How I Lost 20,000 Miles Booking Awards — Reader Mistake Story

Aug 31, 2017

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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, 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 Akash, who missed out on a valuable mileage rebate for booking AAdvantage awards. Here’s what he had to say:

Akash used AAdvantage miles to book business-class seats on Qatar Airways, but he paid more than he should have.

I travel frequently between Houston and Calcutta in business class, and Qatar Airways offers me the best combination of hard product, itinerary and availability along that route. Hence, I value the American Airlines loyalty program highly since I can use AAdvantage miles to book on Qatar.

My wife and I both have the AAdvantage Aviator Red card, which gives an annual 10% rebate on redeemed miles. That’s a huge benefit for me given how many miles I use, but last year I made a mistake that prevented me from getting the most out of it. I booked two round-trip business-class tickets from Houston to Calcutta using a total of 280,000 AAdvantage miles. While my wife and I each had enough miles to book our own awards, I redeemed the full amount from one account.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I realized the rebate to a single AAdvantage account is capped at 10,000 miles each year. If I had split the awards equally between us for 140,000 miles each, we would both have earned the full rebate. Instead, only one of us received it, so we lost 10,000 miles there. Even worse, when I had to book the same itinerary this year, we no longer had enough in both accounts to book our awards separately. I had to again redeem from a single account, which meant we lost another 10,000 miles! 

I learned my lesson, and I hope this helps other readers avoid making similar mistakes.

The points and miles game is especially rewarding when you play it with a teammate, but working together means you’ll need to tweak some of your individual earning and redeeming strategies. By booking their awards separately, Akash and his wife would have earned an extra 20,000 miles total — worth $280 in my latest valuations. On the other hand, booking separately can add costs and complications if your plans change, so try to link your reservations once they’re confirmed.

The 10% AAdvantage rebate is one of many credit card benefits that can pay for themselves. If you redeem around 68,000 miles annually, you’ll get a rebate that’s roughly equal in value to the $95 annual fee (again based on my valuation of 1.4 cents per mile), and that doesn’t factor in other benefits like free checked bags and in-flight discounts. You can’t stack the rebate with multiple AAdvantage credit cards, but it’s still a good example of why you shouldn’t be squeamish about paying an annual fee under the right circumstances. Just make sure you know precisely how your benefits work before you use them!

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The award mileage rebate on the AAdvantage Aviator card is capped at 10,000 miles per account.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Akash for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him 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!

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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.

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