Posted by Chuck on November 20, 2019
Credit Cards

Published on November 20th, 2019 | by Chuck

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Year-End Credit Card Checklist for 2019: 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 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.
  • Barclay Jetblue Plus card earns Mosiac status with $50,000 in spend per calendar year.
  • Chase British Airways card gets the Travel Together Ticket benefit when spending $30,000 in a calendar year.
  • (US Bank Radisson Rewards card comes with up to three free nights when completing annual spend; one night for each $10,000 in spend. Looks like this goes with the cardmember year (based on 12 statements), NOT based on calendar year.)

American Express Cards 

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). Unfortunately, gift cards no longer trigger the airline incidental credits, which makes them much less valuable.

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 2019 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.)

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

Platinum Uber Credit

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

Platinum Saks Credit

The Platinum personal 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.

Platinum Dell Credit

The Platinum business card comes with a $100 Dell 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.

Hilton Aspire

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

Bonvoy Brilliant

Amex Bonvoy Brilliant card comes with a $300 annual credit for charges at the hotels. This goes based on the card anniversary, not based on the calendar year.

Amex Green

The Green personal card comes with an annual $100 CLEAR credit and annual $100 LoungeBuddy credit. These reset each calendar year, so you should be able to use the 2019 credit anytime until December 31.

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.

Barclay JetBlue

The Barclay JetBlue Plus card gets $100 calendar year credit for JetBlue Vacations bookings.

Chase Cards

Southwest

Earning 125,000 Southwest points earns you the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. The best way to time your 125,000 miles is to earn them at the beginning of the calendar year since Companion Pass continues for the next entire calendar year. For example, if you earn 125,000 Southwest miles during January 2020, you’ll have the Companion Pass for the rest of 2020 and the entire 2021.

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. (Technically, you can meet the spend requirement before January 1st, so long as the statement won’t close until after the 1st.) The signup bonus points on the two cards will post after you complete the spend in early 2020, and you’ll have a Companion Pass for nearly two years.

Note, the personal card offers have been better in the past; better use a friend’s referral link or use the in-flight links for 50k points. The business card offers are both quite good; we have seen the Performance at 80k, but that’s unlikely to come back.

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 related 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.

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 2019 credit, and remember that you’ll soon be able to begin using 2020’s credit.

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 2020s credit on January 1.

IHG

The Chase IHG gets a free night each year. This does not reset with the calendar year, it goes with your card anniversary.

Hyatt

The Chase Hyatt cards get a free night each year. These do not reset with the calendar year, it goes with your card anniversary.

The World of Hyatt card gets an additional night if you spend $15,000 in the past year. Again, this goes with the card anniversary.

Citi

Prestige

The Citi Prestige card comes with a $250 travel 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.

The card is currently available with a 50,000 points bonus after spending $4,000 within 3 months. (Direct Link)

Rewards+

The Citi Rewards+ card comes with a 10% rebate on redemptions, up to 10,000 points bonus per year. This is based on the calendar year. Be sure to max out your 100,000 points redemption before the end of December so as to get the full 10k bonus. Redemptions from January 1 and beyond will count toward your 2020 allotment.

Expedia+ Voyager

Those who have the Citi Expedia+ Voyager card get $100 annual credit toward airline incidentals on qualified airlines, Wi-Fi carriers, or for the Global Entry application fee. This credit resets each calendar year; be sure to use it up before year’s end.

US Bank Altitude

The US Bank Altitude card comes with a $325 annual travel credit. In this case, 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. No specific reason to apply for the card now.

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.

Smaller Banks

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).

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 of December 31, according to a reader. 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.

Wrap Up

I’ve been doing this write-up annually for the past number of years, with updates as needed, but there are likely some things missing or that still require updating which I’ve missed. (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015) Please let us know what needs fixing.

Also check out these useful posts:



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TomJ
TomJ

“The FBNO Travelite card comes with a $100 airline incidentals credit”. Application is by invitation only and some invitation has $49 AF.
If you have the no AF version, make sure you use the card atleast “few” (YMMV) times every year than keeping it in the drawer. I got a message sounding they might close down the card if its not been used. Since the I put 2 to 3 small purchases on it every quarter

Stan
Stan

thank you, this is invaluable

Ben
Ben

Thanks for the informative post. If my Citi Prestige statement is closing November 22, and then I guess the next statement will close December 22, I have until December 22 (and give a few days to settle) to spend the credit, right?

CF Panda
CF Panda

PenFed Pathfinder currently unavailable. Has been for a month or so at least now. Relaunching in 2020 but who knows if the credit/No AF will still be there when it relaunches.

Newbie
Newbie

Doc, you skipped the new Amex Green card.
$100 CLEAR + $100 lounge buddy credit, is it expiring on Dec 31?
$100 AWAY credit, redeem within first 3 months

Jeff
Jeff

Does Clear have a black friday sale or is $119 through United the best we can do? Holding out on using this credit if it can cover Clear 100%.

Rick I
Rick I

Great Post. Thanks for the reminders

amathson
amathson

Citi and Barclays AA cards don’t have the 10% rebate anymore, right?

Mark

I don’t think you get the AA mileage rebate anymore? I thought they nerfed that benefit.

reallove
reallove

Datapoint for the FNBO TravElite: the credit is calendar year and eligible transactions need to post before December 31 (SO has the card and as an AU I use it for work travel incidentals). They do take a very long time to credit you, and in the past 2 years I always had to call them and ask, and someone had to manually trigger the credit. Annoying but worth it for a no AF card that basically pays you ~ $100 to have the card!

Aron
Aron

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant $300 credit?

Kien
Kien

Yes anniversary year and not calendar year. Credit after your annual fee paid? Don’t forget for those that signed up for the bonus 25,000 points, but up to 75,000 but in increments of 25,000. This spend must be made prior to Dec 31, 2019 but after registration.

Rod S
Rod S

Thank you!

Greg
Greg

Very useful, thanks. For those of you who just applied for the 50,000 point Expedia Voyager offer, there’s a $100 airline credit that resets each calendar year. Make sure you use it before the end of the year.

cc
cc

William Charles the pathfinder card is dead to new applications btw.. might want to correct that on this post and remove from best cards for sign-up bonus..

Lukas
Lukas

Citi Prestige has TRAVEL credit now, not just airline credit.

david
david

So for those of us not planning to ride on an airplane, is there any use for the airline incidentals credit, or is it currently have a value of $0?

qmc
qmc

Buy a refundable ticket, go to the lounge, refund your ticket? (It really depends on which card and which airline…)

G
G

Incidental credits generally don’t apply to tickets. It’s usually for baggage fees, in-flight food/drinks, or other add-ons. Some cards/airlines will allow gift card purchases with this credit, but it depends.

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