Saving $200 cost me elite status — reader mistake story

Jan 27, 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 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.

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

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, 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.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.