Should I use my family’s Amazon rewards points for my wife’s birthday present?


Dear Moneyist,

My wife celebrates a very special birthday next week. She has asked for a very expensive watch for a present. I intend to buy it on Amazon. I’ve been shopping on Amazon for almost two decades and, recently, I’ve noticed that I have accrued 45,000 rewards points on the site which has a monetary value of $320, which would almost pay for the watch.

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I would like to apply these points to buying the watch rather than raid my savings account, but I don’t want her to discover I am using this form of payment as she might think I’m cheap and that such a gesture risks devaluing her birthday celebration. My wife and I share the Amazon account and I have no idea if she knows about the rewards points. I don’t want to ask her.

But I would like to ask you: What should I do?

Robert Gold

Dear Robert,

At first I thought this was a slam-dunk! But upon mature reflection, it’s a tricky one. On the one hand, you are using joint funds for this watch and you and your wife are a team. On the other hand, you likely have some separate funds for guilty pleasures — some of which could be in the form of reward points. Does it matter much if you use these joint points from your Amazon credit card for your wife’s birthday gift?

Halfway through writing that question, I made the call: Yes, it does. There is a frisson using points for luxury items or impulse purchases. If you empty your joint Amazon awards account, you deprive your wife of that small pleasure. Also, it’s a gift, so your wife really shouldn’t spend some of her own reward points on her own present.

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The Moneyologist Facebook Group is divided. Paul Forster writes: “Pay cash for the watch and use the points for something for the home or something that you’ll share.” Monica Langlois adds: “I think she’ll understand if you decide to use the points.” And Robert Ross adds: “Remember the ‘Seinfeld’ episode with the cashmere sweater with the red dot? It’ll go like that.” (That is, not well.)

If you do use the Amazon rewards points for the watch, as some people on the Moneyist Facebook Group suggest, you would have to tell her. There is no way around that. How would you feel if she found out and you had not told her? There’s your answer. If she has access to this account, she will see the purchase in the account history, and it could result in a very awkward birthday dinner.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

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