The Merchant Didn't Take My Credit Card — Reader Mistake Story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Morgan, who missed a crucial detail while mapping out how to meet a spending requirement:
I booked an adventure trip to Mongolia that required a deposit to hold my spot, with the balance due a few months later after the trip was confirmed. I realized I could use that payment to help earn a bonus on a new card. I decided to try out a premium travel card, figuring I could make good use of the benefits getting to and from Mongolia, so I applied for The Platinum Card® from American Express.
I waited until the day the final trip payment was due to call in and pay it, only to be informed they don't take American Express. Since I'd waited until the last minute, there wasn't time to apply for another card to earn a bonus, so I couldn't take advantage of that large purchase. I also had to figure out a different way to meet my minimum spend requirement on the Platinum Card with limited time left.
I was able to move up a large purchase I planned to make later in order to meet the spend requirement, but buying early stretched my finances a bit thin for a few months. It also meant I was unable to use Citi Price Rewind on the purchase, so I might have missed out on some savings (I didn't look — no need to add to my frustration).
I should have checked with the tour company before getting the Platinum Card, or at the very least I shouldn't have waited until the last minute to attempt to use it. Planning better would have helped me optimize my spending.
Morgan's plan to meet the bonus spending requirement lacked a key detail, but having a plan in the first place is a smart move. Falling short likely means you'll miss out on the bonus entirely, so you should not only make sure spending requirements fit within your budget before you apply, but also have some idea of how you'll meet them, especially when the amount is near your capacity.
If you're banking on a few large purchases to complete the bulk of your spending, first find out whether the merchant will take your card. American Express is gaining more widespread acceptance, but there are still plenty of merchants who won't take it, and that problem is not unique to Amex. If you're pre-paying an expense, you should also verify when the transaction will process in case the full purchase amount isn't charged right away.
It's not clear how close Morgan was to the spending requirement deadline, but waiting until the last minute is another mistake. As this story shows, you'll be in a bad spot if your original plan fails, since you'll have little time to change course. Furthermore, charges might not process in a timely fashion; if you're relying on a late purchase to clear the spending threshold and it sits pending in your account for a few days, you could be out of luck. I recommend meeting spending requirements at least two weeks in advance of the deadline, ideally with a buffer over the minimum dollar amount as well.
Related: Guide to Tracking Progress Toward a Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus
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 Morgan 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 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. 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!