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I threw away a $100 gift card — reader mistake story

January 31 2020
5 min read
I threw away a $100 gift card — reader mistake story
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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Michael, whose payment for a hotel stay didn't process as expected:

I recently stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, where I used a free weekend night certificate to cover one night, and paid cash with the $250 resort credit on my Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card to cover a second night. I also had a $100 Hilton gift card that I planned to use during my stay. The first night, we ate at the Zen Kitchen restaurant and the bill came to $153.41. We had a hotel credit of $50 that we used, which dropped the total bill to $103.41.

The next morning at check-out, they charged my card on file $103.41, but I told them I had a $100 gift card. So they swiped the gift card for $100 and then swiped my credit card for the remaining balance of $3.41. A few days later, I looked at my credit card statement and saw I was charged $103.41. The folio from Hilton doesn't show any indication of the gift card being used as payment. I called Hilton, but no one can do anything about it since I threw away the gift card. I should have kept it just in case.

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The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Gift cards have a variety of uses for award travelers. You can buy them to boost your loyalty accounts by taking advantage of credit card bonus categories, or scoop some up when they go on sale to secure a discount on future paid travel. You might also buy them to an exhaust an airline or travel statement credit from a rewards credit card (though this strategy is nearly obsolete), or to liquidate a small cache of points or miles that would otherwise expire or be marooned. Whatever benefit you get from using gift cards, the downside is that they're more vulnerable to loss than credit cards, which are easily replaceable and typically carry limited liability for unauthorized charges.

To protect your gift card balances, practice good gift card hygiene. Start by logging card numbers in a safe place along with their security codes (where applicable) — I use a spreadsheet, but taking a picture should suffice. With that information, you may still be able to redeem your balance online or by phone when the physical card is unavailable. If you purchased the gift card yourself, I recommend also keeping the activation receipt as evidence of your purchase to help you recoup the value of a gift card that's lost or drained fraudulently.

Another tip: Don't get rid of physical gift cards immediately after you use them. I advise keeping them around until you verify the balances are drained and you're certain you won't need them to process a potential return. If Michael had held onto his Hilton gift card, the would have been able to use it at the next opportunity. Finally, try redeeming hotel gift cards at check-in rather than check-out. Ask the front desk to credit your folio with the gift card balance, and leave your credit card on file like you normally would to cover additional charges. That way you can verify the payment goes through while you're still on site.

Related: What credit cards should you use to purchase gift cards?

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 Michael 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 (Photo by Jakub Gorajek/Unsplash)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees