When the coronavirus outbreak passes and the economy starts to rebound, we can get back to racking up travel rewards through our loyalty programs.
“Right now, travel points are worth almost nothing,” says Stephen Weyman, an expert on loyalty programs and co-founder of the websites HowToSaveMoney and CreditCardGenius.
Cashback cards are a practical alternative. Another is a program like PC Optimum that offers points redeemable for groceries and drugstore items. Rewards like these are basically like cash you can use to lower your bill at the supermarket or drugstore.
If you’re an Air Miles collector, Mr. Weyman suggested switching to the cash option from dream. Cash miles can be redeemed at the cash register to reduce your bill in increments of $10, while dream miles are for travel, merchandise and events or attractions.
RewardsCanada highlights cashback as an alternative to travel rewards, but offers a warning that some cards in this category only let you access the cash you’ve earned once a year. Also consider merchandise and gift cards for redeeming your rewards. Merchandise is one of the worst values in loyalty points redemption, RewardsCanada says. “But if your toaster at home breaks and you need to conserve cash, then yes you should look at using points or miles to get yourself a new toaster.”
Some credit cards let you choose the reward you want – cashback or travel. RewardsCanada lists a few of them here. A favourite card on this website for both cashback and travel rewards all in the same card is American Express Cobalt.
If someone has lost a job or had their income cut, reward points and cashback can be a financial asset that lightens the load. Check your cards to see how many points you have and what they can be used for. “I never recommend hoarding reward points,” Mr. Weyman said. “But if you happened to have hoarded them this this might a good time consider using them if you lost your job or income.”
It’s a stressful time for kids, too
A lot of households are going to be worrying about money in the months ahead. Here’s a guide from the non-profit Canadian Foundation for Economic Education on bringing kids into discussions on family finances and teaching them some money basics.
PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST
The Globe and Mail, March 24, 2020