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If you were hoping for a moment to breathe and recollect after a busy year in the points and miles world, think again. The limited-time credit card offers, mistake fares and other deals keep flying our way, and in the midst of this never-ending barrage of deals it’s important to remember that a number of valuable credit card perks reset when the calendar changed over to January.
These benefits, especially with premium credit cards, are an important part of offsetting the hefty annual fees we pay, so it’s important to remember them. Here are six of the most valuable perks that reset each calendar year.
1. Annual Travel Credits
Premium cards of all different varieties now offer annual travel credits, ranging from airline and hotel discounts on cobranded cards to more general travel credits on transferable points cards. Many of them, like the ones you’ll find on the Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express and the
You can check out this guide for a full walk-through of the top cards with annual travel credits, but it’s important to keep in mind that each card offers a slightly different form of credit. With the Amex cards mentioned above, you receive an annual “airline incidental credit.” This can’t be used directly toward the cost of airfare, only for incidental charges like bag fees, seat assignment, lounge access, etc. That being said, there is a possible workaround to this. Many people have had success being reimbursed for the purchase of airline gift cards, which in turn can be used to buy tickets. You can read some examples of what works and what doesn’t here, but remember this is not how the credit is intended to be used, and your mileage may vary.
Meanwhile the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a much less restrictive $300 annual travel credit that will automatically be applied to a wide range of travel purchases including airfare, hotels, Airbnb, public transit, parking fees and many more surprising uses. But depending on when you applied for this card, it might not be tied to the calendar year. If you applied for the CSR before May 21, 2017, your window to use your travel credit will close when your December statement closes. But, if you applied for the card after May 21, 2017 your annual travel credit is tied to the card member year
Cards with calendar year-based travel credits offer a great chance to double-dip. If you apply for the card at the end of the calendar year, you’ll be able to earn the credit twice before you have to pay your second annual fee.
2. Capped Bonus Categories
A common trend we’ve seen with premium credit cards is the introduction of high-value bonus spending categories — with a cap. In the case of the Amex Gold Card, your 4x bonus points at US supermarkets is capped at $25,000 a year (then 1x). With the The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express, your 2x earnings on all purchases are capped at $50,000 a year. Other great rewarding cards like the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card have similar caps on their bonus categories. Thankfully these all reset at the beginning of the year, so it’s time to clean out your sock drawer and reevaluate which cards deserve a spot in your physical wallet each day.
3. Spending Bonuses
Credit card issuers make the bulk of their profit from two avenues: interest they collect on late payments, and swipe or interchange fees each time you use your card. While there’s nothing they can do to incentivize savvy TPG readers to carry a balance on their cards, there are plenty of different bonuses being offered for spending a certain amount each year.
The bonuses vary depending on how much you’re willing to spend. The Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card lets you upgrade to Marriott Platinum status by spending $75,000 a year, but that much spending carries a pretty high opportunity cost. Similarly, the Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card will let you upgrade to Hilton Diamond status by spending $40,000 a year, though you can also get Diamond status automatically by holding the premium Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
When it comes to airline cobranded cards, there are generally two types of big spending bonuses you can find. United and Delta both issue an elite status revenue waiver for customers who spend a certain amount on their credit cards each year. If you spend at least $25,000 a year on United credit cards, United will waive the PQD requirement for all tiers of elite status up to Premier Platinum. The same amount of annual spending on Delta credit cards will earn you an MQD waiver for the first three tiers of elite status, but Delta raised the spend requirement to earn a top-tier Diamond MQD waiver to the comically large sum of $250,000 a year.
Both AA and Delta also offer the ability to earn elite (or medallion) qualifying miles from credit card spend. While AA recently removed this benefit from some Barclaycard AAviator cards, you can still earn 10,000 EQMs by spending $40,000 a year on the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard. Delta has similar offers in place for the Delta Reserve Card from American Express and the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express.
4. Citi AA Mileage Rebates
One of the greatest perks on any entry-level cobranded airline credit card is the 10% rebate on redeemed miles that comes with the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. This benefit is capped at 10,000 miles annually, but based on TPG’s valuation of AA miles at 1.4 cents each, maxing out this benefit each year more than makes up for the card’s $99 annual fee (which is waived for the first year).
This rebate applies to all awards booked through AAdvantage, including those on Oneworld or other partner airlines. You don’t eve need to use your Citi card to pay the taxes on the award ticket; you simply need to have the account open and the rebate should automatically post within a few days. You can stack this rebate with other promotions like AA’s monthly reduced mileage awards to score an even better deal, or if you’re just shy of the miles you need for a trip, you can consider booking two separate one-way awards and using the mileage rebate to “top up” your account for the second booking.
5. Referral Bonuses
One you start sharing photos of all your free travel redemptions, you’re bound to have friends start asking you how they can get a slice of the action as well. It takes a decent amount of coaching to help someone select the right credit card, earn a welcome bonus and redeem the miles at a decent value, and you deserve to be compensated for the time you spend helping them. One great way to do this is by sharing referral links for your credit cards, which let you earn 10,000 or more points per approved referral.
Most card issuers cap the number of referral bonuses you can earn at around ~5 per card per year, but these have also just reset for 2019. If your new years resolution was to make this the year you travel more, share the love and help your family and friends take the plunge as well.
6. Companion Fares
A number of cobranded airline credit cards offer some form of a companion certificate either as a standard benefit or after reaching a certain annual spending threshold. Each one has its own set of rules governing what routes (domestic vs. international) and fare classes (award vs. cash tickets, different cabins, etc.) are eligible, and what if any additional cost you’ll incur.
Rather than drowning you in all those details, you can check out this guide if you have a cobranded Alaska Airlines, Delta, British Airways or American Airlines credit card to figure out how to maximize your companion certificate. At the end of the day, this hobby is all about free travel, and a free ticket for your companion is about as good as it gets.
The new year brings with it its own set of challenges and responsibilities, as you have to map out a plan to requalify for your favorite elite status and begin making spring and summer travel plans before all the good award seats get booked up. In the midst of all that chaos, don’t forget to take advantage of a new year of credit card benefits. Many of these perks are the very reason we keep these expensive cards open year after year, and if you’ve already paid your annual fee, the fastest way to get that value back is by maxing out your travel credits and mileage rebates, and figuring out how to make the cards in your wallet work for you this year.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), up to a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
- $550 annual fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees