Buy Elite Miles Promos: A Cautionary Tale

Feb 6, 2013

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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.

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