As a senior credit cards editor here at TPG, I pride myself on getting the most out of my credit cards and points and miles. Part of my routine is checking my card accounts every Monday.
So you can imagine my shock and horror when I recently checked my Amex account and saw that I had somehow accidentally redeemed almost 4,000 Membership Rewards points for a Grubhub order.
I placed a $27 order for some bao on a lazy Sunday. My laziness extended to inadvertently selecting the option to cover my purchase with points.
Given we value Amex points at 2 cents each, I would never — I repeat, never — use 3,979 points to cover a $27 purchase. That values the points at 0.68 cents each, roughly a third of the value I know I can get.
Even booking flights directly through American Express Travel results in a better option at a 1 cent per point rate.
When I saw the anomaly in my Amex account, I was very frustrated with myself. I contacted Amex and Grubhub, neither of which would refund my points.
How to avoid making the same mistake
There are advantages to linking your credit card points to some merchants when checking out. For starters, it makes the transaction process a breeze, as you don’t need to retrieve your card every time you make a purchase.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
Additionally, Amazon sometimes offers product discounts when you redeem points from issuers like Chase, Citi and Amex. If you’re targeted for one of these promotions, the terms may allow you to redeem one point (for 1 cent of value) to trigger the discount. Then, pay as you normally would for the rest of your purchase with your credit card.
However, when shopping with Amazon or other merchants like Grubhub, you usually won’t get very good value from using your points without a promotion.
Double-check that you have deselected the option to use your points before you check out.
For future Grubhub orders, I’m planning to go further. You can manually enter ‘0 points’ and then click ‘Apply’ to ensure you aren’t using any of your points.
It was frustrating to see almost 4,000 points — worth about $80 to me — go to such a silly purchase. The same 4,000 points could’ve been transferred to Delta SkyMiles, potentially enough to cover an entire award flight during a flash sale.
If you have linked loyalty accounts to any merchants that allow you to pay with rewards, take a second to confirm you won’t use any of your points to cover a purchase.