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Many American Express (Amex) credit cards offer excellent benefits and credits that can be used year round. These include Uber credits, airline incidental credits, and shopping credits for merchants such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Dell. In this post, we explain why timing your application in December can help maximize some of these credits before your second annual fee is due.
Calendar Year vs Card Year Credits
Credit card benefits usually are based on calendar year or card year. Calendar year benefits can be used once between every January 1 and December 31. Meanwhile, card year is defined by when you open the credit card. For example, if you open a card on September 1, that card’s annual benefits can be used once between every September 1 and August 31.
Based on this, you can see why calendar year bonuses can be so valuable. If you open a card in January that has a calendar year benefit, you’ll have over 11 months to use that card’s annual benefit. While it can be nice to have a lot of time to use the benefit, it also means you’ll have to wait a lot longer to use it again. Compare this to opening that same card in December. You’ll only have a few days to use the benefit, but starting on January 1, you can use that benefit once again.
Best Amex Calendar Year Credits
Many Amex cards offer generous credits based on calendar year. This handy chart displays the most useful ones, showing how much you can earn before having to pay the second annual fee on your new card:
Wondering how we calculate the amounts in the far right column? Let’s walk through the math, starting with Amex Platinum card’s Uber credits.
If I open the card in December 2020, I will immediately receive the $35 Uber credit for December. (Note, the credit can also be used for Uber Eats.) I will then have access to the full $200 throughout 2021. The second annual fee on my new Platinum card should post in December 2021, but that statement will only close in January 2022. So, starting on January 1, 2022, I’ll have access to another $15 monthly Uber credit. $35 + $200 + $15 = $250. This single benefit covers almost half of the Platinum’s $550 annual fee!
This same rationale applies to the other credits in the chart above. To see how much value you can earn, simply take the amount of credits you can use in December, and add the amount of credits for the entire next calendar year, along with any credits that can be used in January after that.
If you have been eyeing a particular Amex card, December is likely the best time to apply. Of course, there are other factors to consider when applying for a credit card. For example, always consider if the current welcome bonus good enough. This is especially important with Amex, which only awards welcome bonuses once per card. But, if maximizing Amex credits is your priority, then December is definitely the ideal time to go for it.
What are your plans to maximize your Amex credits? Come over to our Facebook group and learn what others are doing!