/Don’t forget to use your credit card benefits that reset each year by December 31, otherwise you could miss out on valuable credits and bonus points

Don’t forget to use your credit card benefits that reset each year by December 31, otherwise you could miss out on valuable credits and bonus points


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Travel rewards credit cards come with all kinds of benefits. Some offer high sign-up bonuses, extra rewards in categories such as gas stations or grocery stores, and statement credits for things like travel expenses that can help offset the annual fee. While some of these benefits are ongoing or are tied to your card’s anniversary date, others reset at the end of each calendar year.

If you carry a credit card with calendar-year-based perks, now is the time to make sure you have either used them or maximized your annual spending to reap the benefits you deserve. 

Credit card benefits that reset every calendar year

We’re focusing here on benefits that recalibrate each calendar year, though some cards offer perks that are based on your account anniversary instead, and those are also worth staying on top of.

One of the reasons it can be hard to keep track of your credit card benefits each year is the simple fact that there are several types of yearly awards that cards tend to include. Here are the main categories, though, and a few examples of cards that offer each.

Travel and other statement credits

Many premium travel rewards cards come with statement credits each year specifically for travel purchases. Due to COVID-19 and the consequent restrictions on travel, many of these cards have broadened their purchase categories for this type of benefit in 2020. So if you carry a credit card that normally reimburses you for some travel expenses, be sure to check any updates on what might be available to you.

Regular APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Featured Reward

75,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 in your first 6 months of account opening


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  • Pros & Cons

    • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
    • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
    • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
    • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
    • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
    • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
    • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
    • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
    • $550 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Long list of travel benefits, including airport lounge access and complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott
    • Annual statement credits with Saks and Uber
    Cons
    • Bonus categories leave something to be desired
    • One of the highest annual fees among premium travel cards


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    Airline fee credits 

    Let’s take a few quick examples, though. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to $200 per calendar year in airline incidental fee credits. Each January, cardholders can choose one eligible US airline with which to use those credits. They can be put toward extras like seat assignments, checked bags, inflight purchases, and more.

    The Business Platinum Card® from American Express comes with similar credits up to $200 per year, while the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card ups the ante to a total of up to $250 per year. 

    If you haven’t maxed these out yet this year, there are lots of ways to use Amex airline fee credits, such as buying lounge passes to use in the coming year or pre-paying for seat assignments and bags on flights you’ve booked for 2021. Unfortunately, airfare and flight vouchers do not count.

    Shopping and travel credits 

    Platinum Card holders are also eligible for up to $100 of Saks shopping credits each calendar year, which is divided into $50 for use between January and June, and $50 for July to December. So if you haven’t used your $50 for the second half of 2020 yet, it’s time to pick out something from Saks for someone on your holiday shopping list.

    The Platinum Card also comes with up to $200 per year in Uber credits (including Uber Eats), which are split into $15 monthly. However, in December, cardholders receive an extra $20 in credit (for a total of $35), so be sure to order Uber Eats food delivery or pickup if you haven’t maximized this month’s benefit yet. The annual fee is $550 (See Rates).

    The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers up to $200 per year in Dell credits — up to $100 from January to June, and another $100 from July to December. If you’ve not yet used the credit for the last half of the year, Dell sells plenty of accessories and electronics under $100, like Bluetooth headphones or gaming gear.

    For its part, the Citi Prestige® Card normally comes with up to $250 in travel credits each calendar year, which can be applied to flights and hotel bookings, and also things like cruises, car rentals, and even taxis and tolls. If you have this card, but aren’t sure whether you’ve used it to pay for $250 worth of travel in 2020, check your progress. The good news is, cardholders can also apply their $250 at supermarkets and restaurants this year thanks to pandemic-related updates.

    As a side note, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® normally offers up to $300 in statement credits toward travel purchases each account year – based on the date your annual fee is charged rather than from January to December. However, if you opened your card before May 21, 2017, this credit resets at the end of each calendar year, so if you’re in that situation, be sure you’ve used the credit before the end of December.

    Travel purchases can include anything from flights and hotel bookings to train tickets, ride shares, taxis, and even tolls and parking, among other eligible expenses. 

    Credit card bonus category spending limits 

    Regular APR

    15.99%–20.99% variable APR

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    100,000 points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening


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    • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
    • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
    • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases—with no limit to the amount you can earn
    • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more – your points don’t expire as long as your account is open
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Employee cards at no additional cost
    • $95 Annual Fee
    Pros
    • High sign-up bonus
    • Offers 3x bonus points on several spending categories, including travel and advertising purchases
    • Includes comprehensive travel coverage
    Cons
    • Welcome bonus has a very high minimum spending requirement


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    While many credit cards have bonus earning categories with no maximums, there are some that extend higher earning potential up to a yearly cap. For instance, the American Express® Gold Card earns 4x points per dollar on up to $25,000 of purchases at U.S. supermarkets each calendar year; after that, it only earns 1x. By contrast, it earns 4x points at restaurants with no ceiling, and 3x on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel. The annual fee is $250 (See Rates).

    Similarly, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express earns a whopping 6% back at U.S. supermarkets, but only on up to $6,000 spent per calendar year; after that, you’ll earn 1%. However, the card does accrue 6% on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% back on transit, 3% back at U.S. gas stations, and 1% back on everything else. The annual fee is $95 (See rates).

    The Business Platinum Card® from American Express earns 1.5x points on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more (an extra half-point per dollar) up to one million additional points per calendar year, then 1x after that. It also earns an uncapped 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel.

    The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card from Chase has an excellent earning structure, accumulating 3x points on up to a combined total of $150,000 in purchases of travel, shipping, internet, cable and phone services, and advertising with social media sites and search engine in a calendar year. After that, it’s just 1x. So if you have any spending in these categories to do soon, try to make some of those purchases in 2020 so as not to eat into your 2021 spending cap.  

    Although its bonus categories rotate quarterly rather than yearly, since Q4 also ends on December 31, it’s worth checking whether you have earned as many bonus points as possible this season with your Chase Freedom Flex℠. The card earns 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining at restaurants and on drugstore purchases, and 1% back on all other purchases.

    It also earns 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in categories that rotate each quarter (then 1%), so stock up on what you need now in order to hit those earning ceilings.

    Spending threshold bonuses or boosts

    Regular APR

    15.74% to 24.74% variable APR

    Credit Score

    Good to Excellent

    Featured Reward

    Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.


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    • Earn up to 125,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 bonus points after your first anniversary of Card Membership. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.
    • Enjoy complimentary Platinum Elite status with your Card for the 2021 status year. Offer Expires 1/13/2021.
    • Enjoy up to $300 in statement credits each year of Card Membership for eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels.
    • Earn 6 Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy Hotels. 3 points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2 points on all other eligible purchases.
    • Receive 1 free Night Award every year after your Card account anniversary. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points) at a participating hotel. Certain hotels have resort fees.
    • Enjoy unlimited airport lounge visits when you enroll in Priority Pass Select membership.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • $450 annual fee.
    • Terms Apply.
    Pros
    • Annual statement credits can save you money on Marriott stays
    • You get a free reward night each year after your account anniversary
    Cons
    • High annual fee
    • Other cards are more rewarding for earning points on your spending


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    A lot of travel rewards cards also extend special bonuses, boosts toward elite status, and even free night rewards for meeting certain spending thresholds each calendar year.

    Probably the most well known is the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card. Cardholders are eligible to earn 15,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) toward elite status when they spend $30,000 or more on purchases with their card in a calendar year. This perk is capped at 60,000 MQMs and $120,000 in spending. That’s a lot of money to put on a single credit card, but if it’s in your wheelhouse and you can hit that high mark, you could walk away with enough MQMs to earn Delta Gold Medallion status outright without setting foot on an airplane.

    Also remember that by spending $25,000 or more on purchases with the Delta Reserve in a calendar year, you can waive the Medallion Qualification Dollar spending requirements for all tiers up to Platinum (Diamond requires $250,000).

    The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®

    offers members who spend $40,000 or more on purchases with their card in a calendar year 10,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) toward AAdvantage elite status with American Airlines. The JetBlue Plus Card, meanwhile, awards automatic Mosaic elite status to cardholders who spend $50,000 or more on the card in a calendar year.

    The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card,Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card all earn Tier Qualification Points (TQPs) toward elite status based on spending. You can earn 1,500 TQPs for each $10,000 spent on purchases, up to a total of 15,000 TQPs per calendar year.

    Another thing to note about the Southwest family of co-branded credit cards – the Rapid Rewards points you earn with them count toward Companion Pass qualification (basically two-for-one paid and award travel). To score one, you’ve got to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. So if you’re near that level, you might want to put a little extra spending on your cards to get you over the hump — just be sure your December card closing date hasn’t passed yet, because points that post in January won’t count toward 2020 Companion Pass status.

    Hotel credit cards offer spending bonuses of their own. If you have The World Of Hyatt Credit Card

    , you can expect a free night reward every year you renew and pay the annual fee that is redeemable at Category 1 – 4 hotels. You can earn an additional free night reward after spending $15,000 on purchases in an account year, too, though this is switching to the calendar year in 2021 and 2022 (depending on when you opened your card) — so start thinking about your future spending now.

    Although folks with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card get a weekend night reward that’s redeemable at most participating hotels worldwide each account anniversary after paying their annual fee, they can earn an additional one by spending $60,000 or more on purchases in a calendar year. Likewise, those with either the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or the The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card can earn a weekend night reward at $15,000 or more in calendar-year spending, and boost from Hilton Honors Gold status up to top-tier Diamond by hitting $40,000.

    For Marriott loyalists, spending $75,000 or more in a calendar year on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card will bump you up from Gold elite status up to Platinum and a host of better benefits, including an improved shot at room upgrades during stays.  

    Credit card referral bonuses

    Some credit card issuers reward you with bonuses for referring friends to apply either for your specific card, or another one from the same bank. For instance, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you might be eligible to earn 10,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points for every friend you refer who successfully applies, up to a total of 50,000 points per calendar year. Have the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card? You might be able to rake in 20,000 bonus points per referral up to 100,000 points per year.

    American Express also often tempts cardmembers with referral offers. This will often depend both on the cards you carry and the ones American Express is currently promoting. For instance, if you have the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card

    , you can refer others for any available Amex personal or business card offer, and expect a rate of 20,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points per successful referral up to 55,000 bonus points total per year. If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, you might receive up to 15,000 Amex Membership Rewards points per referral, up to 55,000 per calendar year. So it’s worthwhile checking what offers you’re eligible for.

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