End of Year Checklist for 2021

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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.

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.

Southwest Refer-a-Friend

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

The Confidante, Miami Beach, is one of many very good hotels where you can use Hyatt category 1-4 free night certificates. See: Best Hyatt Category 1-4 Hotels & Resorts.

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:

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!

For tips on using your dining credits, click here.  For tips on using your wireless credits, click here.

See also:

Use airline incidental credits

Amex Airline Fee 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:
  • 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.

Bottom line

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).

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Josh

pool US Bank Altitude Reserve points – max 20,000 pts per year

SteveH

I think you’re missing the Amex Gold airline incidental credit that is still available this year even though the counter is no longer showing on the website. I would have completely forgot if not for a post in the FM facebook group.

Nina

FYI Dell won’t charge card until item ships. And they’re out of a lot of items, just an fyi.

Vince

Watched the podcast–thank you for being imperfect! Hearing of the ways that things have gone sideways for both of you from time to time in this game, even at your level of expertise, makes me feel better about my occasional foible.

Questions: 2 nights from Titanium (current lifetime platinum). Can do the 2 nights at a local Courtyard for 40K total or $249 all in.
1- with cost aside, is it worth the jump in status (I am envisioning better chances of SNAs clearing, using United Silver 1-3 times, extra 25% in points)?
2- If so, do you do the points (40K points and choose a 40K cert, near equal) or the cash rate (then have to make sure I get >/= $249 from that cert)? Already have plenty of SNAs, so not going to choose those.

Josh

For sure – I used the 5 elite night credits to get to titanium. SNA’s worthless.

Last edited 1 month ago by Josh
Nate

Thanks for this lovely post.

Question- I have made 71 nights in 2021. Is there a reason why I wouldn’t/shouldn’t choose 5 elite night credit to make Titanium now, rather than in Jan ’22?
Also once matched, would I be able to status match to Hyatt?
Thanks for sharing this!

DaninMCI

I would choose the 5 elite night credit unless you already have Titanium and it’s been extended through 2022.

Paul

Greg, use those Hyatt Certs at CAA. One morning do the breakfast in the lobby, and make sure to get the hashbrowns (exceptionally cripsy outside, soft inside, and amazingly seasoned) and english muffin (so you can get the homemade raspberry jam). The other morning, order room service (comes from the rooftop restaurant) and get the pastry basket, which is exceptional, and anything else. Do not order the pastry basket in the lobby restaurant (or so I’ve heard). Walk over to Navy Pier if the weather isn’t too nasty and check out the Sable Hotel, which is a new Hilton, on Navy Pier. Have a drink at the very cool rooftop bar there. Let me know if you do it!

fudgelie

How long do the Marriott 5 EQNs elite choice benefit take to post?

Paul

I did this last year, and from memory it took 1-2 days.

fudgelie

Thanks, that’s good to know. I haven’t missed the boat so for this year.

Alan

I just got an offer for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards that ups the referral to 20k points per referral instead of 10k. Sounds like you get the 10k first and then get the other 10k after June 30.

Do referral miles count towards companion pass?

AlexL

Yes, referral miles count towards companion pass.

ssss

Great post! Is there a link for the IHG Spire Elite selection? Thanks!

ssss

Thanks

DaninMCI

You have to log in to IHG and then go to the benefits page. I’ll post this link but not 100% sure it will work. https://www.ihg.com/rewardsclub/us/en/account-mgmt/spire

ssss

Thank you, that was the page I couldn’t locate.

Ellen Moss

I. Ever even knew this existed! Nice save and thanks for your help!

Pam

Like the AMEX travel portal credit, the $100 Citi Premier credit (off $500) also must be booked by 12.31.

I like saving my CSR Door Dash $60 credit for December when I tend to order-in more. Calendar year, too, and might as well sign-up for the free 12-mth Dash Pass at same time to save some fees/charges (must be activated by 12.31).

12-mth Uber Eats/Uber One pass must also be activated on the Platinum card by year end.

Boise Ding

Great post! Thank you!