7 ways to avoid common end-of-year points and miles mistakes

Dec 19, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

The end of the year is quickly approaching, so now is the perfect time to make sure you’ve completed all of your 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 maximize every opportunity before the next year hits and we start the fun all over again. So, here are some essential things to do this month to make sure you’re not in for an (unfortunate) surprise come January.

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In This Post

Check airline elite-qualifying miles and dollars

Some airlines have extended elite status throughout the ongoing pandemic. And even in standard years, you might have a qualifying event to pause your status. But without these, you typically must earn airline status every year to continue receiving the benefits.

Status qualification miles and dollars earned often reset on Jan. 1. So, if you are only a few miles (or dollars) shy, you might want to consider taking a flight before the end of the year. If you can’t fit another flight into your schedule, you might also be able to buy your way into the next level of elite status. Just make sure the money (and time spent) will benefit you next year.

Business class seats
Airline status often offers perks like upgraded seats, lounge access, priority boarding and complimentary checked luggage. (Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

There are other ways to earn qualifying miles toward status that don’t involve flying, such as credit card spending. Some options include:

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard, AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard, Frontier Airlines World Mastercard, JetBlue Plus Card and JetBlue Business 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.

Related: Should you buy hotel or airline elite status?

Check elite-qualifying night and stay progress

You typically must reearn your hotel status annually to reap the benefits. So, 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 going on 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 usually is much easier than doing the same with 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 an excellent opportunity to do something fun over the holidays. Find a hotel with a pool or a fun location and enjoy some family time.

Hyatt Place Melbourne / Palm Bay in Florida
Hyatt Place Melbourne / Palm Bay in Florida. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Many programs also allow you to earn points toward status with hotel credit cards. For example, the World of Hyatt Credit Card provides you with two qualifying night credits toward 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 a calendar year. That may not help you this year, but it is something to keep in mind for next year.

If earning status is hard for you, remember that many credit cards will provide 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.

The information for the Hilton Aspire 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.

Related: 7 reasons to get the Amex Hilton Aspire card

Use your annual airline and travel credits

Many credit cards offer sweet benefits to help offset the annual cost of the card. So, if you have any premium travel credit cards, you’ll want to ensure you’ve redeemed all available credits — and if not, get to spending.

Airport lounge
Use credits to treat yourself to lounge access before your flight. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Here are some cards that offer annual travel credits:

The information for the Citi Prestige and Ritz Carlton 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.

Use your annual credit card benefits

Some credit cards offer statement credits that you can use on various purchases. These credits are typically allotted on a monthly, semiannual or annual basis. Make sure these credits don’t go to waste.

Cars on a New York City street
Select cards offer monthly Uber credits. (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Here are statement credit perks that come with some of the best rewards credit cards. However, note that enrollment is required for some benefits and other terms may apply.

Related: Here’s how to use (and track) your Amex statement credits

Meet annual spending thresholds for bonuses

Many credit cards offer annual perks based on spending a certain amount of money on that particular credit card during 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.

Hotel pool
Credit card spending could help you earn a free hotel night. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Some credit card annual spending bonuses include:

The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, AAdvantage Aviator Silver Mastercard, Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard and CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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) free for the life of the pass. You need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a year to earn this pass.

The pass expires on Dec. 31 of the year following the one you earned it. If you earn the Companion Pass in 2021, it will expire on Dec. 31, 2022. But, if you earn the Companion Pass in Jan. 2022, it won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2023.

Unfortunately, qualifying Companion Pass points do not carry over from year to year. So if you are trying to earn the pass now for 2021 and 2022, you’ll want to make sure all points hit your account ASAP.

View from a Southwest plane
View from a Southwest flight. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

If you are earning your final few points from one of the many Southwest credit cards, only purchases through your December statement closing date will count. Points post within a few days of your closing date and count toward the year when the points are posted — not necessarily the year you made the purchase. Purchases made after your December statement closing date will post to your account in January, thus counting toward your 2022 qualifying points balance. But, if your statement closing date is at the end of the month, there is a chance that these points might not post until January.

For those holding off and looking to earn the Companion Pass in 2022 so it lasts through 2023, you’ll want to make sure not to meet your minimum spending requirements on any new Southwest credit cards until January. Theoretically, you can start hitting the minimum spending after your December statement closing date. Still, I recommended waiting until the new year begins to ensure nothing goes wrong with your timing. You’re risking nearly two years of Companion Pass if you get it wrong.

Related: 13 lessons from 13 years’ worth of Southwest Companion Passes

Earn your British Airways Travel Together Ticket

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. You need to spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature Card within a calendar year to earn this pass. By doing so, you’ll earn 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. The Travel Together Ticket will be issued at the end of the billing cycle where you reach $30,000 in purchases and is valid for a flight on British Airways taken within two years of the issue date.

Related: How to book award flights using British Airways Avios

Lie-flat business class seat
Save money on your next British Airways flight with the Travel Together Ticket. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

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 credited property. Finally, remember that even though 2021 is not quite over yet, it is never too early to plan out your 2022 strategy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Hilton Aspire card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum card, click here.

Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.

Featured photo by Jon Arnold/Getty Images.

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