Did you know that many travel rewards credit cards come with annual spending bonuses? These bonuses can often boost you to higher levels of elite status. But there is an element of art as well as science in determining whether to ramp up spend on a specific card. We’ll break it down for you here.
The spending thresholds are typically in the $25K to $60K range, so you need to analyze each card’s benefits to determine if it is worth dedicating such a significant amount of spend to one card. Some annual spending bonuses are based on cardmember year, while others are based on calendar year. In the piece, we’ll focus on cards with end-of-year spending bonuses.
Delta Reserve Card from American Express
Annual Spending Bonus: 15K redeemable miles and 15K Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) for $30K in spend plus an additional 15K redeemable miles and 15K MQMs for $60K in spend.
The bonuses available on the Delta Reserve card are arguably the best in the business for a variety of reasons. It’s actually a two-tiered bonus meaning if you can’t achieve the full bonus by meeting the $60K spending threshold you can still earn half the bonus by meeting the lower $30K spending threshold. If you spend exactly $30K or $60K on this card, then your effective earning rate for redeemable miles is 1.5 miles per dollar when you combine the bonus with the standard 1 mile per dollar. Another benefit of all Delta co-branded cards is that spending $25K per year (combined on all cards) waives the Medallion Qualifying Dollar (MQD) requirement for achieving elite status.
Therefore, you can earn Silver elite status using this card without flying a single mile on Delta, and get over the half the required MQMs for Gold status. The MQM requirements for Delta status are listed below:
|Elite Status||MQM Requirement|
Delta Platinum Card from American Express
Annual Spending Bonus: 10K redeemable miles and 10K Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) for $25K in spend plus an additional 10K redeemable miles and 10K MQMs for $50K in spend.
The annual spending bonuses on the Delta Platinum card are very similar to those on the Delta Reserve card; they are slightly lower but also have lower spending requirements. If you spend exactly $25K or $50K on this card, then your effective earning rate for redeemable miles is 1.4 miles per dollar when you combine the bonus the standard 1 mile per dollar.
Combining the MQM bonus on this card with that of the Reserve card is enough to achieve Gold elite status without flying. If this is your first year of having either Delta co-branded card and you have earned the MQMs from the sign-up bonus, you may have enough MQMs to achieve a higher level of status. See our previous post on the Delta cards to learn how to achieve top-tier Diamond status without flying.
Annual Spending Bonus: 10K Elite Qualifying Miles after $40K in spend.
This bonus is not as lucrative as those offered by the Delta cards but is still useful for helping you reach the next level of elite status. We have listed the 2017 AAdvantage MQM requirements below.
|Elite Status||MQM Requirement|
Southwest Premier Card from Chase
Annual Spending Bonus: 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10K in spend, up to a maximum of $15K TQPs.
Points toward Companion Pass qualification (unlimited)
There are two separate types of bonuses available on the Southwest co-branded cards. The first helps you qualify for elite status. The nice thing about the TQP bonuses is that they are divided up into a maximum of ten possible increments, which allows cardmembers to scale the bonus they achieve based on the amount of spending they are willing and able to put on the card. It also means that if you only need a relatively small number of TQPs to achieve a given level of status, you don’t have to put a very high amount of the spend on the card to achieve the next increment of bonus TQPs.
The other type of bonus on this card is the ability to qualify for the Companion Pass via credit card spend. The Companion Pass is essentially an unlimited buy one, get one free deal for Southwest tickets which applies to both paid flights and award tickets. There is no spending cap for the number of points you can earn toward Companion Pass qualification, meaning you can earn the pass entirely through credit card spend. The Companion Pass requires 110K qualifying points in a calendar year. If you spend $110K in a year on a Southwest card, you would also earn 110K redeemable points. Southwest points are valued at approximately 1.5 cents on average, meaning that if you used the Companion Pass on every flight you could redeem these points for about $3,300 worth of Southwest tickets.
Southwest Plus Card from Chase
Annual Spending Bonus: Points toward Companion Pass qualification (unlimited)
The other Southwest co-branded card does not earn TQPs but does earn points toward Companion Pass qualification. Points earned on either card combine with qualifying points earned via other methods, so if you have both cards you don’t need to worry about putting all spend on one or the other.
British Airways card from Chase
Annual Spending Bonus: Travel Together ticket after spending $30K
The Travel Together ticket is a two for the price of one ticket on round-trip award flights originating in the US. The downside of this is you still must pay the taxes and fees, which are substantial.
However, many readers may have taken advantage of the 100,000 Avios sign-up bonus earlier this year that required $20K in spend. If you have already spent over $20K on this card it may be worth it to push for $30K to get the Travel Together ticket.