How I Missed a Spending Requirement — Reader Mistake Story

Jun 7, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Dave, who didn’t earn the credit card sign-up bonus he expected:

Last year, I read about the 75,000-mile bonus [no longer available] on the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. I wasn’t sure I wanted to apply, but when the airline transfer partners were announced, I figured I would go for it. By that time, I thought I’d missed out on the increased bonus, and I decided to sign up for a bonus of 50,000 miles after spending $3,000. I was approved, and proceeded to meet the spending requirement.

A month or two later, the miles still hadn’t been credited to my account, so I called Capital One. It was at that point they informed me that I had actually signed up for the limited-time, 75,000-mile bonus, and that the initial spend required was $5,000, not $3,000. They told me that I had failed to get to $5,000, so I got nothing. I explained that I thought I’d applied for the lower bonus, and they could see from my account history that I’d spent the $3,000, but they denied me any relief.

In the end, all I got were the points from my spending on the card, so I’ll reluctantly be canceling my account and moving on. Lesson learned: read the fine print of your offer, and comply with the terms.

When you activate a new credit card, your first step should be to confirm the sign-up bonus that comes with it. That includes not only points and miles, but also statement credits, promotional interest rates and other benefits that might be offered (like a free night or companion fare). You should similarly verify the spending requirement and your timeline for meeting it, since failing to abide by either of those terms will likely cost you the bonus. If a customer service representative repeats the terms you expected, then you should be set; just get their name (and ID number if they have one) in case there’s a dispute later.

If the terms aren’t what you expect, then you’ll probably need to speak with a supervisor to see what can be done. Ideally you should have documentation to back up your claim, like a physical mailer or a screenshot of your offer if you applied online. Without that documentation, you may still be able to get matched to the offer you want (assuming it’s still publicly available). In any case, it’s better to identify the problem when you activate your card than months later when you’re wondering why your bonus hasn’t shown up.

Missing a bonus you thought you’d earned is frustrating, and I empathize with the impulse to cancel your card on the spot in protest, but in some cases I think that’s cutting off your nose to spite your face. The decision to close a card should be based predominantly on the value it offers you moving forward, not whatever value you missed out on previously. At the very least, you should redeem any miles and other benefits you’ve already earned before closing your account, or they may also be forfeit.

Related: How Should I Pursue a Missing Credit Card Sign-Up Bonus?

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 Dave 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. 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 by golubovy/Getty Images

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.

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