Maximizing Travel Credit Cards Calendar Year Spending Threshold Bonuses

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – United MileagePlus Explorer Card

I hope everyone had a great time ringing in 2013. A new year means…a new chance to hit some spending thresholds on your travel credit cards and earn valuable bonuses! Many credit cards offer spend bonuses per calendar year, so it is best to plan your strategy now to figure out which bonuses are worth going for throughout the year. With so many Bluebird and pre-paid/reloadable cards out there, generating spend is much easier than doing it the old fashioned way of putting all regular expenses on your credit card.

Here’s a roundup of the various travel credit cards out there that award such bonuses – whether it’s thousands of extra points, elite-qualifying miles or credit for hotel stays, companion tickets and more. So take a look and if you have any of these cards, then keep your eye on the prize as you start spending this year.

TRANSFERABLE POINT CARDS

American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Spend $30,000 in purchases on the card in one year, you will earn 15,000 bonus Membership Rewards points.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $2K during your first three months of Card membership.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $175.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: I value Amex points at about 1.7 cents a piece, so $255.

US Bank FlexPerks Visa Signature
Category Spend Bonus: Earn 3,500 bonus FlexPoints each year when you spend $24,000 in net purchases per cardmember year – yes this not per calendar year, but if you get the card now, or got it recently, it would be roughly along the same timeline, and it’s an annual benefit, so I decided to include it.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 17,500 bonus FlexPoints after the first $2,500 in net purchases in the first 5 months.
Annual fee: $0 for the first year then $49.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: FlexPoints are worth up to 2 cents apiece when redeemed for airfare, so $70. 

AIRLINE CREDIT CARDS

Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
Calendar Spend Bonus: 
Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and you can earn a Miles Boost of 15,000 MQMs. Spend $60,000 in that same year and you can earn an additional 15,000 MQMs. Those 30,000 MQMs are not only for Medallion status but can be used as redeemable miles as well.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 
Get 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQM) upon your first purchase with the Card and SkyClub access.
Annual Fee: $450
Note: There is also the Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card which offers the same Miles Boost as the personal card.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: 30,000 MQMs will get you Silver status and is 25% of Diamond Status, so at 5 cents per MQM, $1,500

The "Travel Together" companion ticket is one of several great benefits to the British Airways Visa.
The “Travel Together” companion ticket is one of several great benefits to the British Airways Visa.

British Airways Visa Signature Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa Signature card, you will earn a Travel Together Ticket good for two years when you redeem for a flight on British Airways.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 50,000 after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $95
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $1,000 – only if you value premium awards and don’t mind paying the $700+ in fees for the companion award.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn a Miles Boost of 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles when you reach $25,000 in eligible purchases during a calendar year. Earn an additional Miles Boost of 10,000 MQMs when you reach $50,000 in eligible purchases the same calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn up to 5,000 MQMs and 25,000 bonus miles toward Award Travel – 20,000 bonus miles after first purchase.
Annual Fee: $150
Note: There is also the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card which offers the same Miles Boost as the personal card.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: 20,000 MQMs at 5 cents each is $1,000. 

Virgin Atlantic American Express
Category Spend Bonus: Earn 15,000 bonus miles on every cardmembership anniversary upon spending $25,000 annually (redeem miles for a Virgin Atlantic Economy reward ticket and get a second reward ticket for half the miles). One tier point per $2,500 in purchases (maximum of 2 per month).
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 20,000 bonus miles after your first purchase.
Annual Fee: $90
My Estimated Value of Bonus: 15,000 bonus miles and 24 tier points is worth about $525. 

The Virgin Atlantic Amex comes with reduced-price awards and the ability to earn elite status based on spending.

Citi Executive American Airlines AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles when you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 40,000 when you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of cardmembership and an additional 10,000 when you spend $10,000 in purchases in the first 12 months.
Annual Fee: $450
My Estimated Value of Bonus: Elite Qualifying Miles are difficult to get with AA and 10,000 will get you 10% of the way to Executive Platinum, so I’d estimate the value at around $500.

US Airways MasterCard
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn 10,000 Preferred Qualifying Miles after hitting $25,000 in spending each year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: This is actually a “targeted” offer for Chairman’s Preferred members where you earn 40,000 Bonus Miles after your first purchase, an additional 10,000 bonus miles for a balance transfer within 90 days, and 10,000 bonus miles each year upon your account anniversary. Many who did not receive the targeted offer have reported success in applying for the card, though, so you might want to try.
Annual Fee: $89 annual fee is waived the first year.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: 10,000 PQMs at 5 cents each is $500. 

Update: This offer is no longer available. View the current offer for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card here.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases. Get up to 15,000 Tier Qualifying Points annually.
Sign-Up Bonus: 25,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account.
Annual Fee: $99
Note: There is also a business version of this card with the same terms.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: Southwest status isn’t as generous, but I’d value 1,500 TQPs at $200.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card
Calendar Spend Bonus:  Earn 10,000 bonus redeemable miles each calendar year you spend at least $25,000 on your card.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $95 annual fee, waived first year.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: I value United miles at about 1.9 cents a piece, so $190. 

Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa Signature
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn a $100 American Airlines Flight Discount every year when you spend $30,000.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 30,000 bonus AAdvantage miles after $1,000 in purchases in first 3 months.
Annual Fee: No annual fee for the first year, and $95 thereafter.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $100
Note: There are offers out there for the Citi AAdvantage Visa and American Express cards where consumers have reported getting up to 50,000 bonus miles for spending $2,500 in 4 months. The bonus offer is not explicitly stated on the application page, so your miles may vary, but it could be worth it to try applying and see what offer you get.

Virgin America Visa
Category Spend Bonus: Cardmembers that have an annual fee will earn 10,000 status points (provided the annual fee has been paid) and Virgin America Visa cardholders not paying an annual fee will earn 5,000 status points when the spend $25,000 within a calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 10,000 Elevate points with first purchase with fee card, 2,500 Elevate points with first purchase with no-fee card.
Annual Fee: $49 or $0 depending on card.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: Virgin America status isn’t as valuable as major legacy airlines that offer more perks, but I’d still value 10,000 status points at about $100. 

HOTEL CREDIT CARDS

Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: A free weekend night at $10,000 in spend and Diamond status when you make $40,000 or more in eligible purchases each calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn two weekend night certificates good at select hotels and resorts within the Hilton HHonors portfolio after $2,500 in purchases within the first 4 months.
Annual Fee: $95
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $500 

Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn 1 elite night credit for every $3,000 spent. There is no limit to the number of elite nights that you can earn.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months from account opening.
Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $85.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: Really depends on how much you spend, but I’d value buying Marriott Platinum at about $500.

Fairmont Visa Signature
Calendar Spend Bonus: Earn one free night every anniversary with $12,000 in annual spending.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Two complimentary nights including breakfast for 2 at any Fairmont destination worldwide after you make $1,000 in purchases within your first 3 months of account opening.
Annual Fee: $95
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $250. 

hilton surpass

American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Enjoy an automatic upgrade to HHonors Diamond Elite status when your total eligible spend reaches $40,000 or more during a calendar year.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 60,0000 points – earn 40,000 HHonors bonus points with your first purchase and earn 20,000 additional bonus points if you spend $3,000 or more within the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: $75 annual fee.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $250 

Hyatt Credit Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: When you spend the following amounts in a calendar year, Hyatt will award you with credits towards Diamond status: $20,000 annually = 2 stay / 5 night credits 
or $40,000 annually = an additional 3 stay / 5 night credits, so up to 10 night credits per year by spending $40,000.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: Two free nights at Hyatt properties worldwide when you spend $1,000 in 3 months. Platinum members also receive 2 free suite upgrades, and Diamond members receive 2 free nights in a suite.
Annual Fee: $75
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $200 

Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Gold status every year you spend $10,000 or more on the card.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 70,000 Ritz-Carlton Rewards points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months.
Annual Fee: $395
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $150

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card
Calendar Spend Bonus: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive complimentary SPG Gold status.
Current Sign-Up Bonus: 25,000 Starpoints – earn 10,000 Starpoints with your first eligible purchase and 15,000 more when you spend $5,000 within 6 months.
Annual Fee: $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $65.
Note: There is also the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card which offers SPG Gold Status after 30K in spending as well.
My Estimated Value of Bonus: $150

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