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Airlines and credit cards offer some fantastic perks each year, but you often only have until the clock strikes midnight on December 31 to take advantage. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen takes a look at which of these perks you’ll need to use up before the end of 2015.
It seems hard to believe, but the end of the year is rapidly approaching. For the general public, this means the craziness of the holidays and the approaching specter of winter, but for frequent travelers, it also represents the end of the line for various credit card and elite status perks. Today, I want to go through a (nearly) complete list of popular benefits that may be expiring on December 31.
Some of the easiest perks to use in the next couple of months are airline credits, which are offered on a number of popular credit cards. These benefits will give you an automatic statement credit for eligible expenses charged to your card during a calendar year. Here are the cards that currently carry these credits along with details of how you can earn them:
The Citi Prestige offers the most expansive airline credit out there, as you can earn the credit for not just fees but straight-up airfare on any airline. I took advantage of this when I booked my Alaska Companion Fare ticket from the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card back in August, and the $250 credit showed up that same statement:
The card also comes with numerous other benefits, including a 4th night free on hotel stays, access to Admirals Club and Priority Pass lounges and the ability to transfer points to a variety of travel partners. The card currently comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.
The Amex Platinum is another card that offers an annual credit, but this one is only $200 and just covers incidentals like baggage fees or in-flight purchases. It’s also important to note that you must designate a preferred airline for the rebate, then, like the Prestige benefit, a credit should appear automatically.
The card also provides a variety of additional benefits, such as By Invitation Only events, discounts and perks through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts and access to fantastic Centurion lounges in various US airports. The card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $3,000 in purchases in the first three months. However, you may be able to find a bonus of up to 100,000 points through the CardMatch tool.
Note that this credit also applies to the The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN as well.
Another popular card that provides an airline fee credit is the Amex Premier Rewards Gold Card. This was actually just added earlier in the year and works in the same way as that of the Amex Platinum (though it’s only $100). You must designate the airline and it officially only covers incidentals.
The Premier Rewards Gold Card is a terrific option for purchasing airfare, as it offers 3x Membership Rewards points when you book directly with the airline. It also increased the bonus on dining purchases to 2x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent and removed foreign transaction fees (which was long overdue). The card currently offers a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your card in the first three months of card membership (though, again, you’ll want to check CardMatch to see if there are better, targeted offers for you).
A final card that offers a calendar-year airline credit is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card from Chase. While this benefit is the highest of all ($300), it also only applies to incidentals and unfortunately doesn’t happen automatically. Instead, you must call Chase within four billing cycles of the purchase to request the credit. However, it can be used on purchases with any airline, which offers some valuable flexibility over the two American Express cards above.
The card currently offers a sign-up bonus of two free nights at Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton properties after you spend $4,000 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
Citi Prestige Golf
Another benefit that’s expiring is a relatively obscure one: three free rounds of golf given to holders of the Citi Prestige Card. You can search for nearby courses on the Golf Switch website and reserve tee times online. However, Citi only allows you to make one tee time at a time, so you must wait until you complete one to book another. Since this is also a calendar-year benefit, you can get three rounds in 2015 and then another three rounds in 2016. Depending on the usual price of your local course(s), this could be a very valuable perk!
Alaska MVP Gold Guest Upgrades
One of the more generous upgrade certificates given to elite flyers is the MVP Gold Guest Upgrade program offered through Alaska Airlines. These upgrades can be used on Alaska-operated flights booked in most fare classes: Y, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V and K (as long as you can find U inventory; ExpertFlyer and the flight alerts feature can be a great help in this endeavor). In addition, you can give them out to any friend or family member. TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig did just that for a friend’s parents on a trip to Hawaii earlier this year.
There are two cases under which you would have these Gold Guest upgrades expiring on December 31:
- You earned MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K status in the 2014 calendar year
- You took advantage of a status match with Alaska prior to October 1, 2015
However, if you’re like me and waited until after October 1, 2015 to request the status match, your upgrade certificates are good through the end of 2016:
For more information about how Alaska prioritizes these upgrades, check out my post on Alaska upgrade priority and how to improve your chances.
Southwest Companion Pass
One of the most popular and rewarding benefits in the frequent flyer universe is the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to bring a travel companion along with you every time you fly Southwest (including on award tickets). If you play things right, you can earn the Companion Pass for almost two years, but if you earned it in 2014 (through credit cards like the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card or by actually flying), it’s set to expire on December 31, 2015.
Unfortunately, you can only book flights through the end of the validity period of the pass, so there’s no way to book flights into 2016 and still use the benefits of the Companion Pass. However, if you can squeeze in a trip or two before the end of the year, there’s still time to get value out of it. If you’re short on points, remember that Southwest is a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards, so you can transfer points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Plus Business Card to top off your account.
Club Passes and Drink Coupons
This final category is a catch-all and may not apply to your specific passes and coupons. However, many of these one-time certificates do carry an expiration date of December 31. I received several Delta drink coupons when I earned Platinum Status last year, and all of them expire at the end of this year.
As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” As 2015 comes to a close, this applies to several perks on popular credit cards and elite status benefits with different travel providers. If you have any of the above benefits that will expire on December 31, the clock is ticking, so be sure to utilize them before it’s too late!
What perks do you need to use before 2016 arrives?
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards