Year-End Credit Card Checklist for 2020: Travel Credits, Spend Reset, Application Strategy & More

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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 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. (2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015)

This year there are 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

  • 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. This resets on January 1st each year.
  • 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 resets January 1 each year, not on the December close date.
  • Blue Cash Everyday $6,000 limit on the 3% grocery store category per calendar year. This resets January 1 each year, not on 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+ and a few other cards have quarterly categories. The current category quarter 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.

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 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 airline credit for the current year. 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 business Platinum 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.

There’s also a bonus $100 at Dell credit available as a temporary deal for July-December 2020. Be sure to spend $200 at Dell before December 31 so as to maximize both $100 credits.

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 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. 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.

$50 Bonus Credit

The Premium Rewards card also sent out a one-time special offer that all cardholders can get a $50 statement credit by spending at least $50 on grocery or dining purchases. Be sure to meet that spend by December 31.

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 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.

Of course, a lot of people will be less exuberant about the Companion Pass at the moment given the limited amount of travel people are doing.

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.

  • Southwest Plus personal card with $69 annual fee – 80,000 points bonus, 50k after $2k spend within 3 months and 30k after additional $10k spend within 9 months.
  • Southwest Premier personal card with $99 annual fee – 80,000 points bonus, 50k after $2k spend within 3 months and 30k after additional $10k spend within 9 months.
  • Southwest Priority personal card with $149 annual fee – 80,000 points bonus, 50k after $2k spend within 3 months and 30k after additional $10k spend within 9 months.
  • Southwest Performance business card with $199 annual fee – 100,000 points bonus, 70 after $5,000 in spend within 3 months and 30k after additional $20k in 6 months.
  • Southwest Premier business card with $99 annual fee – 60,000 points bonus after $3,000 in spend within 3 months.

Here’s our post on the 80k personal cards signup bonus and our post on the 100k business card signup bonus. I’ve included the direct card signup links above, but you’ll do better using a friend/spouse’s referral link since you’ll get the same bonus and they’ll gain 20,000 points. 

The business Performance cards works out beautifully with 100,000 points bonus + $25,000 spend requirement = 125,000 points which gets you the Companion Pass, but that is a steep spend requirement. You might also consider doing the Premier business card for 60,000 on $3k spend + one of the personal cards for 50,000 on $2k spend, and that would get you close to the Companion Pass, though not quite there.

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

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; they temporarily expanded the categories to allow grocery, dining, and home improvement to count as well). 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. (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.

$60 DoorDash Credit

The Sapphire Reserve also gets a $60 DoorDash credit to be used from July through December. Be sure to use that up by December 31. Beginning January 1, you can start using your $60 for January through June.

Ritz-Carlton

The Chase Ritz-Carlton card offers up to $300 reimbursements for airline incidental charges (see what counts here; this temporarily works on restaurants and supermarkets too). 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. (This is changing for 2021-2022 and onward.)

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). 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 your December statement closes as any purchases on your January statement will count toward next year’s benefit.

US Bank Altitude

The US Bank Altitude card comes with a $325 annual travel credit (temporarily, this works on Dining too). 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 the credit, then starts the next year.

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 $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).

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.

 

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