I didn’t travel much in 2021. I mean, aside from that trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and The Maldives. And to the private island in the Caribbean with Greg. Still, not much. And so as the game wound down to the bottom of the 9th, I spent the last couple of days of the year swinging for the fences with my various airline and hotel credits. I did have a couple of nice hits, but a few unforced errors have me watching over my shoulder for the guy in the on-deck circle. Here’s how I spent the last couple of days of 2021 trying to trigger airline fee and hotel credits.
Fine Hotels & Resorts credit
Let’s start with an easy win that provides good intel for future reference: The Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts credit that comes with consumer Platinum cards.
As the final days of the year wound down, I found that many people were making the (incorrect) assumption that if they hadn’t made a Fine Hotels & Resorts booking in time for the reimbursement from Amex to show up before December 31st they were out of luck. I think a lot of people assumed that you had to receive the $200 credit from Amex by December 31st.
Thankfully, I knew that wasn’t likely to be the case. In my experience, when it comes to airline fee credits, wireless and dining credits, and Amex Offers, the credit is based on the date of the charge on your statement. As I noted in the final days of the year, the date when the merchant finalizes the transaction is what matters and in my experience non-merchandise purchases often get finalized by the merchant right away. That is to say that a purchase made today for anything that doesn’t physically get shipped to you usually (though not always) codes on your statement with today’s date even though you won’t see the charge move from pending to posted until a few days from now. More thoughts on that concept in this post.
Thus I expected that a Fine Hotels & Resorts booking made even on December 31st, 2021 should receive the 2021 Fine Hotels & Resorts credit even if you didn’t actually see the credit on your statement until January of 2022. I can confirm that my assumption was correct.
As you’ll see in the following screen shot, I made an Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts reservation on 12/31/21. I received the $200 credit for the previous-year reservation on January 1st, 2022. Note that while the $200 credit posted on 1/1/2022, that was actually my 2021 credit for the reservation I made on December 31, 2021.
Then, I made a second reservation on January 1, 2022. On January 2, 2022, I received another credit for $200. That was my 2022 credit for the reservation I made on January 1, 2022.
Note that I wouldn’t recommend waiting until December 31st to make a reservation. There is always the chance, particularly the closer to midnight that you wait, that the charge won’t finalize right away and will post with a January 1st date on your statement. Ask me how I know. If that December 31st charge ended up with a January 1st date, I’d have missed out on $200.
Of course, in any normal year, I would have easily used that credit long before the end of the year. Given that this benefit only debuted in the second half of the year and my family spent a total of three nights in hotels (I think) during the second half of 2021, we just didn’t get the chances we normally would to use it. The good news here is that if you’re a procrastinator, you might be able to wait pretty late in the game and still use that credit.
On another Platinum card, I ran into an oddity that will enable me to test the answer to another key question.
We know from experience that if you book a Fine Hotels and Resorts reservation and receive your $200 credit and you later cancel that reservation, Amex claws back the $200 credit.
Based on that knowledge, we have assumed that if you made a reservation in late 2021 for a stay that is scheduled in 2022 and you received the 2021 Fine Hotels & Resorts $200 credit but plans change and you cancel that reservation in 2022, Amex will claw back its $200 credit. You would then be stuck with no way to go back in time to 2021 to make another booking and use your 2021 credit.
Some people wondered what would happen if you had multiple reservations made in 2021 for stays consumed in 2022. In other words, will Amex automatically recognize that you have still used more than $200 worth of fine hotels & Resorts and let you keep the $200 credit?
I don’t yet know the answer for sure, but it looks like Amex was determined to punish me for my procrastination by giving me an opportunity to test those waters.
On December 31st, I first made a reservation totaling $149.38. Then, later the same day, I made a reservation that totaled $240.94. I intended to cancel the first reservation but forgot to do so — resulting in the credits posting as $149.38 toward the first reservation I booked and $50.62 from the second one. Now what happens when I cancel the $149.38 reservation? Will Amex recognize that my $240.94 booking was enough to still consume the whole credit?
I don’t yet know the answer to this one because I wanted to make another Fine Hotels & Resorts booking to use my 2022 credit before I mess with canceling anything. I made that reservation a couple of days ago and I am just waiting for the credit to arrive. I’ll post a quick quick tip when I do know.
What still works still works….for the most part
I had a number of easy wins with airline fee credits used thanks to data points in our Amex airline fee reimbursements: What still works? post. Specifically, all of my Amex cards were set up to use either United or Southwest and I had no difficulty getting easy reimbursements for things seen in that post.
Unforced error #1: Selecting my airline late in the game
we have a lot of cards in our household with Amex airline fee credits. Again, in a normal year I find ways to use these credits sooner. In 2021, the credits waited until the last minute for a combination of factors. First, I didn’t travel much. Second, United was the airline of choice on a few cards in my household and waiting until the end of a year in which I knew I probably wouldn’t travel (2021) made sense in terms of maximizing how far out I’d be able to use that credit.
Since I had just opened a Platinum card of my own in mid November, I only realized on December 30th that I hadn’t even selected an airline yet for the 2021 credit. That realization led off a comedy of errors. The bottom line is that I made two charges with United that should have triggered my airline fee credit but did not.
Here’s what I think happened. Note that I take screen shots like it is going out of style, so I have screen shots with timestamps to reference for all of this stuff along with the email timestamps.
First, the order of events
- I selected United as my airline at 12:03am Eastern time on 12/31/21. This was just after midnight.
- I made a United charge for $100 at 12:58am Eastern time on 12/31/21 and a second charge for $50 at 12:59am.
- I later made a third charge for economy plus seating later in the day on 12/31 for $55.
- I only received the credit for the $55 economy plus seating (received on 1/2/22 and not counting against my 2022 credit)
What do I think went wrong?
- Amex correctly recognized that I chose my airline on 12/31/21 — just a few minutes after the stroke of midnight in my time zone. Whether they go by user timezone or by Eastern time, they got the date right.
- The United charges for $100 and $50, which I know from screen shot timestamp and email timestamp were 12:58am and 12:59am Eastern time on 12/31/21, the date on my online credit card statement is 12/30/21. How did my purchase get backdated? I’m assuming that I must have been dealing with some sort of United-related thing in processing purchases based on the corporate headquarters timezone.
Either way, I got burned since the charge from United looks like it came the calendar day before I selected my airline even though I made the charge about an hour after selecting my airline.. Regular readers may remember that this is the second time I’ve gotten burned by United as in a previous year I purchased a lounge pass on 12/31 only to have them not finalize the charge until 1/1, losing out on my previous year’s airline fee credit and using some of the new year’s credit on a lounge pass on day 1. Ugh.
Fool me once, United. Well, I mean fool me twice….you can’t fool me again!
Unforced error #2: Procrastinating too long on BOA Premium Rewards
The Bank of America Premium Rewards card’s travel credit is pretty easy to use as these things go. We’ve never maintained a lengthy database since many different airline charges seem to work.
I was therefore pretty surprised when I realized on 12/31 that we hadn’t used our 2021 airline fee reimbursement credit on this card.
I’d read plenty of data points indicating that cheap Southwest tickets would trigger the reimbursement. I found a $49 city pair and booked it twice. I thought i had this one wrapped up since I knew the tickets should trigger the reimbursement.
Fortunately for me, the tickets did trigger the airline fee credit. Unfortunately for me, not only did they sit in pending transactions for a few days, they posted to Bank of America with a 1/3/22 date. Yes, an airline ticket I bought on 12/31/21 shows up as though I made the purchase on 1/3/22. So it did in fact trigger the credit — it’s just that it triggered the 2022 credit. The 2021 credit is lost in the ether.
You win some, you lose some. though in this case it was entirely my fault to have lost out on easy airline fee credits thanks to waiting until the last minute to use my credits. Do as I say, not as I do — at the time of writing you’ve got about 359 days to for in 2022. Try not to leave using your airline fee credits until December 31st.