Year-End Credit Card Checklist for 2021: 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.

I’ve been doing this write-up with updates each year for the past number of years (2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015). This year again there were lots of changes, both temporary and permanent. I tried updating what came to mind, but we’re probably missing a lot of them below. Please drop a comment with things that need updating and we’ll do so.

Calendar Year Spend Limits

  • Chase Freedom, Discover, Citi Dividend, and U.S. Bank Cash+ and a few other cards have quarterly categories. The current categories for Q4 will end on December 31. More details here. Likewise, the quarterly $2,500 limit on the Bank of America Cash Rewards card will renew on January 1.

Also, remember that the annual limits on points earned for credit card referrals by Chase (50,000 points/$500) and AmEx (55,000 points/$550) will reset on January 1st. If you’re someone who does a lot of referrals, be sure to max out what you can before December 31 and then start referring again on January 1st.

Calendar Year Spend Requirements

  • Amex Hilton Surpass 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 (18,750 MGMs for 2021 due to temporary bonus) 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 Mosaic 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.

 

  • (Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select card gets $125 flight discount certificate after spending $20,000 or more – this goes with the cardmember year (based on 12 billing statements), not based on 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 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.

The Amex 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 airline credit for the current year. (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 $100 credit on the Gold card ends this year and is no longer available for new applicants.

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

Platinum Hotel Credit

The Platinum personal card comes with a $200 annual hotel credit on  select prepaid bookings with American Express Travel. Be sure to book before December 31st. You don’t need to complete your travel by that date.

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. They only charge you after the item ships, so give some leeway here.

Platinum Business Dell Credit

The business Platinum card comes with a $200 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 (along with the Amex Offer at Dell which expires then). Give some leeway for the charge to post by December 31.

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 your 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 credit for this year anytime until December 31.

Other Credits

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. Finish up your statement credit with this one by December 31 (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.

Elite Visa Infinite

The Bank of America Elite Visa Infinite card comes with an annual $300 airline incidental credit and $150 lifestyle convenience credit (including streaming services, food delivery, fitness subscriptions and rideshare services). These reset with the calendar year. Be sure to use up your credits from this year now, and begin using next year’s credits after the new year begins.

Barclay JetBlue

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

Capital One Venture X

The Capital One Venture X card offers a $300 credit for bookings made on Capital One Travel. This renews each cardmember year, it’s not based on the calendar year.

Chase Cards

Southwest

Earning 125,000 Southwest points earns you the 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 2022, you’ll have the Companion Pass for the rest of 2022 and the entire 2023.

The easiest strategy to earn the Companion Pass has always been by getting a credit card signup bonus on the Southwest credit card. 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 during December, 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.

Southwest is currently offering a signup bonus of 100,000 points with $12,000 spend; 50,000 points after spending $2,000 within the first 3 months, and an additional 50,000 if you spend an additional $10,000 within the first 12 months. After completing your spend, you’ll have at least 112,000 points, just shy of the 125,000 required. To get the final 13,000 points, you can refer a friend or do some category spend or shopping portal spend or an actual flight. Again, be careful with the timing on ALL points earned.

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.

$75 Southwest Priority Credit

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; they temporarily expanded the categories through December 2021 to allow grocery and gas purchases to count). This used to be based on the calendar year, but now it’s based on the cardmember year – no specific need to use this now.

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. (It’s based on the December statement closing, not December 31.) Be sure you’ve already used up your credit for this year, and remember that you’ll soon be able to begin using 2020’s credit.

DoorDash & Peloton Credits

Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred card comes with a $50 annual hotel credit via the Chase travel portal. This resets based on the cardmember year, not the calendar year.

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. (It goes based on the actual calendar year, not based on your statements.) Use the credits before December 31 and begin using next year’s 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.

Also note, many people have free night certificates which were extended through December 31, 2021 due to Covid

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. This one has now changed to go based on the calendar year. Finish up your spending now if you’re trying to get the additional night and begin your spending for next year on January 1st.

Citi

Prestige

The Citi Prestige card comes with a $250 travel credit (see what counts here; this has been temporarily expanded to allow grocery and dining through December 2021). The year resets on January 1st. 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. The Prestige card is not available for new cardmember signups at this time. 

Rewards+

The Citi Rewards+ card comes with a 10% rebate on redemptions, up to 10,000 points bonus per year. This is based on your December statement close. Be sure to max out your 100,000 points redemption before your December statement closes so as to get the full 10k bonus. Redemptions that post on your January statement will count toward next year’s 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 your December statement closes as any purchases on your January statement will count toward next year’s benefit.

AAdvantage Platinum Select

The Citi American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Select card gets $125 American Airlines Flight Discount certificate after spending $20,000 or more during your credit cardmembership year (every 12 months from the billing cycle after your anniversary month through the billing cycle of your next anniversary month).

US Bank Altitude

The US Bank Altitude card comes with a $325 annual travel and dining credit. In this case, the travel credit goes based on the cardmember year, not the calendar year. No specific reason to use this now.

Wells Fargo Propel World

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 $350 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).

HSBC Premier

The HSBC Premier World Elite comes with $120 annual Lyft credit which is based on the calendar year. Be sure to use these up before December 31.

PenFed Pathfinder

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

 

Also check out these useful posts:

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Pam
Pam

DashPash for Chase cardholders & Uber Eats Pass for AMEX must sign up by 12.31.21 for free, limited-time suscriptions

Kafka
Kafka

It may be worth noting that Saks doesn’t charge your card until the item ships. If you wait until December, and it doesn’t ship/post until Jan, Amex will take that out of your 2022 credit. Supply chains aren’t what they were two years ago.

diggs
diggs

@chuck, the links to the PenFed PathFinder Card point to the old (defunct) AMEX version. It was replaced w/ a VISA version about a year, where you’ve covered it in this thread:
https://www.doctorofcredit.com/penfed-pathfinder-rewards-card-relaunches-as-visa-with-50000-point-bonus/

  • There don’t seem to be any DP links in the thread description of the PathFinder VISA indicating what airline GCss work, what don’t (for the annual $100 airline credit). Based on my cursory reading of the thread, AA GCs seem to be the only one that works. SouthWest GCs and UA TravelBank apparently DO NOT work.
  • The thread description of the PathFinder VISA mentions an additional $50 SUB (via referral?) which apparently ceased in early (Feb?) 2021. May want to post an update indicating that it’s no longer available.
  • Andy
    Andy

    CSP and CSR $60/$120 credits on Peloton end 12/31/31 also.

    JDDZip
    JDDZip

    Anyone know if United Travel Bank or Southwest Gift Cards still work for the Amex Plat benefit?

    Lee
    Lee

    Yes for united. I did this in October

    Jroam
    Jroam

    Both

    qmc
    qmc

    check for data points in the usual FT places.

    Sunny
    Sunny

    FlyerTalk

    Churnie Els
    Churnie Els

    Citi AA World Elite Mastercard (for anyone who still has them) gives a $125 AA Voucher on $20k spend.

    A Bad
    A Bad

    Doc, the AMEX Platinum 200$ hotel credit should be added. IIRC, it’s based on calendar year as well.

    Justmeha
    Justmeha

    Amex plat clear benefit

    af
    af

    I’m abandoning Aspire in favor of C1 X. However have just found out C1 Travel portal does not support Southwest, so the C1 X $300 travel credit is not a replacement for Aspire $250 Airline credit. C1 X prices are fair yet the only not supported US airline seems to be Southwest.

    Lee
    Lee

    Southwest isn’t on any 3rd party ota. They want you to book directly.

    SaigonSteve
    SaigonSteve

    I’m doing the same thing. I’ll cancel my aspire when it’s up for renewal and keep my new cap1 x. I used the airline credit for southwest flights but I seriously worry one day amex rat team will claw all those credits back.

    Andrew
    Andrew

    Dumb question, for the BofA Premium rewards, presumably, it’s AA gift cards that are bought on AA’s website?

    J
    J

    Correct. E gift cards emailed to you.