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How I Wasted My Annual Credit Card Benefit — Reader Mistake Story

Jan. 24, 2018
4 min read
American Express Platinum Ritz Carlton Rewards Card
How I Wasted My Annual Credit Card Benefit — Reader Mistake Story
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Today, I want to share a story from reader Michale, who missed out on a airline credit when he misunderstood how to use it. Here’s what he had to say:

My wife and I booked round-trip tickets on Delta for a trip from New York to Miami in September. Delta's website showed that I could upgrade us to first class on the outbound flight for $199 per person, and the thought of having some extra room sounded nice since we have an infant. I have several cards that offer travel credits for incidentals and this seemed like a good way to use them, so I went ahead with it.

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I charged one upgrade to my Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the other to my Platinum Card® from American Express. The Ritz-Carlton travel credit has to be applied manually, so I called the card concierge after making the purchase and had the $199 upgrade marked for reimbursement. The Amex Platinum credit works automatically, so I didn't call about that one. We flew to Miami in first class and had a blast!

The surprise came much later when I was reviewing statements on my Platinum card. The upgrade hadn't been subtracted from my total balance, which was puzzling since it was removed quickly from my Ritz-Carlton card; I figured it had to be a mistake. I called Amex to sort it out, and the customer service representative politely informed me that seat upgrades are ineligible for reimbursement from the $200 airline fee credit.

She pointed me to the benefit terms online, which list several items (like gift cards and mileage purchases) that don't qualify. Even in-flight Wi-Fi charges don't count as "incidental fees" because they're typically not billed by airlines directly. The Amex credit turned out to be much more restrictive than the others I have, which left me wondering what it could be used for other than baggage fees.

The lesson I learned from this experience is that similar benefits from different credit cards don't all work the same. By assuming my Amex Platinum airline credit would cover the upgrade, I ended up losing it!

The Amex Platinum airline travel credit doesn't cover seat upgrades, but some similar benefits do.

I think Amex Platinum is one of the best travel rewards cards available, but Michale is spot on in pointing out that the annual airline fee credit falls short of the competition. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an annual $300 travel credit that applies to a wide range of expenses (including hotels and rental cars), while the Citi Prestige Card comes with an annual $250 air travel credit that can be redeemed toward airfare and doesn't require you to designate an airline in advance. The Amex Platinum credit can sometimes be used to buy airline gift cards, but there's a lot of room for improvement.

Michale's story is a reminder that you shouldn't wait to use these credits once they're available. Some cards (like Amex Platinum) award credits based on the calendar year, while others (like Sapphire Reserve) refresh them on your account anniversary. In any case, I recommend using these benefits at the first opportunity so you don't risk letting them expire. The credits are worth the same amount whether you use them now or later, so you might as well use them now!

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Michale 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, and I'd like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories 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.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

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  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases