Now Is The Best Time To Use Your Travel Credits

Now is the time. Now is the best time! (if you’re familiar with that song, you’re welcome for the ear worm)

Reading travel websites and groups is always interesting around the end of the year. Out of all of them, one type of post just irks me more than all the others. It’s the post written between December 29-31 that reads something like this:

I still have $ XX.XX left as a credit on my XXXXXXXX card. How can I spend the money before the end of the year and make sure I get the credit?

Really? Really? You had 363 days to use the credit and you waited until the last minute to try and use it?

Now if you have an American Express card, I can empathize with you because AMEX sure doesn’t make it easy to claim those credits (and why I don’t treat them like they are the same as cash). Still, there’s no excuse not to have used money the bank is giving you before the end of the year.

So now that it’s January, start making plans to use those credits now. Here are some things you can do so you’re not in a bad position at the end of the year:

Know when your credits reset

While most cards reset on January 1st (or at the close of the December statement), there are some like the Sapphire Reserve that reset on the cardmember’s anniversary. Here’s an article that lists the reset dates for the major travel credit cards.

Change your selected airline if you had a difficult time using the credit

If you have an American Express card, you need to pick a single airline to use your airline fee credit. This is an important choice since you’re locked into this airline for the whole year, no changies.

Some airlines are easier to use the credit than others. Do your homework now. I saw several people wondering what to do with credits that could only be spent on United and the only thing they could do is buy a lounge pass with the money. Not the best way to spend your credits.

American Main Cabin Select
You Can Use Your AMEX Credit to pay for an upgrade to Main Cabin Select

Know the rules

Does your card offer a travel credit, an airline incidental credit, an air travel credit or an airline fee credit? Knowing the differences between these things will mean the difference of you getting reimbursed for charges or not. Make sure you use the card for charges you can get reimbursement for. This is harder to do than it sounds since each bank has their own rules about what you can claim.

Don’t wait until the last minute

Repeat this: I will not wait until December to try and use my credits.

This is something you should start thinking about now. Whether it’s finding a way to use your AMEX credits or making sure to use your Citi Prestige or Sapphire Reserve for reimbursable travel expenses, you always need to be thinking about the way to maximize the benefits you get from your credit cards now, not later.

Final Thoughts

No matter how much reminding I’ll do, I’m sure that there will be people who will wait until December to use their credits. That’s what banks count on. Every person who leaves money behind is extra profit for them. It’s also why banks are willing to offer the number of credits that they do, knowing there will be breakage (people not using the credits). So every year you use all of your credits, make sure to thank those customers who waited until the last minute and let their credits expire. It’s partially their money that you’re spending each year.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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