How My Middle Name Cost Me 20,000 Points — Reader Mistake Story

Sep 21, 2017

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We often publish stories from readers that illustrate how points and miles can help you get where you want to go. However, it’s important to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes, so I’m calling on you to send us your most epic travel failure stories. Email them to info@thepointsguy.com and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, we’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure!

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Arik, who had to rebook an award after the name on his ticket and passport didn’t match. Here’s what he had to say:

My girlfriend and I recently went on a trip to Tel Aviv. We booked our flights on Turkish Airlines using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, paying 60,000 points per person for the round-trip from JFK. To finalize the purchase we entered our personal information as well as our Miles & Smiles account numbers. However, we only input our first and last names, and forgot to include our middle names even though they’re listed on our passports.

A week after booking I noticed that our flights weren’t showing up in our Miles & Smiles accounts. Turkish Airlines customer service informed me that it can take seven business days for flights to sync, and said I should check again later in the week. However, the agent I spoke with also noticed that the names on our tickets didn’t match those on our Miles & Smiles accounts, since our middle name wasn’t included.

The agent informed me that we would most likely be rejected at check-in, since the names on our tickets and passports weren’t the same. She was unable to change the names herself, and said we’d need to work it out with Chase. Unfortunately, the Chase agent I spoke with was also unable to get the names changed, and told us the only option was to book new tickets and then refund the originals.

The problem was that the ticket price had increased to 70,000 points per person. With no other options, we had to book the new tickets at the higher price and have the original trip refunded. Between the two of us, that meant spending an extra 20,000 points we could have used toward other travel.

Something as simple as omitting a middle name on a ticket turned into a headache that cost us a lot of points and time. I hope other readers can learn a lesson from my mistake: make sure the name on your ticket matches the name on your passport exactly!

Image courtesy of Tetra Images via Getty Images.
Use the exact name on your passport when booking international travel. Photo by Tetra Images via Getty Images.

When you book airfare, airlines recommend using your full name as it appears on your government-issued photo ID. That’s true for both domestic and international itineraries — the TSA won’t consistently hassle you over middle names or initials, but it’s best to include them. Ultimately, inputting your complete name is far easier than having to rebook or update your ticket.

Arik’s experience could have been much worse. Unless you purchase refundable airfare, making changes to your reservation can be costly even if you’re just correcting a typo. Take advantage of the 24-hour cancellation window to look over your itinerary and confirm all the information is correct. That way you can clean up any mistakes before they become problematic.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Arik 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 by Tempura via Getty Images.

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  • 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®
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