How I wasted 43,000 miles and $700 — reader mistake story

Mar 2, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Shoby, who misunderstood the rules of 24-hour flight cancellation policies:

Two months ago, I booked a LifeMiles + Money award for a Lufthansa first-class flight from Chicago to Frankfurt. I redeemed 43,000 LifeMiles (transferred from Amex Membership Rewards) and paid $660 for cash portion, plus another $30.60 in taxes. I booked within 24 hours of the flight’s scheduled departure, but within an hour after booking, my plans fell through. I called LifeMiles, and the agent I spoke with told me she would cancel my ticket and refund me without penalty, since I was still in the 24-hour cancellation window.

Two weeks went by and I hadn’t received a refund, so I called LifeMiles again. They said my case had been escalated since I had canceled my ticket for a flight that was in less than 24 hours. I told them the first agent had assured me that I’d get a full refund with no penalty regardless. Another week went by and I kept checking, and they kept assuring me I’d get a full refund “tonight,” then “tomorrow” then so on. In the end, however, they said no refund would be coming at all. So I wasted 43,000 miles and almost $700.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The 24-hour cancellation policies mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation only apply to flights booked at least seven days before the scheduled departure. Some airlines offer more favorable policies — for example, American Airlines’ 24-hour cancellation policy applies to flights booked as little as two days before departure — but seven days is all that’s guaranteed by D.O.T. regulations. Avianca adheres to that seven-day minimum, so even though Shoby attempted to cancel within 24 hours of purchase, the ticket was not eligible for a full refund.

Nonetheless, Shoby should have been able to secure a partial refund. Avianca typically offers refunds for LifeMiles awards (even after the departure date) upon payment of a cancellation fee, which should be $200 for a long-haul premium award. The money portion of a LifeMiles + Money award is refunded in miles — the normal award rate for ORD-FRA in Lufthansa First would be 87,000 miles, so that’s the amount Shoby should expect to get back, along with the $30.60 in taxes. Avianca’s customer service leaves much to be desired, but recovering those miles is worth the effort.

Program specifics aside, the lesson here is to confirm cancellation policies before you book, especially if your plans remain uncertain.

Related: Everything you need to know about Avianca LifeMiles

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Shoby a 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, 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. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.