I spent 30,000 points on shopping — reader mistake story

Dec 27, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jordan, who missed a crucial detail during a recent purchase:

While trying to max out the quarterly bonus on the Chase Freedom card (No longer open to new applicants), I made a payment using the Chase Pay app. Without knowing, I had “Pay with Points” selected as I was checking out. I was shocked when I looked at my account the next day and over 30,000 Ultimate Rewards points were missing.

I called Chase to see if I could undo the damage, but the representative said there was nothing they could do on their end, since the merchant had already processed the transaction and it had posted to my account. So what was supposed to be a nice little haul of points turned into a terrible redemption of 0.8 cents per point.

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This story is a good reminder to confirm payment methods before making a purchase online or through an app. Many loyalty programs allow you to redeem directly with retailers — for example, Amazon accepts a variety of loyalty currencies as payment. However, this is one of the least efficient ways to use your rewards, so it shouldn’t be your default setting. Aside from avoiding bad redemptions, you should also check your payment method to make sure you’re using whichever card offers the best return. I do this whenever I request an Uber, so I don’t accidentally pay with The Platinum Card® from American Express (and earn just one point per dollar) once my monthly Uber credit has been redeemed ($695 annual fee, see rates and fees). Enrollment required for select benefits.

I give Jordan credit for at least recognizing that the Pay with Points option wasn’t a good deal. As a rule of thumb, you’ll get poor value from your points and miles when redeeming for merchandise, gift cards and statement credits. That’s especially true of transferable points, which yield a much better return on average when you redeem for travel or transfer to airline and hotel partners. The Chase Freedom card doesn’t allow you to transfer points on its own — for that, you have to pair it with another card in the Ultimate Rewards program — but even if transferring weren’t an option, Jordan could have redeemed points for 1 cent apiece (25% better than the return offered by the Chase Pay app).

Related: TPG readers share their worst ever points and miles redemptions

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 Jordan 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 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 Maskot/Getty Images.

For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

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.

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More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • 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 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 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 $75 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 Pre✓®.
  • 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.
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Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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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