How Elite Benefits Saved Me 46,000 Miles — Reader Success Story

Oct 10, 2018

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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Brooks, who avoided expensive award change fees on a recent trip. Here’s what he had to say:

One benefit of my Delta Platinum Medallion status is that the normal $150 per ticket mileage redeposit fee is waived for canceled award travel. This benefit paid off surprisingly well for me recently, when I used it for the first time.

Back in June, my family decided we wanted to spend next spring break in Orlando, so I started monitoring for the lowest cost non-stop flights and award options. I waited too long, and prices for the flights I wanted started to increase from their lows in the range of 35,000 miles each. I eventually pulled the trigger at 44,500 miles apiece, redeeming 178,000 SkyMiles for our four family members. It seemed like a fair deal at the time given the cash price, but I was kicking myself for waiting too long.

Earlier this week, I checked Delta.com again and was surprised to see that the price had dropped to 38,500 SkyMiles for the same flights. This was my chance to try out this Platinum Medallion benefit. I was unable to cancel online, so I called and was fortunate to speak with an agent who patiently walked me through the process. Sure enough, the redeposit fees were waved for all four tickets, and the agent helped me book new awards at the lower rate.

She told me that I would get back 11,500 miles per ticket. I am both a math major and an Eagle Scout, so I asked her why it wasn’t 6,000 per ticket. She confirmed that her system told her the new rate was 33,000 miles, so I ended up getting 46,000 SkyMiles back rather than 24,000.

Free redepositing is a great benefit for Platinum Medallion members. The next time I book an award, I’ll book it early and check back frequently for price drops. And maybe I’ll call to see if their system gives me a better deal.

I recently shared a story from a reader who saved points by rebooking a Southwest award, but other carriers offer similar opportunities to flyers with elite status. Delta waives redeposit fees for Platinum and Diamond Medallion members, while American does the same for Executive Platinum members. United waives fees entirely for Platinum and 1K members, and offers a discount to Silver and Gold elites. These benefits are invaluable to frequent award travelers, since they provide the flexibility to redeem miles speculatively with minimal downside.

Like with Southwest, you can book an award even if your plans are uncertain, since you can change flights later with no penalty. You can also reserve seats when availability is limited even if the itinerary isn’t ideal, since again you can rebook when the flights you want open up. If you book a lot of awards and you don’t already have airline elite status, these fee waivers may be a compelling reason to earn it. I think that’s especially true for Delta given the greater fluctuation of SkyMiles award rates, including the recent string of award sales.

It’s hard to say with certainty why Brooks found cheaper awards over the phone, but an experienced agent may be able to find availability that doesn’t show up online. Elite benefits come in handy to that end as well, since many airlines offer priority phone lines to members with even bottom-tier status.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! To thank Brooks 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 award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Photo by Shutterstock.com

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