A $2,000 Lesson in Card Benefits — Reader Mistake Story

Feb 6, 2019

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Angel, who overlooked a critical change to his credit card perks:

I took my family to Spain for a month, and got great deals all around on flights, accommodations, auto rental, etc. Hertz upgraded my rental to a really nice Renault that comfortably accommodated the four of us with all of our luggage. I used my Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card for the car, as it provides primary rental coverage outside the US.

An unfortunate incident with a bollard in Barçelona caused damage to the tune of €2300. Even more unfortunately, The Platinum Mastercard rental coverage changed in 2018 from rentals of 31 days or fewer to rentals of 15 days or fewer, and I didn’t read the notice from Capital One. When I got home and got the bill along with the news from Mastercard, I realized I should have paid attention to the updated coverage limitations.

The one positive was that I used my status with Hertz to negotiate the amount to damages only, which still left my wallet €1800 lighter. Moral of the story: always review updates to the terms and conditions on your cards, and use your elite status to negotiate to your advantage.

It’s hard to get full value from your credit card benefits if you don’t know what they are, but getting acquainted with the terms and conditions is easier said than done. Benefits change all the time, and those changes are often subtle enough that you might overlook them if you’re not paying close attention. However, memorizing every benefit guide and update notice top to bottom is impractical, so I recommend a more targeted approach to staying informed. Specifically, verify the terms of any benefit you’re counting on before you actually need them.

If Angel had researched his collision damage waiver in advance, he would have known it didn’t suit his family’s itinerary, and he could have used a different card or made other arrangements. Similarly, you might review your delay protection if you’re expecting inclement weather before an upcoming flight, or confirm whether your free checked bag extends to travel companions before you pack. Benefit administrators aren’t known for their leniency, so you’re better off making sure you have permission than begging for forgiveness later.

Rental coverage can be a lifesaver when it works, but it comes with numerous restrictions. In addition to limiting the duration of the rental, some policies exclude certain vehicles (by category, value or both) and countries (Ireland, Italy and Australia are commonly left out). Coverage is also typically limited to physical damages, so you won’t be reimbursed for cleaning fees if your car is dirty or smells like smoke when you bring it back. It also won’t provide any liability coverage if an accident is your fault. Violating any of the terms can void your claim entirely, so again I strongly recommend looking them over before your next rental.

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 Angel 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!

Featured photo by David Ramos/Getty Images.

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