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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Evan, who misunderstood the rules for earning United miles with partner airlines. Here’s what he had to say:
For our recent two-week vacation to South America, my girlfriend and I flew Avianca from New York to Buenos Aires and back from Montevideo to Boston. I had booked award flights for myself a while back, and she paid cash once she was sure she could join me. She didn’t have a United MileagePlus account at the time, but I suggested she could create one when we returned home and submit a request for retroactive mileage credit.
Unfortunately, it turns out United won’t let you earn retroactive credit on Avianca flights if you didn’t have a MileagePlus account open before flying. She missed out on earning miles for our flights, which was a little more painful since she booked a Y class fare. I should have checked the rules before flying or simply taken the time to create her account before our trip. Let this be a lesson to your readers!
Airlines generally allow you to request mileage credit for past flights, and in some cases you can still earn miles up to a year after you travel. Most airlines also allow you to earn miles after the fact even if you don’t already have a frequent flyer account, but the timeline for doing that tends to be much shorter. United will credit new MileagePlus members for flights taken up to 30 days prior to enrollment, and you can extend that to six months by paying a $50 service fee. Unfortunately, as Evan and his girlfriend learned the hard way, those rules only apply to flights operated by United — partner flights are ineligible.
It’s hard to earn travel rewards if you don’t have anywhere to put them. If you’re new to the points and miles game, signing up with major loyalty programs should be your first move. You don’t have to open an account with every airline under the sun, but at the very least, make sure you’re set up to earn miles on each flight before you travel. Even if you’re in some far-flung part of the world on a carrier you never expect to fly again, you may be able to credit miles to a more useful partner program or find creative ways to redeem them apart from flights. If you sign up and earn the miles, at least you’ll have options.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Evan 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 Cosmity/Getty Images.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
- Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
- 5X Membership Rewards® points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com.
- As a Platinum Card Member, you can enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
- Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
- $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees