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Customer service is an important aspect of both the travel and credit card industries, and companies will sometimes go the extra distance to help keep valuable customers satisfied. Today, TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele looks at opportunities to save money and pick up useful benefits by simply asking for them.
There’s more to award travel than collecting and spending your points and miles — sometimes all it takes to save money and enjoy a better travel experience is to simply ask the right person for the right thing at the right time. In this post, I’ll share ten ideas for ways to maximize your travel with a polite request.
1. An extension of Hyatt’s annual free night — The Hyatt credit card from Chase is great for several reasons: It offers a sign-up bonus of two free nights at any Hyatt property after spending $2,000 within three months, and another free night certificate each year at any category 1-4 hotel; plus, cardholders get instant Platinum status. The only downside is that the free night certificates expire one year from the date of issue.
Savvy award travelers maximize these certificates by redeeming them for stays at expensive properties, but sometimes you might not have a good opportunity to use them before they expire. Thankfully, Hyatt agents are often willing to grant an extension beyond the expiration date. This was my experience when I recently redeemed a certificate expiring in November for a stay over Christmas break.
2. Waived hotel fees — Most hotels haven’t gone as crazy with fees as the airlines … but they’re working on it. Some of the more egregious examples include parking fees (even at suburban hotels with no public transit or parking shortage), and the notorious “resort fee.” Fortunately, hotels are often flexible about these fees, and you can have surprising success by asking for a reprieve. As I noted in my post about The Inside Scoop on Hotel Stays from a Front Desk Supervisor, it can help your case if you had a rough day of travel, were surprised by the fee or experienced any service failures at the hotel (even moderate ones).
3. Increased award availability — Another tip from my hotel insider was that chains can and will open up hotel award availability when asked. You have to call the hotel’s central reservation line and ask them to contact the property, but I have found this to work very well on multiple occasions. This strategy will only be successful when a hotel isn’t sold out, but also isn’t offering award nights.
Airlines may also open up saver-level award space upon request. American has been known to offer saver seats on domestic flights to complete a larger international itinerary to top-tier elites, and United will sometimes open up saver award space in cases where its website shows “phantom” award space. Finally, most airlines will open up additional award space when there’s a significant schedule change. Some agents will only try to find you a seat from the existing award space no matter how inconvenient the new itinerary is, but with some prompting, they may open up award space on the flights you want.
4. Waived phone booking fees — Airlines rarely waive fees just by request, but telephone booking fees seem to be an exception. Before paying taxes and fees for an award reservation, be sure to ask if you’re being charged a telephone booking fee; if so, ask to have it waived, especially if the award couldn’t be booked online. British Airways most commonly waives these fees, although I’ve had similar experiences with Air Canada, United and Delta only because I asked nicely before payment. To aid your case, mention that you were unable to ticket the reservation online, or if you encountered any significant problems during the booking process.
5. Special children’s meals and toys — Flying with children can be a challenge, but parents may be surprised to learn that some airlines still go out of their way to offer special amenities for kids, such as kids’ meals, bassinets and even a gift full of toys. The catch is that I’ve never seen an airline deduce the presence of a child based on the birth date; it’s up to parents to call the airline and make a specific request for these amenities. For more information on which airlines offer the best perks for kids, see my posts on The Most Family-Friendly Carriers for International Flights and Domestic and Short-Haul Flights.
6. Elite rental car status — Waiting in a long car rental line is a disappointing way to start your trip. To avoid this fate, it helps to have elite status with a rental car company, which you can often get as a benefit from your credit card. You can get elite status with Avis, National and Sixt from the Mastercard World Elite Car Rental Program, which includes these popular cards:
- Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
- Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
- Citi Prestige Card
In addition, the United MileagePlus Club Card from Chase offers elite Hertz President’s Circle status (as do certain MileagePlus elite levels). Finally, The Platinum Card® from American Express offers status with Avis, Hertz, and National, plus Gold status with the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. However, you must specifically ask in order to receive these benefits. For more information, read my post on Credit Cards that Offer Elite Status for Car Rentals.
7. Waived credit card fees — Credit card annual fees come are generally considered the cost of admission if you want to enjoy the rewards and benefits of a premium product, with some cards offering better value than others. However, you may be able to have your fee waived upon request, especially if you’re a high-value customer (i.e., you use your card a lot). In some cases you’ll receive a statement credit, or you may be offered bonus points or miles of equivalent value. (Be sure to check TPG’s latest valuations to determine what your offer is worth.)
You may also be able to waive late fees and interest charges when you accidentally make a late payment. Most card issuers will waive these fees upon request if it’s your first incident, and in the case of the Discover it® Miles card, your first late fee is waived automatically. You may also have luck getting fees waived beyond your first late payment, but it will depend more on your account history.
8. Compensation for poor service — The travel industry has a pretty poor reputation for customer service, and some companies will try to make up for it by offering some form of compensation, but only to those who ask. For example, when TPG was given a seat on an overnight flight that didn’t recline, he merely sent an email to American Airlines and received 15,000 miles as compensation — that almost equals what he paid for the flight! He also contacted American’s customer relations after his return flight was canceled, and received both a refund for his expenses and another 25,000 miles, proving once again that it never hurts to ask.
9. Refund for overcharges — After my family trip to Italy last summer, I found several instances where I was charged more than I should have been. Ultimately, I was able to request and receive hundreds of dollars in refunds from American Airlines, Hertz car rental and even the Italian train system. While this isn’t exactly a “perk” (since I should never have been overcharged in the first place), you’ll sometimes be awarded more than the amount you were overcharged to compensate for the inconvenience. For more details, see my post on Travel Refunds: How to Save Money After Your Trip.
10. Elite status — Some airlines and hotels offer travelers an elite status match, but only upon request. You must first find out which programs are offering to match their competitors, and to which status levels. You then typically have to make a formal request, including documentation of your existing status. Some programs even add a twist by challenging customers to complete a certain number of stays, miles or flights in order to achieve or maintain their new status. Many travel providers will only grant these requests once per lifetime, so plan accordingly. For more information, check out Nick Ewen’s posts on airline and hotel elite status matches and challenges for 2015.
What other perks have you received just by asking?
Know before you go.
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