Your 2020 end-of-year credit card to-do list

Dec 23, 2020

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With the end of 2020 in sight, now’s a perfect time to ensure you’re in good shape when it comes to maximizing your rewards portfolio. While most elite statuses and rewards are being extended by another year due to the pandemic, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking advantage of all of the expiring credit card perks and offers available to you. Dec. 31, 2020, will also mark the end of many coronavirus-related card benefits and bonuses.

So, here’s a list of the key credit card-related tasks to complete before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve to make sure you earn all of the benefits to which you are entitled.

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And for more end of year advice, be sure to check out our guide: 9 points and miles tasks to complete by the end of the year.

In This Post

Use your annual airline incidental/travel credits

Among the more valuable credit card benefits available today are annual hotel award nights and annual airline incidental/travel credits. The validity of benefits like free night certificates are typically based on your cardmember year (defined by when you opened the account) and most have been extended due to the pandemic. However, travel credits typically expire at the end of each calendar year.

For example, the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express offer an up to $100 and up to $200 annual airline fee credit, respectively (note, the Amex Gold will be replacing the airline credit that ends 12/31/2021, with an Uber credit in 2022). These are meant to be used toward incidental airline fees such as baggage fees, seat assignment fees and inflight purchases with an airline of your choice. Enrollment required for select benefits.

In the past, there were ways to get gift cards for some airlines reimbursed through the airline-fee credit, but those options are no longer working. Regardless of which card you have, Amex issues these credits based on the calendar year — Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. The same is true for the travel credits that come with cards such as the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card and the now discontinued Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.

Related: The top credit cards with annual travel credits

Meanwhile, the validity of the $300 annual travel credit that comes with the Chase Sapphire Reserve depends on when you applied for the card. If you got this card after May 21, 2017, your $300 annual travel credit is tied to your cardmember year, not the calendar year, so you don’t have to use up your credit by the time your December 2020 statement closes. However, if your card was opened before that date, you’re still on a calendar year travel credit and will need to use it by the close of your December statement or it will go to waste.

The credit applies automatically to all purchases that code as travel, including everything from airfare and Airbnb stays to car rentals and cab rides. Just remember that you won’t earn 3x points on purchases covered by the $300 travel credit until the credit is all spent. Similarly, the $250 general travel credit that comes with the Citi Prestige® Card expires with your December statement and not the last day of December.

The information for the 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.

Use your semi-annual shopping credit

Amex has a partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue that provides cardmembers with up to $100 in credits to spend at the retailer per calendar year — one $50 credit available for purchases between January and June, and a second $50 credit between July and December. The benefit is fairly straightforward and there’s no minimum spend requirement, though you will need to first enroll your card through the Amex website for it to take effect. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Although Saks is known for its high prices, it does offer items for less than $50 and runs frequent sales. Believe it or not, you may be able to use the credit without paying anything out of pocket. If you need inspiration, check out this list of gifts you could buy using the $50 credit.

Photo by NoDerog / Getty Images.

Personal Platinum cardholders also get a $15 monthly Uber credit and super-sized $35 credit in December, so you definitely want to make sure you use that by Dec. 31, too. If you’re not riding anywhere, remember that the credits work on Uber Eats orders as well. Uber credit for use in the U.S. The card has a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees). Enrollment required for select benefits.

Meet annual spend thresholds for bonuses

Various credit cards offer bonuses for when you reach certain spending thresholds in a calendar year. For example, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $25,000 and another 10,000 MQMs when you hit $50,000; and the British Airways Visa Signature Card  current offer: 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Use your free night at the Hilton Waldorf Astoria Maldives. (Photo courtesy of Hilton/Ithaafushi)

On the hotel side, cards like the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card award free nights for meeting certain spending requirements. Regardless of what the bonus is, if you’re already close to one of these thresholds, it’s definitely worthwhile to try to hit it.

Related: Credit cards with bonuses for meeting annual spending requirements

Take advantage of expiring limited-time promotions

There are a slew of promotions ending Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, that are worth taking advantage of. Specifically, there are many that were first introduced to keep cardholders engaged during the coronavirus pandemic.

We covered all of the promotions in depth in this guide, but some standouts include the Amex Platinum’s up to $20 monthly streaming credit and up to $20 monthly wireless telephone service credit and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express’ up to $200 in additional statement credits (for a total of $400 in 2020) for U.S. purchases with Dell.

Several Delta cobranded cards, Hilton cobranded cards, most Chase cobranded travel cards and the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card are offering bonus points or other rewards for certain spending. Additionally, several Chase business cards will lose access to Pay Yourself Back.

As always, there are also many Amex Offers and Chase Offers that can help you save money on your end-of-the-year purchases. You’ll need to log in to your online accounts to see which offers you are eligible for (offers tend to vary by cardholder and credit card).

Apply for cards with Elevated Welcome bonuses

There are several fantastic limited-time or elevated credit card offers currently available. Many of these offers won’t stick around long, so you’ll want to act sooner rather than later if you’re interested in taking advantage of any of them.

For instance, there’s the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, which is offering a welcome offer of 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 in purchases on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card in the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, you can earn an additional 50,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend a total of $10,000 in purchases on the Card in the first 6 months. The card has a $95 annual fee (see rates & fees).

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card that gets you 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. The card has a $450 annual fee (see rates and fees).

Related: The best limited-time credit card offers to sign up for in December

Plan for 2021

A lot has changed in the credit card landscape this year and more changes are expected next year. Starting in early 2021, Amex Gold cardholders will receive up to $10 per month in Uber credits. Also starting in 2021, all newly issued Free Weekend Night Reward certificates earned with cobranded Hilton cards will be valid for longer and on any night of the week.

While Amex has its own rules for how many credit cards you can apply for, it doesn’t impose a 5/24 rule like Chase (if you have no clue what I’m talking about, read this). So, if you’re planning on applying for one of the updated Amex cards and are currently under 5/24, you’ll want to apply for some more Chase cards first — especially now that the rule has expanded to the World of Hyatt Credit Card and other cobranded cards.

If you already have the “perfect” Chase quartet of credit cards and don’t know which Chase card to get next, consider signing up for a Southwest Airlines card. All three personal Southwest cards —  the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card — are each offering 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Bottom line

The end of the year is quickly creeping up on us so take the time now to review the above action items to ensure you maximize all of the benefits available to you. Travel credits and shopping credits are basically free money that offset your cards’ annual fees and are extremely easy to use. As long as you’ve got all of these tasks under control, you shouldn’t wind up in the spotlight of our next reader mistake story because you missed out on valuable travel credits or other benefits.

For rates and fees of the Platinum Card from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Hilton Surpass card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Brilliant card, click here.

Featured photo by mogilami/Shutterstock

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