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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Capital One Spark Miles for Business, Starwood Preferred Guest® Luxury Credit Card from American Express
With the end of 2018 in sight, now’s a perfect time to ensure you’re in good shape when it comes to maximizing your rewards portfolio. While meeting any lingering requirements for earning elite status is one part of the equation, you’ll also want to make sure you’re taking advantage of all of the expiring credit card perks and offers available to you. 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.
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. While the validity of benefits like free night certificates are typically based on your card member year (defined by when you opened the account), 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 a $100 and $200 annual airline fee credit, respectively. These are meant to be used toward incidental airline fees such as baggage fees and inflight purchases with an airline of your choice, though you may be able to buy airline gift cards to trigger the fee credit. Regardless which of these cards 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 like the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card.
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 the card after May 21, 2017, your $300 annual travel credit is tied to your card member year, not the calendar year, so you don’t have to use up your credit by the time your December 2018 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. Similarly, the $250 air travel credit (soon to be general travel credit) that comes with the Citi Prestige expires with your December statement and not the last day of December.
Use Your Semi-Annual Shopping Credit
Earlier this year, Amex announced a new partnership with Saks Fifth Avenue that provides card members 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. Although Saks is known for its high prices, believe it or not, it does offer items for less than $50 and runs frequent sales so 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.
Speaking of newly added perks to the personal Platinum card, card holders get a $15 monthly Uber credit and super-sized $35 credit in December, so you definitely want to make sure you use that too by Dec. 31. And in case you’ve switched to another ride-sharing app, remember that the credits currently work on UberEats as well.
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 Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express offers 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $25,000 and another 10,000 MQMs when you hit $50,000; the British Airways Visa Signature Card offers a Travel Together Ticket (companion fare) when you spend $30,000; and the Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card offers Platinum status when you spend $75,000 in a calendar year. Regardless what the bonus is, if you’re already close to one of these thresholds, it’s definitely worthwhile to try to hit it.
Take Advantage of Expiring Promotions
There are a slew of promotions ending Dec. 31, 2018 that are worth taking advantage of. For example, Chase is running a Chase Pay promotion that gives you 1,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you use Chase Pay with a qualified card five times for purchases of $25 or more made through Dec. 31, 2018.
As always, there are also many Amex 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 card holder and credit card), but some popular offers that are expiring Dec. 31, 2018 include:
- $10 cash back for spending $75+ at home furnishing stores
- 15% cash back at US supermarkets
- $10 cash back for spending $75+ at home improvement stores
- 3,000 bonus points for spending $300 at Best Buy
- 15% cash back at Starbucks
- $20 cash back for spending $100+ at Bloomingdales
- 1,500 bonus points for spending $100+ at Macy’s
Apply for Cards With Limited-Time Welcome Bonuses
There are several fantastic limited-time credit card offers currently available. Many of these offers don’t have published end dates, so if you’re interested in taking advantage of any of them, you’ll want to act sooner rather than later.
Currently sitting at the top of our list of cards with limited-time offers is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card which gets you 75,000 miles after you spend $5,000 within the first three months. With airline transfer partners soon to be available, you should get about 1.4 cents of value per Capital One Venture mile, making this bonus worth $1,050. Business owners will want to look into the Capital One Spark Miles for Business, which is offering up to a whopping 200,000 miles, worth $2,800 based on our valuations, after a two-tier total spend of $50,000 in the first six months.
Plan for 2019
Between launches of new cards and revamps of existing cards, 2018 has been an exciting year for the credit card world, to say the least. However, issuers aren’t slowing down — there’s already a lot in store for 2019 on the credit card front. On Jan. 4, 2019, the Citi Prestige will once again be open for applications and have a whole new set of benefits, including 5x points on dining and air travel. While Citi has its own rules for how frequently you can apply for new credit cards, 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 the Citi Prestige once it becomes available 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 co-branded 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 card. Currently, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee), the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee) are all offering the same sign-up bonus of up to 60,000 points — 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening and 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year.
If you pair one of those cards with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card ($99 annual fee), which is offering 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening, you could walk away with a total of 120,000 points — enough to earn the coveted Companion Pass. To keep the status through the end of 2020, be sure to wait until early January to finish the minimum spending required for the sign-up bonus.
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.
Featured photo by Tatomm / Getty Images.
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