One missing word cost me 18,000 miles — reader mistake story
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Jake, who used the wrong website to book upcoming hotel stays:
I received an email mentioning that the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is offering 10 miles per dollar on all Hotels.com bookings through Jan. 31, 2020. With a three-week trip to South America planned over Christmas and New Year's, I saw a great opportunity to earn miles by booking through Hotels.com. My parents are joining my wife and me for half the trip; I'm handling all the bookings and they'll pay me back, so I'll get to keep the points. After a month of planning, I had approximately $2,000 worth of hotels booked via Hotels.com. Thanks to the 10x earning rate, I would earn an extra 18,000 miles compared to the normal 2x rate.
Fast forward to a few days ago, when I noticed my purchases had only earned 2 miles per dollar. I looked up the offer and thoroughly read the rules, and realized purchases had to be made through a special link. I had booked all the hotels through the regular Hotels.com site without thinking twice. I called Capital One when I realized my mistake, but they said they could not give me the bonus Venture Rewards miles because I didn't book through the hotels.com/venture site. While all my bookings were fully refundable, prices had risen substantially, so it wasn't cost effective to cancel and rebook.
The moral of the story is to thoroughly read and understand bonus offers. Every hotel I booked on Hotels.com was also available through the special link, so my only mistake was not including /venture in my browser. It cost me about $180 of rewards.
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Capital One's partnership with Hotels.com isn't unique in requiring the use of a special website to use a benefit or earn bonus rewards. Other examples include the 10% discount on British Airways flights offered by the British Airways Visa Signature Card, the complimentary fourth night at hotels offered by the Citi Prestige® Card, the $100 airfare discount available on certain Visa Infinite cards and the bonus SkyMiles offered by Delta for Airbnb stays. Failing to book through the right channels will make you ineligible for those rewards, which can be costly when you're spending a large amount. As Jake suggests, reviewing the terms of benefits and bonus offers before you use them will help you avoid missing out altogether.
The information for the Citi Prestige 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.
Jake's estimate of $180 in lost miles is based on a valuation of 1 cent for Capital One Venture miles. However, that amount only applies if you exclusively redeem at a fixed value (by using the Purchase Eraser, for example), and represents just the minimum amount Jake may have lost. In late 2018, Capital One added the ability to transfer miles to airline partners; those transfers create opportunities to get a much better return from Venture Rewards miles, which is why they're listed at 1.4 cents apiece in TPG's most recent valuations. Based on that valuation, the 18,000 miles Jake missed out on would be worth $252 instead of $180.
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 Jake 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 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. 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!