8 Ways to Use Credit Card Points to Reward Employees

May 8, 2019

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If you’re a small business owner sitting on tens or hundreds of thousands of business credit card points you’ve earned paying your company expenses, you may be inclined to put those points back into your business. But if your clients pay for your travel or you otherwise have no pressing need for the points, consider using them as a reward or incentive for your employees.

It’s a cash-free way for you to recognize hard work without having to dig into your budget to pay for it.

Redeeming points in someone else’s name isn’t necessarily a straightforward proposition, as you generally can’t transfer points directly into an employee’s own credit card rewards account. And using points in this manner isn’t always — or even often — about getting the most value out of your points. It’s about finding thoughtful and unique ways to reward your employees for a job well done.

Here are eight ways to use your credit card points to reward employees.

1. Finance a Vacation

This is the most obvious use of your points given that many business rewards card programs are tailored to travel rewards. You can use your Ultimate Rewards points earned using your Ink Business Preferred Credit Card to book travel in someone else’s name through the Chase travel portal. Just know that you’ll have to manage some of the details as Chase notes “all confirmations and communications will be sent to you.”

You also can transfer your UR points to a Chase travel partner to boost your redemption value. For example, you could transfer 70,000 points to United to book a business-class flight to Frankfurt (FRA) from Washington, D.C. (IAD) in September that goes for about $5,470, getting you more than 7 cents per point in value.

With other cards, like the Capital One Spark Miles for Business, you have to option to redeem your rewards as a statement credit for travel purchased with the card. This business owner bought her employee a trip to India using her miles.

2. Pay for Concert Tickets

Use Ultimate Rewards points to send an employee to a luxury box at the Boston Calling Music Festival.

If you have music lovers in your office, send them to a show as a sign of appreciation. There are a number of ways to use your accumulated points to give the gift of live music:

  • Use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to buy a one-day skybox pass at the Boston Calling Music Festival. Each pass is 32,500 points (tickets are $325) and includes food and drink (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.)
  • Buy Ticketmaster gift cards. This gives you the least value, but affords your employees the most choice when it comes to concert-shopping. Purchase Ticketmaster gift cards using Membership Rewards points earned with cards like the American Express® Business Gold Card. The redemption rate is a paltry $0.5 cents per point, but again, maximum value isn’t the primary goal here.

3. Rent a Luxury Car

You may not be able to buy your top seller a new car, but you can treat that person to a night or two on the town in a luxury rental courtesy of your points. Here are a couple options:

  • Rent a convertible Maserati Ghibli from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) for $406 or 32,487 Ultimate Rewards points a night.
  • Purchase gift cards to Avis, Enterprise or Hertz using your Membership Rewards points earned with cards like the Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Redemptions are worth 1 cent per point. Rent a Mercedes G550 sport-utility vehicle from Hertz at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for $220 a day.

4. Pay for Flight Upgrades

Sending your crew on a business trip, but want them to know you’re looking out for them? Upgrade their travel to business or first class using your points or miles.

The upgrade policies vary per airline — and remember you can only upgrade if there’s room and if the ticket is booked in an eligible fare class — but you’ll almost certainly have to kick in a few bucks in co-pay fees on top of the points or miles you’ll forgo. Upgrading from discount economy to business on American Airlines, for example, will cost you 15,000 AAdvantage miles plus $175 each way for travel within the contiguous 48 states; from North America to Europe, the charge is 25,000 miles and $550.

TPG Points & Miles Editor Nick Ewen offers the following tips when looking to upgrade with US carriers:

  • Look for transcontinental flights — Upgrade award charts don’t differentiate between short- and long-haul flights within the US, so using miles to upgrade a cross-country flight gets your employee more time up front.
  • Upgrade last-minute flights — Sometimes booking flights within a week or two of departure forces you into higher fare classes. Since American and United charge co-pays for deeply discounted economy tickets (and since Delta doesn’t allow upgrades on these fare classes at all), last-minute tickets often give you additional flexibility when upgrading with miles.
  • Upgrade just one leg — If you don’t have enough miles for upgrades in both directions (or if you want to avoid a second co-pay), consider whether you’d rather score an upgrade on your outbound or return flight.

5. Buy Something Fun for the Office

If you primarily use a business cash-back credit card, bank that cash to buy something fun for the office, like a:

  • Velocity Black AJ Scott Professional Foosball Table for $1,500 on Amazon.
  • Kalamera 24-inch beverage refrigerator for Friday happy hours. It sells for $799, also on Amazon.

You can also use Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points on Amazon. Again, though, the point redemption values are pretty low. If you’re determined to use your points to buy something your employees can enjoy at the office, you’ll probably be better off redeeming your points for cash.

6. Book an Overnight Stay

You can use a modest number of points you’ve accumulated from your Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card to let one or more of your employees enjoy a night away from home in the city where you do business. Perhaps the best place to look is at mid-range hotels, where you can often find the best value.

If you’re using a Chase-branded card with Ultimate Rewards, you can move those points to one of three hotel programs that transfer on a 1:1 basis.

7. Buy Gift Cards

Using your points to buy gift cards may be especially appealing if you want to give a little something to many people. Just know you’re going to get a limited redemption value no matter the credit card program you’re using.

Amex’s Membership Reward points can be redeemed for gift cards to shops, rental car agencies, restaurants, American Express Gift cards and even Airbnb. Most of the time you redeem points for a flat value of 1 cent apiece, but there are instances that yield slightly better and slightly worse values.

The same goes for Chase Ultimate Rewards. Redeem your points for 1 cent apiece from a variety of stores and restaurants.

Other business credit cards also offer gift cards as a redemption option, but those cards may not offer a redemption value even as high as 1 cent per point.

8. Donate Points

If you’re feeling altruistic — and your company culture supports charity work — you may consider donating points or miles in an employee’s name. Most of the major US carriers have miles donation programs in place, as do several credit cards.

If you have one of Amex’s business cards that’s part of the Membership Rewards program, the issuer will donate $10 to a charity of your choice for every 1,000 points redeemed. You can search all charities eligible to receive donations through the Members Give website. There’s a limit of 500,000 points per year, after which the redemption value for giving is cut in half to $5 donated for every 1,000 points redeemed.

Bottom Line

There’s no single right way to say thank you to an employee doing a good job. But if you’re looking for a unique way to reward someone without cutting a check, your credit card points and miles can be put to good use — as long as you don’t have a necessary business use for them.

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