How I Almost Lost 40,000 AAdvantage Points

This weekend, my husband and I are visiting Ithaca, NY for our college reunion. I’m incredibly excited – Ithaca is the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, and despite the fact that it will be rainy all weekend, I can’t wait to visit. While much of our time will be spent attending networking events or hanging out with friends, I am very much looking forward to the Finger Lakes Wine Tour on Friday!

aaI’ll be back next week with more posts, but for now I did want to mention something that I’ve been chasing down for the last few weeks: how I almost lost 40,000 AAdvantage points.

I’ve previously mentioned how I like to make use of credit card points to finance my flights and hotels for travel. I’ve used points to save $1746 on flights to Europe, to get a round trip flight to St. Kitts for only $70, and to get free flights to New Orleans, Boston, Puerto Rico, etc.

But one of the major challenges of signing up for more than one credit card at a time is that you MUST keep track of the deadlines and dollar amounts to meet the minimum spending requirements. Keep track is fairly easy when you have one or two cards that are very different (e.g. a Southwest card and a Priority Club card with Chase Bank). This last time, however, I applied for both the AAdvantage Visa and the AAdvantage Amex with Citi Bank. They had similar point bonuses, similar minimum spend dollar amounts, and the same spending deadline.

Back in April, I knew I was getting close to the deadline to meet both minimum spends. I wasn’t sure exactly how close I was, though, so I called Citi and asked them to tell me exactly how much I needed to spend and by which date. A very helpful representative broke it down for me, telling me I had already met the spending on one card, and had three weeks left to spend about $60 on the other card.

Great, no problem. I spent $70 a week later and thought everything was fine and dandy.

Fast forward to the end of May, and I still hadn’t seen the points post to my account. I sent a secure message to Citi, asking when they would be posted, and I got a horrible, terrible, frustrating response: I had not spent the minimum required dollar amount by the deadline and would NOT be receiving my 40,000 points!

This was not acceptable to me – I specifically spent $70 on my card to ensure I met the mininum! I sent another secure message, explaining that I had called Citi in mid-April, spoken with a representative, and made two purchases (I gave the exact dates) on the card she told me to, specifically to ensure I met the minimum. It turns out she had mixed up the two cards, and I put the $70 on the card for which I had already met the minimum spending!

In my message, I asked how Citi would make me whole for this mistake on the part of the Citi representative. I also mentioned that I had returned as a Citi customer after leaving them following a poor experience 5+ years ago, and that I would like to give Citi another chance to retain my business. Truly I would – I don’t like being in a strangle-hold by Chase Bank for credit cards.

Finally, I received a response to my most recent secure message. To my wonderful, fantastic, surprise, Citi has honored my AAdvantage points!

citiaadvantageThe lessons I’ve learned from this experience are as follows:

  • Don’t trust the word of a bank representative on something this important. They may have just made an honest mistake, but that could have cost me the equivalent of several free flights.
  • Keep track of your minimum spend requirements and deadlines. Waiting until the last minute to meet the minimum is a bad idea; it’s better for your points to post before the end of the deadline so you can ensure you’ve jumped through all of the hoops.
  • Verify your spending using the downloadable .csv files on the bank’s website. Don’t forget to subtract out any annual fees – typically they don’t count toward the minimum.
  • Keep calm when contacting customer service, and be pleasant. They are just doing their jobs by following the rules, and don’t want to be yelled at any more than you do. Typically banks do have some leeway in honoring your requests, especially if it leaves you willing to be a good customer, so don’t give up, be firm (but also don’t get angry), and you might get what you want.

Do you use credit card sign up bonuses to help finance your travels? Have you ever been “burned” by the system? How do you typically deal with customer service when things aren’t going your way

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Categories: Credit Cards

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4 replies

  1. My biggest frustration is with customer service reps who do not know their products. It’s a pain to make multiple calls and spend time on hold but it’s a small price to pay for free travel.

  2. I wouldn’t be able to afford any of my ridiculous plane tickets without frequent flier miles. And yes, meeting the minimum spend is my biggest challenge. A few times this year I’ve had small amounts of minimum spend to meet in a short time, and I ended up buying Trader Joe’s gift cards. I get my groceries there anyway, and it was just a way of moving up my grocery bill.

    Like Fishing4Deals, I’m tired of following up with customer service. Of course, if I wasn’t jumping on so many deals, I wouldn’t have to worry about following up with customer service.

  3. I am really thinking about taking my elite plus status from Skyteam to Star Alliance. But the new AA and One World’s benefits look increasingly enticing these days.

    • I have to say I really like AA/One World. Until recently, all my loyalty went to Southwest/Airtran, since I did mostly domestic flights and lived 15 minutes from one of their major hubs. But since I began traveling internationally, I’ve found that the combination of British Airways and American Airlines (and their One World partners) works great. I booked on British Airways (though I believe it was an American Airlines flight) when I went to St. Kitts last year, and I booked on British Airways (an Air Berlin flight) for Europe this year. I’ve got about 90,000 miles in my AAdvantage account now, and I plan to use those to go to Central/South America next year, and potentially to Hawaii or Alaska.

      While I like the experience flying on Delta, I can never bring myself to pay so much extra for their flights, and I don’t get very many miles-earning offers for the Skyteam alliance. As far as the Star Alliance, it would have been helpful booking in Europe on Lufthansa or LOT, but I can’t stand their US counterparts. I have to say United and US Airways are my two least favorite airlines (US is ok sometimes, and soon to merge with American, but I don’t fly United anymore).

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