Surviving end of year miles, nights, and savings


End of year projects, holiday shopping, in-laws…  Many things contribute to end of year stress, but frequent travelers have additional headaches.  December travel marks the last possible time to re-qualify for elite status with your favorite airline or hotel program.  Have you added up your elite qualifying miles and qualifying dollars to see if you’ll re-up your airline status?  Do you need another stay or two before the end of the year to keep your hotel status?

end of year miles

Then there are the soon to expire certificates for free nights, lounge access, etc.  How will you use those before its too late?  Plus, you may have credit cards that offer calendar year reimbursements.  Have you maxed out those benefits yet?  And, then there are those deals that end December 31:

And, many Amex Offers, such as:

All of these are good (or great) deals, but they also contribute to end of year stress.  I keep reminding myself: I really don’t have to do all of these things.  I need to identify the few deals that will really make a difference and go for those.  I’ll the others slip away.  It will be OK.  Really.  There will be more deals next year.  Every now and then I need to re-read this post: How to prevent your brain from exploding.

end of year miles headaches

End of year elite status

I’ve noticed a sudden renewed interest in last year’s post “How to manufacture Delta elite status.”  I think that as we near the end of the year, people are realizing that they’re not going to make it to the level of status they want and they’re grasping (Googling) for last ditch options.  In most cases it’s probably too late to find a good price for a mileage run.  Is it possible to earn status by signing up for a credit card or two instead?  Honestly, at this point its probably too late for that as well, but if you already have a Delta Platinum or Delta Reserve credit card you might be able to earn the MQMs (Medallion Qualifying Miles) you need with a last minute spending spree.  This resource may help: How to increase credit card spend.

In my case, I have my elite status plans covered:

  • I’ve already secured top tier Diamond status for my wife and near top tier Delta Platinum status for myself.  This was accomplished almost entirely through spend on our Delta Amex cards.
  • When a bunch of offers stacked together for amazing discounts on flights to Europe, I went ahead and scheduled my final mileage run for securing American Airlines’ Executive Platinum status.  I’m flying to London one day, and back the next.  By the time your read this I will have (hopefully) successfully completed that final flight.  As I’ve said before, I don’t plan to seek status with American Airlines after this year.  Executive Platinum status is great, but I find it much harder to achieve than high level Delta status (which I can achieve through spend).  And, since I live near a Delta hub, Delta status is more often useful to me.
  • About mid-year, I gave up on the idea of re-qualifying for Hyatt Diamond status.  I absolutely love the perks of that status, but I realized that I would not even come close to re-qualifying through planned stays.  I would have had to “mattress run” (check into hotels just for the stay credits) either 17 stays or about 30 nights.  That would have been crazy.  Luckily for me, my wife recently matched from Hilton Gold to Hyatt Diamond.  So, for the next year I can book my stays under her Hyatt number to take advantage of Diamond perks.
  • Several years ago I earned Marriott Platinum status through the Taste of Platinum Challenge.  Since then, I’ve maintained Platinum status through Marriott’s status buy back program.  Each year, I exchange 40,000 Marriott points for the privilege of keeping my Platinum status.  In return, in addition to Marriott’s elite benefits, I get United Silver status (thanks to the United / Marriott partnership called RewardsPlus).  See also: How to manufacture United elite status.
  • By emailing my current Hyatt Diamond status info to Hilton, I now have Hilton Diamond status through February 2017 (thanks to their new status match).
  • Thanks to my Amex Platinum card, I get SPG Gold status and National Executive status without any real work at all.

End of year free nights

Last year, as my wife’s free IHG night (from being a credit card member) was about to expire.  I traded it to Drew (author of Travel is Free) in exchange for one of his IHG “Into the Night” free nights.  Now, a year later, Drew’s certificate was nearing expiry.  Luckily, a friend needed a one night stay in Chicago.  InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, here she comes!

End of year airline fee credits

A while ago, I took advantage of the $200 in airline fee reimbursements available to me from my Platinum card.  And, it’s been even longer since I used up my $250 in airline ticket reimbursements from my Citi Prestige card.  But, I was recently approved for the Crystal Visa Infinite card.  I’ll write up my experience with that card soon.  In the meantime, know that it offers $250 in airline fee credits… for each cardholder.  I had added my wife as an authorized user, so between us we should have $500 in reimbursements to seek (I haven’t verified this yet).  In my tests so far, I’ve found that City National Bank reimburses award ticket fees so I’ll probably just book a lot of awards.  A paid upgrade to Comfort+ on Delta (that I did as a test) has not yet been reimbursed, but reimbursements sometimes take a while so I can’t say anything definitive about that yet.  Similarly, a purchase made through the United MileageX app has not been reimbursed.  I haven’t tried airline gift cards at all.

End of year Amex Offers

The Airbnb offer is amazing: spend $100, get $50 back.  I should take the time to buy myself a bunch of $100 Airbnb credits, but I probably won’t.  Just being honest here — I’m lazy sometimes.  Of course, it is a fantastic deal… Maybe I will do it…  We’ll see.

I have already taken advantage of the Walmart offer I found on 5 of my (and my wife’s) cards.  And, since we use frequently, I think I’ll buy a slew of $60 Amazon gift cards.  I also took advantage of an offer for a local restaurant chain: spend $50, get $10 back.  The chain was offering a $25 gift card when you buy $250 worth, so I did.  Of course, I paid $50 at a time across 5 Amex cards.  I doubt I’ll pursue any other Amex Offers before the end of the year.  I need to draw a line somewhere.

Wrap Up

I don’t know about you, but for me it seems as if the demands of this game / hobby increase greatly at the end of the year.  Instead of mileage running, booking free nights, seeking fee credits, and bagging deals I should be working on that holiday greeting card, preparing for visiting relatives, buying presents, and making my end of year charitable donations.  And, I will… but first I have 94 IHG index cards need to fill out

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