Final Hours of 2018: Don’t Forget to Use Your Card Benefits and Credits!

by Bill Shuman

As the end of the year approaches there is a million things to take care of before the stroke of midnight. One of my annual priorities is taking care of financial details so they apply for the 2018 calendar year. One of the big things on that checklist: making sure I use all of my credit cards yearly benefits.

End of the Year Airline Credits

A lot of cards, like the American Express Gold Card and The Platinum Card from American Express offer benefits that help offset annual fees, but you have to actually redeem them to take full advantage.  American Express airline credits must be used before the end of the calendar year or they are forfeit.

When do expensive high fee credit cards make sense?

The Platinum Card from American Express.

American Express Gold Card members are entitled to airline credit up to $100 per year and for The Platinum Card that airline credit is $200. You must enroll for a selected airline before using the credits! If you aren’t sure how to enroll for those benefits, check out my previous article that walks through an enrollment process. For American Express the purpose of the annual credits is to help offset incidental fees, but a popular off-label use of the credit is to buy gift cards from your designated airline.

Southwest, American Airlines and Delta Airlines gift cards usually trigger the credit, though this is based on experience. No promises.

Close of December Airline Credits

Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige, offer $300 and $250 respectively in travel credit. The caveat with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is that depending on when you applied for it will alter when your travel credit expires. If you got the card after May 21, 2017 your travel credits will expire on your cardmember anniversary. If you applied prior to that your credits expire at the close of your December statement. The Citi Prestige is another card with a travel benefit ends with the December statement as well.

Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the $450 fee?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a generous $300 travel credit.

The credit for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card is even more generous than American Express cards as it includes anything coded by merchants under travel including, “Airlines, hotels, motels, timeshares, car rental agencies, cruise lines, travel agencies, discount travel sites, campgrounds and operators of passenger trains, buses, taxis, limousines, ferries, toll bridges and highways, and parking lots and garages.” The Citi Prestige benefit, like Chase, can also be used directly to buy airfare.

Shopping Credit

American Express announced earlier this year an additional benefit: Saks Fifth Avenue. This exclusive credit only comes on The Platinum Card by American Express and expires at the end of the year. I previously highlighted an example of using this credit. I was able to stack my $50 credit with a sale, coupon code, and shipping discount. This means I got a $115 Ralph Lauren hoodie for $1.44. If you live by a Saks Fifth Avenue store it appears that buying a $50 in store triggers the credit. This doesn’t seem to be the case for a gift card purchase online. Like the airline credit,  make sure you enroll online before making any purchases.

Amex Platinum cardholders now get $100 a year to spend at Saks Fifth Avenue. Image by Andy C | Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

I expect that most of you, like me, are enjoying some quality rest and relaxation. Remember to take a few moments away and double check all of your card benefits before they expire. I know that my holiday would be slightly less enjoyable knowing I spent $450 (or more) in a card annual fee and forgot to use a $200 or more credit.


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