If You Fail To Plan, You Plan To Fail

Happy New Year!  Here is to a year of lucrative bonuses, smart spending and free travel.  Whether you already play this points and miles game, or I am convincing you that you should, you will be more successful at it if you can take advantage of the benefits and incentives that are offered with your cards.

At the beginning of each calendar year, spend caps and spending incentives reset.  Some travel credits and airline fee credits are renewed and spending plans can be formulated.  Other than scoring that free ticket or hotel room, an extra goal this year may be securing an annual spend bonus, receiving a companion ticket or gaining elite status in your favorite airline or hotel loyalty program.

Following is A LOT of information to help you maximize your rewards, incentives and benefits in 2018.  To start, I would focus on the cards below that you own.  It may become too overwhelming reading about the benefits of cards that you don’t have in your inventory.  Also, the cards that I highlight are a sampling of the many cards that are in the marketplace, although these are definitely some of the main ones.

Annual Bonus Earning Spend Caps Reset In 2018

1) American Express Everyday Preferred Card– On up to $6,000 in purchases per year you earn 3X Membership Rewards points at supermarkets.  After you spend $6,000 in a given year, you only earn 1X Membership per $1 spent at supermarkets.

2) American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card-On up to $6,000 in purchases per year you earn 6% CASH BACK at supermarkets.  After you spend $6,000 in a given year, you only earn 1% at supermarkets.

3)American Express Everyday Card– On up to $6,000 in purchases per year you earn 2X Membership Rewards points at supermarkets.  After you spend $6,000 in a given year, you only earn 1X Membership per $1 spent at supermarkets.

4) American Express Blue Cash Everyday– On up to $6,000 in purchases per year you earn 3% CASH BACK at supermarkets.  After you spend $6,000 in a given year, you only earn 1% at supermarkets.

5) American Express Blue Business Plus Credit Card (my new favorite card!)– On up to $50,000 in purchases per year you earn 2X Membership Rewards points ON EVERYTHING!  After you spend $50,000 in a given year, you only earn 1X Membership per $1 spent.

6)American Express Business Gold Rewards Card– On up to $100,000 in spending per year in certain categories you choose one of five categories to earn 3x Membership Rewards points per $1. These categories are: a) Airfare purchased directly from airlines, b) Advertising, c) Gas Stations, d) Shipping, and e) Computer hardware, software and cloud computing purchases.  You earn 2x Membership Rewards points in the remaining four categories.  The 3X and 2X points are earned only for the first $100,000 in purchases in each of the five categories per year.  You earn just 1X points thereafter.

Annual Travel Credits Reset 

1) Chase Sapphire Reserve Card-If you are one (like me) who got your card before May 21, 2017, you automatically receive up to $300 in statement credits each calendar year as reimbursement for travel-related purchases charged to your card.  For those of you who secured this card after May 21, your travel credit will only be issued once per membership year.  Stay on top of that!

2) U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card-Each year, automatically receive up to $325 in statement credits as reimbursement for travel-related purchases charged to your card.  This credit is based on your cardmember year!  Figure out when that is and don’t lose this credit!

3) American Express Platinum Card-Platinum cardholders-are you using these?  Try to!  I know this would be hard for me.  The card will provide up to $200 annually in Uber credits for U.S. rides. However, be careful, the benefit is really for $15 in Uber credits for U.S. rides every month, plus a $20 bonus in December, and no, the credit do not carry over each month. You use the monthly credit or you lose the monthly credit. If you take advantage of this benefit, make sure you add your American Express Platinum Card as a payment method to your Uber app.

Annual Airline Fee Credits Reset Too

1) American Express Platinum Card and American Express Business Platinum Card-Every calendar year, card members receive up to $200 a year in statement credits when incidental fees, such as baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, and airport lounge day passes, are charged by the airline to your Platinum card account.  Choose or change your qualifying airline this month at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice or by calling the number on the back of the Card. Card members who do not change their airline selection will remain with their current airline.  Also, Amex may make an exception and let you change your airline mid year.  

2) American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card-Every calendar year, card members receive up to $100 a year in statement credits when incidental fees, such as baggage fees, flight-change fees, in-flight food and beverage purchases, and airport lounge day passes, are charged by the airline to your Premier Rewards Gold card account.  Choose or change your qualifying airline this month at www.americanexpress.com/airlinechoice or by calling the number on the back of the card. Card Members who do not change their airline selection will remain with their current airline.

3) Citi Thank You Prestige Card-Every year, card members receive a $250 credit for airline fees.  Citi defines airline fees as purchases made with airlines including Airfares! (Amex does not include airfare!), baggage fees, lounge access and some in-flight purchases.  This statement credit is an annual benefit available for purchases appearing on your billing statements from December through the following December.  Note, this card is the only card of the group which will give you a credit for airfare.

4) Bank Of America Premium Rewards Card-Every calendar year card members get up to a $100 Airline Incidental Statement Credit for qualifying purchases such as seat upgrades, baggage fees, in-flight services, and airline lounge fees. The credit is automatically applied to your card statement.  Do as I say, not as I do-I lost this one in 2017.

5) Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card-Every year, card members receive a $300 credit to apply towards qualifying airline incidental fees.  Unlike the cards above, the credit is not automatic here.  You you must contact J.P. Morgan Priority Services at the number on the back of your Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card within 4 billing cycles of the purchase date.  The following types of purchases qualify for the credit: airline lounge day pass, or towards a yearly lounge membership of your choice; airline seat upgrades; airline baggage fees; in-flight internet/entertainment; in-flight meals.

Go For An Annual Spend Bonus Or Companion Ticket?

1) Chase United MileagePlus Explorer VisaIf you can spend $25,000 in this calendar year on your Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card, you will receive an additional 10,000 United MileagePlus bonus miles this year.

2) Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Business CardIf you can spend $25,000 in a calendar year on your Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card, you will receive an additional 10,000 United MileagePlus bonus miles that year.

3) American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles CardIf you can spend $25,000 or more on the American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card in a calendar year, you will be awarded 10,000 bonus SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) and if in that same calendar year you spend $50,000 or more, you will be awarded an additional 10,000 bonus SkyMiles and 10,000 MQMs.

4) Chase British Airways Visa Signature card-Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your British Airways Visa Signature card, you will earn a Travel Together Ticket, good for two years, that can be used when you redeem Avios for a flight on British Airways.  You basically redeem Avios for one ticket and you get another ticket for free.  You are eligible for only one voucher each calendar year. Your Travel Together Ticket will be issued at the end of the billing cycle that you reach $30,000 in purchases.  Be careful though, you still need to pay the taxes and fees on both tickets which can be a hefty sum, especially on economy tickets.

5)Southwest Companion Pass-In a calendar year, if you can earn 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points (or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines) you will qualify for a Companion Pass.  The Companion Pass is often a sought after prize in that it allows you to designate someone to fly with you on Southwest Airlines flights EVERY TIME that you purchase a ticket whether purchasing a ticket with dollars or points.  You earn Companion Pass Qualifying Points when you purchase flights. The amount and type of fare you choose determines how many points you earn. The more money you spend, the more points you earn. You also earn Companion Qualifying points by using your Chase Southwest Credit Cards (the bonus points you get when you apply for the card count towards the 110,000!).

Enroll In Elite Status Programs That Are Available To You

If you have the American Express Platinum or the American Express Business Platinum, you can get Starwood Preferred Guest Gold status in the SPG program and Hilton Honors Gold status in the Hilton Honors program.  To gain this status, you must request enrollment from American Express.

Annual Spending Incentives To Gain Elite Status Or Gain Greater Elite Status

1) American Express Starwood Preferred Guest and the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business-If you have either a Starwood American Express credit card or business version of the card, each year you receive from Starwood a credit for 2 stays and 5 nights towards your Starwood Preferred Guest elite status.  So the cards help you get to elite status but do not give it to you automatically.  BUT if during any calendar year, eligible purchases on your card account are $30,000 or more, you will be enrolled for at least twelve months in the Gold Preferred level.

2) American Express Hilton Honors Surpass CardYou will receive complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status with the card.  Also, if in any calendar year of Card Membership your total eligible purchases on your card reach $40,000, you will be upgraded to Hilton Honors Diamond status for the remainder of the calendar year in which Diamond status was earned through the end of the next calendar year.

3)American Express Hilton Honors CardYou will receive complimentary Hilton Honors Silver status with the card.  Also, if in any calendar year of Card Membership your total eligible purchases on your card reach $20,000, you will be upgraded to Hilton Honors Gold status for the remainder of the calendar year in which Gold status was earned through the end of the next calendar year.

Note-Marriott and Ritz status incentives are based on membership year but I wanted to include them.  You should be aware of your membership year if you want to gain status with Marriott Rewards or Ritz Carlton Rewards.

4)Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card-You get Gold Elite status in the Ritz-Carlton Rewards program your first account year. You can maintain your Gold Elite status by spending $10,000 on purchases your first account year and each account year thereafter. You can achieve Platinum Elite Status if you spend $75,000 on purchases each account year.

5)Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card -After account approval and every year after your account anniversary, you get 15 credits toward your next Elite membership level. 15 credits gives you automatic Silver status. In addition, you get 1 Elite credit for every $3,000 spent each year.  You need 50 credits for Gold Status and 75 credits for Platinum status.  The spend may seem overwhelming.  However, you also earn credit when you stay at Marriotts, so count that too.

 

Have I overwhelmed you enough?  Trust me, the game does work and using some of the above guidelines only makes it easier.  In 2017, we traveled to Park City, Jackson Hole, St. Petersburg, the Amalfi Coast, Chicago, Boston, Amsterdam and Paris.  On each trip we got either air or hotel OR BOTH using points and miles.  We used travel together tickets for our Europe flights and took advantage of travel credits to offset our taxis and trains abroad.  Currently, I am amassing tons and tons of Membership Rewards points as I am constantly breaking out my American Express Blue Business card for many of my purchases.  I look forward to our adventures in 2018.  First on the agenda is a trip back to Park City for winter break, on FREE FLIGHTS of course!