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Buy Elite Miles Promos: A Cautionary Tale

by on February 6, 2013 · 29 comments

in Buy Miles Promotions, Delta, Elite Status

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TPG reader Ed wrote in the other day about a situation that provides a good cautionary tale as a reminder to us all that you need to read the terms and conditions of any bonus or promotion you plan to take advantage of, or you could be out a lot of money. Ed wrote up his experience for Forbes.com, and I briefly corresponded back and forth with him via email, but wanted to blog about it so others didn’t end up in the same situation.

The short version of it is: he wanted to get ahead on his Delta Medallion qualification for 2013, so he decided to purchase 10,000 MQMs during Delta’s end-of-year sale for the rather princely sum of $995.

Where Ed seems to have gone wrong is that he expected the 10,000 MQMs he purchased in 2012 to rollover into his Medallion earning for the 2013 calendar year, which they would have if he had already attained a level of Medallion status during 2012. His issue was that he hadn’t even hit Silver status, even with the 10,000 MQMs he purchased, so he wasn’t entitled to any rollover miles and thus the 10,000 MQMs purchased in December 2012 reset to 0 on January 1, 2013.

As I pointed out in my post, the terms of the buy MQMs promo were:

  • MQMs purchased through this Buy MQMs offer are non-refundable.
  • MQMs purchased will be deposited to the member’s 2012 MQM balance – so no getting ahead on 2013.
  • If applicable, Million Miler status and Medallion status will be updated within 24 hours of MQM purchase.
  • The MQMs are not redeemable and only count towards Medallion status and Million Miler status.
  • All transactions are processed in U.S. Dollars.
  • All the terms and conditions of the SkyMiles program apply.

Two of these points were quite important to take note of. First, that the MQMs would be deposited to the member’s 2012 balance, not their 2013 balance, and second that big blanket statement at the end that “all terms and conditions of the SkyMiles program apply,” including their terms for Rollover Miles, which state: “any MQMs earned above your Medallion qualification level at the end of the year will automatically roll over to your MQM balance for status qualification the following year.”

The terms of Rollover Miles are very clear.

The terms of Rollover Miles are very clear.

The key term there is “above your Medallion qualification level,” and since this reader hadn’t reached any Medallion level, these MQMs didn’t count toward rollover. In Ed’s defense, I think Delta could have clarified this point more on the Buy MQM landing page, just so there wouldn’t be any confusion.

Adding even more frustration is the fact that he can’t even use these MQMs towards awards since they are not redeemable (per the terms) and count only towards Medallion and Million Miler status – so to him, they’re pretty much useless and he is out nearly $1,000!

I understand his attempts to contact Delta and ask for his money back were completely fruitless and he is currently trying to do a chargeback through American Express, however I can’t blame Delta since they sold him the MQMs per the terms of the offer- even if the whole concept of rollover miles and earning elite miles in one year for status in another can be confusing.

But let this be a lesson for all of us that before taking advantage of promotions, including buy miles promos and bonuses like this one, that we read the terms as carefully as possible, and even if we call a phone agent for clarification that many of them are confused by these concepts too and you may not get the most precise answer.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • bradsteven

    This would be a good opportunity for Delta to earn some goodwill though a conciliatory arrangement – the least they could do is give the guy a status challenge.

  • Sol_Invictus

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around why you would buy MQM’s just to roll them over? Why not wait until the end of the year and determine whether you need them or not? I guess 1k in my pocket isn’t as eager to fall out the hole.

  • MilesRunner

    To Delta – Do the right thing and credit the MQMs for 2013 for this one customer. You get to keep the money and the Ed gets what he wanted! Win for Delta, win for Ed.

  • Brabbit

    That’s not doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is executing according to the predefined terms and conditions and keeping the playing field level for everyone. I could understand bending the rules with a refund, but that’s the absolute most DL should do.

  • Brabbit

    That’s not doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is executing according to the predefined terms and conditions and keeping the playing field level for everyone. I could understand bending the rules with a refund, but that’s the absolute most DL should do.

  • Brabbit

    He’s not even a silver! He is worth very little to DL. Why would they extend free benefits to him when he hasn’t shown substantial activity in the past? When I first started gunning for status, I had to wait and earn it the long way just like everyone else

  • Jeff Rose

    Technically, sure, Delta is right — but that screenshot Ed posted on Forbes.com shows a very deceptive ad. It prominently states that the idea is to buy MQMs and roll over for 2013, then has terms that don’t specifically spell out that you already need status to do so, and then, only near the end, tosses in that the general program terms apply (in a way that makes it look like this is just legal fine print and the ad already covers all the major points). It’s easy to see how someone new to MQMs or status would reasonably believe their miles would roll over regardless of their status. At best this is bad wording on Delta’s part; at worst, intentionally bad wording. Either way, they should refund the guy’s money and write a clearer ad next time.

  • Guest

    Because clearly he was planning to fly Delta more to try to earn status. Why would he want to fly Delta now with that bad taste in his mouth. Delta is now chasing away that extra revenue. This is such a stupid business decision as well as a blown opportunity to generate goodwill.

  • ChiliPalmer

    I’m with Delta here.

    Those of us who fly Delta know how rollovers work, and when they don’t.

    This guy was trying to game the system, and he wasn’t careful. So he loses.

    If Delta either rolls over his MQMs, or refunds him, how is that fair to everyone else?

    He made a mistake. He should not do a chargeback. He received exactly what he paid for.

    He should have the integrity to accept the loss.

  • http://twitter.com/Peachfront Peach Front

    Wow. The guy made a mistake but it is not worth $1K. Delta should not keep the guy’s $1K and provide absolutely nothing. One day, everybody at Delta will be old enough to find out why people don’t read the fine print…have a heart and refund the guy’s money. I don’t have a problem with taking a small “change” or restocking fee, say $50, but more than that is just cruel. Everybody makes mistakes. Is Delta in business to transport people, or are they just playing a hateful game of gotcha? They have created so many complicated rules in the last few months that I have to conclude that they don’t want busy people, people over 50, people who have to hunt around for the reading glasses before they read the fine print, regular joes, people with bags, people who need to budget…plenty much a large population of people is suddenly being made to feel unwelcome at Delta. As a loyal customer of many years, I hate to say this. I feel embarrassed that I was so enthusiastic about them. OK, this guy screwed up, and he admits it. But you do not have a license to loot somebody because they made a mistake. My humble opinion only. I am not a lawyer. Maybe it is even legal for Delta to do this, but I don’t feel it should be. Even if it’s somehow legal, it cannot be ethical to take a thousand dollars FOR NOTHING. I hope to read an update soon saying that Delta has made this right.

  • calbear

    He was trying to do exactly what the ad promised he could do. That isn’t gaming the system. Just give the guy his 10k medallion points and end it.

  • Jeff Rose

    How is spending $1,000 for 10,000 MQMs gaming the system?

    Sure, those of us who fly Delta understand how rollovers work, but not everyone coming to the site is experienced at this, and the ad was poorly worded. They should just refund the guy’s $1,000 — no MQMs or ‘reward’ for making a mistake; just get him back to square one. If I buy a toaster by mistake I can return it for a refund — is that gaming the system, too?

  • ChiliPalmer

    And they did. In 2012. When he purchased them.

  • ChiliPalmer

    If the terms of the purchase of the toaster allow a refund, sure, return it.

    He’s trying to game the system by buying in one year for the next year. Delta allows that game, but only for currently qualified status holders. He isn’t one, but is trying to get in on the game.

  • Jeff Rose

    I’d agree if the ad wasn’t (purposefully?) worded so that a novice would reasonably think the miles would be rolled over. The screenshot in the Forbes.com post shows wording that would easily trip up a ‘non-expert.’ For one thing, it only points to the fine print after spelling out the relevant terms, so why would a non-status-holding customer think there would be a ‘gotcha’ term buried in there if they are spelling things out right in the ad? It could have been clearer and as such, Delta should just refund the money. They’re not really out anything, since this guy would obviously not have spent the money if he understood the situation.

  • vortix

    Though Delta did everything according to the terms…they should offer a goodwill gesture to refund the money. Now that this is hitting social media via TPG’s blog (and other outlets?), I hope Delta comes around and helps the guy out. If not, and as a last resort, he may want to write a letter to his state’s Attorney General’s office. It is common for companies to act quickly to resolve issues when they receive letters from AG offices (as the AG has the power to sue companies that take advantage of consumers).

  • Brabbit

    I respectfully disagree. It is not a bad business decision in any aspect. No successful business should reward ‘potential’ loyalty. That should be saved for marketing tactics. Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda is a losing strategy.

  • Fan

    The jguy just misread the offer. Delta didn’t do anything wrong here. They clearly stated that the miles will count towards 2013 status, which it does. He now has status for 2013.

  • AKold

    He has a Delta Reserve card and paid $995 to hit Silver? WHAT?

  • Jed

    I’m going through a somewhat related event with US Airways currently. I was sent a targeted email from them via Points.com for buy up to 50,000 miles get a 100% bonus. I decided I would go ahead. After the purchase the bonus miles did not post to my account. I contacted Points.com since they sent the email and processed the card. They said it has nothing to do with them it’s a US Airways offer. I kindly mentioned the email says points.com all over it, the purchase is made on their site and they should remove some of their branding if they want no responsibility for what they are sending on behalf of someone else. I contacted US Airways next to get it resolved. Politely walked them through the email->purchase and the call center lady was super nice but ultimately said she could not resolve it and I had to speak with a dividend program specialist. After getting transferred I was very rudely informed I must not have gotten this email directly and it had to have been forwarded from someone else ( it was not, I’ve since gotten another offer from them as well) or it would have worked, and all sales are final. After going back and forth there position was points.com should not have sent the email to me as I was not on their offer list and I needed to contact them. Final position from both parties was it was the other parties problem and sales are final no refunds.

  • calbear

    … but the ad was misleading. Come on, man, from the way you sound, either you work for Delta, or you’re an a-hole. Or both. This is nothing to Delta, it’s an easy fix. To an individual, it’s a big deal.

  • LA Dave75

    I’m sorry, but even the screenshot he posted on Forbes says “Thinking of making a last minute trip? Stay home for the holidays and top off your account if you’re a little short of Diamond, Platinum, Gold of Silver Medallion status for next year.”

    Having 1000 Skymiles for 2012 is not a little short of Silver Medallion status, it’s practically non-existent.

    My impression is that he is using his position as Contributor to Forbes to drum up bad press for Delta for a mistake he made.

    If you were thinking that would work, wouldn’t you double check with Delta first to see if you could buy the miles and they would roll over, especially if you were going to front them almost $1000 that says it’s non-refundable?

  • Suzannehendrix

    I did this too, but it was a promo in late 2011 and if you bought enough miles, it gave you Silver Medallion for 2012, which I had and used and also purchased tickets on Delta during 2012 and got the advantage of a free upgrade once. My Silver status expires next month, as I didn’t hit the mileage requirement in 2012 to retain it and they never had that promo again with AMEX like they did in 2011, or I would have bought the miles again, but I figured no big deal. I hope I don’t lose any miles over this!

  • Suzannehendrix

    Yikes! I have bought these points probably 3 or 4 times…no problem, but not e to self…

  • Alex Hickman

    Unfortunately, it definitely is on him..:( I wouldn’t expect DL to refund any money or benefits…

  • Dee Tee

    Excuse me sir! Then what would you call elite status challenges and trials?

    The airline you are defending gives out status to “potential” Delta elites if they have status with other airlines (Status Match).

    I still think Delta is not at fault for not giving the guy his money back or any incentive. But it is not being customer or flyer friendly.

    Just because they have the right to do something, that does not necessarily mean it is the right thing to do.

  • Dee Tee

    My question to you is, how is this unfair to you and the rest of the Delta flyers if he is refunded the money paid?

    This person is getting NOTHING in return for the money he spent (well except for a lesson learned). You are saying that it would be unfair to you if he gets his money back?

  • Nealk999

    A couple years ago I ended the year with 24,800 miles and 29 segments on Delta. They gave me nothing. This contrasts with Northwest that several times gifted me status when I was borderline. I appealed to them and they said thanks but no thanks.

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