I spent 30,000 points on shopping — reader mistake story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
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 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!
For the rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, please click here.