How I Wasted 30,000 Ultimate Rewards Points — Reader Mistake Story

Oct 31, 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 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 Chris, who accidentally booked two seats for his wife on a single flight. Here’s what he had to say:

I started accumulating points last year via Chase, and was finally ready for my first redemption. I transferred Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest, and booked a surprise trip for my wife and I from Tulsa to Dallas for the evening to celebrate her birthday. When I went to check in 24 hours in advance using my confirmation number, it only checked me in and not my wife!

I freaked out thinking I had failed to book her ticket, and immediately scrambled to get her a seat. Luckily our flight still had seats available, but the price had gone from around 12,000 points to over 30,000. I was pretty bummed about the loss of points, but chalked it up as a learning experience.

I did some investigating after we returned from our trip, and I found out that I did properly book her flight in the first place. However, when you book multiple tickets with points, Southwest gives each person a separate confirmation number! I had only ever booked paying with a credit card, which allows multiple people to be associated with the same confirmation number. What a waste of 30,000 points!

Not all
Southwest recently made updates that will help you avoid making a similar mistake.

Blowing 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points is a costly mistake, but fortunately, the problem Chris encountered is mostly a thing of the past. Tickets purchased with Rapid Rewards points used to result in individual confirmation numbers for each passenger, but Southwest’s new reservation system (installed in May) allows you to book up to eight people on a single confirmation number. The same goes for revenue tickets, and checking in should give you successive boarding numbers for each passenger in either case. However, you’ll still end up with multiple confirmation numbers when you mingle cash and points in one reservation.

I say this problem is “mostly” a thing of the past because there’s one crucial exception. When you use the Southwest Companion Pass to add another passenger to your reservation, your companion will be given a separate confirmation number regardless of how you paid for the flight. You should receive a separate confirmation email for your companion, but you can also find their confirmation number under the My Trips section of your Rapid Rewards account online.

Finally, you can request to link separate reservations. You’ll still have unique confirmation numbers, but linking your tickets will allow reps to see you’re traveling with others, so they can try to accommodate you as a group rather than individually.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Chris for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline 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 Tim Boyle via Getty Images.

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