With less than a month left in 2021, it’s time to take care of those things you’ve been putting off! Personally, for example, I have airline fee credits available on several credit cards. If I don’t spend those credits by the end of the year, they’ll be lost. Similarly, I have hotel free nights soon expiring, elite benefits that need choosing, and points that need pooling. Here’s a checklist of points & miles related things that need to be done before its too late..
Earn elite status
Most loyalty programs have calendar year requirements for earning elite status. Airlines typically require flying a certain number of miles or segments, along with spending a certain amount of money with the airline. Hotel programs usually require staying a set number of nights. In most cases, those requirements must be met in 2021 in order to have elite status in the 2022 elite year.
For the 2022 elite year, many programs have rolled over their members’ prior status level. This includes big players like: Delta, Hilton, IHG, Marriott, and more. If you already had status in any of those programs and you’re not striving for a higher level status, then you’re all set.
If the status you want isn’t rolling over until next year, then it’s time to make sure that you’ll complete this year’s requirements before the end of December! Almost all programs have made it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 elite year. For airline elite programs, see this post for details: Easier airline elite status in 2021: Summary by Airline.
And, don’t forget Hyatt! Hyatt cut in half the required number of nights or base points required for achieving status in 2021 for the 2022 elite year (details here). Plus, throughout the year they offered several opportunities to earn bonus elite nights. If you’re close but not yet at 30 elite nights with Hyatt (the number of nights required for top tier Globalist status), go for it now in order to get the very best top tier status! Elite nights post based on your check-out date so make sure to check-out of any stay by 12/31 if you need the elite nights. Remember too that the personal World of Hyatt card offers 5 elite nights automatically plus 2 elite nights with each $5K of spend, and the World of Hyatt Business Card offers 5 elite nights with $10K spend. Spend requirements are not tied to your statement close date. As long as the charges show up as having occurred by 12/31/21, they should count.
Choose elite choice benefits
Some elite statuses come with an annual choice benefit where you can select from among a few key benefit options. Be sure to make your choice selections ASAP.
- Aeroplan Select Benefits: You have until December 31, 2021 to pick your Select Benefits. You can pick them even if you only have temporary elite status due to a status match. For tips on what to pick and why, see: About that Air Canada Aeroplan status match… [An interview with Prince of Travel].
- Delta Choice Benefit: You have until January 31, 2022 to select your choice benefit if you achieved Delta status during 2020 for the 2021 calendar year. If you achieved Delta status during 2021, you have until January 31, 2023 to make your selection. See: Delta Diamond Choice Benefits: Which to choose and when?
- IHG choice benefit: If you achieved Spire Elite status last year (in 2020), you have until December 30, 2021 to make your choice benefit for this year. If you have achieved Spire Elite status based on 2021 activity, you will have until December 30, 2022 to make your selection. To make your selection, log into your IHG account and then go to this URL: www.ihg.com/rewardsclub/us/en/account-mgmt/spire (H/T DanInMCI)
- Marriott choice benefit: Annual Choice Benefit selection must be made by 11:59 pm ET on January 7, 2022. Note that the website says that you will be able to make your choice benefit selection within 48 hours of achieving 50 or 75 nights. Make your selection here. See: Marriott choice benefit valuations: Which to pick? for help deciding which to choose.
Begin your pursuit of a Southwest Companion Pass
Now is the time to set the wheels in motion towards your Southwest Companion Pass. The end of the calendar year is the ideal time to sign up for Southwest credit cards or to refer friends in order to earn huge numbers of qualifying points quickly and at the start of 2022. If you earn the Companion Pass early enough in the calendar year, it will be good for almost 2 full years: the rest of the year in which it is earned and all of the next. See our Southwest Companion Pass Complete Guide for more info.
Southwest Credit Cards
Points earned on Southwest credit cards count towards the required 125,000 points for a Companion Pass. Welcome bonus points count too. If you sign up for a new card in December, your first statement close date should be in January (it’s worth double-checking that, though) and so all points earned on the card will credit in 2022. That’s what you want.
By the time you read this it might be too late to sign up for a 100K offer (but at the time of this writing the 100K offers are still available), but business card offers still make sense to pursue. See this post for full details: It’s Time: Get Your Southwest Companion Pass.
The annual cap on referrals is 50,000 points per card. A couple of years ago, Nick discovered that referrals made after your December statement cut date but by December 31st count toward the current calendar year’s Chase referral limit, but will post to your Southwest account in January. This means it is possible to double dip and earn up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points per Southwest card in January. Here’s how that works:
- Refer 5 friends after your December statement cut date and by December 31st: Earn 50,000 points (10K per approved referral) on your January statement date
- Refer 5 friends beginning on January 1st and before your January statement cut date: Earn 50,000 points (10K per approved referral) on your January statement date
Use free night certificates
While some hotel programs have extended the expiration dates of their free night certificates into 2022, not all have done so. If you’re sitting on free night certificates, log into your account to see when they expire. In particular watch out for the following:
- Hyatt: Hyatt still hasn’t announced an extension of their free night certificates and so we seem to be in a use ’em or lose ’em situation. I have two category 1-4 certs that expire at the end of this year and one that expires about a month later. Some people have reported success in waiting for free night certificates to expire and then asking Hyatt if there’s anything that can be done. You might then get some points thrown your way. See also: Best Hyatt Category 1-4 Hotels & Resorts.
- IHG: IHG certificates issued in 2021 are now valid through the end of 2022, but certificates issued before 2021 expire at the end of this month: 12/31/21. My wife and I each have a free night expiring by the end of the year and we’re not sure what we’re going to do with them! If you’re in this situation too, don’t forget about this post: The trick to finding IHG 40K free nights. And this one: Best uses for IHG 40K free night certificates.
- Radisson: Radisson previously extended their free night certificates to 12/31/21 so I expect that many readers have a free night or two that is now very close to expiration. See also: Best Radisson hotels in the U.S. for your free night certificates.
Holiday gifting: If you have free night certificates that you can’t use for yourself, consider gifting them to someone else. You didn’t know what to get for that special someone anyway, so how about a night or two in a mid-tier hotel? Hyatt allows gifting free nights directly; IHG doesn’t technically allow it but people have reported success calling IHG to book a free night for someone else; and Radisson (I think) allows it even when booking online (at least I’ve had success doing so in the past). More here: Gift hotel points, free night certificates, and award nights booked with points: Rules by program.
Use temporary Amex dining and cell phone credits
Those who started the year with Delta, Hilton, or Marriott credit cards from Amex have enjoyed monthly dining credits (consumer cards) or cell phone service credits (business cards). This is the last month to use those credits!
- Delta cards: Enhancements for 2021 (dining, wireless, status boost, and Delta spend bonuses)
- Hilton cards: Enhancements for 2021 (dining, wireless, and spend bonuses)
- Marriott Amex cards: Enhancements for 2021 (dining, wireless, and spend bonuses)
Use airline incidental credits
- Amex airline incidental credits, like those that come with the various flavors of Platinum cards or with the Hilton Aspire card, are offered by the calendar year. These credits post based on the date that the charge is made on your card; even if you make a charge on 12/31 and the charge doesn’t post to your statement until a few days into 2022, it’ll count against your 2021 cap as long as the charge date shows December 31st or sooner — though beware that a couple of years Nick made a couple of United club pass purchases late on 12/31 that posted immediately to his United account but the charges were dated 1/1. Don’t leave it until the very last minute. Also make sure you know which airline you’ve chosen (or you might be able to get a chat rep to change your chosen airline, but YMMV). See: Amex airline fee reimbursements. What still works?
- Amex Gold $100 airline incidental credits: Calling this out here from the rest of the Amex credits (above) because 2021 is the last year for this. If you got the card before they eliminated the credits, then you should still be able to use the credits through the end of this year (2021).
- Chase Ritz-Carlton incidental credits are also based on calendar year and the date that the charge hits your statement. Be sure to charge any incidentals by December 31st and you should be able to apply your 2020 credit even if the charges don’t settle for a few days into 2021.
- Bank of America Premium Rewards incidental credit works like Amex and Chase above in that the credit runs from January 1st to December 31st. Be sure to place qualifying charges by December 31st. As a data point, deposits to a United Travel Bank have worked in the past (same has been true with Amex cards that offer airline fee credits).
- Citi Prestige travel credits also work based on calendar year spend (this is a change from pre-2020 when they based the spend on December to December statement close dates). For 2021, Citi expanded this credit to include spend at supermarkets and restaurants (details here).
Use other annual / monthly credits
- American Express Business Platinum:
- Dell $200: Use the semi-annual $200 Dell credit by December 31st. Be sure to enroll online for this benefit if you have not already done so. Note: Dell won’t charge your card until the item ships. If ordering near the end of the year, make sure to only buy items that ship immediately.
- Wireless $10: Get up to $10 per month back when you use your card to pay for wireless telephone service. Make sure to visit the benefit page to enroll.
- American Express Platinum:
- Prepaid Hotels $200 Credit: Use your $200 calendar year credit towards prepaid Fine Hotels & Resorts or The Hotel Collection hotels. Note that you can book now for a stay that takes place in 2022. See: Searching for deals through Fine Hotels & Resorts, Find your own Fine Hotels & Resorts deals, and The Hotel Collection Mini Guide: Prepaid rates earn hotel points/perks, and more surprising finds. No need to enroll.
- Saks $50: Use the $50 semi-annual Sak’s Fifth Ave credit, just be sure not to use it on gift cards as Amex has clawed back the credit on gift card purchases even months after closing the card. Don’t forget to enroll in this benefit!
- Uber / Uber Eats $35: Use the monthly Uber / Uber Eats credit. Remember that December’s Uber credit is $35 rather than the usual $15. Enroll simply by adding your Amex card to your Uber wallet.
- Digital Entertainment $20: Earn up to $20 per month in credits for subscriptions to Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enroll here and then setup the service to charge your Platinum card monthly. Note that the maximum rebate is $20 altogether — you do not get up to $20 per service.
- American Express Gold
- Misc $10 Dining & Boxed: Use monthly $10 credit valid at Boxed.com, Shake Shack, Seamless/Grubhub, Cheesecake Factory or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
- Uber / Uber Eats $10: Use the monthly $10 Uber / Uber Eats credit. Enroll simply by adding your Amex card to your Uber wallet.
- Chase Cards: Use your monthly $10 GoPuff credit.
Apply for Amex cards
December is the ideal time to apply for American Express cards that come with annual credits. That is because those credits are based on calendar year. It is therefore possible to open a card with incidental credits now and potentially use that incidental credit for 2021 by December 31st and then receive a new incidental credit starting on January 1st, 2022. Since your next annual fee would not be scheduled to post until December 2022, it would theoretically be possible to use your annual credit again in January 2023 and cancel the card before the fee comes due if you decided that you no longer wanted to keep it. In the current environment with Amex sometimes clawing back credits even months after a card is closed, I’d recommend some caution here. Still, it should at the very least be possible to double dip. That said, there aren’t many days left in 2021 to receive your new card. The Amex system will sometimes offer to auto-generate a temporary card number upon approval (and if request this and Amex is unable to generate it, they will sometimes offer you a statement credit) or you may be able to get your new card expedited by asking or requesting it within your online account.
Transfer / pool points
Some programs limit how many points you can transfer between members within a calendar year. If you’re looking to pool points for a valuable award, consider making a transfer before December 31st so that you’ll have more capacity to transfer beginning next month.
- Citi ThankYou points: You can transfer up to 100,000 Citi ThankYou points per year and/or receive up to 100,000 Citi ThankYou points per calendar year. Keep in mind that points received through a transfer from another cardholder expire after 90 days. Only transfer points with an immediate use in mind. That said, if your chosen award will require sending over more than 100K points, you should be able to transfer up to 100K by December 31st and then a fresh 100K beginning on January 1st.
- Marriott Bonvoy Rewards: You can transfer up to 100,000 points per calendar year to another member and you can receive up to 500,000 transferred points per calendar year. That will reset on January 1st, so make any necessary transfers now if you think you might need to move more points than those caps.
- Hilton Honors: Each account can receive up to 2,000,000 Hilton Honors points in a calendar year and you are limited to six Hilton points pooling transactions per calendar year.
Redeem points or miles for annual rebates
If you have the Citi Rewards+, remember that you’ll get back 10% of the points you use (up to 10,000 points back) per calendar year. This means that if you have your points pooled with a Premier or Prestige card and you transferred 100,000 points to an airline, you’d get 10,000 ThankYou points back. I expect that if you initiate the transfer by December 31st, you’ll get the rebate for the current calendar year, but it is possible that the rebate is based on the date when the transfer finalizes, so it would be best to give yourself a few days before the end of the year on any transfer you intend to make.
Make sure you’ve completed spend bonuses
Whether the quarterly category bonus on a card like the Chase Freedom card or a big spend bonus that’s based on calendar year, you’ll want to run the numbers to be sure you’ve made it over the hump. For example, it would be a shame to end up just under the $15,000 spend required for a Hilton or Hyatt free night certificate.
The end of the year can be a stressful time for everyone. This list is intended to help a little bit by providing a checklist of things to get done before its too late. That said, my advice is to try not to sweat it too much. If you’re feeling stressed, give yourself permission to forget about the small stuff. Didn’t take advantage of this or that $5 or $10 deal? That’s OK! The world will keep spinning regardless (thanks in part to some Peloton deals).