Posted by Chuck on November 25, 2018
Credit Cards

Published on November 25th, 2018 | by Chuck

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Year-End Credit Card Checklist for 2018: Travel Credits, Spend Reset, Application Strategy & More

As we near the end of year, it’s a good time to take stock of our credit cards and review which ones have benefits, requirements, or limits that reset at year-end. We’ll also examine which cards give you a quick double-dip credit when applying at year-end, and take a look at which cards to apply for now.

Calendar Year Spend Limits

  • Blue Business Plus earns 2x everywhere on up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year. (Resets with December statement or December 31?)
  • The new Amex Gold card earns 4x points at US grocery stores up to $25,000 per calendar year. (Resets with December statement or December 31?)
  • Amex SimplyCash earns 5% at office/wireless and 3% on your chosen category, up to $50,000 per calendar year for each of those. (Resets with December statement or December 31?)
  • Amex Everyday Preferred $6,000 limit on the 3x grocery store category per calendar year. (Resets with December statement or December 31?)
  • Amex Everyday $6,000 limit on the 2x grocery store category per calendar year. (Resets with December statement or December 31?)
  • Blue Cash Preferred $6,000 limit on the 6% grocery store category per calendar year. This now goes with the December 31 date, not the December close date.
  • Blue Cash Everyday $6,000 limit on the 3% grocery store category per calendar year. This now goes with the December 31 date, not the December close date.
  • (The Old Blue Cash card does not reset with the calendar year, it goes with your card anniversary.)
  • (The INK Plus/Cash and the INK Preferred years do not reset with the calendar year, it goes with the card anniversary.)
  • Chase Freedom, Discover, Citi Dividend, and U.S. Bank Cash+ have quarterly categories. The current category quarter will end on December 31. More details here. 

Calendar Year Spend Requirements

  • Amex Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) – both personal and business versions – earn Marriott Gold status with $30,000 in spend within the calendar year. Beginning 2019 the threshold increases to $35,000.
  • Amex Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Luxury card offers Marriott Platinum status with $75,000 in spend within the calendar year.
  • Amex Hilton Ascend gets a free weekend night with $15,000 in spend within the calendar year, and gets Diamond status with $40,000 in spend within the calendar year.
  • Amex Hilton Honors business card gets a free weekend night with $15,000 in spend within the calendar year, it gets a second weekend night with a total of $60,000 in spend within the calendar year. It also gets Diamond status with $40,000 in spend within the calendar year.
  • Amex Hilton Honors gets Gold status with $20,000 in spend within the calendar year.
  • Amex Hilton Aspire gets a second free weekend night with $60,000 in spend within the calendar year. (First weekend night comes as a card benefit, and is based on card anniversary, not calendar year.
  • Amex Delta Reserve – both personal and business versions – earn 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles $30,000 in spend within the calendar year,  and an additional 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 bonus miles if you spend a total of $60,000 within the calendar year.
  • Amex Delta Platinum – both personal and business versions- earn 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles when you spent $25,000 in a calendar year, and an additional 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 bonus miles if you spend a total of $50,000 within the calendar year.
  • American Airlines Citi and Barclays cards get a 10% mileage rebate, up to 10,000 miles back per calendar year.
  • Barclays American Airlines cards earn 3,000 EQDs when spending $25,000 in a calendar year. Aviator silver cards can earn another 3,000 EQD when spending an additional $25,000 ($50,000 spend for a total of 6,000 EQD). This benefit is ending either for 2019 or 2020, more details here.
  • Barclay Jetblue Plus card earns Mosiac status with $50,000 in spend per calendar year.
  • Barclay JetBlue Plus gets $100 calendar year credit for JetBlue Vacations bookings.
  • Chase British Airways gets the Travel Together Ticket benefit when spending $30,000 in a calendar year.
  • (The Chase IHG free night does not reset with the calendar year, it goes with your card anniversary.)

Chase Southwest Cards

Earning 110,000 Southwest points earns you the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. The best way to time your 110,000 miles is to earn the 110,000 threshold at the beginning of the calendar year since Companion Pass continues for the next entire calendar year. For example, if you earn 110,000 Southwest miles during January 2019, you’ll have the Companion Pass for the rest of 2019 and the entire 2020.

The easiest strategy to earn the Companion Pass has always been to get two Southwest credit card signup bonuses. In our case, you’ll want to apply sometime in the next couple of months, taking care to ensure NOT to meet the spend requirement until after January 1st. The signup bonus points on the two cards will post after you complete the spend in early 2019, and you’ll have a Companion Pass for nearly two years.

  • Southwest Plus personal card with $69 annual fee – 40,000 points bonus after $1,000 in spend within 3 months. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year.
  • Southwest Premier personal card with $99 annual fee – 40,000 points bonus after $1,000 in spend within 3 months. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year.
  • Southwest Priority personal card with $149 annual fee – 40,000 points bonus after $1,000 in spend within 3 months. Plus, earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year.
  • Southwest Premier business card with $99 annual fee – 60,000 points bonus after $3,000 in spend within 3 months.

I’m guessing/assuming that the 20k bonus with $12k spend hits immediately when you meet the spend, not at year’s end. Get one of the personal cards and the business card, meet the full spend on both cards, and you’ll have more than enough for the Companion Pass.

Note, many of us are not eligible for any of the Southwest cards at all due to the 5/24 rule, or because you’re a current Southwest cardholder of any version or because you got a bonus within the past 24 months.

On a different note: the new Southwest Priority card comes with a $75 annual Southwest travel credit which runs on the cardmember year, not the calendar year –  no need to use it up now, specifically.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a $300 travel credit (see what counts here). This used to be based on the calendar year, but now it’s based on the cardmember year – nothing special happening at year-end.

And if you’re applying for a new CSR card, there’s no special reason to apply before year’s end. Whenever you apply, you’ll get just one travel credit during the first year (maybe you can squeeze a second credit in right after the year renews).

Those who got the CSR before May 21, 2017, are grandfathered into the old system where the travel credit renewal goes with the calendar year. Be sure you’ve already used up your 2018 credit, and remember that you’ll soon be able to begin using 2018’s credit.

Chase Ritz-Carlton

The Chase Ritz-Carlton card offers up to $300 reimbursements for airline incidental charges (see what counts here). Chase counts the benefit based on the calendar year, not cardmember year, and it goes based on the actual calendar year, not based on your statements. Use up the credits before December 31 and begin using 2018s credit on January 1.

Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige card comes with a $250 airline credit (see what counts here). Citi calculates the year based on the statement closing date of the December statement. Be sure to give a few days leeway for the charges to go from pending to settled.

If you have a Prestige card, use up the credit now, there’s only a few weeks remaining until your December statement will close and you’ll lose any unused part of the credit.

Citi Prestige is currently unavailable for signup, and likely won’t be available again until January 2019.

Amex Platinum, Gold (PRG), Hilton Aspire

Airline Credit

Amex Platinum personal, Platinum business, Hilton Aspire, and the Gold card (formerly Premier Rewards Gold) have an airline incidental credit each year: $250 for the Hilton Aspire, $200 for the Platinum cards, and $100 for the Gold (see what counts here). With these cards, the airline credit is based on the calendar year, not on the statement closing. You can put the airline incidental charges anytime until December 31 and have it count toward the current year. It might have to actually post before year’s end, though; give a few days for that to happen, if you can.

Amex’s airline credit is different than the others in this list in that you only get reimbursed for incidental spend on your designated airline. Be sure to designate that before putting the charge on the card.

If you’re looking to apply, there is still time to do so and get the 2018 credit. Then, in January, you’ll be eligible for a second airline credit. (The annual fee usually hits around a month after card approval – useful to keep in mind for maximizing the travel credits without annual fees.)

The Hilton Aspire card has a public best-ever 150,000 points bonus, the Gold card has a 50,000 points bonus (plus, you can refer yourself), and you may be able to get 100,000 points bonus on the personal Platinum card. 

RelatedOpening a Schwab Brokerage, Checking, and Amex Platinum Credit Card before Year’s End

The Hilton Aspire card also comes with a $250 Hilton Resort Credit and a free weekend night. These are based on the cardmember year, not calendar year.

Platinum Uber Credit

The Platinum card also comes with a monthly $15 credit, remember that it’s increased to $35 during the month of December.

Platinum Saks Credit

The Platinum card also comes with a $50 Saks Fifth Avenue credit twice per year: one from January to June and one from July to December. Be sure to use that up before the end of December.

SPG Luxury Credit

The SPG Luxury card comes with $300 in on-property purchases. This credit is based on the cardmember year, not the calendar year.

US Bank Altitude

The US Bank Altitude card comes with a $325 annual travel credit. Here the travel credit goes based on the cardmember year, not the calendar year. Until your year is up there’s time to take advantage of your year #1 credit, then starts the next year. (A lot of us applied for the card at launch and have our annual reset sometime in May.)

No specific reason to apply for the card now.

Bank of America Premium Rewards

The Bank of America Premium Rewards card comes with $100 airline incidental credit (see what counts here). This resets based on the calendar year. Presumably that means you have until December 31, but it’s possible they’ll finish the year based on when your December statement closes. (Language is: “You are eligible for a statement credit of up to $100 each calendar year if you make qualifying airline incidental transactions.”)

Finish up your statement credit with this one soon (buying AA gift card is easiest), and start using your new credit on January 1. I’ll buy the gift card right away in the beginning of January in case they close that loophole.

Wells Fargo Propel

The Wells Fargo Propel World card has a $100 airline incidental credit (see what counts here).This credit goes based on the cardmember year, not the calendar year. Check when you applied and be sure to use it up by your anniversary date.

CNB Crystal

The CNB Crystal card offers a $250 annual incidental charges (see what counts here). CNB counts this based on the calendar year. Any spend until December 31 will count as part of the current year, and January 1 begins the next year. Be sure to complete your spend before December 31. Give a few days for the charge to settle before year’s end (though it reportedly works on the last day too).

There’s currently a 75,000 points bonus on this card until December 17th, so now is a good time to apply for this card as well.

FBNO Travelite

The FBNO Travelite card comes with a $100 airline incidentals credit (see what counts here). This card and the Penfed Pathfinder (below) are the only no-fee cards that come with a travel credit.

FBNO counts this based on the calendar year. Not sure if they go based on December 31 or based on your December close date. Be sure to use up your credit soon and apply now if you want to get in two credits.

PenFed Pathfinder

The PenFed Pathfinder comes with $100 annual airline credit (see what counts here). The credit is based on the calendar year, be sure to use yours before the year is up.

Good time to apply now since you’ll get an airline credit now and again in January. Card has a 25,000 points signup bonus as well.

 

No doubt we’re missing some things here. Feel free to drop a comment with what’s missing and we’ll add it in. Also check out this useful series we’ve previously posted:



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Chris
Chris

Although not always applicable, what about cell phone insurance? Was that calendar year as well? I know quite a few cards now provide that perk (with a deductible).

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

so im curious.. for WF Propel world its based on calendar year. could I essentially get the credit twice if i paid the annual fee and then cancelled the card after credit applies? not worried about relationship with WF tbh

payyoutuesday
payyoutuesday

The airline benefit for Propel World is based on a cardmember year and not calendar year.

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

i meant cardmember. same question curious if it would work

Eric
Eric

Yes, you can. I believe you have 90 days after the annual fee posts to cancel and get it refunded.

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

ty eric.

JF
JF

I was able to use my P2’s credit a few days after account anniversary before the AF even posted. When the AF posted I called to cancel, rep didn’t even mention having already used the credit.

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

love it… going to do the same X 4… just saved me and my fam ~ $320 after GC resale. ty

Ditto
Ditto

I’m seeing an Amex offer for 2x MR points for online purchases at Saks.com. Worth checking to see if you can add it to your Platinum card to stack with the $50 credit.

Andrey
Andrey

You can; it does.

jeph36
jeph36

You could add the PenFed Pathfinder card which, according to your own data, has the $100 airline reimbursement based on calendar year. I am not in a great spot to confirm with my own info for this card if that is actually the case.

https://www.doctorofcredit.com/what-does-doesnt-trigger-the-penfed-pathfinder-rewards-american-express-100-airline-credit/

Abey

Amazing list. Thanks!

asdf
asdf

Great summary. Thanks!

One correction: Amex Hilton Business gets a 2nd weekend night at $60k, not $40k.

Debit
Debit

Someone please share what to buy at saks fifth avenue.

Julien
Julien

I just bought a few pairs of socks. Always need them and pretty cheap.

ThaigerNation
ThaigerNation

My wife buys a few travel size MAC lipsticks or cosmetics.

Klad
Klad

I am going to just buy the GC in store and sell them for ~80%

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

do GC work? let me know

William Charles

Others have reported it working yes

mastervk
mastervk

Yes . I purchased $50 GC and it triggered the $50 credit .

MAP
MAP

Look for dress shirts for Men on sale – can usually pick off a decent one for around $55

Heather
Heather

There are several data points that an in-store gift card purchase triggers the credit. If you don’t have something particular in mind to buy, you can buy gift cards and either save them for personal use or resell them.

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

dont thnk e-gift card works tho. They do allow as small as $50 for e-gift but when you go to order e-gift it goes to a 3rd party page. Probably wont code it as credit.

Blue
Blue

I got a nice waffle T-shirt that was a ludicrous $90 regular price and on sale for $36.

Sara Logan
Sara Logan

WHAT A DEAL!!! WOW

Mr. PTM

3-pack Armani undershirts for $49.

Jacob

If you visit via incognito at any time, they offer a 10% coupon that is sent within an hour. (pro tip – the gmail trick works for infinite coupons)

I applied the 10% discount to a fancy teak wood 48oz water bottle and paid about $53 after taxes. It looks pretty nice for $3 oop… but man, as a whole, Saks sells overpriced trash.

Zalmy

A gift card, and then use it at Off 5th. Credit posted immediately for me on 2 cards.

cleo brown
cleo brown

Has the Hilton Business offer expired? I can’t find it….

Andysol
Andysol

Hilton Business 2nd night is $60,000 spend- not $40,000. It’s $45,000 *Additional spend* after your first weekend night of $15,000.

bob
bob

i have the No-AF version of the propel. it doesn’t have an Airline Fee credit, right?

ThaigerNation
ThaigerNation

Does Amex Platinum incidental credit include preordering food? Like I already bought Alaska flight, and I want to go into website and preorder cheese plate? (They run out sometimes!)

jdubhendy
jdubhendy

What about the PenFed pathfinder? It has an annual $100 travel incidentals credit… can’t remember if it’s calendar or cardmember year…

Jacinto
Jacinto

Re Amex Gold: the 25k max at grocery resets sometime in December? Any DPs on clawback risk?

Geng
Geng

missing spg luxury?

MileUser
MileUser

SPG Lux gives Marriott platinum for spending >$75k in a calendar year

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