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Q&A: We've been hoarding credit card reward points for years. How can I convince my husband it's time to use them?

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Welcome back, TJA friends! Douglas behind the keyboard today. It’s been a minute since I’ve answered a question, so let’s go with one that hits super close to home.


We’ve been hoarding our credit card reward points for years. I want to start enjoying them, but my husband only wants to keep stockpiling. It’s becoming a thing. How can I convince him it’s time to start using our deep bank of points?


Hello. My name is Douglas, and I am a recovering points hoarder.

Yes, it’s true! I was also a collector of points but a user of none. For decades (not an exaggeration) I amassed a small fortune of American Express rewards points, convincing both Heather and myself that we would use them on an epic trip to Japan to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, by the time our tenth anniversary rolled around, our childcare constraints did not afford us the chance to travel far distances for an extended period of time. We have to wait for the kids to get a little older.

Not being able to take a long-awaited bucket list trip was a total bummer, but I did have a breakthrough in my behavior around the points. For our anniversary, we settled on a much shorter and closer trip to Spain, where I finally tapped into our cache of points to pay for our accommodations at a luxury hotel. The satisfaction I received in covering a substantial cost of our trip far outweighed whatever feeling I got from holding onto the points. This sounds silly, but it made the trip more enjoyable. 

I get it, though. Collecting points can feel good. Knowing there’s a mountain of pseudo savings tucked away for future use or for a rainy day is comforting. But it’s still a bad idea. Here’s why.

For obvious starters, on a joint credit card, both partners are earning the points. So it’s not one person’s place to say what to spend or not spend them on. Heather’s indifference allowed my neuroses to run amuck in this instance, but that doesn’t mean it was fair. In committed relationships, managing money—whether it be cash or reward points—should be a team game. A good first step is to create rules around how and when you can use the points. Maybe you decide to spend them once a calendar year or when you accrue a certain number of points. Perhaps you decide to exclusively spend them on travel or fun. Whatever the case, communicate and set reasonable expectations around your points so no one gets upset and resents the other person.

Importantly, points aren’t immune to being devalued by inflation! Over time, the amount of points you need to earn flights, hotel stays, and merchandise tend to increase. What costs 10,000 points today might cost 12,000 points down the road. By hoarding, you risk needing more to obtain the same rewards in the future. 

Also, don’t discount the surprises you might face when trying to redeem them. For example, if a major flight or hotel partner exits your rewards program, your options could become super limited. Therefore, regularly review your points programs together to ensure you are using them while the best options are still available. This will keep you both engaged and excited about implementing your plans.  

If you think about it, holding onto points comes with opportunity costs, too. When you use your points, you're saving money that can be redirected towards your financial goals. That money can be invested, used to pay down debt, or just enjoyed, in ways these points cannot.

Lastly, life is unpredictable. By using points on smaller, more immediate rewards, you can enhance everyday moments or have special experiences without waiting for just one grand occasion that frankly, may never come. Upgrade your flight seats for a more comfortable travel day, book a weekend getaway, or just enjoy a fancy dinner out. It’s about making the most of what you’ve earned and enjoying the fruits of your labor, rather than waiting for a future that is not guaranteed.

Your rewards are meant to be used. While it’s tempting to hoard points, it’s important to remember that points are a shared resource meant to enhance your life together; not a personal stockpile for the future. Communicating openly about how and when to use them will help remove any sense of unfairness and ensure that both partners benefit equally from whatever points have been accumulated.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve cashed in credit card reward points for? Do you have a question for our Q&As? Let us know: [email protected].


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The content shared in The Joint Account does not constitute financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Readers should consult with their respective professionals for specific advice tailored to their situation.