With just over a week to go until 2021 draws to a close, it’s time for all of us to wrap up another year of points-collecting endeavours.
As in previous years, let’s talk about a few key tasks you should be looking to complete during this period as you take stock of your annual progress and prepare for next year.
1. Wrap Up the Aeroplan Elite Status 2021 Benefit Year
Aeroplan Elite Status has taken on a more prominent role in the Miles & Points grand strategy for the year of 2021. Since many of its deadlines and transitions are associated with the calendar year, now’s the time to take stock and make sure you’re well-positioned for the transition into 2022.
One of the most valuable status benefits is eUpgrades, and you may have some eUpgrade credits that are expiring at the end of the 2021 benefit year.
Recall that the actual expiration date has been extended from December 31 to January 15, 2022, so you’ll need to burn up those eUpgrades for a trip that takes place by that date.
If you’ve held a premium Aeroplan credit card since December 15, 2021 or before, then you’ll be entitled to roll over up to 50 eUpgrade credits into the following year, so there won’t be any urgency to use them up as long as you don’t have more than 50 eUpgrades set to expire.
If you’re sitting on soon-to-expire eUpgrades or an amount in excess of the 50 eUpgrades you can roll over, then consider mixing up your eUpgrade strategy a bit on any Air Canada flights you might take before January 15.
For example, while the “Latitude Attitude” is usually my go-to strategy for booking transcontinental flights, I’m now considering holding onto a Latitude booking and then swapping it for a Flex booking once I’m within the eUpgrade clearance window (bearing in mind that “R” space typically, in my experience, goes back into the pool instantly) for an upgrade from Economy Flex to business class.
This would allow me to burn up 10 eUpgrade credits per direction instead of 4 eUpgrade credits. Normally, I’d choose to save eUpgrades for more valuable uses in the future – but if they’re expiring anyway, then it makes sense to use them up and save yourself a small chunk of Aeroplan points in the process.
eUpgrades aren’t the only valuable benefits that will need to be used up by the year-end period. If you’re holding onto Maple Leaf Lounge passes or Status Passes, those also need to be used up before December 31.
We’ve seen many members of the Prince of Travel community offering up these perks as free gifts to fellow travellers in the Prince of Travel Club Lounge or Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group. If you’re sitting on passes that might otherwise go to waste, consider sharing the joy of an elevated travel experience this holiday season!
Incidentally, if you’ve qualified for Aeroplan Elite Status but haven’t made use of any of these benefits yet, then December 31, 2021 also marks the final date to choose your Select Benefits for the 2021 benefit year.
And lastly, if you’re yet to qualify for status at all, then don’t forget that the Everyday Status Qualification counter resets at the end of the year. Now’s the time to seriously consider whether or not to make a late push for Aeroplan 25K status with your end-of-year spending.
2. Finalize Hotel Elite Status Qualification
Besides Air Canada and Aeroplan, the end of year usually also marks the end of the qualification period for other elite status programs too.
Traditionally, now’s the time to assess your projected status level for 2021 and 2022. But thankfully the vast majority of loyalty programs, including Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, have all extended members’ 2021 status through all of 2022 and into early 2023.
Having said that, for those of you who are just a hair short of securing a higher status level than you already have, it might even be worthwhile to book a mattress run or a mileage run.
On the hotel side, remember that a Category 1 Marriott hotel will cost only 5,000 Bonvoy points per night on off-peak dates, and you could therefore earn five elite qualifying nights for only 20,000 points.
If you still find yourself a few nights short of the 50-night threshold for the highly valuable Marriott Platinum Elite, then it could make sense to either embark on a last-ditch holiday trip or get a friend who lives near a Category 1 hotel to check-in on your behalf in order to earn the additional nights required.
This year in particular, with Marriott Bonvoy generously doling out elite nights left and right, there’s a case to be made that “Titanium is the new Platinum.” If you find yourself a few nights short of the 75-night threshold for Titanium Elite, then you might consider a similar mattress-running strategy.
After all, the Annual Choice Benefit upon accumulating 75 elite qualifying nights gives you a Free Night Award worth 40,000 Bonvoy points, so as long as you’re spending no more than 40,000 points on your mattress run, you can think of it as effectively not costing you anything!
3. Maximize Year-End Limits for Points Transfers and Purchases
The end of the year is often treated as a reset date for many types of annual limits within loyalty programs, such as for transferring or purchasing points.
Most notably, Marriott Bonvoy allows members to send up to 100,000 Bonvoy points per calendar year to another member’s account, and to receive up to 500,000 Bonvoy points per calendar year from other members.
For those of you playing in two-player mode or more, you should definitely make sure you’ve maximized this transfer capacity for 2021 and pooled your Bonvoy points into a single household member’s account to as great an extent as possible.
Ideally, pool your household members’ points into the account of the member who earns the most elite qualifying nights, and therefore the highest elite status level. After all, Platinum status on one account means free breakfast for two!
In the same vein, if you’re in the habit of accelerating your earning power by purchasing miles when it makes sense, then you’ll know that the loyalty programs usually have a capped amount on how many miles you can purchase per year.
If your needs for buying miles happen to exceed this cap, then you’d want to make sure you’ve met the cap for 2021 before it resets for the year.
Personally, World of Hyatt points are the currency that I’m most likely to buy to its annual maximum level of 55,000 points, and the program is currently offering its best-ever deal of a 30% discount on purchased points through December 30, 2021.
If you’re interested in some high-value Hyatt redemptions next year, especially with the spectre of a Bonvoy devaluation looming, then it could certainly make sense to make a strategic purchase at 1.68 US cents per point!
4. Use Up Year-End Credits and Offers
Similar to the above, many types of credits and certificates expire at the end of the year, and you’ll just want to quickly check that you’ve taken care of these before 2022 rolls around.
For example, many of the US-issued American Express cards have airline fee credits which work on a calendar year basis, such as the US$250 airline fee credit on the Amex US Hilton Aspire Card or the US$200 airline fee credit on the US Platinum Card or the US Business Platinum Card.
If you haven’t taken advantage of these credits to offset your annual fee yet, you have two weeks left to take action.
Historically, Amex US isn’t a big fan of cardholders finding creative ways to use up these credits outside of their intended uses (i.e., incidental charges like checked bag fees or pet fees on a major US airline), and has sometimes taken steps to claw back the credits after the fact.
Therefore, I’d recommend you to do some further digging on such methods if you haven’t yet maximized these airline fee credits yet; there are potentially a few ways to parlay different sets of these credits towards a united travel bank for future trips instead.
Then there are other types of annual credits, like the US$200 and US$100 Dell credits on the US Business Platinum Card and US Platinum Card, respectively, the US$50 Saks Fifth Avenue credit on the Platinum Card, the US$10–20 dining and wireless credits on the Amex US co-branded cards for 2021, and so on.
The Dell credit can be triggered by orders made on the Dell Canada website. Alternatively, what I’ve done in the past is simply buy some Xbox Live gift cards and resell them for a little less than face value afterwards.
Up here in Canada, there’s also a variety of different Amex Offers that will be ending on December 31 as well – most notably the $175 dining credit at eligible restaurants on the Platinum Card and the $50–100 dining credits on the Amex personal cards.
Personally, I’m looking forward to feasting at Minami in Vancouver to use up as many of these as possible a few days before New Year’s Eve. No matter what cuisine you prefer, don’t forget to treat yourself on American Express’s dime – you’ve earned it this year!
5. Review Accounts and Look Ahead at 2022
While this isn’t necessarily an end-of-year activity, something I like to do during the final few weeks of each year is to take some time to review my hotel stays and airline activity in detail.
One reason for this is to catch any errors that may have occurred that you may have overlooked during the year, such as missing night credits, points not posting correctly, or future reservations getting stuck in limbo due to schedule changes.
Now is the time to review your mileage activity across all the loyalty programs you dabble with, and perhaps give the program a call if anything needs to be fixed.
Looking forward at 2022, I’ll also be reviewing my Excel spreadsheet to tally up my total points earnings for the year and thinking about further optimization for next year.
In ordinary times, I’m always thinking about my upcoming travel in one-year cycles (since that’s how far out one can book airline tickets), and that’s even more the case for 2022 since we haven’t been able to travel too much in 2021.
Take a moment at the end of the year to put your feet up, relax, and look through your list of upcoming reservations for 2022 – even if many of them might be speculative.
You might just recapture some of those warm and fuzzy feelings in anticipation of future trips that you’ve missed for so long.
‘Tis the season for tying up the loose ends in Miles & Points as 2021 draws to a close.
Take some time during the last few weeks of the year to deal with the many elements in our space that move in yearly cycles, such as elite status qualification, points transfers and purchases, and the various credit cards’ and loyalty programs’ credits, certificates, and benefits.
And finally, let’s not forget the most important task of all: let’s all count our blessings for making our way through another somewhat turbulent year in 2021 and being able to look forward to what we hope to be a brighter year of earning and burning in 2022.