Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. Disclosures.

While December just started last week, the end of year is approaching quickly. This time of the year can get busy with everything going on – it is important to not forget to run through all of the key travel and miles/points-related items to ensure everything carries over smoothly into the new year.

End of Year Elite Status Progress Check

When December rolls around every year, you will want to be at least 90% done with qualification for airline and hotel elite status – ideally you will be over 95% done or completely done, but some people still travel aggressively for both leisure and work in December. A lot happens in December – between the holidays and the upcoming new year, there can be a lot on everyone’s minds as they prepare to close out the year and welcome a new one.

My advice is to take a more leisurely approach to December travels – it is perfectly fine to plan your holiday trip, but don’t over do it. There’s always a lot to be done in December and the month often goes by super quickly.

The main reason why you’ll want to have most of your elite qualifying points earned by the time December comes around, is because December travel can change very quickly – one snowstorm somewhere can cause massive cancelations and a change of plans. You don’t want to be scrambling to book another flight for qualification purposes if your trip gets canceled – plan ahead and ideally be done with elite status qualification.

Take Note of Miles and Points Expiration Dates

Check all of your airline and hotel accounts and note down if there are any miles or points that might expire in your accounts in the near future. If none are expiring in the coming year, move on. If there is something subject to expiration, see if you can extend the expiry date by transferring in points or completing a qualifying activity.

Some airline miles no longer expire while others still do – some based on a hard date and others based on when your last qualifying activity was. Hotel points generally expire if there hasn’t been activity on your account in quite a while. Bank points usually never expire as long as you have a credit card open that collects those points.

Check Your Coupons/Upgrades/Certificates/Free Nights

Every year, airlines and hotels issue elite members coupons, upgrades, certificates, free nights, vouchers, etc. – most of these have an expiration date and some of these can be worth hundreds, so you want to carefully check by when that free night needs to be redeemed or by when you need to apply an upgrade certificate to a flight.

All of these miles/points instruments are essential to getting the most out of a loyalty program – therefore you should never let these expire. For example, if you have a free night certificate that will expire soon and you have no travel plans, treat your family to a staycation – after all, it is a free night.

Redeem Airline Tickets & Credits

If you’ve received a voucher in exchange for taking a later flight or if you’ve canceled a flight in the past year and have a credit, chances are these items have expiration dates sometime within the next year – and unlike hotel free nights – airline credits and vouchers are almost never extended. Airline tickets are generally valid for use for a year from when they are originally issued – though some airlines offer a more generous policy and the expiration date of a ticket could be through the end of the next year or a year from the first, original flight.

Check the details of your airline credits and vouchers carefully and note that there is an important difference between the Book By and Travel By dates.

Use Credit Card Credits & Yearly Benefits by End of Year

Many premium travel credit cards with big annual fees offer a ton of different benefits and credits every year just for having the card open – ranging from travel credits to dining credits, you definitely want to be sure you are using these up. Some are offered on a monthly basis while other credits could be issued annually – the bottom line is that you want to do an audit every few months (or more frequently) to ensure these are being applied to your account and you’ve used them up.

Plan for New Credit Cards

If you are thinking about applying for new credit cards soon, review your current portfolio and decide which cards you are ready for. Be sure to also review the eligibility for your desired card as these change frequently. One of the most important things you can do is research the card’s sign-up bonus and take note of what it was at the highest level and when it last was that high. Always apply for a card with a bigger than normal sign-up bonus, that you are eligible for. Many banks have added tools that will tell you if you are eligible for the bonus on a card, which is very handy.

Plan Out The New Year & Travels by End of Year

December can be a great time to sit down with the family and plan out your future travels for the next year (or at least the next few months). These days we are seeing more and more that leisure and work travel is being mixed – plan to extend your work trips through the weekend and have your family join if the destination seems cool enough.

This time of the year is also great to look at the calendar of major events happening next year – not only globally, but in your family as well. Think about all the events you will need to attend and plan extended trips around them. For example, if you have a wedding in Italy to attend, plan a side trip to a Greek island – don’t just fly to an event for a few days and come back, but rather make a whole trip out of it.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.