Travel

$1,500 mistake I made when booking an award trip

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If you think regular gasoline is expensive, take a look at the costs associated with fuel.


key points

  • Some carriers charge extra for award tickets, which can turn “free” travel into a big expense.
  • Adding a short, often inexpensive leg to your trip can sometimes save you a lot of money.
  • Transferable rewards offer the best flexibility to deal with last-minute hiccups.

I am a self-identified rewards junkie. I consider getting the maximum reward on my credit card to be a real hobby. And a good signup bonus can make me drool like Pavlov’s dogs during the Jingle Bells round.

For me, chasing awards is a hobby that is worth the time and effort. It’s not only fun – who doesn’t love a good credit card spreadsheet? — but it was also pretty rewarding (pun). I estimate that over the past ten years, I have received almost five figures in free airfare and hotel stays, as well as multiple discharges and upgrades.

But not every redemption was headline worthy. I’ve made my fair share of small mistakes and poor payouts. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes I made in the early days of the points journey was actually costing me a whopping $1,500 in fees.

Terrible overload BA

One of the first – and biggest – award trips I ever planned was a week-long trip to the UK for me and two family members. Thanks to points and miles, we planned to give it our all, including flying business class in both directions.

Since there were a limited number of airlines at our local airport, I chose American Airlines for our flights. For British routes, this meant flying across the ocean with British Airways flights (they are part of the same aviation alliance). Little did I know at the time that it would come back to bite me later.

You see, there’s a little fun thing about BA flights between the US and the UK: fuel surcharges. There is a small carrier fee for each BA award flight to the UK from a US airport. upstairs points to be spent. The actual fee depends on the flight and class; for our business class flights at the time it cost $500 one way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this particular issue until after I had accumulated many miles in my American Airlines account – miles that I couldn’t transfer anywhere else. To stay on track, I ended up shelling out about $1,500 in fees for the three of us to drive all the way to the UK. (The return had its problems, but that’s another story.)

In hindsight, I would say that it would have been much better if I had tried a bit to save that extra $1,500 (well, most of it). You see, we could fly to neighboring Dublin, Ireland, for the same number of miles and zero overload. Then our UK…

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