Racking Up Credit Rewards

You might also be able to turn your frequent flier miles into cash or gift cards at

Pros: You know what you're getting and can use the cash back for anything you want.

Cons: Other reward redemption options may make your points or miles go farther. Also, most programs require you to meet a certain spending threshold before you can redeem your rewards for cash.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are popular ways to redeem credit card rewards because of their flexibility and point to dollar value. According to Discover, “some rewards cards even offer extra rewards when you purchase a gift card through a retail partner. For example, redeeming $20 worth of rewards or points could get you a $25 or $30 gift card. Now you can instantly redeem rewards online or with the swipe of your finger on a mobile device. For example, Discover cardmembers have the ability to redeem Cashback Bonus instantly with eGiftcerticates at a variety of retailers ranging from major department stores to restaurants and travel sites.”

Issuers now offer many options to redeem at lower price points such as $25 gift cards, so you don’t have to stockpile rewards to reap their benefits.

Pros: Gift cards can be as good as money and rewards sales offer them at a great discount. You can even turn that discounted gift card around and sell them to a secondhand gift card site for even more return on your rewards.

Cons: Gift cards can cost you money if you forget to use them and they expire. They're also easier to lose unless you can store them in an app on your phone.

Transfer Intro a Program

One of the best ways to save on airfare and hotels is by transferring your rewards to a hotel or airline program. However, rewards programs can often be complicated to use and understand thanks to eligibility restrictions, expiration dates, and limited award seats on airlines.

Reward levels vary for every flight or hotel booking, depending on the time of year, day of the week, and customer demand. Sometimes it makes more sense to hold onto your miles or points in order to wait for a better deal on your rewards. You can calculate whether it's worth using your miles or holding onto them by using the Mile Value's calculator, for example, or search for flights with GoMiles, which tells you how much they're worth in points, cash and miles.

There are sites and services that make using your travel points easier. AwardWallet and MileWise keep tabs on your rewards programs, notifying you before your miles or points expire. MileageManager does the same, but for a small annual fee, you can receive notifications of bonus earning opportunities and available hotel rooms and award seats.

Still, using your rewards for travel can save you a ton of money and help you go on trips you might not normally be able to afford. You can get a round-trip international flight with the points you get for free from credit card sign-up bonuses by racking them up with regular shopping and other travel hacks. The Points Guy has a great beginner's guide to earning as many miles as possible and using them with various airlines.