How Fees Sank My Award Redemption — Reader Mistake Story
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Pradyot, who bought airline miles without considering all the angles:
A friend and I wanted to travel for Thanksgiving from Atlanta to New York, and revenue fares were comparatively high for a college student’s budget. Upon realizing that I was 5,000 AAdvantage miles short of being able to get us both award tickets, I jumped on the opportunity to purchase those miles for $193 (with taxes) from American Airlines.
After my purchase was complete, I realized the dreadful rookie mistake I had made of ignoring the close-in booking fees, since we were booking two weeks before our departure date. Redeeming these miles would now not only cost me as much as a revenue ticket, but also leave me without miles I could use later. At the end of the day, we decided to pay for our tickets, but I had already spent money for the miles that I couldn’t get back.
Buying miles during a sale or bonus promotion can be useful if you need to top off your account for an upcoming award, or occasionally as an investment to book premium seats at a heavy discount. Without some sort of bonus, however, points and miles purchases are less likely to be a good deal. Pradyot paid nearly 4 cents per mile; more than two and a half times what I think they’re worth. That’s justifiable if it helped him redeem his other miles efficiently, but the hefty upfront cost makes it harder to get a good return. A better option might have been to look for an inexpensive revenue fare in one direction, and use the miles in his account to book the other.
American Airlines (like United) charges a fee of $75 per ticket for awards booked less than 21 days prior to departure, which puts a dent in the redemption value of any last-minute award. This fee is a nuisance — it doesn’t pertain to any real cost incurred by the airline; they just tack it on because they can. Thankfully, you can avoid late-booking fees if you have elite status (Gold or above for AAdvantage members), or by booking with an airline program that doesn’t add them. For example, depending on availability, Pradyot could have booked the same flights for 15,000 points round-trip per person using British Airways Avios.
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 me to post it online), I’m sending Pradyot a $200 airline 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 email@example.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. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!
Featured photo courtesy of American Airlines
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
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.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- 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 up to 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 in the U.S., 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 $80 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 PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- 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