There are a few cards which have unique appeal at year’s end and should draw our special attention at this time, some sooner than others.
- Chase Southwest There are three possible versions to get which often come with 50,000 point bonuses: the personal Southwest Plus, personal Southwest Premier, and the Southwest Premier business card. Both personal and business Premier cards have a publicly available 50k bonus while the 50k Plus offer is not publicly available. You may be able to get it by calling in and using a referral. We need 110,000 Southwest miles in order to be eligible for the Companion Pass; we can do most of that by picking up two Southwest credit cards with a 50k bonus on each. Since the Companion Pass lasts the year it’s earned and the next entire calendar year, it’s best to time your points so that you’ll hit 110,000 as close to the beginning of the year as possible and thus receive the Pass for almost two full years.
- Citi Prestige This card has a whopping $450 annual fee, but comes with a $250 airline credit which works on any airline and even on sites like Expedia. It’s well known that you can ‘double dip’ on the airline credit since the airline credit is based on the calendar year. If you get the card now, for example, you’ll be able to get the credit once in 2015 and once in 2016. This can really help cover the annual fee and then some.
- Amex Platinum This card also has a $450 annual fee, but comes with a $200 airline incidental credit. It’s not quite as easy to make use of as the Prestige benefit, but there are creative ways to make it easier. Once again, it’s possible to ‘double dip’ by getting the $200 credit once in 2015 and once in 2016; this will almost cover your annual fee with the $400 in combined credits.
- Amex Platinum business card. Same idea as the personal version.
- Amex Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) The annual fee on this one is a ‘mere’ $195. This card comes with a $100 airline incidental credit. By doubling up on this, you can get the annual fee more than covered.
- Chase Ritz-Carlton This card comes with $395 annual fee and also offers up to $300 reimbursements for airline incidental charges. (This one may not be as easy to make use of without having real airline incidental charges.) Once again the airline reimbursement benefit is based on the calendar year and it’s easy to double dip and get $300 in 2015 and another $300 in 2016.
With regards to the Prestige, Ritz, Platinum, and PRG, you can really get those cards any time of year and be able to double dip by receiving the airline credit once in the current calendar year and once in the next calendar year before cancelling the card.
For these cards, the advantage of timing the card at years end is to take try and take advantage of a potential triple dip. If timed right, it may be possible to get the airline credits in 2015, 2016, and 2017, while paying just one full annual fee.
Both Citi and Amex prorate the annual fee if you cancel mid-year. Thus, it’s possible to get these cards near year’s end and triple dip on the airline credit: get one in Nov-Dec 2015, another in 2016, and a third in January 2017. After the 2017 airline credit posts in January-February, you can cancel the card and pay a prorated annual fee. In the end, you’ll pay just one full annual fee plus a small part of a second annual fee, and you’ll get three airline credits along the way which can more than cover those fees.
Some people may not want to risk souring their relationship with the issuers by taking advantage in this way, but the possibility is definitely enticing.
On the other hand, the Chase Ritz-Carlton card does not seem to offer a prorated refund on the annual fee; you have to cancel within 60 days of when the annual fee posts in order to get the refund. Thus, it would be hard to triple dip with this card, although a double dip is obviously possible and easy to do.
Timing it Right
For all of these cards, timing is key.
- Southwest Here the main thing to be careful with is that the 50k bonus does NOT post in 2015. If it does, it won’t count toward the 2016 threshold of 110,000 miles to get the Companion Pass. If you apply today, don’t push through all the spend immediately. Be sure to finish the minimum spend in a statement that will close AFTER January 1. Or you can just finish your spend in the beggining of January to be safe, although you will be losing out on some time with the Companion Pass if you do this.
- Verdict: No major rush here.
- Prestige Citi likes to calculate things based on the statement closing date; the airline credit posts based on the month the statement closes (VFTW). If your statement closes on December 15, 2015, an airline charge on December 16, 2015 will not count toward 2015, rather toward the 2016 allowance. If you want to make use of the 2015 airline allowance, you’ll need to apply sometime very soon and do the $250 spend within your first statement which closes in December. (See also Citi Prestige Airline Credit – Does it Go with Pending Date or Post Date?)
- Verdict: If you’re going for this one, do it soon!
- Amex Platinum and PRG For these cards the airline credit is based on the actual date of the charge, not on the statement closing (TPG). You can put the airline incidental charges anytime until year’s end and have it count toward the current year.
- Verdict: There still some time left for this one, but not very much.
Expediting the Card
Since timing is so important for these cards, let’s quickly review the policy of Citi, Chase, and Amex regarding expediting new credit cards. See Which Credit Card Issuers Offer Expedited Shipping? for the full run-down.
- Citi Typically will not expedite a new credit card.
- Amex They’ll expedite high-end cards as standard procedure and Platinum will probably be automatically expedited. Also, if you request that they expedite a card they will often do it for you.
- Chase You can get any credit card expedited upon request by sending a secure message or by calling 1-800-432-3117 (their general credit card customer service line).
Should We Bite?
Prestige & Southwest: The Prestige and Southwest are certainly good options if you haven’t gotten the card recently and are eligible for the signup bonus, see List Of Churnable Credit Cards. Prestige has a 50k point signup bonus and you’ll even be eligible for a lower $350 annual fee if you are a Citigold client or possibly if you apply in branch. Southwest has a competitive signing bonus along with the added value of helping you pull through with the Companion Pass.
Chase Ritz-Carlton As noted, this one would be pretty hard to triple dip on. You can double dip, but that you can do almost any time you apply. Unless you apply right around the new calendar year, it should be easy to get the $300 reimbursement twice.
Amex PRG & Platinum: When deciding about the Amex cards, it gets a little trickier. According to the current rules of Amex, on all personal cards we can get the signup bonus only once in a lifetime. It may not be worth trying to maximize the airline credit at the expense of a lower signup bonus. The Platinum business card may be a bit easier to give up on the higher signup bonus since you can get that bonus more than once. On the other hand, that card occasionally has very high targeted signup bonus offers.
Both personal and business Platinum cards seem to be holding now at a 40k bonus, with a past history of bonuses up to 100k. The PRG seems to be holding now at 25k and it’s seen 50k, or even 75k, in the past. In both cases, you’ll be losing up to 50-60k in Membership Rewards points by going for the card now versus hopefully getting in on the higher bonus some other time. That’s quite a loss just for the extra airline credit, especially in the case on PRG that the airline credit is just $100.
Note the some seem to be finding an offer of 75k for the business Platinum and 50k for PRG. If you can get these offers then there is definitely more to consider here with doing the year-end application.
If you are considering a personal Platinum card, it could make sense to go for the Ameriprise version to save the $450 annual fee. Also, it’s likely considered a separate product from the standard Platinum card and getting it may not disqualify you from receiving the bonus on the ordinary Platinum card. If you can manage to get the triple dip and pay close to $0 in annual fees, that would be a superb deal. Note, however, that there have been past offers of a 25k signup bonus which you’d be giving up by applying now.