Take full advantage of annual credit card benefits in 2021

Dec 27, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, updated with new card details and information. 

As 2020 comes to an end, a lot of credit card perks and benefits will reset for 2021. Make sure you’re taking full advantage of these cards, and don’t miss out on any of the benefits you should be using in the new year. Below is our list of what to watch for.

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In This Post

Annual Travel Fee Credits

One tool to cover ancillary fees airlines is the annual travel credits offered by many premium travel cards. Some cards offer a more general travel fee credit, while others offer credits that can only be used on very specific purchases (such as incidental fees). It’s important to note that each card issuer has specific criteria for what charges qualify to be reimbursed.

Airline fee credits

Your annual travel credit may reimburse you and allow you to enjoy American’s Main Cabin Extra seats for free. (Photo by The Points Guy)

Resort credits

The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

General travel credits 

The information about the US Bank Altitude and Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on his page have not been provided by or reviewed by the issuer. 

Elite Status Miles and Airline Status

The ability to earn elite-qualifying miles through credit card spending can make reaching the next tier of elite status easier. Here are the cards currently offering elite-qualifying miles, elite-qualifying dollar requirement waivers or, in one case, elite status:

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: You’ll get 20k Medallion® Qualification Miles off the bat as part of the welcome bonus (after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening), but you’ll also receive 15,000 MQMs for reaching $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 in calendar-year spending for a total of up to 60,000 MQMs — almost enough for Delta Platinum Medallion status. The card also waives your MQD requirement when you hit certain spending thresholds.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: The Delta Platinum will earn 10k MQMs after spending $25,000 and $50,000 in a calendar year. The card also waives your MQD requirement (up to Platinum) when you hit spending requirements.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®: You’ll earn 10k Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in a calendar year.
  • United Explorer CardEarn 500 Premier Qualifying Points (PQPs) for spending $12,000 on the card each calendar year, plus an additional 500 PQPs with an additional $12,000 in spend, for a grand total of 1,000 PQPs. (Note that these bonus PQPs only count toward status up to Premier Platinum.)
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit CardEarn up to 15,000 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) a year (1,500 for each $10,000 spent). That will get you just about halfway to A-List status with Southwest. All points earned with this card, including the sign-up bonus, count toward Companion Pass eligibility.
  • JetBlue Plus Card: You’ll get automatic JetBlue Mosaic elite status after you spend $50,000 each calendar year with the card.
  • Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®: All miles you earn with this card are both award miles and elite-qualifying miles, so you can earn any level of Frontier status through credit card spending.
Use the miles earned on airline credit cards to book seats in premium cabins. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Hotel Elite Status

Just as you can earn elite airline status miles by meeting credit-card spending requirements, you can spend your way to hotel elite status. Here are cards that offer elite status perks each year:

(Photo courtesy of Hyatt)

Other Benefits

Lounge Access: A few cobranded credit cards offer lounge access through a specific airline, and many credit cards now offer Priority Pass Select membership, getting you into airport lounges around the world. Amex Platinum and Centurion cardholders can access the Centurion Lounge network and Delta Sky Clubs, along with the Escapes and Airspace lounges.

Spending caps on bonus categories: Some credit cards may have caps on how much you can earn on certain bonus categories in a calendar year, but those will reset come January. American Express puts a $6,000 spending cap on the U.S. supermarket bonus category for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. There is a $25,000 cap on U.S. supermarket bonus spending on the American Express® Gold Card per calendar year.

Uber: One of the more popular Amex Platinum perks is the annual Uber credit of up to $200 (for use in the U.S.), allotted in $15 monthly increments except in December, when you’ll get a $35 credit ($15 plus a $20 bonus). Make sure you add your Amex Platinum to your Uber account and the credit will automatically be added to your first domestic ride each month.

Dell: The Business Platinum Card comes with up to a $100 statement credit between January and June and up to another $100 credits between July and December for U.S. purchases.

Saks Fifth Avenue: This popular perk is available on the Amex Plat card in the form of two up to $50 statement credits per year. Your first $50 statement credit can offset purchases from January through June; a second $50 statement credit is available from July through December. You must register your Amex Platinum Card through your Amex online account to receive this benefit.

Global Entry/TSA PreCheck: Amex Platinum cardholders can get a credit to cover the application fee for Global Entry every four years ($100) or TSA PreCheck every 4.5 years ($85).

Bottom Line

Depending on which cards you have in your portfolio, there can be a lot of benefits to keep up with and maximize. Make sure you have an adequate tracker at home that won’t allow you to come to the end of the year and scramble to maximize travel credits, leave free Wi-Fi passes unused or realize you’ve been putting significant spending on the wrong card.

Featured image by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.