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Charge Up Great Rewards

Credit card companies want you using their cards. If you spend enough, they'll even send you to live your own fantasies.

Many people who use credit cards are used to getting rewards. As the latest issue of Motley Fool Green Light discusses in more detail, you can take advantage of a wide variety of popular credit card rewards, ranging from free airline tickets to cold hard cash. Even though it can take a while to accumulate enough points to get what you want, getting anything back for your purchases is a bonus from your perspective.

But if you really spend a lot of money -- enough to save up tens or even hundreds of thousands of reward points on your card -- pedestrian point awards like a free ticket in coach may not interest you very much. That's where credit card companies get inventive. Here are some examples of particularly intriguing offers.

1. Play pick-up basketball in a pro arena.
Last fall, JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) released a new rewards card to celebrate the Miami Heat's NBA championship victory. The card lets you redeem points for Heat merchandise, such as hats, jerseys, and game balls. However, for those who rack up 100,000 points, you can play hoops with nine of your best friends at the Heat's home court, American Airlines Arena.

2. Be the next Richard Petty.
The Membership Rewards program from American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) gives you the chance to drive on real raceways in Nascar-style cars. For just 120,000 points, you can get 30 laps behind the wheel at a track near you.

3. Fight the Red Baron.
If cars aren't your thing, maybe you'd rather take to the air. Also from Membership Rewards, 120,000 points can get you into the cockpit of a Marchetti S260 training fighter. You'll get ground training, learn in-flight maneuvers, and then apply them in a simulated battle.

4. Take off some weight -- in zero-G.
Physicist Stephen Hawking said it was an amazing experience, and now you can do it, too. Diners Club's Club Rewards program, which is run by Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) in North America, offers the chance to ride on board the special planes used by NASA astronauts to simulate zero-gravity conditions.

5. If you dream it, it will come.
Many programs now allow top-level cardholders to name their own rewards. A representative from the rewards program does research to figure out whether your request is feasible, and if so, how many points it'll take. So if you don't see what you want in your card's rewards catalog, give them a call and tell them what you really want!

In the meantime, if getting to 100,000 points just isn't gonna happen, be sure to look at the latest issue of Motley Fool Green Light. You'll find tips to make the most of the points you have as well as tips on all sorts of rewards that are available even at low levels. It's not just about airline tickets and cash anymore. You can read everything our team of personal finance experts has to say about this and many other valuable topics with a 30-day free trial.

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You can get more information about making the most of your credit in our Credit Center. From learning about your credit score to laying a solid foundation to your credit history, you'll find out what you need to know.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is content with the cash he gets back from his credit cards. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. JP Morgan Chase is an Income Investor recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy isn't taxing.


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Dan Caplinger
TMFGalagan

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on Fool.com. With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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