7 end-of-year points and miles mistakes to avoid
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The end of the year is quickly approaching, so now is the perfect time (er, your last chance) to make sure you’ve completed all annual points and miles tasks before it’s too late. With many loyalty programs and credit card benefits, the end of the year is an important time to ensure you are maximizing every single opportunity before the next year hits and we start the fun all over again.
Here are some important things to do this month to make sure you’re not in for an (unfortunate) surprise come January:
Check airline elite qualification miles and dollars
Unfortunately, unless you have a qualifying event to pause your status, you must earn airline status every year to continue receiving the benefits. Status qualification miles and dollars earned reset on January 1, 2020, so if you are only a few miles (or dollars) shy, you might want to consider taking a flight within the next few days. This is a very common time of year to see travelers hitting the sky on a mileage run, as the cost for one flight outweighs the benefits you’ll receive for crossing over to the next status level.
There are other ways to earn qualifying miles toward status that don’t involve flying, such as credit card spend. Some options include:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 on the card within the calendar year.
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express: Earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $30,000 on the card within the calendar year. You can also earn another 15,000 MQMs after another $30,000 spent on the card (for $60,000 total). Starting Jan. 30, 2020, you’ll be able to earn even more MQMs toward status by meeting higher spend thresholds. Terms apply.
- JetBlue Plus Card: Spend $50,000 or more on purchases with your credit card in a calendar year and you’ll receive automatic TrueBlue Mosaic status.
The information for the Jet Blue Plus 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.
Check elite-qualifying night and stay progress
Similar to the airlines, you must re-earn your hotel status annually to reap the benefits. If you are just a few nights shy of earning that next level of status, it might be worth finding a hotel for a staycation or even do a mattress run. If you need more nights, but don’t want to burn through cash, remember that award stays count toward status in many programs.
Getting to that next hotel status level is much easier to do versus airline status. Just find a cheap hotel near your hometown, check in and you should be good to go. With school break right around the corner, this could even be a great opportunity to do something fun over the holidays — find a hotel with a pool or in a fun location and enjoy some family time.
Many programs allow you to earn points towards status with their co-branded credit card so that is another option. For example, The World of Hyatt Credit Card earns you two qualifying nights towards status with every $5,000 spent on the card. Also, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card will grant you automatic Platinum Marriott Bonvoy status after spending $75,000 on the card within the cardmember year. That may not help you this year, but is something to keep in mind next year.
If earning status is hard for you, remember that many credit cards will extend automatic status simply for being a cardmember. For example, if you have the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you’ll automatically receive top-tier Hilton Diamond status — no need to “earn” status ever again.
Use your annual airline incidental/travel credits
Many credit cards offer sweet benefits to help offset the annual cost of the card. One of my favorites is airline incidental/travel credits. If you have any premium travel credit cards, you’ll want to ensure all available credits have been redeemed — and if not, get to spending.
Here are some cards that offer annual travel credits:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Cardmembers receive a $300 annual travel credit. For those who opened their card prior to May 31, 2017, the credits are based on the calendar year (afterward, it is based on the cardmember year). You’ll need to make sure these credits are spent by your December 2019 statement close date. Note: Travel credits include anything that falls into the “travel” category on your monthly statements.
- Citi Prestige® Card: Cardmembers receive an up to $250 annual travel credit that can be used on anything travel-related, such as flights, hotels and train rides. The yearly credits must be used by your December statement close date, not the last day of the year.
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card: Cardmembers receive a $300 annual airline travel credit. This credit only works on airline incidental fees, such as airline lounge passes, seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight internet/entertainment and in-flight meals. You also need to call Chase for them to apply the credit to a charge – it does not happen automatically. (Note: This credit card is closed for new applications.)
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: up to $300 annual Marriott property credit.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: up to $250 annual airline incidental credit, $250 annual Hilton resort statement credit.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Cardmembers receive an up to $200 annual airline travel credit. This benefit is more restrictive than most. The credit can only be used on incidentals on your one selected airline of choice. Some eligible reimbursements include baggage fees, seat assignments fees, change fees and lounge passes. Previously, some cardmembers were able to get airline gift cards reimbursed, but this is no longer the case. All charges must hit your credit card by December 31, 2019, to be reimbursed.
- American Express® Gold Card: Cardmembers receive an up to $100 airline travel credit per calendar year. The travel credits work in the exact same manner as the Platinum cards.
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: up to $100 annual airline incidental credit.
The information for the Ritz Carlton Card and 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 annual credit card benefits
Some credit cards offer statement credits that can be used on a various number of purchases, and are either allotted monthly, semiannually or annually. Make sure these credits don’t go to waste.
Here are statement credit perks that come with many credit cards:
- Uber credits: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers monthly Uber credits. For 11 months of the year you are capped at $15 of monthly Uber purchases reimbursed, but for the month of December, that amount is increased to $35. If you do not anticipate any Uber rides before the end of the month, the credits work on UberEats as well. Terms apply.
- Saks Fifth Avenue credits: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a statement credit of up to $100 per year at Saks Fifth Avenue. This is a semiannual credit where you can receive up to $50 between Jan. 1 and June 30 and another $50 between July 1 and Dec. 31. You need to enroll your card first prior to making your purchase. Terms apply.
- Dell credits: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to $100 in annual statement credits for U.S. Dell technology purchases. This is also a semiannual benefit where you’ll receive up to $100 between Jan. 1 and June 30 and another $100 between July 1 and Dec. 31. You might even be surprised to see how many items you can purchase at Dell. You’ll need to register for this offer prior to making your purchase. Terms apply.
- Dining credits: The American Express® Gold Card offers up to $10 in statement credits on a monthly basis. Participating dining partners include Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, some Shake Shacks and Boxed. If you are not going to be dining at any of these restaurants this month, you can always purchase a $10 gift card to trigger the statement credit. You’ll need to register for this benefit in your American Express account prior to making your purchase. Terms apply.
Meet annual spend thresholds for bonuses
Many credit cards offer annual perks basis if you spend a certain amount of money on that particular credit card in the year. If you are close to crossing over that threshold, you might want to consider using that card more this month if the benefits are worth it for you.
Some credit card annual spending bonuses include:
- The World Of Hyatt Credit Card: Spend $15,000 on the card and receive a second free night at a Category 1-4 hotel (in addition to the free Cat 1 – 4 night you receive on your card anniversary).
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn a free weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 on the respective card within the calendar year. (The Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express also offers this benefit, but it requires you to spend $60,000 on the card within the calendar year). Terms apply.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Similar to the Surpass card, this card also offers the opportunity to earn a free weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 on the card, but then goes a step further by allowing you to earn another certificate after spending an additional $45,000 on the card. Terms apply.
Secure your Southwest Companion Pass
One of my favorite travel benefits in the travel world is the Southwest Companion Pass. This pass allows another traveler to fly with you for (almost) for free for the life of the pass. As of right now, you need 110,000 qualifying points by the end of the year to earn the pass. Starting in 2020, however, the pass requirements are going up to 125,000 qualifying points. The pass expires Dec. 31 the year following the one in which it was earned. Earn the pass in 2019, it will expire Dec. 31, 2020. Earn the pass in January 2020 and it won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2021.
Qualifying Companion Pass points do not carry over from year to year, so if you are trying to earn the pass now for 2019 and 2020, you’ll want to make sure all points hit your account ASAP. If you are earning your final few points from one of the many Southwest credit cards, only purchases through your December statement close date will count. Points post within a few days of your close date and count towards the year where the points are posted, not necessarily the year when the purchase was actually made. Purchases made after your December statement close date, but still within the month of December, will post to your account in January and thus count toward your 2020 and 2021 companion pass.
The same policies hold true for those who recently applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. If you are trying to earn the points for this year, you must meet the minimum spend requirement before your December statement close date. Similar to regular spend purchases, the points will post within a few days after your close date.
NOTE: If your statement close date is at the end of the month, there is a chance that these points might not post until January and therefore will not count towards your 2019 year.
Now, for those who are holding off and looking to earn the Companion Pass for 2020 and 2021, you’ll want to make sure to not meet your minimum spend requirements on any new Southwest credit cards you recently applied for until January 1st. Theoretically, you can start hitting the minimum spend after your December statement close date, but personally I always recommended waiting until the New Year begins to ensure nothing goes wrong with your timing.
Earn your British Airways Companion Pass
Although significantly different from the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, British Airways also offers the opportunity to earn a companion pass, called the Travel Together Ticket. To earn this pass, you need to spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature Card within the calendar year. This will then grant you a one time pass to bring a companion on a British Airways award ticket. You are still on the hook for taxes and fees, but this could be a great way to save Avios on a flight across the pond, especially in business class.
With the end of the year quickly approaching, now is the time to make sure you are maximizing every credit card benefit and earning your desired elite status. It is also the perfect time to ensure all flights and hotel stays you already took were credited property; reach out to the loyalty program if there is a discrepancy. Finally, remember that even though 2019 is not quite over yet, it is never too early to plan out your 2020 strategy.
Featured image courtesy of Jon Arnold/Getty Images.
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