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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jayu, who broke one of the cardinal rules of the points and miles game. Here’s what he had to say:

In one night, Qatar Airways turned me from Qmiles royalty into a pauper. After reading your article about Qatar’s silent devaluation, I rushed to the Qcalculator to see how the cost of awards had changed, and it turned out to be even worse than I had feared. The CGK-ORD route I usually fly used to cost 190,000 miles in business class, but now it costs 391,000 miles. That’s a 106% increase!

The worst part is that I have 300,000 hard-earned miles stashed in my account, which I accumulated over three years. I intended to treat my parents to a vacation to the US next year in QSuite, and while previously I was only 80,000 miles short of my goal, now I can’t even afford to fly one person. I’m devastated by this change, but who am I to complain? After all, I should have listened to your advice that miles are not a good long-term investment.

Devaluations come with the territory for award travelers, which is why it’s best to avoid holding onto rewards for too long. For airline miles and hotel points, I recommend you stockpile only what you’ll need for the next year — if you don’t have plans to use them in that time, then earning more should not be a priority. You can stretch that horizon a bit for flexible rewards since they’re less likely to implode, but even currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards experience the occasional devaluation (like when Amex scaled back the 50% award rebate last year). In general, earning and burning is a good strategy to protect yourself from negative program changes.

Of course, as Jayu’s story illustrates, that’s not always the case. What made the recent Qmiles devaluation so egregious was that Qmiles members were given zero warning. No one wants to see their miles decline, but it’s much more palatable when you have advance notice. Flying Blue announced its recent updates nearly seven months before they went into effect, giving members plenty of time to adjust plans. In contrast, Qatar’s move just feels like a cash grab from an airline in financial turmoil; that’s no way to engender loyalty. As I mentioned in my June valuations, the Qmiles program is one to stay away from.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Jayu 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 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. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Feature image by Andrey Larin via Unsplash.

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