A few months ago I wrote a post on how my SIL applied for Delta co-branded card primarily for checked bag benefit. Of course, she was also very much looking forward to getting her welcome offer of 70k miles. She recently got married and moved to Michigan, and plans to fly to Florida at least 4-5 times per year to visit us.
Well, she has fulfilled the spending requirements, but there was no sign of bonus. I thought that was odd, but asked her to wait until the next statement closes before contacting Amex. Alas, that statement closed and still nothing. The next thing I know, she is calling me in a furious mood. Apparently, Amex rep told her she didn’t qualify for Delta bonus. He also claimed that she got the dreaded pop-up notifying her of this, and she acknowledged it on the application.
I asked her if that was true, and she said she didn’t remember. But said it’s possible. When she asked me for my advice on applying for the card, it didn’t even occur to me that she would run into this issue. After all, she has only gotten two Amex cards in her life, the last one (Amex Everyday) 6 years ago. She also uses the cards regularly for spending. It’s incredibly bizarre that Amex algorithm would identify her as an abuser.
What’s even more ironic is that I got a targeted offer on Delta card and received my bonus without issues. And I must have gotten 10 Amex cards in the last 6 years. Go figure. It goes to show that being too careful/conservative in this hobby may not pay off as much as you might expect. I felt really bad about what happened and gave her advice to reach out to an Amex supervisor one last time to plead her case. Alas, she decided to cut her losses.
My SIL was understandably frustrated with the whole situation and her immediate reaction was to cancel all of her Amex cards. However, I told her to sleep on it and not make any rash decisions she may regret later. After all, the damage was already done and having to pay for checked bag on Delta flights would only hurt her. Plus, she did say that she liked having priority boarding that is one of the benefits of the card.
She also wanted to transfer her small stash of Membership Rewards (12k points) to Virgin Atlantic and at least cancel that card. See my recent post on why this program can be a good deal for Delta economy flights. However, I asked that she would wait until there is a transfer bonus. That will likely happen within the next few months, and after that she can say Adios to it. The card doesn’t have an annual fee, so there is no rush. She is planning to tell the chat rep why she is canceling as well as everything she thinks of Amex, but I guarantee they won’t care.
Still, as long as she is polite and if it makes her feel better, why not!
The importance of not letting this hobby drain you emotionally
When things go right, it’s very exciting. Flying in business class and staying at a nice hotel covered entirely via miles and points (that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford) is a special kind of rush. It’s addictive, and causes many folks to stop thinking clearly while looking for a repeat.
Then when something invariably goes wrong, it’s like the end of the world. And something will go wrong, I guarantee it. I’ve missed out on bonuses before because I didn’t read the fine print. I’ve had miles expire due to being absent-minded. Many trips I was really looking forward to were canceled due to circumstances beyond my control.
But I’ve had more wins than I can count, so I choose to focus on those instead. In fact, if I lost all of my miles and points tomorrow with no possibility of ever replenishing them, I would count myself incredibly lucky. I’ve seen places many only dream of. Growing up in Soviet Union I never in a million years thought I would one day stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora via IHG points. But it happened.
Or that my kids would swim in a Great Barrier Reef:
And many other wins too numerous to count.
Sometimes when a program implements negative changes, it feels like some folks are two devaluations away from having a massive heart attack. And I must say, we as bloggers tend to help feed this frenzy. When United recently raised the rates on some of their awards, I’ve seen headlines including words “devastating” and “heartbreaking”. I’m sorry, but did someone die? Will your children go hungry due to this change? I’m not referring to any specific blog, but more of an overall trend in online coverage.
Speaking of, my daughter yesterday told me of a friend at school. My kid was saying to the girl how much she hates school lunches, to which the friend replied that that’s the only good food she has all week. Apparently, the other day her family ran out of money and they had to have snacks and jello for dinner. I think that sort of qualifies as heartbreaking. But paying more for a business class award after United (years ago) said that they will be moving to dynamic pricing? Hardly. Neither does missing out on Delta Amex bonus, for that matter.
Yes, it’s unpleasant and frustrating when your carefully crafted plan goes awry. But that’s the reality of miles and points hobby. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees. If you can’t handle it, perhaps you should take up crocheting. I’ve heard it lowers your blood pressure.
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.
I hear ya. I would think you got to start with your sister and it’s kinda hard for adult to drop everything and immigrate. I guess you know better. But it could pay off long term as I imagine opportunities here are far superior to what they got back there. A lot of people on Reddit etc keep bashing the US but we kinda take for granted all that stuff we enjoy here – pretty high wages, job opps, easy access to the markets, US passports we travel with. Good luck to you and your family
Complicated is an understatement. My sister has a boyfriend, who in turn has underage kids in Belarus from his first marriage. Plus, my other nephew is 13, and the ex-husband will not let him move to US. They are not in immediate danger yet, but of course hard decisions may need to be made soon.
2808 Heavy says
I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment of this post. I feel as well, that if all of my point was to disappear tonight, while sad I’d be, I could still find a way to smile because as mentioned, I’ve done things that used to be nothing but a dream.
This hobby has been extremely well to me and I’m thankful for all of the kind folks who have helped me along the way. I’ve had a blast over the last 11 years and I hope that many more are in store.
@2808Heavy Appreciate the comment! It’s no fun to see your travel plans vaporize due to constant cutbacks in loyalty programs. The game is not what it used to be, but as a whole, I still come out ahead. That’s the bottom line. Miles and points have allowed me to see my family in Europe, and bring my parents here every few years. Can’t put a price on that.
Bill Powers says
The Hyatt Hotel that gets probably half of my stays went from 8k to 12k earlier this year. I have not paid for a stay there in over 12 years. How can I complain?
@Bill Powers Absolutely! Devaluations stink, but everything gets more expensive over time. No sense in dwelling on the good old days.
I’m still absorbing the United devaluation, we are “hub captives” so it hurts. Luckily, I’ve been stashing Aeroplan miles as our oldest granddaughter from Germany will stay with us this fall and enroll in our local high school. So, I need to fly to Germany, pick her up, and then arrange transport back to Germany for her and a family friend. Before the devaluation it was not a problem, but it’s a bit tight now as our oldest son is taking his crew to Palm Springs in July. Emotionally draining is an apt description. Enjoy your summer!
@Russ United devaluation was definitely a bummer, and I’m sorry it’s negatively affecting your upcoming plans. It’s certainly draining when these programs keep moving the goal posts. That’s why I keep collecting flexible points via everyday spending, and only get individual miles via welcome offers. That way I’m not disappointed when a new program “enhancement” arrives. I just saw that Aeroplan is currently selling miles for 1.25 cents apiece. That’s actually not bad at all. I wouldn’t purchase speculatively, but mostly because we usually fly economy. I remember you mentioning that you buy Avianca miles for premium redemptions. So at that price it could make sense to stock up on Aeroplan miles if you have some money to spare. Then again, there will probably be another sale at some point. I do think there is still value to be had in United, but mostly for economy flyers. Premium redemptions to Europe simply make no sense anymore. With the difference in rate, I’m even willing to deal with Avianca. Oof, my blood pressure is rising at a mere mention of Lifemiles! 😉
Agree on flexible points and welcome offers, I’ve winnowed down my airline cards to only UAL Explorer as I find the lounge passes are big favorites for our kids. I’ve never been involved with Aviania miles, still not, just seemed too hit and miss. It’s still a fun hobby for me and we’ve had the opportunity to spend much more time with our granddaughters.
@Russ I must have been thinking of another reader. Yes, Avianca is not for the feint of heart, based on my experience. I’m hoping to use up some of my 100k miles stash this year for Europe flights. To be fair, I’ve heard their customer service has improved. But yes, it’s a hit or miss.
I’m very glad that miles have helped you spend more time with granddaughters. It’s very heartwarming how much you care about them.
Привет Лина, how is your family in Belarus is dealing with current war related events?
They are doing ok. As you know, Belarus isn’t directly affected by the war… yet. But I have no illusions that it will stay that way. Certainly my relatives have no reason to complain compared to poor Ukrainians across the border. My nephew will be turning 18 next January, so you can imagine why that’s a concern. Hope this madness will end soon, for everyone’s sake.
Didn’t you want to bring him over here once he is adult? I don’t expect anything good coming from Lukashenko and Co. Good luck!
@Boris I did research the topic of bringing him here. Unfortunately, my sister would have to get legal US status first, then she would have to sponsor him. It’s very complicated. Plus, I’m not even sure my nephew would agree to move here in the first place. I do think he needs to at least flee to Poland if the war is still going on by then. It’s a very fluid situation, so we will have to discuss it again in a few months.
Oooooouch! I am so sorry about your ‘Karen’ SIL. Let Karen know she needs to do her own homework. The bulk of my research is done after work and before going to sleep (iPhone). I hope I never cross with her.
I’ve been doing this hobby for 6 years now, and everything from banks (credit cards), to airline alliances (when it comes to booking) takes time to learn and accumulate miles (years).
Ok, to cut it short. I love your posting because I learn from your real life travel downfalls and your travel methodology. This is what keeps me reading your post!
Keep up the great work! Thank u!
@GBSanDiego Thanks for your kind words! I’m sure I will have many fails in the future to entertain readers with. 😉
On my SIL: I didn’t mean to imply that she is a “Karen”. I mean, she can be at times, but she didn’t blame me for this fiasco in any way. She honestly didn’t remember seeing the pop-up, and I believe her. Since she applied for her last Amex card 6 years ago, she simply isn’t familiar with how the process works these days. So she probably acknowledged the bonus eligibility notice without thinking. I really felt bad for her, but once again, not the end of the world. And she realizes that as well.
🤣…anyways. I learn from your pitfalls and travel methods which helps me in my planning and itinerary. Sometimes in my planning, I feel like I am the pilot and I am coming in for a landing 😬. This is the uncertainty when planning out. Although, when things come together, it is a once in a lifetime experience when flying in First or Business over the Atlantic or Pacific.
It is indeed a beautiful thing when everything comes together just as you hoped it would!