In addition to the usual suspects like free flights, free hotel rooms and cash back, loyalty programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy now let you buy “experiences” with points, everything from basic tours to celebrity access. Experiences can be an exciting and smart way to use points—if you choose wisely.

What to Know About Buying Experiences With Points 

Many of the major credit-card rewards programs now have an experiences component. And just like with other redemption options, each program handles experiences differently. Some charge a flat number of points, others use an auction format, and still others rely on a combination of the two. Some make it easy to compare points and dollar prices, while others are more opaque. You’ll find ho-hum tourist activities in one program, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities in another. 

Considering buying experiences with your points? It’s wise to: 

  • Stay up to date. Reward programs offer anywhere from a handful to hundreds of experiences, and they are constantly changing. If you don’t see something you like now, check back in a week or two. 
  • Act fast.  On the flip side, appealing experiences can sell out. If you have your heart set on something, don’t sit on it. 
  • Do the math. Some experiences offer exceptional value, while others are wildly overpriced. If there isn’t a dollar price tag on an experience, do a quick online search. (You may even find it cheaper elsewhere.) And factor in any costs you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket, like transportation or lodging. 
  • Read the fine print. Make sure you understand the entire experience and any restrictions before buying or bidding.
  • Avoid auction fever. Before you start bidding on an experience, figure out the maximum you’re willing to pay for it—and stick to that number. It’s easy to get carried away and overpay. 

Read on to learn about the pros, cons and quirks of the major experiences programs. 

Booking Experiences Through Credit Card Reward Programs

Chase Ultimate Rewards Experiences

Chase offers sports, dining, and entertainment experiences in the US. Some are fairly straightforward and easy to find elsewhere, like ski lift tickets; others are more exclusive, like dinner for two at world-famous restaurants or meet-and-greets with famous athletes.

There are two ways to book experiences using your Chase Ultimate Rewards. The first to use the Experiences section of Ultimate Rewards website. Chase offers three tiers of experiences:

  1. Select experiences, available to all credit and debit cardholders
  2. Preferred experiences, available to Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Business Preferred cardholders
  3. Reserve experiences, available to Chase Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve cardholders.

You can pay for experiences using your card, points or a combination of both. Points are worth a flat 1 cent each when redeeming for experiences. For example, you can get PGA Championship Grounds Tickets by paying $30 with your Chase card or redeeming 3,000 Ultimate Rewards points; a weekend hotel package plus grounds tickets would cost you $1,600 or 160,000 points.

While the straight redemption value of 1 cent per point isn’t great, many of the Ultimate Reward experiences have a “priceless” factor. You can get on the floor of Madison Square Garden and shoot around before a Knicks game, learn recipes from celebrity chefs, or hit the slopes with ski legends. Many of these events are offered exclusively to Chase cardholders.

Chase also offers a much wider variety of activities for booking through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, which gets you more value (generally 1.25 to 1.5 cents per point, depending on which credit card you have). Login to your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, click “Redeem for travel,” then “Things to Do.” Enter your dates and location and you’ll see the available options, ranging from museum tickets to food tours to day trips. For example, Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders can get tickets to the Empire State Building for $42.53 or 3,402 points, making each point worth 1.25 cents. 

Many of the activities are also discounted, so there’s a potential upside even if you buy them with cash. However, always be sure to compare with other sources—including the official website for the activity you’re booking—to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

American Express Experiences

American Express offers exclusive “By Invitation Only” events for its Platinum and Centurion cardmembers, as well as presales and VIP packages for concerts, music festivals, and Broadway shows for other American Express cardmembers. By Invitation Only events are offered around the world; most of the other events are in New York and Los Angeles.

By Invitation Only experiences are designed to reinforce the exclusive nature of American Express’ premium cards: current offers include VIP access to Fashion Week, Wimbledon, or Coachella, a meal and meet-and-greet at the World’s Best Restaurant of 2019, and a four-day ski and wine tasting package. Prices range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, American Express Experiences have to be purchased with your American Express card; there’s no option to redeem Membership Rewards points. However, if you want to redeem your points for experiences, you can transfer them to a partner program like Delta SkyMiles or Marriott Bonvoy

Citi ThankYou Points

You can use Citi ThankYou points to book museum tickets, tours, and other activities through the Citi travel portal. Citi only offers a fixed 1 cent per point redemption value, so it’s not a great use of your points—a $10 museum ticket would cost you 1,000 ThankYou points. You also won’t find anything available through Citi that you couldn’t buy elsewhere.

To see what activities you can book with Citi ThankYou points, simply log in to using your Citi account. Navigate to Travel > Activities and enter your location and dates. You can sort by activity type, and each search result will show you pricing in both dollars and points.

Booking Experiences Through Hotel Loyalty Programs 

Marriott Bonvoy Moments

Marriott Bonvoy offers a broad and frequently-updated selection of exclusive experiences that can only be booked with points, from private dinners at famous restaurants like Per Se or The French Laundry to box seats for events at The O2 in London, Madison Square Garden in New York, or Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. Some events are bundled with stays at Marriott hotels, while others are standalone.

The value you can get for your points varies widely, from fractions of a cent per point (bad) to 2 or 3 cents per point (great). 

Some Marriott Moments are offered for a flat rate. For example, you can redeem 20,000 Bonvoy points for two tickets to see the Chicago Cubs play the San Francisco Giants at Spring Training in Arizona—a poor value of .3 to .6 cents per point, since tickets retail for $38 to $63. Others are sold by auction to the highest bidder; this is often the case for the most rarefied events, with bids reaching into the hundreds of thousands of points. 

Marriott Bonvoy Moments don’t have cash prices listed, and some of them are indeed “priceless” experiences, like a private dinner with a world-renowned chef. For others, like concert or sports tickets, you can get at least an idea of the value you’re getting for your points by looking up prices if you were to buy the tickets outright. We checked out premium tickets to see the Jonas Brothers play at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. They retailed for upwards of $130 each or two spots in Marriott’s luxury suite for 10,000 Bonvoy points—a value of about 2.6 cents per point, before you factor in free food, drinks, and parking. 

You can’t use Marriott Bonvoy points to redeem for activities like tours or museum tickets, but you can earn 10 points per dollar spent on activities purchased through Marriott Bonvoy Tours & Activities

World of Hyatt FIND Experiences

Hyatt offers a collection of wellness-focused experiences for World of Hyatt members, ranging from yoga or parkour sessions to spa treatments. Members can choose from over 170 experiences in 50+ destinations around the world.

Some experiences are restricted to guests at particular hotels, like a premium tequila tasting at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun or horseback riding in the desert at Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi. Others are hosted at Hyatt properties but don’t require you to be staying there, like a spa treatment and afternoon tea at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong or a cooking class at Park Hyatt Saigon. There are also activities that have nothing to do with Hyatt hotels, like goat yoga in Las Vegas or a vegan cheese tasting in New York.

Some experiences can be booked with points only, others with cash or points. The experiences that can be booked either way offer a value of about 1.4 cents per point. Some of the experiences that don’t have retail prices listed offer less value—like a carriage ride in Vienna, which comes out to about 1 cent per point.

For activities in the U.S. and Mexico, you can pay with cash and earn 10 World of Hyatt points per dollar spent (plus 3 to 4 bonus points per dollar if you pay with a Hyatt credit card), or redeem your points at a rate of 1.4 cents per point. For activities in other countries, you can only pay with points. 

Booking Experiences through Airline Loyalty Programs 

Delta SkyMiles Experiences

Delta is known for having a complex loyalty program with sometimes questionable value. SkyMiles Experiences are no different. There’s no fixed prices for SkyMiles Experiences—everything is offered to the highest bidder through an auction. 

Delta offers some exclusive experiences, like a NASCAR race day package with a pace car ride, a private dinner for four at one of New York City’s most exclusive restaurants, or a custom package of VIP tickets to the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. Most, however, are relatively easy to secure with cash, like tickets to sporting events with club access, or VIP tickets to a music festival. 

Since pricing is auction based, it varies wildly. A quick review of closed auctions on the SkyMiles Experiences website shows weekend passes to the Seattle Wine and Food Experience went for around 60,000 SkyMiles per pair; pairs of tickets to the Academy of Country Music Awards sold for 200,000 to 260,000 SkyMiles; and an 8-night elephants and islands tour in Thailand for two people went for a whopping 521,000 SkyMiles—airfare not included.

United MileagePlus Exclusives

United MileagePlus allows you to redeem miles for experiences with partners such as the PGA TOUR, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and the Broadway League. You can also periodically find exclusive redemption opportunities like a champagne and caviar tasting in the United Polaris Lounge in San Francisco (sold for 51,000 miles), a behind-the-scenes opportunity to use a United flight simulator, or even an trip to the Olympic Summer Games, including business class airfare to Tokyo (currently going for over 900,000 MileagePlus miles, with three months left to bid). 

Most MileagePlus experiences are auction-style, but some sporting events offer fixed redemptions (e.g. 50,000 miles for two suite club level tickets, including food, beverages, and parking). There are also some offerings exclusively available to United credit card holders and MileagePlus Premier members, like tickets to the Donna Summer musical for 10,000 miles or a cardmember-exclusive Olympics package, currently going for over 600,000 miles.

While United has a relatively limited number of offerings, if you’re interested in redeeming MileagePlus miles (or Chase Ultimate Rewards points) for experiences, it’s worth signing up for their email list to keep an eye on the latest offerings. 

Bottom Line

Booking experiences can be an excellent way to get a different type of value out of your points and miles. Currently Marriott, Chase, and Delta have the most exclusive and valuable experiences to book with points; American Express also offers some priceless opportunities for Platinum and Centurion cardmembers looking to pay cash, and Marriott and Hyatt have attractive options to earn miles when paying for activities and experiences. Many other loyalty programs are working hard to give their members unforgettable moments—we’re sure to see new opportunities popping up soon. 



IHG Rewards Club members have many different ways to earn and redeem their points, and InterContinental loyalists can quickly rack up rewards. However, there isn’t much value in redemption options besides PointBreak promotions.

What Are IHG Rewards Club Points?

IHG Rewards Club is the loyalty program for InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns 12 brands covering more than 5,500 hotels in 100 countries. The properties range from affordable chains like Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites to upscale ones such as Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. 

There are two types of IHG Rewards Club Points: base points and bonus points. The most obvious way to earn base points is by staying at IHG hotels; you’ll generally get 10 points per dollar. Nab another 25 base points per dollar for IHG stays by paying with a branded credit card. You can also earn them by riding with Uber, booking rental cars through Hertz or Dollar/Thrifty, reserving cruises though CruisesOnly, or taking advantage of the IHG Rewards Club Dining program.

You earn bonus points through promotions. These can be used for rewards but don’t count towards elite status. IHG offers generous bonus promotions. For example, IHG Rewards Club members can earn double points for stays at select hotels in Asia through May 31, 2020.

Base points count toward IHG elite status, which has four tiers. In each successive tier, you’ll earn more points and gain access to more exclusive upgrades.

  • Club: The base level that you get for signing up. Members earn 10 points for every dollar spent at IHG and get exclusive rates, dedicated phone assistance and free Wi-Fi.
  • Gold Elite: Become a gold member with 10 nights a year at IHG properties or by earning 10,000 Elite Qualifying Points. In addition to the basic benefits, you get 10% extra bonus points, extended check-out, and priority check-in.
  • Platinum Elite. You earn this by staying 40 nights in a year year or earning 40,000 Elite Qualifying Points. Platinum members earn 50% Bonus points and enjoy Elite rollover nights, complimentary room upgrades, and guaranteed room availability.
  • Spire Elite: IHG’s highest level, reached by staying 75 nights in a year or earning 75,000 Elite Qualifying Points. Members get gold perks, 100% bonus points, early check-in, Hertz Five Star status, and a choice between extra points or gifting Platinum Elite status to a friend. 

Which Cards Earn IHG Rewards Club Points  

How to Use IHG Rewards Club Points

IHG Rewards Club Points aren’t as versatile as, say, World of Hyatt and Marriott Bonvoy points. However, it’s a good program for travelers who prefer more affordable hotels, and Holiday Inn and other IHG brands often have hotels in areas that higher-end chains don’t. You’re generally going to see the most value out of hotel stays. Keep in mind that your points expire after 12 months if you’re at Club level.

  • Hotel stays. Free nights cost 10,000 to 70,000 points. 
  • Intercontinental Ambassador membership. For 40,000 points a year, upgrade to Platinum Elite Status and receive other perks.
  • Experiences. IHG’s experiences can be bought at flat rates or through auctions. 
  • Magazine subscriptions. Choose from 50 magazine subscriptions starting at 1,000 points.
  • Digital products. Redeem for eMagazines, movies, music, eBooks, games and software starting at 300 points.
  • Transfer to travel partners. Choose from more than 30 airline partners. Rates vary but generally don’t offer good value.
  • Online shopping. IHG offers an online catalog of jewelry, electronics, gift cards and other products, but you only get 0.2 to 0.3 cents per point. 
  • Transfer to friends and family. Give points to another member for $5 per 1,000 points.
  • Donate to charity. Choose from partners including Goodwill and American Red Cross.

Hotel Stays 

Hotel stays give you the most bang for your IHG Reward Club points. The company has 13 different categories of hotels for point stays; they cost from 10,000 to 70,000 points per night. IHG also has an unusual and unfriendly policy of capping the value you can get from your points. Whether you’re booking an economy room or a luxury suite, you can’t get more than 0.7 cents per point in value.  

However, not all stays will even get you that rate. Mid- to high-end stays will generally only be worth 0.3 to 0.4 cents per point. For example, if you book a room at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seattle South – Tukwila with points, you’ll get the maximum cash value of 0.7 cents per point. But a room at the Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle will cost you $161.60 or 50,000 points, giving you a value of 0.32 cents per point. 

The best value used to lie in IHG Rewards Club PointBreaks, but word on the street is that these promos have ended and are unlikely to return.

Ambassador Membership

If you want the perks of elite status but don’t have the stays, you can buy InterContinental Ambassador Membership for $200 per year or 40,000 points, a value of 0.5 cents per point. You’ll receive Platinum Elite status, guaranteed upgrades, late check-out, a complimentary weekend night, a restaurant and bar credit of up to $20 for every stay, and additional perks depending on where you’re staying.


IHG’s experience program is called IHG Rewards Club Access. It’s smaller than many competing programs, and uses “experiences” pretty loosely—last time we looked, there were only eight experiences on offer, and one was actually a bundle of hiking gear. Some experiences have a flat price, others are in auction format. 

You can buy many of these experiences separately, and in many cases you might as well. For example, you could get two terrace-level tickets to see the Jonas Brothers at the SSE Arena, Wembley in London for 20,000 points, with dinner, a couple of drinks, and lounge access included. We estimate the value at around $200, or 1 cent per point. 

Magazine Subscriptions

You can choose from 50 magazine subscriptions, including Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Us Weekly and a range of other periodicals. Most will cost you 1,000 or 1,500 points for a one- or two-year subscription, which is generally a decent value of more than 1 cent per point. 

Digital Products

An unusual redemption option that IHG offers is its suite of digital products. You can use points to buy more than 250 eMagazines, rent or buy hundreds of popular movies, browse thousands of digital albums and eBooks, and download video games or software. 

Shows and movies cost 950 to 4,440 points, which ends up being poor value. You can rent “Ad Astra” through Amazon for $5.99 or through IHG for 5,900 points, the equivalent of 0.1 cent per point. Digital magazines and video games mostly offer similar values. 

Books can get you a little more value: the Kindle versions of Ann Patchett’s “The Dutch House” costs $14.99 at Amazon or 2,150 points on IHG, for a value of 0.7 cents per point. 

Transfer to Airline Partners

IHG has 39 airline transfer partners. Redemption rates vary by airline but the majority of them offer a rate of 5:1, which will seriously devalue your points, so we don’t recommend this option.

  • Aeromexico
  • Aeroplan
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia
  • All Nippon Airways
  • American Airlines
  • Asia Miles
  • Asiana
  • British Airways
  • China Eastern 
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Delta
  • El Al Israel Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Etihad Airways
  • Gulf Air
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • JetBlue 
  • KLM
  • Lanchile
  • Lifemiles
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas Airlines
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Velocity Frequent Flyer

Online Shopping

You can buy electronics, home and garden, fashion, health, beauty and sports departments through IHG’s online catalog. There are many redemption options starting at less than 10,000 points. However, typical rates are between 0.2 and 0.4 cents per point, so this isn’t a wise option either.

Transfer to Friends and Family

IHG Rewards Club points can be transferred to any other IHG Rewards Club member in 1,000 point increments for $5 per 1,000 points. There is no limit to the number of points a member can transfer or receive. Many other programs allow you to do this for free, so we can’t recommend this option unless you need to combine points to book something, since it’s much cheaper than buying points.


If you’d like to make a difference with your points, you can choose to donate them to Goodwill, American Red Cross, Youth Career Initiative or Prince’s Trust in increments of 2,500, 5,000 or 10,000. There is no tax break for donating points. 


While IHG Rewards Club Points can be redeemed and transferred a number of ways, the PointBreak redemption options provide far more value than any other option. If you use IHG properties often, this program is definitely worth joining. However, Chase and Amex have much more valuable redemption options for their members.



With 15 airline transfer partners, Citi ThankYou Rewards are relatively flexible and can get you some great back-door deals. But only two premium cards let you get full value from the points, and they still don’t measure up to Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards.

What Are Citi ThankYou Rewards?

ThankYous are the loyalty points that banking giant Citi gives customers for certain banking activity and spending on a handful of specific credit cards. You can also earn them by converting the cash rewards earned with a Citi Double Cash Card into ThankYou points, at a rate of up to 1 point per cent.

The Citi ThankYou program has two tiers, and it’s crucial to know which one you’re in. Customers with the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier card (both of which have annual fees) earn points that can be transferred to more than a dozen travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. Other cards earn points that can be used only through Citi for cash, statement credits, and gift cards. They can’t be transferred to travel partners, which makes them less flexible and less valuable.

Which Cards Earn Citi ThankYou Rewards

How to Use Citi ThankYou Rewards

ThankYou Rewards have a flat value of 1 cent each when redeemed through Citi, but they can be worth more if you use them to book travel through the ThankYou Travel Center or transfer them to a partner program. Here’s an overview of the ways you can use your ThankYou points:

  • Transfer to airlines. Premium cardholders can transfer points to 15 partner airlines, at a 1:1 rate. 
  • Book travel through Citi. Premium members can book through the ThankYou Travel Center at 1.25 cents per point. For everyone else, 1 point = 1 cent.
  • Gift cards. Buy gift cards at popular restaurants, department stores, travel companies and other retailers. 1 point = 1 cent. 
  • Shopping with partners. Use your points for purchases or statement credits at a number of popular online retailers. Points are worth around 0.8 cents each.
  • Cash back. Get a check mailed to you, for 0.5 to 1 cent per point.
  • Statement credits. Redeem points for a statement credit, at 0.5 to 1 cent each.
  • Mortgage and student loan payments. Checks are payable to your financial lending institution. 1 point = 1 cent.
  • Transfer. Share your points with any Citi cardholder, which can increase their value.

Transferring to Travel Partners

Citi’s travel partners form a vast global network that can provide great value for international travelers. However, there is currently only one domestic airline partner, JetBlue.

ThankYou points transfer at a consistent rate of 1:1, however, there are often redemption promotions that offer an increased rate when transferring to one or more of Citi’s global travel partners. The one exception is Jet Blue which transfers at 1000 points to 800 JetBlue TrueBlue points (although Chairman, Prestige, Premier card holders still get a 1:1 ratio).  Points must be transferred in increments of 1,000 points. There is no fee for transferring, but depending on the program it can take up to 14 days for your transfer to post to your airline account.

While it does require a fair amount of research, transferring ThankYou rewards to travel partners may get you the most bang from your points. You can also uncover back-door options that are not promoted by Citi.

For example, if you transfer your ThankYou Rewards to Singapore Airline’s Krisflyer Miles, you can fly Singapore Airlines First Class From Los Angeles to Tokyo for 107,000 miles. The last time we checked, you had to pay more than $10,000 to fly that route in the middle of March—booking with points would yield you 10 cents a point. You can also transfer ThankYous to Etihad and book American Airlines rewards flights from the U.S. to Europe for 50,000 miles in business class or 62,500 miles in first class.

Here’s a list of the current Citi ThankYou travel partners:

  • Avianca Lifemiles (1:1)
  • Aeromexico Club Premier (1:1)
  • Asia Miles (1:1)
  • Emirates Skywards (1:1)
  • Etihad Guest (1:1)
  • Eva Air (1:1)
  • Flying Blue (1:1)
  • JetBlue Trueblue (1:1 for Chairman, Prestige, Premier card holders, 1:.8 for ThankYou Preferred and Citi Rewards+ card holders)
  • JetPrivilege (1:1)
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich (1:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (1:1)
  • Qatar Privilege Club (1:1)
  • Singapore Airlines (1:1)
  • Thai Royal Orchid Plus (1:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles (1:1)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (1:1)

Booking Travel Through Citi ThankYou Travel Center

Booking travel through the ThankYou Travel Center simplifies the redemption process and eliminates the need to research. With most Citi cards, your points are worth 1 cent each—which is okay but not fantastic value. The exception, once again, is Citi Premier card holders, who enjoy a 1.25 cent-per-mile rate.

It’s worth mentioning that if you  have a Citi Premier card, you can combine your points from other, lower-tiered cards. Also: airlines will treat your Citi ThankYou Travel Center ticket redemptions as a paid fare. This means you’ll earn frequent flyer miles and you won’t have to worry about whether award tickets (the ones booked with points) are even available, a common problem. 

Buying Gift Cards

You can choose to redeem your points for gift cards from over 100 popular retailers. Each ThankYou Reward point is worth 1 cent in nearly all cases. There are occasional promotions. This may not be the savviest way to spend your points, but it’s not horrible value and can be a good way to cash out smaller amounts of points.

Shopping with Partners

Citi provides two options for shopping with partners. You can transfer your points to Sears’ Shop Your Way loyalty program at a rate of 1 Reward point = 12 Shop Your Way Points. These points can be used to make purchases in-store and online at Sears and Kmart (which, amazingly, does still exist).

You can also use your points to make purchases online at Amazon, merchants that accept PayPal, Expedia (but only for “Pay Now” bookings at hotels) or Live Nation. You can also use your points for statement credits at and Points redeemed in this way are usually worth about 0.8 cents each.

The upshot: there are a lot of different options for spending your Citi ThankYou Rewards, but they provide subpar value compared to the industry standard of 1 cent per point. This is not a great redemption option.

Cash Back

If you’d like to trade your ThankYou Rewards for cash, you can redeem them for a check made payable to you in denominations of $50 and $100, at a low, low value of 0.5 cents per point— unless you have the Citi Prestige card, which is 1 cent per point. It will take one to three weeks for the check to reach you. This is one of the worst ways to spend your Reward points.

Statement Credits

The same redemption rates apply for statement credits. So this option is definitely not worth it for most cardholders, even if you have the Citi Prestige card.

You can redeem Points for a statement credit, which will be applied to your account in one to three weeks in denominations of $10, $15, $25, $50, $100, $175 or $250. They will reduce your balance, but they don’t count as payments. You’ll still have to make the minimum monthly payment for your card.

Make Mortgage and Student Loan Payments

This is an unusual option, and one of the few ways to get the industry standard of 1 cent per point on all cards. This could be useful for some people to reduce monthly payments, but it’s complicated to set up and doesn’t provide any additional value.

Transfer to a Friend

Citi has one of the least restrictive point sharing systems. There are a few ways you can squeeze extra value out of your points by transferring your points to a friend or family member.

  • If someone you know is a Citi Prestige or Citi Premier cardholder, you can gain access to their better benefits.
  • If someone you know has elite status with one of Citi’s airline transfer partners, you can transfer your points to them and they can book the award for you, along with elite perks.

Keep in mind that shared points expire in 90 days, so be sure to have your plans ready. Also, there is a 100,000-point limit for both giving and receiving.


All in all, Citi ThankYou Reward points are relatively versatile, and you can find some really good value in transferring your points or booking travel. However, if you don’t have the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card, you won’t have access to the best redemption options.



Southwest’s Rapid Rewards is one of the better airline loyalty programs. It offers generous rewards for flying, and many other ways to earn points. While Rapid Rewards points aren’t super flexible, you can always get solid value by using them to pay for flights. Plus, the Companion Pass is one of the best perks in the industry.

What Is Southwest Rapid Rewards?

Rapid Rewards is the frequent-flyer program for Southwest Airlines, the biggest low-cost airline in the world. Started as a regional airline, Southwest now operates more than 4,000 flights a day. Most are in the United States, but Southwest also flies to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Southwest is the rare airline that doesn’t charge for checked luggage—every passenger gets two free checked bags, plus free in-flight music, movies, and live television. Also unusual: no assigned seating, even for business-class travelers.

The Rapid Rewards loyalty program was designed to be (relatively) simple. You can pay for any Southwest seat with points. You’ll always get at least 1.2 cents of value for each point that way, and often as much as 1.5 cents a point. Unlike with other airline programs, you can also get decent value by using your points with Southwest partners.

How to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards

You earn Rapid Rewards mainly by flying Southwest—and regular customers can really rack them up fast. The airline has three classes of tickets, which earn at different rates: Wanna Get Away tickets (6 points per dollar), Anytime tickets (10 points per dollar), and Business Select seats (12 points per dollar).

You can earn more points if you have elite status on Southwest. The program has just two tiers, and straightforward benefits.

  • A-List. The lower elite level requires 25 one-way flights in a calendar year or 35,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points. Members get priority check-in and boarding, fee-free same-day standby flights, and 25% extra points for bookings.
  • A-List Preferred. Take 50 one-way flights or collect 70,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points to get all the perks of A-List, plus free inflight Wi-Fi. And instead of a 25% point bonus, it’s a 100% point bonus. That means a Business Select ticket earns a whopping 24 points per dollar.

You can also earn Rapid Rewards by using a Southwest credit card. Regular purchases earn 1 point per dollar. Purchases on Southwest earn 2 points per dollar on personal cards and the Premier business card, 3 points per dollar with the Performance business card.

Then there are Southwest’s partners, which are wide-ranging and worth exploring.  You can collect points by reserving hotels through or various hotel brands, choosing Nrg as your electricity supplier, shopping at retailers such as 1-800-Flowers and Harry & David, using the dining program, taking surveys, renting cars through the Southwest portal, and more. Watch out: In some cases, you will be earning Southwest points instead of other loyalty currencies—and you may be better off accumulating, say, Marriott points for your hotel stays.

The Southwest Companion Pass

You can’t talk about Southwest’s reward program without mentioning the Companion Pass. It’s not quite an elite level, but a valuable additional benefit the airline gives its top customers.

Fly 100 one-way segments or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, and you can choose one person to fly free whenever you do, for the rest of that year and the next year. You can use the companion pass whether you use cash or points to pay for the original ticket. Either way, you have to pay the (usually nominal) taxes on the companion ticket.

Points you earn with Southwest credit cards count towards your Companion Pass, including sign-up bonuses that can be 40,000 points or more. That makes it much easier to reach the 125,000-point finish line. 

Which Credit Cards Earn Rapid Reward Points

How to Use Rapid Reward Points

Some loyalty programs offer more than a dozen ways to use points–most of them at paltry value. While Rapid Rewards points may not be as flexible, their value is more consistent. While you’ll never find an amazing deal on a Southwest flight with points, you can use them to buy any available seat. And even when buying merchandise and gift cards, often the worst ways to use points and miles, you can expect to squeeze up to 1 cent of value out of each point.

  • Southwest flights. Rapid Rewards are worth 1.2 to 1.5 cents each. 
  • Travel portal. Use Southwest points to pay for rental cars, hotel rooms, activities and flights (on non-Southwest routes) at good value, up to 1.2 cents per point. 
  • Merchandise. Purchase everything from golf balls to Sonos components through Southwest’s portal, for up to 1 cent per point—though often less. 
  • Gift Cards. Buy cards from a range of major retailers, for up to 0.7 cents a point. 
  • Transfer. Give points to friends, for a fee. 
  • Donate to charity

Southwest Flights

When it comes to buying flights with loyalty points, Southwest has one of the more straightforward programs. Just like with JetBlue, you can book any available seat with points, and prices are pegged to the dollar values. That means you won’t find amazing surprise deals, but you’ll always be guaranteed to get a certain value for your points.

Expect to get 1.2 to 1.5 cents per point this way. The value is consistent no matter what class of seat you buy on a particular flight. For example, a trip from Grand Rapids to Fort Myers might cost $516 for Business Select (36,395 points), $494 for an Anytime ticket (34,798 points) or $280 for a Wanna Get Away fare (19,229 points). That’s a value of 1.4 to 1.5 cents per point across the board.

You also have to pay fees for award flights, but within the U.S., they’re less than $6 a ticket. 

Travel Portal

You can use Southwest’s frequent flyer points to pay for hotel rooms, cruises, rental cars, and activities through its portal. But unlike with other programs, you can actually get good value for your rewards—up to 1.2 cents a point. You can also buy flights from more than 50 airlines on routes that Southwest doesn’t cover, which makes up for the fact that Southwest has limited international flights and no airline transfer partners.

The value you get for points can vary widely. For instance, when we last checked, two nights at the Hotel Louvre Piemont in Paris costs about $440 or 34,006 Rapid Rewards points, for a value of 0.6 cents a point. A one-way flight to Paris on American Airlines cost $1,011 or 102,108 points—about 1 cent per point.

Since the portal doesn’t show the cash value of bookings, it’s smart to do a separate search for whatever you’re considering buying. Divide the retail price by the points price to make sure you’re getting a decent deal.


Most loyalty programs offer merchandise in exchange for points, at skimpy rates. Southwest’s shopping portal offers slightly more value—up to 1.2 cents per point, we’ve found, though often less. For example, Sonos components sell for 0.5 cents to 0.8 cents per point. Again, it pays (literally) to compare retail prices with points prices.  

Gift Cards

Southwest lets you use points to pay for gift cards from dozens of national brands, including Amazon, Coach, Cracker Barrel. They offer a consistent value of up to 0.7 cents per point—the higher the value of the card, the more value you’ll get. This may not be the best use of points, but many other loyalty programs are worse.

Transfer to Friends and Family

You can transfer points to other Rapid Rewards members, with a minimum of 2,000 points, but it will cost you—$5 for every 500 points you want to move, or 1 cent per point. You’re better off just buying a ticket for your friend.  

Donate to Charity

Southwest partners with several charities, including the American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish, and the Student Conservation Society. The minimum donation is 2,000 miles, and there is no associated tax break. 


Southwest’s loyalty program is a lot like the airline itself: not fancy, but highly functional. There’s always a way for travelers to get solid value out of points. And regular customers who hold a Southwest credit card have a good shot at the Companion Pass, which can save thousands of dollars a year. 



The Marriott Bonvoy program lets travelers earn loyalty points at thousands of hotels worldwide. But besides free nights—which have become harder to find and more expensive to book—only VIP experiences and (sometimes) airline miles are worth buying with those points.

What Is Marriott Bonvoy?

Bonvoy is the loyalty program for Marriott, the world’s largest hotel operator. The company has 30 brands, from affordable Courtyard and Springhill Inn & Suites to lavish Ritz-Carlton and Bulgari, and more than 7,600 properties around the globe. 

Bonvoy is the newest iteration of the loyalty program, and was created in 2019 when Marriott merged its Starwood, Ritz-Carlton, and Marriott Rewards programs into one. 

How to Earn Marriott Bonvoys

You can earn Bonvoys at almost all Marriott hotels and resorts—10 points for every dollar you spend on most brands, less for a handful of others—and using Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. You can also score points by hosting an event, booking a cruise through the Marriott portal, flying with more than three dozen airline partners, renting a car with Hertz, or dining at restaurants in the Eat Around Town program.

Guests with elite status also get extra points with every stay. Marriott has an unusually high number of elite levels—six—with perks that increase as you climb the ladder. And though you technically need to stay at Marriott at least 10 nights in a calendar year to rise above the basic membership level, Silver status is included with all Bonvoy credit cards. And unlike many other hotel loyalty programs, Marriott counts nights booked with points toward your elite total.

  • Member: The entry level gets you free Wi-Fi, access to member rates, and mobile check-in and room key. 
  • Silver Elite: If you stay at least 10 nights in a year or have a Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card, you get the perks of vanilla membership, plus priority late checkout, 10% bonus points on stays, a dedicated reservation line, and compensation and a nearby room if the Marriott can’t honor your reservation. 
  • Gold Elite: Stay at Marriott at least 25 nights a year and you get a 25% point bonus plus a few hundred bonus points at check-in, room upgrades, high-speed wi-fi, and 2 p.m. checkout. 
  • Platinum Elite: In addition to Gold benefits, members with at least 50 nights under their belt receive 50% bonus points, a choice of welcome gifts (such as breakfast or points), lounge access, an annual gift, and 4 p.m. checkout. 
  • Titanium Elite: For a whopping 75 nights a year, perks include 75% bonus points, two annual gifts, guaranteed availability if you book 48 hours in advance, and United Silver Status. 
  • Ambassador Elite: You reach Bonvoy’s very top tier with 100 nights and $20,000 in qualified spending at Marriott, you get all Titanium benefits plus a personal point of contact for every stay and the ability to choose exactly which 24 hours you’d like to spend at the hotel—whether that’s 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. or 1 a.m. to 1 a.m. 

Finally, Marriott regularly runs promotions that let you earn bonus points for stays. They generally require you to register for the promotion online.

What Cards Earn Bonvoy Rewards

How to Use Bonvoy Rewards 

Even if Marriott only let you use Bonvoy points to book hotel stays, you’d have an abundance of options given the size of its network. But there are several other valuable ways to use your rewards—though not all provide great value.

  • Hotel stays. Off-peak rates start at 5,000 points per night.
  • Experiences. Book VIP and special-access events and activities.  
  • Transfer to airlines. Move points to 43 airline partners. 3 points = 1 mile. 
  • Flights and rental cars. Use points on Marriott’s travel portal. 1 point = 0.4 cents
  • Cruises. 1 point = 0.4 cents through Marriott’s portal. 
  • Travel packages. Swap Bonvoys for 7 hotel nights plus frequent-flyer miles. 
  • TSA Precheck: Pay the fee with 25,000 points. 
  • Gift cards. Purchase gift cards through Marriott’s portal, at truly terrible rates. Often 1 point = 0.2 cents. 
  • Merchandise. Buy jewelry, gadgets, kitchenware and more. 1 point = up to 0.4 cents
  • Transfer to friends and family. Give points to other Bonvoy members, for a fee. 
  • Donate to charity. Help communities affected by disasters, starting at 2,500 points. 

Hotel Stays 

Free nights are one of the best ways to use Marriott Bonvoy points—relatively speaking. The booking process is easy and given the size of Marriott’s hotel network, there are a lot of choices. But the value you’ll get for your points is highly variable, and generally less than you can find with other hotel loyalty programs.

Marriott’s system is tiered in two ways. First, it groups hotels into eight different categories based on amenities, location, desirability, etc. Second, it has off-peak, standard, and peak rates.  

Category 1 hotels cost 5,000 points a night off-peak, 7,500 points standard, and 10,000 points at peak times. Category 8 hotels cost 70,000, 85,000, and 100,000 points a night, respectively. The reward chart makes it easy to compare rates, though finding available rooms is another matter.

Marriott claims to have no blackout dates, meaning that members can book any available room with points. In reality, that’s not the case. Marriott hotels can limit the number of rooms they have available for points bookings. Sometimes, they have none at all.  We recently tried to find a hotel in Hawaii for three nights. Marriott gave us 20 options for cash, but just 11 that could be paid for with points.

Though you can occasionally get lucky—we found a room at the Courtyard in Paris that yielded 1.5 cents a night for our points—mediocre values are more common. We’ve seen plenty of rooms whose points prices were so high, each Bonvoy was worth only 0.5 cent apiece.

There are a few upsides, however. When booking with points, Bonvoy members get the fifth night free—the equivalent of a 20% savings on a five-night stay. Marriott also offers PointSaver deals, specials that save you up to 33% on points bookings. But the number of PointSaver hotels can be limited (there were only 20 hotels in the U.S. when we last checked), and you should always do the math to make sure the price is worthwhile. We recently saw the Westin Resort & Spa in Cancun listed as a PointSavers, but when we compared the rack rate and points prices, our points were only worth 0.4 cents apiece.

Marriott does have a friendly points advance option. If you don’t have enough points to book your award room or vacation package, you can go ahead and make the reservation anyway. You just need to get those points into your account at least 14 days before check-in.


Another good use of points is paying for the hundreds of experiences from Marriott Bonvoy Moments—largely sporting, music, food and fashion events. Most include some sort of special access. And besides being fun and special, Moments can provide excellent value for your points. In some cases, they’ll be worth much more than if you’d used them for hotel nights.

For instance, premium tickets to see the Jonas Brothers play at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin recently retailed for upwards of $130 each. You could also take a friend to watch the concert from Marriott’s luxury suite for 10,000 Bonvoy points—a value of about 2.6 cents per point, before you even factor in the free food, drinks, and parking. Tickets to the TIBI runway show at New York Fashion Week, including a meeting with the designer and a $1,000 shopping credit, was being sold in auction format. The starting bid was 50,000; at that price, the shopping credit alone is worth 2 cents a point. 

Transfer to Partner Airlines

You can move your Marriott Bonvoy points to more than 40 airlines, free of charge, but you may not want to. The exchange rate is 3:1, except for Air New Zealand, which is 200:1. That’s far worse than you’ll do with other points programs, including Chase Ultimate Rewards, which lets you transfer points to 10 airlines at a 1:1 ratio. But it might be worthwhile if you need to top off an account, or you find a great deal an airline that doesn’t partner with Chase or other loyalty programs. With every 60,000 miles you transfer, you get 5,000 bonus points.

Transfer partners include:

  • AEGEAN Miles+Bonus (3:1)
  • Aeroflot Bonus (3:1)
  • Aeromexico ClubPremier (3:1)
  • Air Canada Aeroplan (3:1)
  • Air China PhoenixMiles (3:1)
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue (3:1)
  • Air New Zealand Airpoints (200:1)
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan™  (3:1)
  • Alitalia MilleMiglia (3:1)
  • American Airlines AAdvantage® (3:1)
  • ANA Mileage Club (3:1)
  • Asiana Airlines Asiana Club (3:1)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (3:1)
  • British Airways Executive Club (3:1)
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (3:1)
  • China Eastern Airlines Eastern Miles (3:1)
  • China Southern Airlines Sky Pearl Club (3:1)
  • Copa Airlines ConnectMiles (3:1)
  • Delta SkyMiles®  (3:1)
  • Emirates Skywards®  (3:1)
  • Etihad Guest (3:1)
  • FRONTIER Miles (3:1)
  • Hainan Airlines Fortune Wings Club (3:1)
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles®  (3:1)
  • Iberia Plus (3:1)
  • InterMiles (3:1)
  • Japan Airlines JAL Mileage Bank (3:1)
  • JetBlue TrueBlue (6:1)
  • Korean Air SKYPASS (3:1)
  • LATAM Airlines LATAM Pass (3:1)
  • Multiplus Fidelidade (3:1)
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer (3:1)
  • Qatar Airways Privilege Club (3:1)
  • SAA Voyager (3:1)
  • Saudia Alfursan  (3:1)
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer® (3:1)
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards®  (3:1)
  • TAP Air Portugal Miles&Go (3:1)
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus (3:1)
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles (3:1)
  • United MileagePlus®  (3:1.1)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (3:1)
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer (3:1)

Flights and Rental Cars

You can use Bonvoy points to pay for flights and rental cars when you book through Marriott’s portal. You’ll only get 0.3 to 0.4 cents of value for every point. 


Just as you can earn Marriott points by booking trips through its Cruise with Points portal, you can redeem them for credits you can apply to your cruise price. You can choose any dollar amount to use points for, but it can only be done over the phone. You’ll get roughly 0.4 cents a point if you go this route.

Vacation Packages

In theory, another way to get value out of your Marriott points is by buying a travel package. They combine 7 nights at a hotel with either 50,000 or 100,000 frequent flyer miles, which can be used with more than 40 partner airlines.

We say “in theory” because the packages are so complicated to book. First, you have to identify a hotel that has availability for your dates—and can also be booked with points. You have to find corresponding flights that can be booked with frequent flyer miles. Then you have to call Marriott to purchase your package. If your experience is like ours, you will be hot-potatoed from one customer service rep to another, because few have even heard of the travel packages. Cross your fingers that nothing sells out while you’re trying to get someone knowledgeable on the line.

And that’s before we consider value. The packages are priced based on the category of the hotel and the number of miles. Seven nights in a category 1-4 hotel plus 50,000 frequent flyer miles costs 255,000 Bonvoy points. To stay in a category 8 hotel and get 100,000 miles costs 750,000 Bonvoy points.

Let’s do some math on that. Marriott lets you transfer points to airlines at a rate of 3 Bonvoy points to 1 frequent flyer mile. So the 50,000 miles in the first example would normally cost 150,000 Bonvoy points. That means your 7-night hotel stay only costs 105,000 points (the total package price of 255,000 minus the 150,000 that the miles would otherwise cost in points), or an average of 15,000 points a night.

Let’s say you are able to book a category 4 hotel. Seven peak nights normally costs 30,000 points a night, or 210,000 points total. But Bonvoy members get every fifth night free, so it really costs 180,000 points. If you use the vacation package to book the hotel, you’re basically saving 75,000 points (180,000 points minus the 105,000 points we calculated above for the hotel stay). But an off-peak room normally costs 120,000 per week, giving you only a 15,000-point savings.

And the package is no deal at all for the lowest-tier properties. Peak rooms in Category 1 hotels cost 10,000 points a night—or a total of 60,000. If you bought the vacation package, you’d actually be paying more for this hotel room than by booking it separately.

Let’s go back to those frequent flyer miles you get. Are they really worth 3 Bonvoy points each? Marriott thinks so, but if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards you can transfer them to Marriott at a rate of 1:1. You can also transfer them to 10 airline partners at a rate of 1:1. Use Ultimate Rewards instead of Marriott Bonvoy points and you’ll only pay 50,000 points for the same number of miles—which makes the travel package look even less appealing.

To get great value out of a travel package, you need to be very lucky, very flexible, or both—and there’s a big hassle factor. Your points and time are better used elsewhere. 

TSA Precheck 

A little-known option for Bonvoy points is to use them to pay the $85 TSA Precheck fee. That’s a value of just 0.3 cents a point. Someone call security…


You’ll find everything from socks to chocolate-covered pretzels to Apple watches in Marriott’s shopping portal. You’ll get 0.2 to 0.4 cents per point you spend in this way.

Gift Cards

Bonvoy points can buy gift cards from roughly 90 major retailers. As with buying merchandise, the rates are dismal—about 0.2 cents per point.

Transfer to Friends and Family

While you can give and receive Marriott Bonvoy points, you might as well just buy them, since the fees are exactly the same: $12.50 per 1,000 points.

Donate to Charity

You can help communities affected by natural disaster by donating points to World Central Kitchen, or directly to families and individuals, including Marriott employees. Donations are in increments of $10 or 2,500 points, for a value of 0.4 cents a point. This makes Marriott one of the only companies that actually assigns a value to their donations so that’s a plus. But it’s important to remember that you can’t deduct points donations from your taxes.


Marriott Bonvoy has some minor perks, like the 5th night free and the ability to transfer to airline partners unaffiliated with other programs. If you’re a frequent Marriott guest, you can collect points quickly—but you might have a hard time getting good value out of them.