Saving $200 cost me elite status — reader mistake story

Jan 27, 2020

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Chad, whose miscalculation caused him to fall short of an elite status threshold:

I needed to make a multi-city trip to Asia back in September; I wanted to fly premium economy on the long flights to and from Asia, but was indifferent about the shorter intracontinental leg. So in order to save a couple hundred dollars, I booked an open jaw premium economy itinerary on American Airlines from Chicago to Singapore, returning from Hong Kong to Chicago. I then booked an economy flight on Cathay Pacific from Singapore to Hong Kong.

The Elite Qualifying Miles [EQMs] from my American Airlines flights posted a few days after my trip, but that wasn’t the case for the Cathay Pacific flight. I filled out a missing mileage credit form on the American Airlines website and received a notification that the miles were pending a few days later. I continued to plan my travel for the remainder of the year assuming that I would be credited for the 1,588 miles flown from Singapore to Hong Kong.

On Dec. 26, I called American Airlines to ask them to post the additional miles before the end of the year so I could earn AAdvantage Platinum status. I was informed that although Cathay is a Oneworld partner, no miles are earned if the fare booking code is K, M, L, V, Q, S, G,or N. Unfortunately, my fare fell into one of these categories, resulting in me ending the year 1,446 miles short of Platinum status — an incredibly high price to pay to save $200.

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Fare classes can tell you a lot about a ticket, like whether you can book it as an award, whether it’s eligible for upgrades, and how many redeemable miles and elite credits you can expect to earn from it. American Airlines keeps a chart for each partner airline indicating how earning rates vary based on the fare class. As Chad learned, most Cathay Pacific economy fares do not earn base miles or elite credits — only a full Y fare would have yielded enough EQMs to earn him Platinum status on his flight to Hong Kong. In contrast, booking his same flight through American Airlines instead would have earned him 1 EQM per mile flown and 7 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent (assuming he had already reached Gold status).

What I find agonizing about this story is that Chad still had ample time after his September flight to hit the EQM threshold for Platinum status. American Airlines didn’t help his cause by indicating he the elite miles would be credited, but he should have suspected something was up when they didn’t post after a few weeks. Uncovering the cause of the delay earlier would have left him more opportunities to take a mileage run or fulfill the EQM requirement some other way. The lesson is not only to audit your loyalty accounts, but also to remain vigilant when you don’t get the rewards you expect, especially when a lot of value is at stake.

Related: How to plan your elite status requirements for 2020

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 Chad 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 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. 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 in Singapore by Joshua Ang/Unsplash.

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