7 ways to avoid common end-of-year points and miles mistakes
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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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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.
There are other ways to earn qualifying miles toward status that don’t involve flying, such as credit card spending. Some options include:
- Aeroplan Credit Card: This card offers Aeroplan Elite 25K status for the remainder of the first calendar year in which you have the card, plus the following calendar year. You can retain this status by spending $15,000 on the card each year in subsequent years. Plus, if you spend $50,000 or more on the card in a year, you will get a one-level boost to whatever Aeroplan status you earn that year.
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard: Earn 5,000 elite-qualifying miles for every $20,000 you spend on the card between Jan. 1, 2021, and Feb. 28, 2022 (up to 10,000 EQMs per year).
- AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard: Earn $3,000 elite-qualifying dollars if you spend $25,000 or more on purchases with your card between Jan. 1, 2021, and Feb. 28, 2022.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Spend $25,000 in a calendar year and receive 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles. This benefit is available two times per year (for a total of $50,000 in spending). Earn a Medallion Qualification Dollars waiver for Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion status after spending $25,000 on the card in a year. Or, earn an MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion status after spending $250,000 on the card in a year.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and receive 15,000 MQMs. This benefit is available four times per year (for a total of $120,000 in spending). Earn an MQD waiver for Silver, Gold and Platinum Medallion status after spending $25,000 on the card in a year. Or, earn an MQD waiver for Diamond Medallion status after spending $250,000 on the card in a year.
- Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®: Earn 1 qualifying mile per dollar spent on the card.
- JetBlue Plus Card and JetBlue Business Card: Spend $50,000 or more on purchases with your card in a calendar year and receive TrueBlue Mosaic benefits. Plus, in 2021 only, a JetBlue Mosaic fast-track option allows you to earn Mosaic benefits through the end of 2022 if you spend $15,000 on your card in the last three months of 2021.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points for each $10,000 you spend.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are some cards that offer annual travel credits:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Cardmembers receive a $300 annual travel credit for purchases in the travel category. If you applied for the card on May 21, 2017, or later, this credit is based on your cardmember year. But, if you applied before May 21, 2017, the credit is based on your December statement date.
- Citi Prestige® Card: Cardmembers typically receive an up-to-$250 annual travel credit for travel-related purchases. But, in 2021, Citi is also counting purchases at supermarkets and restaurants (including takeout) toward the credit. However, you must use the yearly credits 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 each calendar year. This credit only works on incidental airline fees, such as airline lounge passes, seat upgrades, baggage fees, inflight internet/entertainment and inflight meals. You also need to call Chase to apply the credit to a charge – it does not happen automatically.
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Cardmembers receive up to $300 in annual statement credits on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program. However, this credit is based on your cardmember year ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Cardmembers get up to $250 in annual airline fee statement credits each calendar year and up to $250 in Hilton resort credits each cardmember year. Enrollment is required for select benefits ($450 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Cardmembers receive an up-to-$200 airline fee statement credit each calendar year. Plus, cardholders get up to $200 in statement credits for prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts and The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, made through American Express Travel each calendar year. Read our guide to the Amex Platinum prepaid hotel credit for more details. Enrollment is required for select benefits ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Cardmembers get an up-to-$100 airline incidental statement credit each year.
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.
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.
- Uber Cash: The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card offer monthly Uber Cash (in the form of credits). For 11 months of the year, Platinum cardholders get $15 of Uber Cash added to their Uber accounts. But each December, that amount is increased to $35. Meanwhile, Gold cardholders get $10 of Uber Cash added to their accounts each month of the year. If you do not anticipate any Uber rides before the end of the month, the credits work on UberEats as well. Add the eligible card to your Uber account as a payment method to receive this benefit. Enrollment is required.
- Saks Fifth Avenue credits: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a statement credit of up to $100 per year for eligible purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue. This is a semiannual credit, so you receive up to $50 between Jan. 1 and June 30 and up to $50 between July 1 and Dec. 31 each year. You need to enroll your card in this benefit before making your purchase.
- Dell credits: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to $400 in annual statement credits for U.S. Dell technology purchases. This is also a semiannual benefit where you’ll receive up to $200 between Jan. 1 and June 30 and up to $200 between July 1 and Dec. 31 each year. You might be surprised to see how many items you can purchase at Dell. You’ll need to register for this offer before making your purchase.
- Dining credits: The American Express® Gold Card offers up to $10 in statement credits for dining each month with select dining partners. Eligible partners include Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed and participating Shake Shack locations. You’ll need to register for this benefit before making a purchase ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees).
- Soul Cycle credits: The Platinum Card® from American Express offers members with an Equinox+ membership the ability to buy a Soul Cycle bike through a special link and receive an up-to $300 statement credit. You must charge the full amount of the bike in one transaction to receive this credit, but the credit is available up to 15 times per year. Enrollment is required.
- Indeed and Adobe credits: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to $90 in statement credits each quarter for eligible purchases made with Indeed and up to $150 in statement credits each calendar year for select Adobe annual prepaid subscriptions. Enrollment is required ($595 annual fee, $695 if the application is received on or after Jan. 13, 2022; see rates and fees).
- Clear credits: The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offer up to $179 in statement credits each calendar year toward Clear membership. You need to register for this benefit before using your enrolled card to pay for a membership. Check out our guide to using the Amex Platinum Clear benefit for more details.
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.
Some credit card annual spending bonuses include:
- Aer Lingus Visa Signature Card: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year on your card and earn an economy companion ticket.
- AAdvantage Aviator World Elite Business Mastercard: Earn an American Airlines companion certificate good for one guest at $99 plus taxes and fees if you spend $30,000 on purchases within your account anniversary year and keep your account open for 45 days after your anniversary date.
- AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard: Earn an American Airlines companion certificate good for two guests at $99 each plus taxes and fees if you spend $20,000 on purchases within your account anniversary year and keep your account open for 45 days after your anniversary date.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Spend $20,000 or more during your cardmember year and renew your card to earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount.
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard®: Earn an American Airlines companion certificate for domestic economy travel after you spend $30,000 or more in purchases during your account year and renew your card (account must remain open for at least 45 days after account anniversary). Redeeming the certificate costs $99 for the ticketing fee plus taxes and fees.
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Earn a Hilton free weekend night award after spending $60,000 on your card in a calendar year. This is in addition to the free weekend night award given automatically each year for having the card.
- Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card: Earn a free weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 on your card in a calendar year.
- The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card: Earn 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months of card membership.
- Iberia Visa Signature Card: Spend $30,000 in a year and receive a $1,000 discount voucher toward two tickets on the same flight.
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn a free night award valued at up to 35,000 points after spending $60,000 in purchases on the card annually each card renewal month. This is in addition to the free night award given automatically each year for having the card.
- World of Hyatt Credit Card: Spend $15,000 on your card in a calendar year and receive a free night at a Category 1-4 hotel. This night is in addition to the free Category 1-4 night you receive on each card anniversary.
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.
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.
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.
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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