Last updated on December 14th, 2020
Rewards points are becoming the millennial’s choice for credit card perks. Unfortunately, far too many people are leaving rewards points on the table each year in the U.S. – and now someone is looking to capitalize on this industry trend, creating a secondary market for unused rewards points.
Story at a Glance:
- Over $400 billion worth of loyalty points were in circulation in 2018
- Two-thirds of Americans prefer cash back credit cards but more millennials are switching to travel rewards cards
- The average hotel guest in 2018 was a member of 3.25 hotel loyalty programs
- A South Korean startup is looking to launch a secondary market to sell unused rewards points
Rewards Points Are Big Business
Credit cards come in all shapes and sizes, seemingly with a card to fit every budget or lifestyle. For those looking to boost their credit, for instance, there are several excellent options such as the Discover It Secured, the Indigo Platinum Mastercard, or countless others. For those that want cash back, the Chase Freedom and the Capital One Spark Cash Card instantly spring to mind. While cash back cards are the most popular with Americans, travel rewards cards are rising in popularity. According to an article in Forbes, nearly $400 billion worth of rewards points were in circulation in 2018, up from roughly $300 billion in 2017.
The reward points run the gamut from hotel rewards, gift cards, airline rewards, and more. Airline rewards points are an especially lucrative business, with American Airlines generating over $2 billion is miles sales in 2018 alone. Unfortunately, while billions are spent on the purchase of miles each year, millions of those dollars end up wasted when miles expire without being used. Alaska Airline miles expire after 24 months of inactivity on the Mileage Plan account, for example, whereas others, such as Hawaiian and American Airlines miles expire after 18 months of inactivity. Although there are some airlines whose miles/points never expire, far too many fall victims to wasted rewards.
South Korean startup Mi1.k, however, sees value in these potentially wasted miles. The company is looking to launch a secondary market for rewards points through its online marketplace and integrated cryptocurrency, the Mi1.k Coin. Jayden Cho, Mi1.k’s CEO, says that by placing points and miles on a global platform, Mi1.k can “establish a marketplace for travelers, consumers, and traders to identify attractive rewards, access their utility, and profit from price movements.”
Is a Secondary Market for Points Legal?
One of the obvious concerns with a secondary market for unused rewards points, such as Mi1.k, is the legality of reselling miles or points. Rewards points are currency tied to a specific brand. With the case of SkyMiles, for example, the miles are the property of Delta Airlines, meaning the airline would need to give the final “okay” for miles to transfer from one user to another. While there has been some interest to the idea from South Korean companies including a movie theater chain, Korean credit card issuers, and online retailers, it would likely take a significant shift in momentum to see the hundreds of millions of frequent flyer and hotel loyalty members cashing in on Mi1.k’s plan.
Cryptocurrency Plans for Rewards Points Highlight a Shift in Travel Habits
While cryptocurrencies for credit card rewards points seem fanciful, they highlight a growing trend towards consumers placing more and more value in credit card rewards. While two-thirds of Americans currently prefer cash back credit cards, more millennials are turning to travel rewards cards. In fact, millennials redeem more travel rewards points than any other age group – with the average hotel guest in 2018 a member of 3.25 hotel loyalty programs. According to consumer financial consultant Joe Ridout, there is no better time to take advantage of credit card rewards. “If you have a good credit score,” he told a Bay Area ABC affiliate, “who is making money off that good credit score? Equifax, Experian, all the credit bureaus, the banks you do business with; what about you? Why not use a good credit score to help yourself?”
Tired of Leaving Money on the Table?
To ensure you get the most bang for your consumer buck, the best thing to do is to start shopping for a travel rewards credit card that suits your precise needs. Travel rewards cards come in different shapes and sizes, there are often several tiers of a credit card within one brand in order to better accommodate various budget levels. Prestigious airline or hotel rewards cards offer premiere travel benefits and earning potential, but often carry a hefty price tag as well. The Chase Sapphire Reserve, for instance, comes with a whopping $450 annual fee, but also offers some of the best perks in the travel card game. Other cards, such as the Discover It Miles, charge no annual fee, but still offer substantial rewards for members.
Regardless of whether you are searching for a hotel rewards card, an airline rewards card, or a general-purpose travel rewards card, at BestCards.com we have the impartial reviews and in-depth industry news to make informed decisions. Our team constantly scours the web to find the latest credit card offers and give you the information you need – without the filler. So, what are you waiting for? Check out some of our hundreds of credit card reviews and find your best card today.