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How to turn unused credit card rewards into holiday gifts

How to turn unused credit card rewards into holiday gifts
Posted at 3:39 PM, Nov 11, 2020

If you’re celebrating the holiday season at home this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, then you probably aren’t using up your travel rewards points. Instead of watching those points languish, consider turning them into holiday gifts — you can stretch your budget while taking advantage of new offers from credit card issuers.

Amid the pandemic, many card issuers are offering more flexibility when it comes to points redemptions, as well as extra statement credits. With 1 in 3 holiday shoppers who accrued credit card debt last holiday season still paying it off, using credit card rewards to finance gifts can be a great way to celebrate the season while avoiding additional debt.

Here are some examples of offers you can take advantage of this year:

Send a meal

For a limited time, if you have an eligible Capital One travel card, you can use miles to cover restaurant delivery and takeout purchases at a 1:1 rate. That means instead of using your miles to fly home to see family, you can use them to send them a nice holiday takeout meal. You could even join them for it over Zoom.

Bank of America® is also offering temporary points-for-food conversions on some of its travel cards, and in some cases a $50 statement credit. Similarly, Chase is allowing some cardholders to redeem points for statement credits against purchases made at grocery stores, restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and home improvement for a limited time.

Make a donation in someone’s name

Chase is allowing some cardholders to redeem points for statement credits when making donations to qualifying charitable organizations.

Treat a friend to coffee

Starbucks credit card holders received 150 bonus Stars earlier this year as part of Chase’s efforts to help consumers during the pandemic. That equates to a handcrafted drink, hot breakfast or parfait — so if you haven’t redeemed those rewards yet, consider putting them toward a (socially distanced) holiday date with a friend.

Gift a streaming service

Eight months into the pandemic, we’re still looking for new ways to keep ourselves entertained indoors. Several issuers have cards with temporary or ongoing offers that give you statement credits or bonus rewards for streaming.

If you pay for someone else’s streaming service, you can reap the discount or rewards.

Cover someone’s exercise program

For a limited time, some American Express cardholders can purchase a membership to at-home fitness program Variis by Equinox and earn statement credits each month. Terms apply. Or, if Peloton is more your speed, some Chase cards earn limited-time statement credits toward eligible memberships.

Get cash

Some cards also let you redeem travel points for cash back at the same rate.

It’s not always the best redemption option. But at a time when travel options may be limited, it can help offset some of the costs of the holidays and even reduce your chances of accruing credit card debt from all that additional spending, which is a real gift to yourself.

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Kimberly Palmer is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @kimberlypalmer.