7 Credit Card Reward Points Mistakes to Avoid

1. Unnecessary Point Transfers

If you're planning on buying an airline ticket for someone in your immediate family or the same household (ideally with the same last name), then you don't have to transfer points to them for the booking. Instead, you can book the fare for them.

When you transfer points to someone that's not in your same household, immediate family, or same last name, you risk flagging your account.

There are a lot of specific rules when you book flights for others, so be sure to spend 5 minutes googling what the policies are.

The reason why you should avoid unnecessary transfers is that some airline programs charge you a fee to transfer points. 

For hotels, you can typically register under your name and add your family members to the reservation. 

2. Bad Redemptions

If you're not getting a good redemption value from the points, you shouldn't jump to spend them.

Often, readers will email me to ask if they should spend the points in their account on gift cards or cash them out.

My recommendation is to wait until you have a destination or vacation in mind to get the most value from redeeming points.

If you're not interested in travel, I recommend getting a cash back credit card like the Citi Double Cash.

3. Not Valuing Points Correctly

Some readers have asked me why I recommended the Amex SPG card in the past with the 30k signup bonus, as opposed to the Amex Hilton Aspire card that has a 100k signup bonus.

SPG points and Hilton points are apples and oranges. SPG points are more flexible, and you can transfer them to airline partners. Hilton points are valued significantly less than SPG points.

4. Picking the Wrong Cards and Getting the Wrong Points

We see this a lot with the Amazon Prime card where people want to transfer Amazon points to Chase Ultimate Rewards. You cannot transfer Amazon credit to Ultimate Rewards because they are two separate programs.

Consider the getting cards based on your travel goals. For example, if you want to take a vacation to Hong Kong, add cards that will help you achieve that goal.

a) What's your goal?

b) What cards make sense given this goal?

5. Bad Transfer Choices

Once you transfer points out from a core credit card rewards program like Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards, you can't reverse it. 

For example, once you transfer Chase Ultimate Reward points to United MileagePlus points, you can't covert them back to Ultimate Reward points. All point transfers are final.

Another example is transferring airline points to hotel points, and then having regrets and transferring them back. 

  • Start: 100,000 Hawaiian
  • Transfer #1 :Hawaiian => Hilton (2 : 3)
    • 100,000 Hawaiian => 150,000 Hilton
  • Transfer #2: Hilton => Hawaiian (10 : 1.5)
    • 150,000 Hilton => 22,500 Hawaiian
  • End: 22,500 Hawaiian

In the example above, you start with 100,000 Hawaiian Air points, then transferred them to Hilton points. When you transfer Hilton points back to airline points, it's only at a 10:1.5 ratio, so you'll end up with significantly fewer points than you started with.

6. Buying Points for Full Price

Airlines and hotels usually have sales or promotions each quarter to earn or buy points. 

Don't buy points when they're not on sale, especially if you'll be tempted to spend them on less than ideal redemptions.  Most of the time, you're not getting a good value at retail price.

7. Buying Points Without Plans

Just because there's a sale on points doesn't mean you should buy the points. Keep your cash or points liquid until you have a specific vacation or use case in mind.

The last thing you want is to have a large amount of points for a specific airline that you don't plan on flying anytime soon.