Savvy advice on getting the most from your rewards points.

By Kate Ashford
Updated November 23, 2011

During the holiday season, your waistband isn’t the only thing being stretched. To take pressure off your already tight budget, you may want to apply your credit-card rewards points toward gifts. Here are the savviest exchanges.

Typically, you’ll get the most value for your points if you swap them for gift cards from retailers. “Each point should be worth a penny,” says Beverly Harzog, a credit expert with, an independent education website. Use this calculation to determine whether a gift card is a good deal: Divide the dollar value of the card by the number of points you would have to redeem to get it. So if a $50 gift card “costs” 5,000 points or less, take it; if the point total is higher, find another way to use them.

If you’re not interested in gift cards, you have a couple of other choices. You can use your rewards for an experience package, like a private wine tasting with a sommelier. Alternatively, you might apply them toward entertainment or travel (concert tickets, a hotel room). Although these options could have a lower redemption value than a penny to a point, they might still be worthwhile, since some offers are available only through the rewards program.

Should you want to exchange your points for a product, like a computer or a digital camera, go ahead—just bear in mind that you will probably get the least value for your points. But, hey, you’ll knock a few items off your list while keeping more cash in your wallet.