Finishing 2016 miles & points to-dos

Amex Platinum Checklist

2016 is almost over.  As I prepared for holiday travel, I surveyed the miles & points related things to do to see what tasks I had to jam in before the new year.  For me, my end of year miles & points to-dos fall into four big buckets:

  • Elite Status re-qualification: Do I need any last minute flights, stays, or credit card spend to keep my status?
  • Credit card big-spend bonus: A number of credit cards offer bonuses for meeting spend thresholds that are often tied to the calendar year.  Have I spent what I meant to spend?
  • Credit card signup bonuses: Some enhanced signup bonuses expire at the end of the year, or are best to get before the end of the year.  Did I sign up for those I wanted most?
  • Amex Offers: Many great Amex Offers expire on the last day of the year. Have I maximized use of those offers?

Elite Status Re-qualification

I currently hold high level elite status with a number of airlines and hotel programs, but I’ve decided against trying to maintain status, with any of them, through stays or flights.  Instead, I maintain my Delta status through high spend on certain credit cards (see the Credit card big-spend bonus section below).  And, I maintain my Marriott and SPG Platinum status through Marriott’s annual elite buy-back program (hopefully they’ll offer it again in 2017!).  Even though I love top tier Hyatt status, I can’t justify the number of paid stays required to keep it, so I’m letting it fall by the wayside.  Similarly, I didn’t find top tier AA status worth mileage running.  My Hilton Diamond status was obtained through a status match and is good for another year.  My Copa Platinum status, also obtained through a match, will soon expire. Farewell Star Alliance Gold!

This was a long way of saying that I fortunately have no to-dos in this category.

Credit card big-spend bonus

I’ve written before about how my wife and I maintain top level Delta elite status almost entirely through credit card spend (see: Pushing the envelope on earning Delta elite status through spend).  I always try to have that spend complete before our December statement closing dates so that I’ll know for certain if I’ve tracked the spend correctly.  I’ve had issues in the past where the spend shown online doesn’t match the spend that Amex calculates for this purpose.  This year, I had spend completed before December closing statements on all but one card.  For the remaining card, I ran up the amount of spend that I had calculated was needed and then contacted Amex through online chat to see if they agreed with my calculations. They did.  I should get the final big spend bonus of redeemable miles and elite qualifying miles in January, but the elite qualifying miles will apply retroactively to 2016.

Credit card signup bonuses

There were two credit card offers I wanted to get in on before the end of the year.  The first was the Amex Business Platinum card for my wife.  Even though that card’s 100K offer doesn’t expire until January 25th, I wanted us to have a chance of getting three $200 statement credits in the first year of card membership.  Full details can be found here: Why we rushed to apply for the 100K Business Platinum offer before the end of the year.  Also, please see my theory on how it may be possible to earn this year’s airline fee credit before getting the physical card in the mail (click here for details).

Another card I wanted was the Amtrak 30K offer which is set to expire on December 31st.  The bonus for that card is usually 20K, and so I wanted to get in on it before the offer dropped back down.  We actually travel on Amtrak now and then, so we know the points will be useful.  Points are worth up to 2.9 cents each, so we could theoretically get up to $870 worth of travel with the 30K bonus points.  One can argue that points are worth a bit less than 2.9 cents each because the point price is based on the full price of a ticket rather than a discounted AAA or student price.  On the other hand, the credit card automatically gives card holders a 5% rebate on points, so that partially makes up the difference.  Of course, while applying for the Amtrak card, I went ahead and added a few more Bank of America cards to my arsenal.  Read the story here: My end of year App-No-Rama application spree. 147K and counting.

Amex Offers

Many great Amex Offers expire at the end of the year.  I detailed my plans here: How I’m rocking the soon-to-expire awesome Amex Offers.  Of course plans don’t always get executed as intended.  Here’s my status for each (as of December 26th):

  • Sam’s Club 20% Back: The chip on one of my Amex cards didn’t work at Sam’s Club so I requested a replacement card from Amex. Fortunately this particular offer is good until the end of January.
  • Staples.com Spend $100, Get $20: I’ve ordered a number of Whole Foods and Target gift cards so far, but I still have ten more to go.
  • NewEgg Spend $200, Get $25: I’ve only done 2 out of 17 of these so far.  I may let the rest slide — I’m supposed to be on vacation!
  • BestBuy Spend $250, Get $25: Readers chimed in with good suggestions for how to maximize this offer (see the comments of that post), but I don’t want to spend my vacation time at Best Buy.  I’ll pass.
  • Sears Spend $50, Get $10: I’ve reloaded a couple of physical gift cards $50 at a time, but I still have more to do.  According to comments in a Doctor of Credit post, some people have received the spend bonus for buying physical gift cards even though those code as Kmart spend.  Very strange.  I’ll order a few physical cards to see if the same happens for me.
    UPDATE: As expected, when I bought by-mail gift cards from Sears.com, they were charged to Kmart.com, but the Amex Offer appeared to work!  I immediately received the following:
    “We appreciate you using your Amex Offer at KMARTCOM – 7840. Look out for a $10.00 statement credit, which will automatically be applied to your statement if your purchase meets the offer terms.”
  • Lowes Spend $50, Get $10: I brought all of my enrolled Amex cards to Lowe’s and bought gift cards by asking the cashier to let me pay $50 at a time.  It took a very long time and I repeatedly apologized to people behind me in line.  That was uncomfortable, but I got it done.
  • Harry & David Spend $75, Get $20: I clicked through whichever portals were offering the best cash back options each time and ordered $75 1-800-Flowers gift cards.  All purchases tracked in the portals, and I received the Amex Offer cash back as well.  We also earned 1-800-Flowers Celebrations Rewards points for those orders, so we’ll soon receive a Savings Pass (which acts a lot like a gift card) as well.
  • Macy’s Spend $100, Get $15: I decided to pass on this one.
  • Courtyard by Marriott: Spend $100, Get 2,000 Membership Rewards points:  The card I had enrolled in this offer was later also targeted for a “Marriott Spend $200, Get 3,000 points” offer.  My plan was to go to a Courtyard by Marriott to buy a $200 gift card and hopefully get 5,000 total bonus points.  Unfortunately my local Courtyard was out of gift cards, so I’ll have to see if I have a chance to swing by another one before its too late.

Your to-dos?

How are you doing with your last minute points & miles to-dos?  Did I miss any major categories?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. I stopped by a local Courtyard yesterday and bought $200 gift cards. Each purchase triggered TWO Amex Sync confirmation emails. I bought one $200 gift card for each AMEX card enrolled in both offers.

  2. A good approach to your Lowe’s multi-purchase situation could have been to see if they would have done the gift cards at the service counter. Instead of a regular line. Not sure which you did. The only reason I mention this is that I’ve been stuck behind too many coupon matching folks at Walmart lately.

  3. Thanks for the info!

    I have both Marriott offers on two Amex cards. A stop at the nearby Courtyard is now on my to-do list. Questions: Do SPG properties take Marriott GCs yet? Are the Marriott GCs only good for U.S. properties like Hyatt GCs?

    I applied for the Amtrak 30K offer via your “Best Offers Page.” Instant Approval! Yay! I just closed my last Amtrak card having used all of the points.

    I got a last minute Barclay Arrival Plus a couple of weeks ago after we met all of the holiday spending bonuses for our existing cards and we still had enough spending planned to meet the minimum. I wanted the bonus for the trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico from which we returned last night. Our family of 7 spent 5 nights in 3 rooms at the Grand Hyatt (I highly recommend it!). They gave us Club access for 4 of us with my Diamond status and we bought access for the third room. We split the payment so the Barclay bonus covered the Club access and some lunches/drinks on the beach. The rest is on Hubby’s CSR. His 2017 $300 should apply toward more lunches/drinks on the beach and we’ll get 3X URs on the balance. We also had a private van to take us to tour Tulum, Coba and a cenote (including lunch) on Citi TY pts. We should end up at less than $1000 OOP for the whole trip. Merry Christmas!!

    Happy Holidays, Greg!

  4. PH: Yep, that’s awesome. A few friends reported the same to me so I know that it works.
    DaninMCI: I was at a regular register. The real problem was the other cashiers all decided to go on break at the same time. I may try the customer service counter next time.
    Dee: Marriott gift cards are supposed to work worldwide, but individual properties might have trouble with them (you never know). No, you can’t use them at SPG properties yet, but I expect that will change sometime in 2018 or so. Sounds like you had a great trip! Happy Holidays to you too!

    All: I bought a few physical by-mail Sears gift cards with Amex cards enrolled in the Sears.com offer. As expected, they were charged to Kmart.com, but I immediately received emails saying that I had used my Amex Offer!

    “We appreciate you using your Amex Offer at KMARTCOM – 7840. Look out for a $10.00 statement credit, which will automatically be applied to your statement if your purchase meets the offer terms.”

    • I also went to a Courtyard to stack the two Marriott Offers. The first one I went to didn’t have GC so I called the next closest one in the car and they said they did. When I got there I had them split a $400 GC between the Plat and PRG, with both offers loaded and got 4 emails!

      I also stumbled upon why this triggers the offer. The manager told me that due to fraud protection, they need to treat you like an off the street overnight guest. They basically check you in, check your ID, match it with the name on the CC, charge you for the GC and then check you out. So it is essentially exactly like paying for a stay from the perspective of the CC swipe.

      Between the Courtyard offer and the regular one on my MR cards, I’ll be able to net 44,400 MR for $2400. Good thing I’m planning a wedding at a Marriott later this year so in addition I’ll get 3 Marriott reward points per dollar for planning an event. 🙂

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