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

Dec 19, 2019

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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:

In This Post

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.

If a mileage run won’t fit in 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 actually benefit you next year.

Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy
Airline status benefits could get you 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 spend. Some options include:

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.

Related: Should you buy hotel or airline elite status?

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.

Just one more night away from earning World of Hyatt Globalist status…

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.

Related: 7 reasons to get the Hilton Aspire credit card

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.

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

Here are some cards that offer annual travel credits:

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.

(Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

Here are statement credit perks that come with many credit cards:

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.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Credit card spend could help you earn a free night at many expensive hotels. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Some credit card annual spending bonuses include:

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.

Related: Choosing the best Southwest credit card

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.

Points earned from the Southwest Companion Pass will reset on January 1, 2020.

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.

Related: The best credit card pairing to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

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.

Related: How to book award flights using British Airways Avios

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
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 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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