The Balanced Guy: On Greenbacks

If you’ve got airline miles or other “points” from your credit card or other loyalty programs, here’s something I recently figured out (I’m slow; sue me): If you want to cash them in for merchandise instead of a ticket to paradise, think carefully before doing so. Earlier this month, I received a letter from our airline credit card saying my rewards points were going to expire at the end of January. Knowing that I wasn’t planning to travel anywhere, my wife and I logged on to the card’s online marketplace to look at what we could get for the nearly 45,000 points we had. She looked around the site and saw a wireless printer. With the proliferation of laptops in our house, it seemed like a good idea. But I replied: “Let me look into it a bit more.” It turned out not to be such a good deal at all because I would have needed to buy about 5,000 more points at a cost of around $40 to buy a printer which retails at Best Buy for $79. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the printer got terrible owner reviews on Amazon and it’s not even compatible with Windows Vista. Other goodies available retailed for about the same price. Thus, case closed. A little more poking around the site and my wife realized that with 45,000 points we could get nearly $300 worth of gift cards at places like Barnes & Noble, Macy’s, and Outback Steakhouse. Bingo! We had to pay an extra $23 to get the sixth $50 card, but that’s like paying $1 to get $2—a no-brainer. So, let’s do that math together: $79 printer – $40 to get enough points = $39 value. $300 in gift cards – $23 to get enough points = $277 in value. $277/$39 = 7.1 times the value. Sold.

I’ll be tucking this away in my back pocket for future use should I ever have a bunch of rewards points racked up again.

The writer of The Balanced Guy, Roman Horoszewski, is not particularly balanced but he’s definitely trying to be. He makes the effort by not only doing “guy stuff” but also by spending time with his three sons and wife while attempting to remain informed about the world around him. He and his family live in the Princeton, N.J. area.  His blog is @

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