Using Points as Cash for the Win!

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

I’ve been posting a lot recently about accumulating points and miles, but that is really only half the battle, or fun, depending on how you view it.  While using points as cash is generally looked down upon in the points community, there are some times when it can really be beneficial.  Here is an example of one of those times.

Ever since I took Little C to see the beach, I have been wanting to take her somewhere to see snow as well.  For those of you who say she’s only a toddler, she’ll never remember, you are wasting your money, etc… you may be right, but I want to do it anyway. 🙂  At the very least, I am pretty sure she will have a blast experiencing something new and exciting while we are there.  I will also have a blast as I love watching her learn, playing in snow myself, looking at mountains, and snowboarding.  Unfortunately, I have already stretched my points and travel dollars budgets to the max with several upcoming trips, so I wasn’t quite sure how to make this snow adventure a reality.  Luckily, I recently spotted a $123 round-trip fare ($143 with taxes)that take us to a snow-filled destination on dates that work for us.

When you are low on cash and find inexpensive air fares like this, it is smart to consider using your points as cash.  There are many types of points that can be used in this manner, but the two that I have are American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.  I had dwindled my Membership Rewards account down to under 5,000 (the minimum threshold to use the “pay with points” feature), but my Chase Ultimate Rewards account still had about 12,800 points in it.  I will never be one of those travelers who is sitting on millions of points!  The three round-trip tickets came to about $429 total, which is just amazing considering there are three of us!  I bought one of the tickets directly from Continental for $143 and the other two using my Ultimate Rewards account so that I could use my remaining Ultimate Rewards points as cash.  I bought one directly from Continental because the passenger’s information was already loaded in the Continental account, and I was too rushed for time to enter it again unnecessarily on the Ultimate Rewards account.

Anyway, since Ultimate Rewards points are worth 25% more when you use them to “pay” for travel, my 12,800 points became $160 worth of travel.  Had I used them to pay for non-travel related expenses, they would have only been worth $128.  So, the two tickets I booked on Ultimate Rewards came to a total of $285 – but with the $160 in points, I only had to pay $125 out of pocket for two round-trip tickets to take our little family to the mountains to play in snow!  When you add in the third ticket that I purchased directly from the airline, our tickets came to a total of $268 out of pocket and 12,800 points.  What is great about tickets purchased with points in this manner is that they are eligible to earn miles.  Say I had only purchased one $143 ticket with Ultimate Rewards points – it would have cost me about 11,500 points.  Once I actually fly the flight, I would earn about 2,000 miles.  So, essentially the ticket would cost a total of 9,500 points/miles when all is said and done.  That is way less than the 25,000 miles it usually costs to obtain a domestic round-trip ticket.  In this case, it really was “points as cash for the win”!  Stay tuned for how we were able to score a couple nights on the mountain using points as well.  Do you ever use your points as cash?

Remember, if you haven’t already, enter to win a free night at the fabulous Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa here – contest ends 9/30/11 at 11:59PM CST!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. […] The beauty of these points is in their flexibility.  You can transfer them to Continental (and it looks like soon United as well!), British Airways, Hyatt, Priority Club, Marriott, and more.  You can also use your points as cash to pay for purchases or travel.  If you use your points as cash for travel, 50,000 points converts to $625 worth of free travel! While this isn’t always the best use of miles, there are situations when it can be a smart move. […]

  2. […] Here is the next post in my mini-series about our adventures taking our daughter to Colorado.  This post should be a good one if you plan to travel with a toddler, because that is what it is all about.  It covers many of the logistics of getting to Colorado and back with her.  Additionally, a chunk of this post will be about the United Club in Terminal E in Houston, specifically the family room.  I will review the United Club in Denver in a later post.   Other posts in this series are (or will be): Booking the Flights […]

  3. […] Today I get to share with you some information about the Westin Riverfront Mountain Villas at Beaver Creek Mountain in Avon, Colorado.  I have already shared some info about planning the trip and the process of traveling with a toddler to Beaver Creek, but now is where it really starts to get good.  If you want to play catch-up, or look ahead to future posts in this series, here is a rundown of what to expect: Booking the Flights […]


  1. “Do you ever use your points as cash?” NEVER!!!!!! 🙂

    I value all my points above 2 cents each. And ha I have 3m across all programs (so in my book worth $60k!). Though I do agree hoarding is bad just the past 12-18 months it has literally been too easy to collect and too hard to redeem (I redeemed maybe 600k or so this year while adding at least 1.5m)

    I always pay cash for these little trips, but I can see from your description it makes sense for you, so classic scenario of Your Mileage May Vary

    • @Phil, yeah, if you look at it on a per point value it is not that great, but if you look at it as a domestic round-trip ticket for a net of 9,500 it looks much better (to me!). For the record, I would love to have millions of points – it just isn’t ever going to happen. Too much “need” and too little coming in (relatively speaking, of course). Thanks for the comment!

  2. Great post. I have some UR points that I’m sitting on but always nervous to pull the trigger so I end up buying flights with cash.

  3. I actually did this for the 1st time with my PenFed Am Ex. Those points are harder to use except for airfare. We wanted a long weekend get away to escape the Texas heat and headed to Denver. We used points from Southwest for most of it, but the hubby needed to join us a day later. Flights were $150 one way. But when I booked it through my PenFed Am Ex it was only 10.5K! I am now planning a trip to Hawaii. There might be 5 of us needing interisland flights. Those flights are around $80pp but if I use my PenFed Am Ex points it only requires around 5K points.

  4. “… you may be right, but I want to do it anyway”

    Yep, that seems to be the attitude of parents these days. Never mind traveling in general and air travel in particular is difficult for infants and toddlers, in some cases quite horrific. But the parents want to do it anyway, so why not.

  5. @Goheerow, if you have the cash to spend, then it makes sense to save your points for times when you get a better redemption value, but this can be a great option if you are looking to keep a little cash in your pocket. I don’t mind spending my points, because I know there will always be more just around the corner. 🙂

    @Kelly, that sounds like a great use of those points. Good job!

    @Carl, I would never put my daughter in a situation that I thought would be horrific for her. It is true travel with little ones can have some rough patches, but honestly a weekend at home with a little one can also have rough patches. For me, the “attitude” you reference is more one of determination that we are going to make it work regardless. This trip might not be the first one she remembers, but one of them soon will be. I do remember skiing at three years old, so we aren’t far off. In the meantime, we will all have a great time together and enjoy experiencing new things with our toddler. Thanks for reading.

  6. Thanks for this post, Mommy points. It’s quite timely for me as I’m fairly new to points collecting and had been trying to wrap my head around why a United round-trip that costs 50,000 miles is only 21,700 UR points, and your example helped to demystify it for me!

  7. I think it’s great that you are starting your daughter out so young with travel adventures! Even as a toddler I think it will help instill in her a willingness to try new things, which is a great trait to have at any age. Do you plan any international trips any time soon with her?

    • @Kris, I sure do hope that is the outcome from these early adventures. I think she is headed down that path! We are going to Canada with her next year, but for truly international adventures we are going to wait until she is a bit older. We aren’t really seasoned international travelers ourselves, so we aren’t itching to tote her too far from home quite yet. We will start with taking her to Canada next year and then probably take her somewhere in the Caribbean the following year. After that we may wander a bit farther from home with her. At least that is the current plan – “extra” trips have a way of popping up around here!

  8. I never use ur points like that and would advise people not to. Instead I would use thank you points which give you a 33 percent discount. It’s good to be flexible will all programs and know when to use your points. I would also check southwest too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *