Key takeaways

  • Most rewards credit cards come with perks and benefits that can help you offset the cost of expensive experience gifts.
  • In addition to cash back and deals, many rewards cards offer special access to presale tickets for concerts, sporting events and more.
  • Some rewards cards can help you book hard-to-get tables at top-tier restaurants, while others may provide free access to local cultural sites or events.

Sometimes the gift with the biggest “wow” factor can’t be placed neatly into a box. Experiences may be intangible but they have lasting impact — a big difference from many physical presents.

Data collected from a GetYourGuide survey found 90 percent of Americans receive physical gifts that they may or may not like, while 77 percent would prefer an experience gift they can share. And why not? With an experience, memories will remain with the lucky recipient for years, if not forever.

The best way to give an experiential present can be with a credit card. Depending on the card you use, it can get the person into unique events, buy individualized messages or help you rack up maximum rewards when you make the purchase. If it will be a major charge, the purchase price can be enough for you to hit the minimum spending requirement needed to score a new card’s sign-up bonus — providing you with extra money or points to use for someone else’s gift or to offset the initial cost.

Here are seven experiences credit cards can help you deliver the next time you give a gift:

1. Broadway shows

Seats to the most sought-after shows, from Hamilton to Wicked, will make a Broadway aficionado swoon with delight. Tickets can be hard to get, though. So if you need to buy from a third-party company, look for a credit card that rewards you heavily for buying the tickets from a reseller.

For example, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card will give you 8 percent cash-back when you use it on Capital One Entertainment purchases. Therefore, if your amazing gift is two front-row center tickets with a $400 price tag, you will get $32 back when you use that card to purchase the gift through Capital One Entertainment.

2. Concerts

Your kids are desperate to see The Weeknd perform while your mother-in-law would like nothing better than to hear Harry Connick Jr. croon. Since these are hot tickets, they can sell out fast.

To jump to the front of the line, look for a credit card that can help guarantee that the tickets will be available for purchase when you want them. The Citi Premier® Card (No longer available), for instance, gives you the chance to use the Citi Entertainment program, providing you as the cardholder with access to presale tickets for certain events.

3. Sporting events

Professional sports are popular, so tickets to a game would be a fabulous present. Although gifting people seats at a sporting event is great, you can make the day even more magnificent with the right credit card.

If the person on your list is a football fan, you may want to use the NFL Extra Points Visa® Credit Card*. With this card you get exclusive access to experiences like meet-and-greet events with star players and early entry on game days. A touchdown present for sure!

And if you have a Capital One card with the Capital One Entertainment benefit, you can score special access to Major League Baseball games and various NCAA events. You can also get access to tickets for Capital One-sponsored events like the Indianapolis 500, Kentucky Derby and the men’s U.S. Open golf tournament.

4. A celebrity greeting

Maybe your best friend is a huge “Real Housewives of New York” fan. If so, she may be thrilled to learn that former cast-mate Sonja Morgan has a special message for her.

Using the website Cameo.com, you can find hundreds of celebrities Cameo, from musicians to comedians, and pay them to make a personalized video that you can give as a gift. Many of these videos can be purchased for less than $50, too. So if you’re new to credit and only have a starter card with a small credit line, you can still make it happen.

5. Fine dining

Is there a restaurant that someone you love has been dying to try, but getting a reservation is virtually impossible? If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, prepare to be the hero. Through the Global Dining Collection by Resy benefit, you can secure a table at select Michelin-starred restaurants run by the most celebrated chefs in the world.

You may also be eligible for special events, presales, special perks and more. Just sign up for a participating card, then download the Resy app or use Resy.com to find and book those hard-to-get reservations for your special someone.

6. A day at the museum

If you don’t have much money to spend this year, you are not alone. Inflation has stretched many consumers’ budgets thin. That doesn’t mean you can’t give an impressive gift that is also an experience.

Consider using any Bank of America card for a wonderful day out. Whether you have a credit or debit card, all of them come with the Museum on Us program. Just present your card and a valid photo ID, and you’ll get free admission to over 225 “cultural institutions” all over the United States during the first weekend of each month. Because you will have to take that person as your guest, prepare for an enriching outing together.

7. The trip of a lifetime

Finally, maybe you want to go full-out extravagant for someone very important to you. You want to give them a vacation, complete with airline tickets, hotel reservations and a rental car. Such a trip can cost thousands, so now may be the perfect time to open a travel credit card that offers a large welcome bonus to offset the cost.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® will give you 75,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening the account. If you transfer those points to a Chase travel partner, they can be worth around 2 cents per point, according to Bankrate’s latest valuations — making the bonus valued at $1,500. This card also comes with dining credits and other perks that can offset the $550 annual fee.

How to gift an experience

Because experiential gifts are not tangible, you may want to present them in a particularly festive way. For example, you can:

  • Describe what you will give in a card with a special message about why you are giving it.
  • Print out information about the gift and place it in a beautiful box.
  • Take a photo of what the gift entails, roll it into a scroll, and secure it with a ribbon.
  • Purchase something very inexpensive, wrap it, and include a note about the “real” gift.
  • Create a mini scavenger hunt with clues about the gift hidden inside your home.

The bottom line

As you can see, you can use your credit card to help give special experience gifts — making the most important people in your life happy and creating memories that last a lifetime. But make sure the money you spend with that card doesn’t come back to bite you down the road.

Before you charge an experiential gift, make sure you can afford to repay the balance in full by the time the bill comes due. That way you can minimize interest fees and truly enjoy the feeling that comes with giving the gift of an experience that your loved one will cherish for the rest of their life.

*The information about the NFL Extra Points Visa® Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.