Some great credit card benefits are based on cardmember anniversary, not calendar year

Oct 9, 2019

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Like airline and hotel elite status, many benefits of travel rewards credit cards are based on the calendar year. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a $200 airline-fee rebate that renews every calendar year, for instance. Likewise, the Citi Prestige® Card refunds cardholders up to $250 for travel purchases each calendar year.

That’s not even mentioning the elite-qualifying spending waivers offered by some airline credit cards including the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the United℠ Explorer Card.

However, many other credit cards offer statement credits and other perks that are timed to the account anniversary (and payment of the annual fee) rather than the calendar year. Among them, the best-known is probably the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers $300 back on a broad range of travel purchases.

It’s important to keep track of your credit card benefits and know which are based on your cardmember year rather than calendar year so that you can be sure to take full advantage of them.

With that in mind, here are the best credit card benefits that reset each account anniversary rather than calendar year.

General travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Perhaps the most useful of this popular card’s benefits is the travel statement credit that resets every cardmember year.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Receive up to $300 in annual travel credit as reimbursement for a wide array of travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.

Current welcome offer: Earn 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $450

Other benefits: The Chase Sapphire Reserve is widely regarded as one of the best travel rewards credit cards because of its many valuable benefits. Cardholders earn unlimited 3x points per dollar on travel and dining worldwide. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to 10 airline partners including United and JetBlue, and three hotel partners, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott. Points are redeemable directly through the Chase Travel Portal for 1.5 cents apiece, too. Cardholders receive Priority Pass lounges access airports worldwide, and are reimbursed once every four years for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. The card waives foreign transaction fees.

US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

An oft-overlooked premium option, this card nonetheless offers a persuasive cardmember-year credit.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Up to $325 in statement credits per cardmember year for purchases made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.

Current welcome offer: 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,500 within 90 days of account opening.

Annual fee: $400

Other benefits: Cardholders rack up 3x points per dollar on travel and mobile wallet purchases, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Points can be redeemed for 1.5 cents apiece on airfare, hotels and car rentals. Other redemptions yield lower values. The card includes 12 complimentary Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes and a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership, both each year from the date you register your card and will provide reimbursement for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application every four years. 

Airline credit cards

Companion tickets and bonus points are just some of the benefits consumers can count on each account year from their airline credit cards.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

This card includes one of the best benefits offered by any airline card annually.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Cardholders are entitled to an annual companion fare of $99 plus taxes (generally $22). The primary cardholder is required to pay for the ticket and the companion fare must be redeemed within 12 months from the date of issue (though travel can take place after this) for economy travel only. Still, this can be worth hundreds of dollars.

Current welcome offer: 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

Annual fee: $75

Other benefits: Earn 3x miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1x per dollar on everything else. The card waives foreign transaction fees and provides a free checked bag on Alaska flights for the cardholder and up to six other guests on the same reservation.

AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard

Barclaycard’s higher-end AAdvantage card offers a few account anniversary benefits.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Annual benefit: Cardmembers who spend $20,000 during an account year earn two $99 (plus taxes) companion tickets for domestic economy travel on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines (or its regional affiliates) within the 48 contiguous United States. Cardholders also receive up to $50 in inflight Wi-Fi statement credits each account year that can be used toward sessions on American Airlines-operated flights when purchased with their card.

Current welcome offer: Not currently available to new cardholders, although you can upgrade from the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard.

Annual fee: $195

Other benefits: Earn 3x miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, 2x miles on hotels and car rentals, and 1x per dollar on everything else. One free checked bag for the cardholder and up to eight companions on the same reservation on domestic American Airlines itineraries, plus priority boarding. Cardholders get up to $25 back per day as statement credits on inflight food and beverage purchases. Those who spend $20,000 on purchases per calendar year get 5,000 EQMs toward elite status. Spend $40,000 and you earn 10,000 EQMs total. Starting in 2020, those who spend $50,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year will also be eligible to receive $3,000 EQDs toward AAdvantage elite qualification.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Spend $20,000 or more on purchases in an account year and you can earn a $99 companion certificate good for a round-trip domestic economy ticket within the 48 contiguous United States on American Airlines. It is valid within one year of the date of issue.

Current welcome offer: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after making your first purchase and paying the annual fee within 90 days.

Annual fee: $99

Other benefits: Earn 2x miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1x per dollar on everything else. The cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation can check a bag for free on domestic American Airlines itineraries. The card also offers a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases, and up to $25 back per account year on inflight Wi-Fi purchases.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi’s mid-range card offers a relatively small, spending-based benefit.

Annual benefit: Earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount certificate after spending $20,000 or more during a cardmembership year and renewing your card. As a side note, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® earns a $99 (plus taxes) economy companion ticket after you spend $30,000 on it in a cardmembership year and renew it (account must remain open at least 45 days after anniversary date).

Current welcome offer: Citi is currently offering 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when you spend $2,500 on purchases in the first three months.

Annual fee: $99, waived the first year

Other benefits: Earn 2x miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and at restaurants and gas stations, and 1x mile on everything else. Free checked bags for the cardholder and up to four companions on the same reservation, priority boarding and a 25% discount on in-flight food and beverage purchases using your card.

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select, Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express

We’re talking about the card’s revamped benefits that kick in on Jan. 30, 2020.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Each year when you renew your card and pay the annual fee, you receive a companion certificate good for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (cardholders in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S.V.I. can originate there) in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+, or first class. Taxes and fees are capped at $75. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers a similar benefit, though it can only be applied to coach tickets.

Current welcome offer: The card is offering 40,000 SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months.

Annual fee: $450 (increasing to $550 Jan. 30, 2020) (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: Starting Jan. 30, 2020, the card will earn 3x miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1x mile per dollar on everything else. In addition to Delta Sky Club access, it will also grant entry to American Express Centurion Lounges. Cardholders will also receive a TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application-fee waiver once every four years, and two one-time Delta Sky Club guest passes. They can also earn 15,000 additional MQMs for each threshold when they hit $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 of spending in a calendar year.

Hawaiian Airlines Bank of Hawaii World Elite Mastercard

Although the sign-up bonus and companion discount for new cardholders are both attention-grabbing, this card also offers an ongoing benefit to keep renewing members interested.

Annual benefit: Cardholders receive an annual discount of $100 off a companion ticket for round-trip travel between Hawaii and the mainland U.S.

Current welcome offer: 60,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days.

Annual fee: $99

Other benefits: Also worth noting is the one-time 50% off companion discount new cardholders receive. It is valid within 13 months of account opening and can be applied to a round-trip coach ticket between Hawaii and the mainland U.S. on Hawaiian Airlines. The card earns 3x miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases; 2x miles per dollar on gas, dining and grocery store purchases: and 1x mile per dollar on everything else. Cardholders receive a free checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines flights, access to discounted awards, and can transfer miles to friends or family for free up to 10 times per calendar year.

JetBlue Plus Card

Nothing wrong with a simple anniversary bonus.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Cardholders who renew their card and pay the annual fee receive 5,000 bonus points, the equivalent of spending about $556 on airfare. The JetBlue Business Card also offers a 5,000-point anniversary bonus.

Current welcome offer: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

Annual fee: $99

Other benefits: Earn 6x points per dollar on JetBlue purchases, 2x points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic status for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases with your card in a calendar year. Receive 10% of your points back on redemptions, and take advantage of a $100 statement credit after you purchase a JetBlue Vacations package once per calendar year. Cardmembers also receive a 50% discount on inflight food and cocktail purchases.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

We’ll concentrate on Southwest’s relatively new premium card, with shout-outs to the others too.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy.)

Annual benefit: Receive 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards points after your account anniversary. That’s the equivalent to $1,250 toward Wanna Get Away fares. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card has a 6,000-point anniversary bonus, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card‘s 3,000 points. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card offers even more — 9,000 bonus points. The Priority Card, however, also comes with an account-anniversary gift of $75 in statement credits toward Southwest purchases (excluding upgraded boarding and in-flight purchases).

Current welcome offer: 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first three months.

Annual fee: $149

Other benefits: Earn 2x points per dollar on Southwest flights and hotel and car-rental partners, and 1x on everything else. Four availability-based upgraded boardings per year. Earn Tier Qualification Points toward A-List status based on spending — 1,500 for each $10,000 spent, up to 15,000 TQPs per year. Waived foreign transaction fees.

Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard

Don’t forget about U.S. credit cards offered by international airlines.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Annual benefit: You don’t even have to wait until your first account anniversary to take advantage of this one. After your first purchase, and then every year you renew your card, you earn a companion ticket. It’s only good for economy tickets originating in the U.S. and booked in the expensive H, M ,Y, or B fare codes, but you can still save hundreds of dollars using it. Cardholders can also enjoy two one-time Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers upon first use and every account anniversary after the payment of the annual fee.

Current welcome offer: With a limited-time offer, you can score up to 75,000 bonus miles — 50,000 after spending $3,000 or more on the card within 90 days of account opening, and an additional 25,000 miles after spending $20,000 in purchases within the first year.

Annual fee: $89

Other benefits: Earn 2x miles per dollar on tickets purchased from airlines that participate in the Miles & More program, such as  Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines. It earns 1x mile per dollar on everything else and waives foreign transaction fees. If you’re going for Miles & More elite status, such as to earn non-United Star Alliance Gold, or to be eligible to book SWISS first class as an award, primary cardholders can convert up to 25,000 award miles per calendar year into status miles at a ratio of 5:1.

Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard

In addition to an exciting new bonus, this card offers a path to a companion award ticket — albeit a complicated one.

Annual benefit: Cardholders who spend $25,000 or more on purchases in an account year qualify for the choice of one of two rewards that must be redeemed within two years of issue. The first type of reward is a one-cabin upgrade from coach to premium economy on an award ticket. Sorry, but this doesn’t work in Upper Class. The other option is a matching companion ticket in the same cabin class when the primary cardholder redeems miles for an award ticket. Basic Flying Club Red members can only redeem for economy tickets. Those with Silver elite status can redeem for economy or premium economy seats. Flyers with top-tier Gold status can redeem for economy, premium economy, or Upper Class.

Current welcome offer: Up to 80,000 Flying Club bonus miles — 60,000 after spending $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, 7,500 bonus miles per authorized user added to your card up to two users, and 15,000 more bonus miles on your anniversary after qualifying purchases of $25,000 or more.

Annual fee: $90

Other benefits: This card accrues 3x miles per dollar on Virgin Atlantic purchases, and 1.5x miles per dollar on other purchases. It also allows holders to rack up 25 elite-qualifying tier points per $2,500 in purchases up to 50 max per month.

Hotel Credit Cards

Hotel credit cards offer some of the most valuable anniversary benefits out there.

Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card

The most premium Hilton credit card offers many benefits, including not one but two perks based on your account anniversary.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Annual benefit: Hang onto this card and pay its annual fee and you can enjoy up to $250 in statement credits each year for eligible purchases at participating Hilton Resorts. You will also receive a certificate redeemable for a free weekend night at most Hiltons around the world every year.

Current welcome offer: Earn 150,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases on the card within the first three months of card membership.

Annual fee: $450 (See Rates & Fees)

Other benefits: This card also offers a calendar year credit of $250 for airline incidentals such as checked bags and seat selection. That’s good news in and of itself, but make sure you do not confuse the timing of this perk with that of the resort statement credits. In terms of earning, the card accrues 14x points per dollar on Hilton purchases; 7x points per dollar on flights booked through Amex Travel or directly through airlines, on car rentals and at U.S. restaurants; and 3x points per dollar on everything else. It bestows automatic top-tier Hilton Honors Diamond status and Priority Pass lounge access. Cardholders are also eligible for up to $100 in credits for qualifying charges at participating Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts when booking two-night-minimum stays via HiltonHonors.com/aspirecard.

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card

If you spend time in Marriott hotels, this card’s two benefits timed to your account anniversary are hard to beat.

(Photo by Eden Batki/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eden Batki/The Points Guy)

Annual benefit: Cardmembers can count on up to $300 in statement credits each account year for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels including room rates and incidental charges such as dining or spa charges. Not only that, but every year after their account anniversary, they will also be given an award certificate worth up to 50,000 points to redeem toward a free night at one of the chain’s properties.

Current welcome offer: Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first three months.

Annual fee: $450 (see rates and fees)

Other benefits: This card is loaded with perks. It earns 6x points per dollar on Marriott purchases, 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines, and 2x points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders receive Priority Pass lounge access and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee refund once every 4.5 years (up to $100). It comes with automatic Marriott Bonvoy Gold status and the chance to achieve Platinum status by spending $75,000 within a calendar year. Get up to $100 in credit for qualifying charges by using your card to book a special rate on stays of two nights or more at The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties.

As a side note, the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card offers a similar anniversary benefit that is only worth up to 35,000 points.

World of Hyatt Credit Card

Folks with this card can expect a free anniversary night every year.

(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy)

Annual benefit: Each year after your card anniversary, you’ll be rewarded with an electronic certificate that can be redeemed toward a free night at a Category 1-4 property. Earn a second free night at a Category 1-4 hotel each year you spend $15,000 or more on the card.

Current welcome offer: Up to 50,000 bonus points — 25,000 after you spend $3,000 in purchases within three months of account opening, plus an additional 25,000 bonus points after $6,000 in purchases within six months.

Annual fee: $95

Other benefits: This is one of the best hotel cards out there thanks to perks like earning 4x bonus points per dollar on Hyatt purchases; 2x points per dollar at restaurants, on airline tickets purchased directly from airlines, local transit and commuting, and fitness club and gym memberships; and 1x point per dollar on everything else. It confers automatic Discoverist status, too.

IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card

This card was recently revamped with even better benefits than its predecessor.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Annual benefit: Enjoy a free night after each account anniversary year at hotels that require up to 40,000 points for an award night redemption. Cardholders who spend $20,000 during an account year and make one additional purchase at least one day after they have spent that amount receive 10,000 bonus points.

Current welcome offer: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $89

Other benefits: This card lets you earn 25x points total at IHG hotels. It earns 2x points per dollar at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, and 1x point per dollar on everything else. Cardmembers can also take advantage of a fourth night free on award bookings. It will also reimburse you for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee once every four years (up to $100).

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card

Not quite as high-end as Amex’s Bonvoy Brilliant card, Chase’s mid-range Marriott product still offers a compelling annual benefit.

Annual benefit: Cardholders receive a free night award worth up to 35,000 points every year on their account anniversary upon renewing their card.

Current welcome offer: 75,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Annual fee: $95 

Other benefits: Among other perks, this card confers automatic Silver Elite status plus 15 elite night credits each calendar year toward reaching a higher status. Cardholders can attain Gold status by spending $35,000 or more on your card in a calendar year. The card earns 6x points per dollar on eligible Marriott purchases and 2x points per dollar on everything else. Cardholders also get free premium in-room Wi-Fi.

Bottom line

Many rewards credit cards offer annual benefits that are based on the calendar year, but quite a few also come with perks that reset each account anniversary instead. Once you pay your annual fee, you might be eligible for companion tickets, on-property credits and more. So be certain to review your cards’ specific benefit packages and make sure you are taking advantage of all they have to offer.

Featured photo by monica sauro/Unsplash.

For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Aspire, please click here.

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.