Visa Extras Debit Card Rewards Program Review

August 3, 2005 · 0 comments

Got a Visa debit card? You may be eligible to participate in VisaExtras, a rewards program that pays points for your purchases both online AND off!
Who Qualifies:
U.S. residents whose bank issues Visa debit cards AND participates in the program. Not all banks do. (Enter your Visa debit card number at, or call them at 1-800-960-8472, and they can tell you right away if your bank participates.) Also, you have to sign for your debit purchases instead of just entering the PIN — that means choosing “Credit” instead of “Debit” on the swipe-card terminals at checkout.
How You Earn Points:
Get 1,000 points for signing up. For each 12 months of membership, you earn 1 point per dollar up to your first $4,000 of purchases, then it bumps up to 2 points per dollar. On your membership anniversary, you start over at 1. You can earn bonus points by shopping at certain online merchants through the links on the VisaExtras website — these points range from 3 points per dollar at BestBuy, Staples, Expedia, and Linens’n'Things, up to 20 points per dollar at a wide selection of merchants (including, for instance, SmartBargains and 1-800-Flowers). There are a few large flat-rate points offers, like BMGMusic (3,500 points) and T-Mobile (4,500 points). They’re also giving away 1,000,000 points to one lucky member each quarter of 2005.
How You Can Spend The Points:
Ah, the fun part! Cash out your points at or by calling 1-800-960-8472. Shipping’s free and they estimate 4 weeks for you to receive your reward. The cheapest redemptions are 2,000 points — for a $5 GC to Blockbuster, BP gas stations, CVS, Red Lobster/Olive Garden, or Starbucks. There are a total of 185 redemptions to choose from. The options include GCs, merchandise, magazine subscriptions, even a cash credit to the checking account associated with your debit card. Some of the merchandise options are pretty cool — like for 20,000 points you can get a football autographed by your choice (from a list) of NFL players.
Some Fine Print:
If you have a joint checking account and you have different debit card numbers, you and your spouse must enroll separately you can’t combine your points. Not all purchases qualify for points — you can’t get points for balance transfers or buying things that can be readily converted to cash (like prepaid Visa cards, travellers’ checks, etc.). Make sure you read the terms for the exclusions. Some merchants may have bonus point promotions, and while those points count toward your reward, they won’t count toward reaching the $4,000 threshold. Also, if you return a purchase, the points you earned for that purchase will be deducted. AND unused points expire in 36 months.
My Take On It:
Anything you can earn for free and without any additional spending on your part is good. If they want to pay me to use my debit card like a credit card, no problemo. I usually use my debit card for buying groceries and for entertainment (restaurants, the movies, etc). I easily use my debit card for $500+ a month in purchases and this makes me want to use it even more. Of course at 1 point per dollar, it’d take 4 months of that $500 debiting to get me a $5 GC. But again, it’s free and doesn’t require any real additional effort.
Their online shopping portal’s “bonus” points, though, leaves something to be desired. First of all, there aren’t many merchants offered at all. Second, considering that a $5 GC costs 2,000 points, a point is worth 1/4 of a cent. That makes 20 points per dollar, their best shopping rate, equivalent to 5%. Why accept 5% for 1-800-Flowers purchases when you can earn 8% at Ebates or
My advice: use the offline portion of the program to earn points on purchases you’d pay for with a check or your debit card anyway, but avoid their shopping portal. There are other alternatives that pay better.
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