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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Kerri, who misunderstood the requirements for earning a credit card spending bonus. Here’s what she had to say:

Back before I started reading TPG, I was newly engaged and hoping to plan an amazing honeymoon to Europe with my future husband using mostly points. In April we both signed up for the British Airways Visa Signature Card with a bonus offer for as much as 100,000 points after meeting various spending requirements. The plan was to get enough Avios for one busines/first class round-trip ticket, and to book the second using the Travel Together Ticket (earned after spending $30,000).

We diligently put every purchase on our cards — including some hefty wedding expenses — and we finally met the spending requirement in January. Imagine my surprise when I called British Airways to ask when I would receive the Travel Together Ticket only to be informed the requirement was to spend $30,000 in a calendar year, not in the first year I had the card. Disappointed but resigned to make the most of it, I looked into booking two economy awards, only to learn the taxes and surcharges for those tickets were over $1,200 total, plus we’d still be out the points! 

In the end, we decided to switch our destination entirely and went to Tahiti, paying around $1,200 each for our airfare. We still have 232,000 Avios that we’ll eventually use for a trip to South America or Hawaii (using American Airlines or another partner to minimize fees). We have that to look forward to, but the experience with British Airways was a huge bummer, especially now that I know there are so many other ways to earn points that aren’t tied to a specific carrier. I hope this helps other readers avoid falling into the same trap, and reminds them to always read the fine print!

 

When you’re trying to earn a credit card spending bonus, pay attention to not only how much you have to spend, but also how long you have to spend it. Some “annual” bonuses are awarded based on your account year, like the automatic Platinum Elite status you get for spending $75,000 on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card. However, the majority of such benefits (including the Travel Together Ticket) are awarded based on the calendar year. Mixing up those two schedules can be costly, so make sure you know which one applies.

Kerri’s experience is a good reminder that each loyalty program has its strengths and weaknesses. Avios are handy for short-haul flights due to the distance-based award chart, and you can get good value from some long-haul partner awards (like Alaska Airlines flights between the West Coast and Hawaii). On the other hand, British Airways notoriously adds hefty surcharges to award flights on its own metal. Even with the Travel Together Ticket you should expect to pay around $1,000 in taxes and fees per person, so I recommend looking into some of the other premium options for crossing the Atlantic.

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

Featured photo by JordiRamisa/Getty Images

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