Let me start by saying I wish I wasn’t writing this because losing out on a huge chunk of miles is no fun at all. However, I figured it would be a great opportunity to help you avoid the same mistake I made, so you don’t have to feel what it’s like to make a big points-and-miles screw-up.
In this post, I’ll confess how I lost out on 65,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but, more importantly, I’ll show you how you can avoid making the same mistake I did.
How I Lost Out on 65,000 AAdvantage Miles
Recently, I signed up for a CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® because it had a 65,000-mile welcome bonus and I needed more American Airlines miles.
I applied and was immediately approved. I happily hit the minimum spending requirement, knowing I was earning Loyalty Points in addition to redeemable miles. Since I’m going for American Airlines elite status this year, earning Loyalty Points is a big deal.
After I met the minimum spend requirement, I anxiously waited to see the glorious deposit of 65,000 miles in my account. But I just kept waiting.
I wasn’t seeing the miles, so I checked the numbers over and over to make sure I did, in fact, meet the $4,000 in spending required (I did). I kept spending on the card just in case I was somehow miscalculating (which is silly, since I did the math multiple times and I was well over the spending requirement).
I finally decided to call to see when I could expect my welcome bonus. The representative on the phone told me it had been fewer than 48 months since I’d received a welcome bonus on the card, so I wouldn’t be getting a bonus this time.
Whoa, hold on! I told the representative I had never had this card so that wasn’t possible. She had to put in a special request to get the card’s info since it had been so long since it had been opened and instructed me to call back in a few days to see where this mystery card was coming from.
I hung up and decided to double-check my credit card spreadsheet to make sure I was correct. This card didn’t appear on the list of cards I’ve had, so I was sure I was right.
But then, I remembered I had updated my spreadsheet the previous year, so I pulled up the old version, and, much to my surprise, I found an entire section of cards that I had failed to move to my new spreadsheet. Oops!
Hot Tip: If you think losing out on 65,000 American Airlines miles isn’t a big deal, consider this — that’s more than enough miles for a round-trip flight to Europe in economy or a one-way ticket to Europe in business class.
After looking at my old spreadsheet I confirmed that I had indeed had this card previously. Yikes.
The kicker was it was 49 months since I had opened it, but only 47 months since I’d earned the welcome bonus. I missed it by 1 month. As a reminder, you can’t earn the bonus on this particular card unless it’s been over 48 months since you earned a bonus.
I was shocked and incredibly frustrated at the realization that I wasn’t getting those 65,000 miles.
After calming down, I realized that if I, someone who has made the points-and-miles world her career, can make a mistake like that, then anyone can. So, I figured I’d share my mistake with you and show you how to not make it yourself.
Credit Card Rules for Earning Welcome Bonuses
After you’ve been in the points-and-miles game for a couple of years, you may want to open a credit card you’ve had in the past to earn the welcome bonus again. Each card has rules for how often you can earn a welcome bonus, so you’ll need to read the fine print before you apply for a card you’ve already had.
Some issuers, like American Express, only allow you to earn a welcome bonus “once per lifetime.” If you try to apply for a card with a welcome bonus you’re not eligible for, you’ll get a pop-up letting you know before you proceed (unlike Citi which was quick to approve me for a card even though I was ineligible for the welcome bonus).
The good news is that it’s easy to find out how long you need to wait before becoming eligible for a welcome bonus again. The specifics will always be listed on the credit card page, either in the fine print or in the Offer and Benefit Terms section.
Most cards will contain language that limits consumers to earning a welcome bonus once every 24 or 48 months. Read carefully, because you’ll see that this is usually 24 or 48 months from earning the bonus, not opening the card.
Some cards, like most American Express cards, will contain language that says you’re not eligible for the bonus if you’ve ever had the card.
Bottom Line: It’s important to keep track of all of the travel rewards credit cards you have. It helps you know how many cards you have, your 5/24 status, and how long it’s been since you’ve earned a welcome bonus so you know when you’re eligible to apply again.
How To Keep Track of Travel Rewards Credit Cards
One of the first things you should do after getting into the points-and-miles game is to set up a system to keep track of all of your credit cards. Sure, it might seem easy to do it all in your head if you only have 1 or 2 cards, but as you acquire more cards, you’ll need a system to keep track of them all.
I currently have 16 cards open and have opened and closed over a dozen more in the last few years. I keep track of them all with a simple spreadsheet. It’s free and easy, and it works (as long as you enter all of your credit cards on it). Do as I say, not as I did.
My spreadsheet allows me to quickly see when I opened or closed each card, what the bonus was, and any other info I may need about the card. You can download my free spreadsheet or create your own. How you keep track of your cards isn’t as important as actually tracking them.
Once you find a system that works for you, just make an entry each time you apply for a new card — all of the information will be in 1 accessible spot.
Unfortunately, mistakes can happen to the best of us. I’m sure you could talk to any serious points-and-miles enthusiast and they would be able to tell you about a mistake they made that cost them points or how they screwed up a travel day.
I’m beyond annoyed with myself that my mistake cost me so many valuable AAdvantage miles, but I hope my experience will encourage you to create a system for keeping track of your cards so that you don’t have to experience a mistake like this.
If you’ve got other ideas for keeping track of your cards, or if you have a mistake story you’d like to share, leave a comment below.
The information regarding the CitiBusiness®/ AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.