In order to get a “free” flight to Miami, or Las Vegas, or L.A., you have to spend thousands on your credit card to amass the miles, then navigate blackout dates, lousy seat selection, and hidden fees. Now airlines want to charge you $50 to redeem your own miles—on top of which, they’re cutting back their flights! There are smaller, easier pleasures to be gained from your plastic.
YOU LIKE … CARD DEAL EASY TO REDEEM? SPEND TO GET … movies.
Chase Regal Entertainment Group Platinum MasterCard
firstusa.com Hit 1,200 points and you get a $10 gift certificate to Regal Cinemas and United Artists Theatres, good for movie tickets or snacks. Every dollar spent at those theaters gets you four points, versus the usual one for $1 for all other purchases.FINE PRINT
No annual fee. No cap on the points you can earn. No expiration date for redeeming. Yes, very. Every time you hit the reward threshold, a gift certificate is included in your next statement. $300 to $1,200 =
$10 gift certificate … music.
The Juniper Visa with iTunes Rewards
applestore.com Each time you hit 2,500 points, you get a $25 iTunes gift card. It’s especially worthwhile for Apple loyalists, who get double points for every dollar they spend at an Apple store or applestore.com. FINE PRINT
No annual fee. No maximum cap. Points expire after twelve months of card inactivity. No expiration on gift cards. Extremely. The iTunes card is mailed automatically when you hit 2,500 points. $1,225 to $2,500 =
$25 iTunes gift card … spas.
radianceteam.com The choice of rewards includes Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa gift certificates (at 10,000 points) and gift cards for select yoga and Pilates classes. You get five points for every dollar spent on qualifying beauty and wellness expenses—including gym memberships and purchases at Whole Foods. FINE PRINT
No annual fee. Maximum of 7,500 points per month, and points expire after three years. Sort of. Once you have earned enough points for a reward, you have to go online, select your gift card, wait for it to arrive in the mail, then call to make your appointment. And you still have to tip the technician. $2,000 to $10,000 =
$100 gift certificate … the Yankees!
Bank of America Extra Bases MasterCard
mlbextrabases.com Among the ardent pinstriper’s prizes: A “Final Season” commemorative T-shirt (2,500 points), a tour of Yankee Stadium (4,000 points), and a pair of loge-level tickets (7,500 points). FINE PRINT
No annual fee. No maximum cap. Points expire after five years. Pretty much. You sign on and click on a reward in your point range. Tickets are overnighted to you. $7,500 =
Two Yankees tickets … clothes.
Any of the cards in the Citi ThankYou network
thankyou.com Ten thousand points gets you $100 gift certificates to Bloomingdale’s, Sephora, or Saks Fifth Avenue. Some purchases can rack up ten to eleven points per dollar, plus there are usually special fifteen-point-per-dollar offers around the holidays. FINE PRINT
No annual fee. No maximum cap. Point-expiration dates vary by card, from three to five years. Yes. Request the certificate you want by signing onto thankyou.com, and it’s sent your way. $667 to $10,000 =
$100 gift card