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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 info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them 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).

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Dottie. Here’s what she had to say:

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Dottie had an offer to earn bonus AAdvantage miles, but fell just short of the spending requirement.

Toward the end of last year I got a bonus offer from Barclaycard: if I spent $2,500 on my AAdvantage Aviator card every calendar month for six months, I would earn 30,000 miles in addition to what I earn normally. I decided to go for it, so I kept careful track of my spending each month to make sure I hit the right amount.

At the end of the six-month period, I watched for the miles to post to my account, but after four weeks the bonus still hadn’t shown up. I decided to call customer service, and was told that I hadn’t qualified. I went back through my statements to add up all of my spend for each month, and I discovered that I was short by $21 in the very last month. I was incredulous!

Apparently what happened is that some of my purchases didn’t show up on my account before the end of that month. Instead, they posted at the beginning of the following month, which meant that I had given Barclaycard $15,000 in spending for no bonus — just the 1 mile per dollar I normally earned.

Anytime you’re trying to meet a spending requirement, you should remember two important guidelines. First, purchases often don’t post to your account on the day they’re charged; usually they’ll show up within a day or two, but the wait can be even longer. Purchases you make just before a spending deadline might not post until after it has passed, in which case they won’t help you meet the requirements. To avoid this problem, give yourself a buffer of at least a few days to complete your spending before time runs out.

Second, your bonus period doesn’t always align with the calendar. Some rewards and bonus offers (like the one Dottie received) measure how much you spend in a given month, while others track your spending according to the billing statement. Make sure you know which rules apply, especially if you’re going to put significant effort into meeting the requirements.

Finally, pay attention to the opportunity cost of earning a bonus. Every dollar you spend on one card is a dollar you’re not spending on another, potentially more lucrative card. Dottie’s bonus would have effectively earned her 3 miles per dollar spent. That’s a pretty good return, but she may have been able to do better by maximizing bonus categories or signing up for one of the top bonus offers. Spending bonuses are a great way to boost your loyalty accounts, but you should compare each offer to your other earning opportunities.

Multi-ethnic friends having lunch in restaurant
Try not to forego more lucrative rewards in pursuit of a spending bonus. Photo courtesy of Morsa Images via Getty Images.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Dottie for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on future 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!

Featured image courtesy of Karen Hatch via Getty Images.

Know before you go.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.