I Applied for the Wrong Bonus Offer — Reader Mistake Story

Aug 19, 2019

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Keith, who used the wrong link to apply for a new credit card:

For weeks I saw coverage of the limited-time bonus offers for the Amex Hilton cards, particularly The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card. For quite some time, I mulled over the offer for 130,000 Hilton points plus a free weekend night certificate after spending $5,000 within four months of opening the card, and then finally decided to go for it.

Instead of clicking the link directly from the offer or one of the ads Hilton is running, I logged into my Amex account online, navigated to the Hilton Business card page and applied there. I figured doing it this way would simplify and expedite the application process, because all my information would already be populated in the forms.

I made the mistake of not carefully reading the bonus offer, assuming it would be the same as the limited-time bonus I had seen in dozens of ads elsewhere. I was approved for the card in short order, and received it in a matter of days. I then called Amex to confirm the terms of the bonus offer, and was told that I would only be receiving the standard bonus of 125,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months, with no extra free nights.

Naturally I was disappointed, as the elevated bonus (and the free night certificate in particular) is what enticed me to apply for the card when I did. I spoke with American Express agents by phone and online to try to get the bonus changed, to no avail. All I received for those efforts was an extra 1,000 Hilton points as a gesture of goodwill, which is worth only a fraction of the free night and the extra points I was hoping to gain.

Moral of the story: make sure you use the right link when you apply for a credit card, and be aware of the specific terms stated as you are moving through an online application. I tried to take a shortcut and missed out on the bonus I really wanted.

Once you’ve decided to get a new credit card and confirmed your finances are in order, there are still a few precautions you should take before applying. First, make sure the application in front of you is for the specific card you want. Credit cards that have similar names (like the three flavors of Chase Ink business cards) may come with vastly different benefits and bonus offers. If you unknowingly apply for the wrong card, you’ll be undermining your own efforts from the start.

Second, you’ll commonly find different welcome bonus offers available simultaneously for the same card, so check the offer on your application to verify you’re getting the terms you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean getting the biggest or “best” offer available; for example, there might be a bonus that comes with more points, but also imposes a spending requirement that’s beyond your means. Overextending your finances is another recipe for self-defeat, so feel free to aim high, but be sure you can make payments in full and on time.

Third, take a screen shot of the bonus offer — if it doesn’t appear on the application itself, then capture the terms indicated on the landing page. If you apply in person or by mail, take a picture or make a photocopy. There’s no guarantee that documentation will be decisive if there’s a dispute later on, but having evidence in your favor certainly won’t hurt. Finally, do what Keith did and confirm the bonus offer when you activate your card. If anything is amiss, it’s better to catch it early.

Related: 12 Major Mistakes People Make With Travel Rewards Credit 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 Keith 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!

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