Dude, Where's My Sign-Up Bonus? — Reader Mistake Story
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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Alison, who got caught in limbo waiting for points to reach her account. Here’s what she had to say:
I signed up for the new IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card a couple months ahead of a trip to Berlin. My plan was to use the 80,000-point sign-up bonus to book five nights at the Hotel Indigo in Kurfürstendamm. Award nights go for 20,000 points, so I figured I’d use the sign-up bonus plus the fourth night free perk that comes with the credit card.
I’m usually a pretty low spender, so the I timed my application with a big purchase and easily met the $2,000 minimum spend requirement before my second statement closed. I checked my IHG account a few days later, expecting to see the 80,000 points appear. The points I’d earned from my purchases that month showed up, but the bonus was nowhere to be found.
With my trip coming up, I panicked and emailed Chase customer support. I was informed that I had in fact met the minimum spend and the points would appear in my account... within six to eight weeks, as noted in the fine print that I had neglected to read. Six to eight weeks would be well after I left for my trip. I’d already secured the vacation days and booked a flight, as well as several tours, so I wasn’t about to postpone.
I ended up finding a decent Airbnb, and I’ll use the points for a future trip, but I hadn’t budgeted for accommodations on this one. By putting the cart before the horse, I left myself with very little spending money in Berlin. Next time, to be extra safe, I'll wait until the points are actually in my account before I book a trip.
Credit card sign-up bonuses can help you earn rewards quickly, but they're not instantaneous. Even if you meet the spending requirement right away, card offers generally indicate that points may take weeks or months to reach your account. You can try to accelerate this process by calling your card issuer and asking to change your statement closing date. Alternately, some programs offer a points advance or allow you to put an award on hold. None of these methods are foolproof, but they could help you book an award even if you don't yet have the requisite number of points on hand.
It also helps to give yourself adequate lead time when planning award stays, but I don't think you need to wait until all the points and miles you need are already in your possession. Apart from high-end properties and peak travel dates, hotel awards tend to be available even at the last minute. Hotel programs also don't charge late booking fees like some airlines do, so there's less risk in cutting it close. If you're anxious your rewards won't arrive in time, you can always book a refundable rate as a backup plan; just be sure to cancel before the deadline.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Alison for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her 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 email@example.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!