A late payment cost me 40,000 points — reader mistake story
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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Cynthia, who missed out on an anniversary bonus from one of her travel rewards credit cards:
I still carry a Radisson Rewards Visa from U.S. Bank. Even though the program has raised award redemption rates and the card lost its best perk of a free night on award bookings back in 2015, I have still been able to find good value at Radisson Blu hotels in Europe. I rarely spend on the card, but it does offer 40,000 points each year upon renewal and payment of the annual fee.
Like many points and miles collectors, I have multiple credit cards and am very careful each month to check my statements and pay all my bills on time. I have set up automatic payments for several of my cards, but not the Radisson card. Since I don't use it for spending, I only need to make a payment one month of the year: when the annual fee comes due. I was horrified this year when I realized a couple of days after the due date that I had somehow overlooked it. I immediately paid the bill and called U.S. Bank to tell them of my mistake and ask forgiveness of the late fee. The representative was very helpful and reversed the fee. All was good, or so I thought.
A couple of months later, I realized I had not yet received the annual bonus. I called U.S. Bank, and the rep I talked with said she would look into it. About a week later, I received a letter stating that I would not receive the 40,000 points this year. Per the card agreement: "This bonus is earned each year when the annual fee is billed to your account, and when you renew your account by making at least the minimum amount due by the payment due date on the statement on which the annual fee is billed." Although I had paid the annual fee, I had not paid it in time. I called again to plead my case, but to no avail.
Moral of the story: No matter how careful you are, you can still make a costly mistake. Putting all my cards on auto-pay (particularly my rarely used cards) would have prevented this from happening.
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A fundamental rule of earning credit card rewards is that you should pay your balances on time and in full. Failing to do so can be costly, as many credit cards impose high interest rates when you carry a balance. Those additional charges will likely negate the value of any rewards you've earned, which defeats the purpose of earning them in the first place. Even if your card offers a promotional 0% APR, you still have to pay the minimum amount due on time or you may revert to a much higher interest rate and incur additional fees.
Cynthia's story shows how making late payments can also keep you from earning rewards in the first place. The Radisson Rewards Visa isn't unique in that regard; the terms of other annual card bonuses (like the Anniversary Free Night Award, worth up to 35,000 points, on the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card) also specify that your account must be open and not in default to qualify. Similarly, American Express recently altered terms of some cards in the Membership Rewards program such that points earned on your statement will be forfeit if you don't pay the amount due on time.
Setting up auto-pay on your credit cards can help you avoid missing payments altogether, but you should still review your accounts each month. Looking over your statements will make you aware of any errors, including authorized purchases that weren't charged the correct amount and unauthorized or fraudulent transactions. If you have a lot of accounts to monitor, try using a money-management app or develop your own system to stay organized. Even a simple spreadsheet can help you identify when annual fees are coming due so they don't pass unnoticed.
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 Cynthia 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!
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