It’s time to start the new year off right, and that may mean finally redeeming your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for maximum value. Or, perhaps you’ll earn American Airlines Advantage status from your living room couch using American Airlines Loyalty Points.
From opting for the best Marriott Choice Benefit to selecting the right airline for your American Express airline fee credit, here’s an overview of some points and miles topics to consider as you settle into 2024.
Choose your Marriott Choice benefits
If you accrued 50 or more elite nights with Marriott Bonvoy in 2023, you’ll want to select your Marriott Choice Benefits by the Jan. 7 deadline.
Once you reach 50 elite nights in a calendar year, you can choose one of the following:
- Five elite night credits (toward your 2023 elite nights)
- Five Suite Night Awards
- A $1,000 discount on your favorite Marriott hotel mattress
- A $100 charity donation
- A gift of Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status for a family member, friend or colleague
Once you accrue 75 elite nights in a calendar year, you’ll get an additional selection. Aside from the options you receive once you reach 50 elite nights, you’ll also get to choose if you’d like to gift Gold Elite (rather than Silver Elite) status or add the option of a free night certificate worth up to 40,000 points.
If you don’t choose by Jan. 7, Marriott will automatically choose Suite Night Awards for you.
Change your airline for the Amex fee credit
Those with an American Express card that issues an annual airline fee credit have until Jan. 31 each year to change the airline they’ve selected for the credit. If you do nothing, your selection will remain what it was the previous year.
Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter
Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts
Some of the American Express cards that offer annual airline fee credits include:
Amex says you can use the airline fee credits for “incidental fees such as checked baggage, in-flight refreshments, and flight change fees” that you pay to your chosen airline using an enrolled card.
Earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass
Whether you want to fly to Aruba, Jamaica, Hawaii or Nebraska, generally speaking, the earlier in the year you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, the better.
Southwest increased the Companion Pass requirement from 125,000 to 135,000 Companion Pass qualifying points (you can also earn the pass after 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year). However, Southwest cardholders now enjoy an annual boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points toward Companion Pass qualification.
Once you surpass the threshold to earn a Companion Pass, your designated companion can fly for free with you on Southwest (other than the cost of taxes) for the rest of the calendar year in which it’s earned and the following calendar year. That means you can earn the pass now and have it through Dec. 31, 2025.
If you’re striving to earn the Companion Pass, signing up for a new Southwest credit card can help. After all, sign-up bonuses from Southwest credit cards count toward the 135,000 Companion Pass qualifying points needed to earn a Companion Pass. However, other earning activities — including buying Rapid Rewards points — won’t count in your quest for the Companion Pass.
Select Delta Choice Benefits
Like Marriott, Delta Air Lines awards its higher-tier elite members with Choice Benefits. You get one selection when you qualify for Platinum Medallion status and three selections when you qualify for Diamond Medallion status.
Unfortunately, the timing for choosing these perks isn’t always clear. Delta uses the term “Medallion year” when describing this deadline, which can (understandably) lead to confusion.
In short, you earn the next year of status based on the previous calendar year’s worth of flying. So, your qualifying activity from Jan. 1, 2023, through Dec. 31, 2023, earned you status for the 2024 Medallion year.
So, what does this mean for Choice Benefits? Here it is in simpler terms:
If you earned Platinum and/or Diamond Medallion status based on your qualifying activity in the 2022 calendar year and you haven’t selected your Choice Benefit(s), you must do so by Jan. 31, 2024.
If you don’t make a selection before the deadline, the option(s) will disappear entirely, never to return.
It’s also worth pointing out that if you still haven’t made a selection for your 2023 Medallion year, carefully consider when the benefits you select will expire. You may want to select benefits such as bonus miles or a travel voucher, as these don’t expire at the end of the Medallion year associated with your Choice Benefits.
You might also have Choice Benefits to select from your 2023 flying activity (2024 Medallion year). You’re welcome to pick those now, but they will remain available until Jan. 31, 2025.
Use your travel and other credits
Some credit card travel credits reset with the calendar year, and some operate by cardmember year (i.e., when you were first approved for the card). Regardless, this is a good time of year to see when your available travel credits reset and put them to good use.
In addition to the Amex airline fee credits already mentioned, here’s a look at some of the other travel-related credits you might have:
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: $300 annual credit for purchases made through Capital One Travel
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Up to $300 for travel purchases each account anniversary year (though it is based on a calendar year if you got the card before May 21, 2017)
- Citi Prestige® Card: Up to $250 for travel purchases each calendar year
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Up to a $100 statement credit for qualifying airline incidental fee transactions annually
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card: Up to a $50 statement credit each calendar quarter (January through March, April through June, July through September and October through December) on flight purchases made through amextravel.com or with the airline directly; earn up to $200 in statement credits semi-annually (up to $400 annually) on eligible purchases made at participating Hilton resorts with your Hilton Amex Aspire Card
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Up to $200 annual statement credit when you book a prepaid rate through Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts with American Express Travel (this benefit can also be used on stays of two nights or more at properties in The Hotel Collection)
The information for the Citi Prestige and Hilton Aspire cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You might also have travel credits with airlines. If so, now is a good time to make a plan for using these credits.
A few popular rewards cards have other non-travel-related credits that reset on Jan. 1, such as:
- Up to $50 Saks Fifth Avenue statement credit is issued twice yearly for those with the Amex Platinum — once from January to June and then a second up to $50 statement credit valid from July to December. Enrollment Required.
- Up to $200 Dell statement credit is issued twice yearly for those with the Amex Business Platinum — once from January to June and then a second up to $200 statement credit valid from July to December. Enrollment Required.
Use up your elite status perks
With many airlines and hotels, you must requalify for status by the end of each calendar year. But if you don’t requalify, you often keep your status until the end of January or February.
In short, you may have a month or two of “free” status if you didn’t requalify. As such, the beginning of the year is an ideal opportunity to use up elite status perks left over from the previous year, such as airline or suite upgrades and potential status matches to other programs. Sometimes, you can even use upgrade certificates for friends, depending on the program’s rules, so they don’t always have to go to waste just because you aren’t traveling in the next few weeks.
Label your cards to maximize your benefits
What are your award travel goals for the year? If you want to sip a mango smoothie in a Balinese rainforest or frolic down the Champs-Elysees, you may want to add a hotel credit card that offers an annual free night to your wallet.
Brush up on your current bonus categories and goals for the year. You may want to reallocate your spending among the cards you currently hold. Or, maybe you’ll realize it’s a good time to pick up a new travel rewards card and spend a certain amount to receive a welcome bonus.
Whatever travel goals and credit cards you select, it’s helpful to label those cards with the benefit you’re chasing and the card’s bonus categories so you don’t miss out on optimizing your spending.
Related: Best credit cards
Remember that annual limits reset
If you’ve maxed out booking fourth-night-free stays with the Citi Prestige (capped at two per calendar year), hit the maximum yearly bonus limit for 6% back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1%) on the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or reached another similar limit in 2023, this is the magic time of year when many of the clocks reset.
Not all cards reset bonus spending limits by calendar year, though. It’s important to carefully review your online benefits guide to ensure you don’t sacrifice any bonus points.
There’s a lot to do at the beginning of the year to set the rest of the year off right — especially when it comes to points, miles and credit card rewards. However, a little extra work now likely means you’ll maximize your rewards in 2024.