Don’t forget: The 5 types of credit card perks that reset each calendar year

Dec 21, 2020

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Editor’s note: For more on limited-time perks that are set to expire at the end of 2020, read our full guide to coronavirus-related credit card benefits.

It’s been a hectic year, to say the least, but it’s almost time to enter a new chapter and calendar year. Before that happens though, it is important to remember that a number of valuable, permanent credit card perks reset when the clock strikes midnight at the end of 2020.

These benefits, especially with premium credit cards, are an important part of offsetting the hefty annual fees we pay, so it’s crucial to utilize them whenever possible.

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Here are five types of credit card perks that reset each calendar year.

In This Post

Annual travel-related 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, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, The Platinum Card® from American ExpressThe Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card,

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.

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.

You can use your travel credit towards things like checked bag fees. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

A note about American Express cards

With the Amex cards mentioned above, you receive an annual “airline incidental credit.” This typically can’t be used directly toward the cost of airfare, only for incidental charges like bag fees, seat assignment, lounge access, etc.

There have been reports of workarounds (airfare less than a certain amount sometimes triggers the benefit) but remember, this is not how the credit is intended to be used, and your mileage may vary.

Flexibility with Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige® Card

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 uses.

Because of the pandemic, Chase has also made this benefit even easier to use — you can use the travel credit on groceries and gas purchases through June 30, 2021.

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Meanwhile, the Citi Prestige also temporarily expanded which purchases qualify for the up-to-$250 travel credit awarded to cardholders each year. If you haven’t already used your Citi Prestige travel credit this year, you can still use it at grocery stores and restaurants through the end of 2020.

The information for the Citi Prestige 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.

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.

Related: Amex Gold to get new Uber credit in 2021, loses airline fee credit

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.

For instance, in the case of the American Express® Gold Card, your 4x bonus points at U.S. supermarkets are capped after spending $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x).

(Photo by Hananeko_Studio/Shutterstock)

With The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, your 2x earnings on all purchases are limited to the first $50,000 per calendar year (earn 1x thereafter).

Other great rewarding cards like the Chase 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.

Related: A guide to the best travel cards broken down by bonus category

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. For instance, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card will give you a free weekend night reward for spending $15,000 on purchases on your card in a calendar year — and you can upgrade to Hilton Diamond status by spending $40,000 a year. However, you can get both a free night and 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.

Related: Delta makes it easier to earn elite status without flying in 2021 — but is it worth it?

Both American and Delta also offer the ability to earn elite (or Medallion) qualifying miles from credit card spend.

Delta credit cards can help you jump up to the next level of elite status.
Delta credit cards can help you jump up to the next level of elite status. (Photo by Ethan Steinberg / The Points Guy)

Referral bonuses

When you start sharing photos of all your travel points and miles 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 but these reset at the end of each calendar year.

Related: How to refer friends and earn points, miles or cash credits

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Keep in mind that because of the pandemic, many companion certificate passes have been extended to give you more flexibility if you’re not traveling now.

Rather than drowning you in all those details, you can check out this companion certificate 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 discounted or free travel, and a free ticket for your companion is about as good as it gets.

Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies: A complete list of major carriers

Bottom line

As the year comes to a close, it’s a good idea to do two things: Ensure you’re taken advantage of your card benefits in 2020 and map out a rough plan of how you want to use those perks for 2021 (or if it’s worth keeping your card with said perk).

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 credits and rebates, and figuring out how to make the cards in your wallet work for you.

Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg. 

Featured photo by The Points Guy. 

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