and miles.
Check it out.
You might be thinking, “Gift cards, how is that odd?” It’s odd in the sense that instead of using the points miles for travel, they’re being used for store purchases when they were likely earned in a very similar way. It’s like a circle of points. The upside to this redemption is that many currencies allow you to redeem points for more than $0.01 each (eg. 2,500 points = $30 gift card).
This redemption is very similar to redeeming for gift cards, except for the fact that cash is usually at a 1:1 ratio or lower (eg. 1 point = $0.01) and not all loyalty programs do it. In fact, most of them don’t. The only way to turn the ones that don’t into cash, would be to sell them to mileage brokers, which I do not suggest doing. They return is very low (eg. 1 point = $0.005) and it’s a great way to have your loyalty accounts closed.
I’ve never been sucked into the magazine reading world (other than comic books, if that counts), but realistically magazine mile redemptions are pretty good. Take American Airlines miles, for example. With 2,200 miles ($22 at $0.01 each), you can get 53 issues of People magazine. Those same 53 issues cost $98.58 on People magazine’s website. Of course, I didn’t take into account the miles you would earn from buying those magazines or the very generous portals you could go through, but all in all that’s a decent redemption if magazines are your thing.
Many loyalty programs offer an auction redemption opportunity where you can bid miles for once in a lifetime experiences/products. For example, you could bid for a signed guitar or a trip to the World Series or even a dinner with celebrities. It’s an interesting concept considering most of the auctioned items/events are priceless.
When I hear the word “charity,” I think money, time, or product. You know what I don’t think about? Miles and points. It makes sense that charities need to fly or travel to different destinations, but donating a digital currency just seems odd. It’d be like donating Bitcoin or Dogecoin. To each their own, but I prefer to donate to charities in other ways.
Redeeming your miles for digital media is another “odd” way to use your miles, but really it makes the most sense out of all the redemption offers. This option basically trades one digital item for another. That seems reasonable right? The only downside to it, is that many loyalty programs charge a lot of miles for media. For example, United is charging 1,600 miles (at least $16) for Taylor Swift’s new album, when you could pick it up on iTunes for $12.99.
This is another redemption opportunity that loyalty programs love to offer, but isn’t very pro consumer. By that I mean, it’s usually a rip off. Not only is the price extremely inflated, but the cost in points is outrageous and you miss out on portal bonuses. Take one of the new iPod Nanos for example…
You could redeem 29,800 Membership Rewards points at $0.005 each.
What option would you prefer?
There’s no wrong way to redeem your points, because you earned them and you get to decide what to do with them. However, I would suggest always aiming to earn at least $0.01 per point/mile. Obviously, that’s not always possible, especially with hotel points, but it’s good to have a goal and set a standard at which you’ll redeem your hard-earned miles.