A recent report I read in Real Simple magazine suggested the average person lets over $200 a year in loyalty reward points go to waste when they expire or go unredeemed.

I have a MasterCard that automatically gives me 1.25% cash into my account if I don't otherwise redeem the points I accrue during the year.

Then I have another American Express card that I earn points on. It's one I use for expenses related to the show. With that one, I let the points sit and when I find out that I can transfer my points at a bonus level to get something I want bam! I do it right then and there.

But how about you? We all have such busy lives with so many things happening that sometimes it's hard to remember.

I recently spent a buck to join a loyalty program at a gas station chain and got a coupon for a free drink in return. Well guess what? I sat on it too long and when I went to redeem it, it had expired!

I'm not a big fan of credit cards that offer frequent flier miles or points toward a hotel stay because the airlines and hotels are always raising the bar of what it takes to redeem a ticket. But I know people love them and many have a lot of miles to use up.

If that sounds like you, there are several free websites that will take a scalpel to your rewards account to tell you the best use of your miles or points for a particular airline or hotel. These include MileWise.com, GoMiles.com (recently acquired by Traxo.com), and AwardWallet.com.

You give these sites access to your loyalty accounts and they alert you to deals, warn you if any miles are expiring, and make suggestions about the optimal use of miles or points at any given moment. It's a great way to leverage the value in what you've got, though not every one of these sites works with every airline or hotel's loyalty program.

My take on the best way to use frequent flier miles? Overseas travel front of the plane!
 

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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