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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 Alan, who accidentally paid extra for restaurant purchases while traveling abroad. Here’s what he had to say:

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Alan remembered the restaurant bonus on his Chase Freedom card, but forgot the foreign transaction fees.

My family and I just returned from a trip to Canada. We spent three nights in Quebec City at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac (the upgrade to Gold Level is well worth the money), and four nights in Montreal at the Hotel Saint Sulpice. It was a wonderful trip with great food, drink and scenery, but halfway through I realized I was making a big mistake.

I have both the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and Chase Freedom card. I use the Sapphire Reserve for most purchases, but since the Freedom card is offering 5 points per dollar at restaurants this quarter, I gave it a more prominent spot in my wallet so I’d remember to use it when dining out. Hoping to maximize the bonus category, I paid for all our restaurant purchases with the Freedom card during the first part of our trip.

After three days, however, I took a quick look at the Chase app and realized using the Freedom card in Canada was a mistake. I had completely spaced on the 3% foreign transaction fee charged by the Freedom Card — I’m so used to using the Sapphire Reserve (which doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees) that I didn’t think twice about it.

You can imagine my surprise when I saw all the fees listed in my account. I’m sure they cost me more than I got in return by earning those additional points, especially since I could have reached the bonus limit without using the card in Canada. I hope this serves as a reminder to think about these small details when using a credit card abroad.

Processing a foreign transaction adds minimal expense from the bank’s perspective, so foreign transaction fees (along with dynamic currency conversion) are little more than a nuisance to international travelers. Several prominent travel rewards cards have dropped these fees in the last few years, but plenty of others still charge extra for purchases made outside the US. Hopefully more cards (including Chase Freedom) will follow suit, but until then bring at least one card that waives foreign transaction fees with you the next time you leave the country.

Fortunately for Alan, his mistake wasn’t too costly. The Sapphire Reserve card earns 3 points per dollar at restaurants with no foreign transaction fee, while the Freedom card currently earns 5 points per dollar with a 3% fee. In the end, he effectively purchased extra Ultimate Rewards points for 1.5 cents apiece. He can easily break even by redeeming those points directly through the Chase travel portal, or he may be able to come out ahead by transferring to travel partners for premium awards. His mistake would have stung much worse if his card didn’t offer such a good earning rate.

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Plenty of cards don’t add foreign transaction fees; make sure to bring one with you when traveling abroad.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Alan 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!

Featured image courtesy of compassandcamera via Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

This is one of the top premium cards out there since you earn 3x on all travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining and have access to great perks like a $300 travel credit each cardmember year, 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and you get elite travel benefits like Global Entry application fee rebate, Priority Pass Select and special rental car privileges.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 50K 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®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Named a ‘Best Travel Credit Card for 2017’ by MONEY® Magazine
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance transfer, whichever is greater
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

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.