This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Reserve
Before you get too busy with holiday commitments, family obligations and other end-of-year business, you should ensure you’ve crossed your proverbial “t”s and dotted your “i”s when it comes to your points and miles. Today, I’ll give a rundown of the top award travel tasks you need to complete by the end of 2016 to make sure you maximize your loyalty portfolio.
1. Check Your Point Expiration Dates
There are so many websites, apps and tools available today to prevent you from ever being surprised that your points or miles have expired. I wouldn’t even wait until the end of 2016 to check these dates; join AwardWallet.com now and begin tracking your individual accounts. AwardWallet even sends you a reminder email a few months out, giving you ample time to save your points from oblivion (or costing you a reinstatement fee).
There are plenty of easy ways to prevent your points and miles from expiring: Earn points with a partner, shop through a portal, transfer from a credit card, book an award redemption or make a donation. There are also plentiful opportunities to create a single activity in your account that, in most cases, will extend the life of your points.
2. Check Elite-Qualifying Mile and Dollar Status
As a brand-new American Executive Platinum, I’ve found the elite experience worth the extra effort to ensure you qualify for airline status in 2017. It’s surprising how many people think they’re nowhere close to qualifying for even the lowest elite level, but upon checking their account, they see that only a few thousand EQMs or a couple segments stand in the way of status.
Counters for airline elite status requirements reset on January 1, meaning now’s the time to plan any last-minute strategies to put you over the top for 2017 status. This could mean making a mileage run or earning bonus EQMs from credit card spending. For example, the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers 10,000 EQMs after $40,000 in annual spend, and the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express currently offers 10,000 MQMs after your first purchase and 15,000 additional MQMs after $30,000 in annual spend and an additional 15,000 MQMs after $60,000 in annual spend.
3. Check Elite-Qualifying Night and Stay Status
Just like with tracking airline elite status, you can’t forget about your hotel status. A simple log-in to your account for most hotel chains will give you a quick snapshot of what work you have left to do if you’re chasing the next elite level. With the number of status matches available this year and the credit cards that offer hotel elite status, making a mattress run may not be worthwhile unless you plan on earning and utilizing top-tier status a lot in 2017.
If you’re short a few elite nights or stays with Marriott or SPG, you can use a credit card to make up the difference. Both the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express include 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward elite status each calendar year. The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card includes 15 elite night credits (good enough for automatic Silver status) plus an additional elite night credit for every $3,000 you spend on the card.
4. Use Your Airline/Travel Credits
One wonderful benefit of premium credit cards is an annual travel fee/airline fee credit that reimburses you a certain dollar amount for eligible charges on an annual basis. The following cards have annual fee reimbursements, each with their own peculiarities for what qualifies for reimbursement:
- Citi Prestige — $250 air travel credit
- The Platinum Card From American Express — $200 airline fee reimbursement good for a single airline
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express — $100 airline fee reimbursement good for a single airline
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Card — $300 annual travel credit
- The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card — $300 airline fee credit, must call in or request via Chase secure message to be reimbursed
5. Apply for Premium Cards to Maximize Annual Credits
If you don’t yet have one of the above premium cards, consider applying now. This way, you can maximize the number of travel credits you get. Because the credits reset on an calendar basis and the annual fee is based on every 12 months from card opening, there’s potential to get a fantastic return on the first year’s annual fee.
For example, you could pick up the Chase Sapphire Reserve card in October 2016, immediately use the $300 credit and get another $300 credit on January 1, 2017. That means you’ll get $600 in travel credits after paying just one annual fee.
6. Maximize Promotions
Each fall and holiday season, you’ll see a series of promotions from airlines, hotels, and credit card issuers. It’s worth tracking and leveraging these when possible.
For hotels, there’s the Hyatt Gold Passport Fall promotion offering up to 75,000 bonus points, along with the Marriott Choose Your Path promotion. Plus, Club Carlson is offering double or triple points through October 31; all Hilton stays will earn double points through the end of the year; and IHG’s Accelerate promotion can get you thousands of extra points through December 15.
Shopping portals routinely offer spending bonuses during the holiday timeframe, which, if you’re going to be shopping anyways, you might as well take advantage of to earn bonus points. Portals usually announce big bonuses the week before Black Friday.
7. Meet Annual Spend Thresholds for Bonuses
Many credit cards offer you bonuses when you reach certain spending thresholds in a calendar year. If you’re close to one of these thresholds, you only have a couple more months to hit it. Here are some cards that provide these benefits:
- Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card: Earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $25,000. Earn another 10,000 MQMs when you hit $50,000.
- British Airways Visa Signature Card: When you spend $30,000 in a calendar year, you’ll earn a Travel Together Ticket, which allows you to bring a companion on a British Airways award ticket (plus taxes and fees).
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express: Earn SPG Gold status when you spend $30,000 in a calendar year.
- Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card: Earn Diamond status when you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
If you’ve got all of the above action items under control, take the time before January to plan your individual strategy for 2017. The new year will bring additional changes to the loyalty program landscape, no doubt including several updates we haven’t heard about yet. Some we already know about include American Airlines now tracking elite qualifying dollars, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines merging, further integration between the Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest programs, and decreases in the redemption value of Citi ThankYou points earned with the Citi Prestige Card. All of these updates could — and, some would argue, should — affect which airlines and hotels you choose to give your business in 2017.
What’s at the top of your points and miles to-do list before the end of the year?
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.