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Not all credit card benefits reset each cardmember anniversary; several of them are tied to the calendar year. With 2016 now underway, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen discusses some great perks that you can use once again — from airline fee credits to mileage rebates and category bonuses.
When the calendar flips from December to January, a lot of things happen in the points and miles world. Your elite status counters reset to zero (though your previous year’s statuses should be good for another month or two) and you can start working toward calendar year bonuses anew. It also resets several perks on top credit cards, so today I want to highlight eight benefits that you can reuse now that we’re into 2016.
One of the easiest benefits to utilize is the annual $250 airfare credit offered by the Citi Prestige Card. Unlike some of the others we’ll discuss momentarily, this is an automatic benefit and one that can be used on just about any expense on any airline. This includes the purchase of tickets, and while the terms and conditions state that it could take 1-2 billing cycles for the credit to appear on your account, I’ve found that it tends to post on the same statement period in which you made the qualifying purchase.
Since this is classified as a travel purchase, it can be combined with a variety of other airline-specific benefits as well. I actually got the $250 credit for booking a companion fare ticket on Alaska, one of my favorite benefits on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card from Bank of America:
What’s especially interesting about this benefit is that it actually isn’t quite a calendar year benefit, instead it runs from December to December. Here’s the official policy from the card’s terms and conditions:
“This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December. Pending transactions that do not post in your December billing cycle will count towards the next year’s Air Travel Credit.”
In other words, as soon as your December billing cycle closes, you can use this benefit for the next year. My statement actually closed on December 18 and I purchased a United ticket for a friend’s wedding on December 30. Even though the purchase was made in 2015, it should count toward my $250 airfare credit in 2016 since it will appear on my January statement.
The Citi Prestige card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points after you spend $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening, worth $800 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. The card also includes a valuable assortment of other benefits like a 4th Night Free on paid hotel stays and access to Priority Pass lounges and Admirals Clubs.
Speaking of perks on the Citi Prestige…
Another benefit of the Citi Prestige that resets each year is the three complimentary rounds of golf at eligible courses around the world. To utilize this perk, you’ll need to create an online account through Golf Switch and then book your round through the site and pay with your Citi Prestige card. Unfortunately this is limited to one reservation at a time, so you can’t have more than one round booked at once. It’s also restricted to the primary cardholder, though I’ve read reports of folks who were able to pay for a friend or family member’s round.
Another perk that resets in 2016 is the airline fee credit offered on both the personal The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN. Through this benefit, you’ll enjoy an annual statement credit of $200 toward airline charges like checked baggage fees and airline lounge passes (anecdotal evidence also shows that airline gift cards are eligible in small denominations, but note that the terms and conditions explicitly exclude them).
Unfortunately, you do need to designate a single airline for this benefit, a notable difference from the airfare credit on the Citi Prestige. To do this, visit www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice and log in to your account. You do have the ability to change your selection at the beginning of a new year, but choose carefully! Once you’ve confirmed your selection, you’re “stuck” with it for the rest of the year.
The Amex Platinum card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you use your new card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first three months, though you’ll want to check the CardMatch tool to make sure you aren’t targeted for a bonus of up to 100,000 points. In addition, the Business Platinum card is currently offering a bonus of 40,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on the card within your first three months. Both cards include additional perks like no foreign transaction fees and access to American Express Centurion Lounges.
In addition to the benefit offered on Amex Platinum cards, you can also get up to $100 in airline fee credits on the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. This was part of the slew of new benefits added to the card as of June 1, 2015 (which did increase the annual fee to $195 per year). This works identically to the Amex Platinum fee credit. You simply designate an airline and will automatically receive a credit for qualifying purchases, which again could include gift cards in small denominations.
I recently opened a Premier Rewards Gold card when I was targeted for a 50,000-point bonus offer and selected JetBlue as my designated airline. I then purchased two $50 “upgrades” to the carrier’s Even More Space seats and received a statement credit just nine days later:
Just like with the Platinum Card benefit, you’re able to switch your airline (if desired) once at the beginning of the year. When I log in to my Premier Rewards Gold Card account and click on the Benefits tab at the top, it gives me the chance to switch to another carrier:
If you do nothing, your selection from the previous year will automatically roll over.
The Premier Rewards Gold Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 25,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new card in your first three months of cardmembership (worth about $475). Just like with the Platinum card, be sure to check the CardMatch tool to make sure you aren’t targeted for a higher bonus offer.
5. Ritz-Carlton $300 Airline Fee Credit
Another card that offers a credit for certain travel purchases is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. If you currently have this card in your wallet, you can receive up to $300 in statement credits per year for eligible non-airfare transactions like lounge passes, in-flight purchases and even Global Entry fees. In this way, it works like the American Express benefits without the restriction of choosing a specific airline.
Unfortunately, the process of obtaining the statement credit is far from automated. Instead, you need to call the customer service number on the back of your card within four billing cycles of the purchase date of the eligible transaction and request a statement credit for that purchase. If approved, it’ll post to your account within 5-7 business days.
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of two complimentary nights at any participating Tier 1-4 Ritz-Carlton hotel after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. It also includes added benefits like a 10% bonus on points earned through the card and three upgrades to the Ritz-Carlton Club Level each year.
6. SPG and Hilton HHonors Gold through Amex Platinum
Another perk that you can reuse each calendar year involves automatic hotel elite status on the Platinum Card from American Express. If you’re a cardholder in good standing, you can enjoy both Hilton HHonors Gold status as well as SPG Gold status. To activate your Hilton status, simply visit this site and log in to your Platinum Card account. To activate your SPG status, you’ll need to call the number on the back of your Platinum Card and ask the rep to contact Starwood for you. Note that both Hilton and SPG have no way of knowing if you have kept the Platinum Card since your status was initially activated, so you’ll likely need to reactivate both statuses when the elite status year ends (March 1).
Another perk that’s based on a calendar year is the 10% mileage rebate offered to cardholders of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. If you have this card in your wallet, you’ll automatically get 10% of the miles you redeem in a calendar year back to your account (up to a maximum of 10,000 miles annually). That means that a redemption like Etihad’s First Apartment from Abu Dhabi to New York-JFK, which normally costs 90,000 miles one-way, would effectively drop to 81,000 miles. Hopefully you took advantage of these benefits in 2015, but you can now start receiving those miles back again in 2016.
The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening (worth about $850). You’ll also enjoy waived check bag fees on American-operated flights and double miles on American purchases.
8. Limits on Category Bonuses
One final type of credit card perk that resets with each calendar year is any limit imposed for certain category bonuses. Once your cumulative spending reaches those thresholds in a calendar year, your earning will typically drop back to the everyday earning rate (generally 1 point or mile per dollar spent). However, these thresholds go back to $0 on January 1. Here are some popular cards with these limits:
- Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express: 3x Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year
- Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express: 2x Membership Rewards points at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year
Here are a couple of other ones with similar bonuses that are close to a calendar year:
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 6% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per reward year; then 1% (defined as “12 billing periods in a row beginning with the one that includes January 1st”). Terms apply.
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: 3% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per reward year; then 1%. Terms apply.
Maximizing top travel rewards credit cards is a key element of any points and miles strategy, and 2016 is a terrific time to do so given the array of benefits that have reset with the arrival of January 1. Hopefully this post serves as an important reminder of all of the benefits of which you can once again take advantage!
What are your favorite calendar year credit card benefits?