Two Rental Car Days Down the Drain — Reader Mistake Story

Sep 12, 2018

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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Meir, who waited too long to claim rewards for a recent trip. Here’s what he had to say:

I spent the past two months planning a week long getaway for me and my wife. I did tons of research on our flights, hotels and activities. Also, a big part of vacation for me is getting to drive a rental car that I would normally never get a chance to drive. Last year’s vacation featured a Chevy Camaro, and I knew this year I had to top that, so I did my research and decided on a 2018 Range Rover Sport from Hertz.

In order to pay for the expensive rental (which cost about $1,000), I had signed up for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, and planned on using the 50,000 miles* along with some Chase points I had left over from before. Given the cost, I figured I should sign up for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards to earn points, but I decided to wait until I got back from the vacation, figuring they’d just look up my receipt and add the points to my account after the fact.

Well, I was in for an unpleasant surprise when they informed me their policy is to only award points retroactively if you are a member at the time of the rental. Ouch. To make things worse, I received an email two days after signing up offering a bonus of 275 points for my first rental. It would have taken me five minutes to sign up online before my vacation; waiting cost me roughly two days of free car rentals. My assumptions cost me a lot of valuable points, but at least now I won’t be making that mistake again!

Signing up for loyalty programs is the first step of award travel, and it blows my mind how often it gets skipped. You might think you won’t earn enough points or miles to make a difference, or you might be overwhelmed by the redemption process, but the simple truth is that you can’t win at this game if you don’t play. Enrolling in most programs takes no more than a few minutes, and it’s easy to opt out of marketing emails so your inbox stays tidy. Even if you’re not sure what to do with your rewards, there’s so little downside to signing up that sitting on the sidelines is a mistake.

Meir had the inclination to sign up, but got tripped up by the fact that some programs have unfavorable rules for claiming rewards retroactively if you aren’t already a member. For example, American and United will credit members for past flights up to 12 months from the date of travel, while Delta gives SkyMiles members nine months. But all three carriers limit credit to flights taken no more than 30 days prior to enrollment. If you have travel plans that involve a loyalty program you haven’t already joined, I recommend signing up before you go.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Meir for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him 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!

*After spending $3,000 in the first three months

Featured photo by Land Rover MENA/Flickr 

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