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 ($550 annual fee, see rates and fees).

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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.