Published on November 9th, 2016 | by Chuck16
End-of-Year Credit Card List and Analysis 
There are a few credit cards which we should be keeping an eye on as we near the end of 2016.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve This card currently has a signup bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points. The $450 annual fee is largely offset by the $300 travel credit which works on just about anything travel-related. 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 2016 and once in 2017. This helps cover the annual fee, and even nets $150 profit.
- 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 possible to double dip and get $300 in 2016 and another $300 in 2017.
- 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. Currently, the business card has a public bonus of 50,000 Southwest miles while both personal versions are only at 40,000. You can, however, get 50k on both versions by using a referral link. Although Chase’s referral system is down until the end of the month, you can still get a referral from those who already have their referral links.
We need 110,000 Southwest miles to be eligible for the Companion Pass; most of that can be done 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 following 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. In our case, that will mean hitting 110,000 in January 2017.
- Citi Prestige This card currently has an available signup bonus of 50,000 ThankYou points. It also has a $450 annual fee and comes with a $250 airline credit which works on any airline and even on sites like Expedia. Here, again, you can ‘double dip’ on the airline credit since the airline credit is based on the calendar year. 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 CSR and Prestige benefit, but there are creative ways to make it easier. No great signup bonus on this card, just the standard 40k offer.Once again, it’s possible to ‘double dip’ by getting the $200 credit once in 2016 and once in 2017; this will cover most of the annual fee.
- Amex Platinum business card. Same idea as the personal version.This card currently has an excellent signup offer of 100,000 MR points after $15k in spend.
- Amex Premier Rewards Gold (PRG) The annual fee on this one is $195, but it’s waived the first year. This card comes with a $100 airline incidental credit. By doubling up on this, you can get the annual fee more than covered. Currently, there’s just the standard 25k bonus; we often see increases up to 50k or even more.
With regards to the Prestige, Sapphire, Ritz, Platinum, and PRG, you can really get those cards any time of year and double dip by receiving the airline credit once in the current calendar year and once in the next calendar year before canceling the card. No specific need to get these cards now.
The main advantage of timing the card at year’s end is to try taking advantage of a potential triple dip. If timed right, it may be possible to get the airline credits in 2016, 2017, and 2018, while paying just one full annual fee. Some people may not want to risk souring their relationship with the issuers by taking advantage in this way, but the possibility is surely enticing.
Citi will prorate the annual fee when canceling. And while Amex no longer prorates the annual fee when canceled after 30-days, but you can downgrade the card to a Green card and save most of the second annual fee that way.
Thus, it’s possible to get these cards near year’s end and triple dip on the airline credit: get one in Nov-Dec 2016, another in 2017, and a third in January 2018. After the 2017 airline credit posts in January-February, you can cancel/downgrade 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.
On the other hand, Chase apparently stopped doing prorated refunds recently, making a triple-dip on the Reserve and Ritz-Carlton cards unlikely. It still might be that instead of canceling, you can downgrade the Reserve card and get a prorated annual fee, but the data points on this are a bit fuzzy. My hunch is that it still works via downgrade, making a triple-dip possible on the Sapphire Reserve.
Timing it Right
For all of these cards, timing is key.
- Sapphire Reserve For purposes of the travel credit, Chase calculates the year as complete with the billing statement generated in December. If you want to make use of the 2016 airline allowance, you’ll need to apply sometime very soon, and do the $300 spend within your first statement which closes in December.
- Verdict: If you want to apply for the Reserve now and get the $300 credit still in 2016, there isn’t much time left! If you want to try a triple-dip, now is the time to apply.This bonus will hopefully be around for a while so you can do this deal a different year if you prefer.If you already have the card, it’s vital to ensure that you complete the $300 travel spend before your December statement generates. That’s soon.
- Southwest With regards to the Southwest card, the main thing to be careful with is that the 50k bonus does NOT post in 2016. If it does, it won’t count toward the 2017 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 on a statement that will close after January 1. Or you can just finish your spend at the beginning of January to be safe.
- Verdict: No rush to apply right now, but if you are planning on going for the Companion Pass, you’ll want to apply soon-ish. Hopefully, we’ll see public 50k offers on the personal cards again soon. Otherwise, find a referral and apply sometime within the next couple months.
- Ritz-Carlton While Chase uses the statement-close of December to determine travel credits on the Sapphire card, the Ritz card seems to work differently and calculate based on the calendar date; so long as the credit posts to the account in 2016, it will count toward this year, regardless of when your statement closes. (“Annual credit will be issued for the calendar year in which the transaction posts to your account. For example, if you pay baggage fees at the end of 2015, and the airline does not post the transaction until 2016, the cost of the baggage fees will be allocated towards your 2016 calendar year maximum of $300.”)Note, however, that it must fully post to the account, and that could take some time.
- Verdict: Not too much time left on the 2016 credit here. This card has recently been improved making it more interesting.
- Prestige As with Chase and their Sapphire card, Citi calculates the year based on the statement closing date of the December statement.If you want to make use of the 2016 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! The bonus will hopefully be around for a while so you can do this deal a different year if you prefer. If you already have the Prestige card, be sure to put a $250 charge on it soon. (Note to self: put charge on Prestige card soon.)
- Amex Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold For these cards, the airline credit is based on the actual date of the charge, not on the statement closing. You can put the airline incidental charges anytime until year’s end and have it count toward the current year. (It might have to actually post before year’s end, though.)
- Verdict: There still some time left for this one, but not very much. If you want to get the 2016 credit, signup now! If you want to triple-dip, the time to signup is now or soon. From the Amex offerings, Platinum Business card is the one that makes the most sense due to the compelling signup bonus available now. If you already have a Platinum or PRG card, make sure to meet the airline spend before year’s end.
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).
Most of these cards have strict churning rules, and many people won’t qualify for them. For Chase cards, it’s the 5/24 issue; for Amex it’s the once-in-a-lifetime rule; for Citi it’s the 24-month/family rule.
Overall, the Prestige and Sapphire 2016 windows are closing soon while the Amex Platinum and PRG cards and the Ritz card give us a bit more time since they go with the calendar year, not the December statement closing. And, of course, Companion-Pass seekers will need to start strategizing their timing to maximize the pass for the longest term possible.