Using the Wrong Credit Card Application — Reader Mistake Story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there's also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I'm calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.
From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to email@example.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how your trip went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made it right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).
Recently, I posted a story from Sonja, who missed her flight after misunderstanding a gate change announcement. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Kimberly, who earned a sign-up bonus that was smaller than expected. Here’s what she had to say:
My mother and I decided that we'd like to go to Ireland, and in preparation, we dug into your many stories and recommendations. We assessed our biggest goals and signed up for the rewards cards we thought would help us achieve them.
For the most part, everything worked out exactly as planned. We transferred Starpoints to British Airways to book award flights on Aer Lingus, and used Club Carlson points to pay for several of our hotel stays. We also wanted to get a card that could cover our miscellaneous travel expenses (like our rental car), and this is where we made our mistake.
We signed up for (what we thought was) the Arrival Plus card, but when we received the card, it looked different from what we had expected. Unfortunately, we didn't act on that thought, and we just continued to use it in order to earn the sign-up bonus. After meeting the spending requirements, we waited for the miles to be credited to our account.
We were surprised when those miles wound up being less than half of what we'd anticipated. After much correspondence back and forth with Barclaycard, it was explained to us that we'd clicked through to the regular, no-fee Arrival card instead of the Arrival Plus version. We lost 30,000 miles simply because we were inattentive in our clicking. We've been much more careful since then!
Credit card bonuses offer an easy way to earn travel rewards quickly, but signing up requires some diligence. You could miss out on a bonus if you don't meet the spending requirements in time, or if you don't abide by application restrictions from your card issuer. Many cards come in a family of several similar cards, so it's important to make sure you apply for the right one — Kimberly's story is a perfect example.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard has been high on my list for several years now. It's great for novice award travelers because the miles are easy to redeem, but I also recommend it because of the sign-up bonus. You can currently earn 70,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first 90 days — that's worth at least $700 toward travel purchases. In comparison, the no-fee Arrival card (which is no longer available for new applications) offered a bonus of just 20,000 miles after spending $1,000 in 90 days. Assuming the spending requirement wasn't an obstacle, the Plus version would definitely have been the better deal.
To avoid making a similar mistake, be sure to verify which card you're applying for when you start the process. It's worth double-checking that the sign-up bonus being offered is the one you want, and it's not a bad idea to take a screenshot of the offer just in case there's a dispute later. I also recommend speaking with customer service to confirm your bonus offer when you first receive your card. Wires do get crossed occasionally; catching the mistake early will keep it from snowballing later.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Kimberly for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on her travels.
I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!