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!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

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Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.