Airline miles and credit card points, what a racket.

I don’t often use this medium as a bully pulpit to rant and rave about the idiocy I see around me, but this situation warrants it.

I am in the midst of planning a vacation for my girlfriend and I. We had been batting around ideas of where to go, and have settled on going from our home in Boston to see Vancouver and Seattle for a week in April. Being that this is quite a long journey and an expensive one at that, my father has graciously offered up most, if not all, of his American Express points, and mileage points on various airlines to use for airfare, hotels, car rental, etc.

One would think, “easy, log on to my father’s account, book travel in my name, done.” Not so easy. Below are my experiences with the various companies I’ve tried to use reward points with.

Bank of America Mastercard World Points:

Out of all my below rants, this one was the most sane. Login, see how many points I have, apply those points to a United flight from Boston to Vancouver. I noticed that on this card we didn’t have enough to cover the entire flight, so I would have to chip in some money. But I knew that on another BoA Mastercard that contributes to World Points we had more points. Knowing that BoA has a customer service representative on Twiter, I dashed off a quick question to him knowing whether I could transfer points from one card to another. Answer was no, but hey, at least I got a response from him.

So I drained one account’s points, paid for the balance with a credit card, and off I go. I’ve at least got one flight figured out.

Jetblue:

Earning the points is quite easy. Some flights are worth four points, others worth six, depending on the length of the flight. Earn 100, book flight via website, select payment as TrueBlue awards points, and board your flight. Funny thing is, when logged into my father’s JB account and booking a flight with my name and my girlfriend’s name, it would not allow me to select TrueBlue point as my method of payment. When I entered in the names of the passengers and clicked continue, the radio button for ‘Use TrueBlue Points’ was unavailable. Seriously? You guys have never heard of someone giving their points to another person as a present? I love flying with you guys, but give me a break. My father earned his points, he wants to give them to me. This is not rocket science.

American Airlines:

While along the same lines as Jetblue, you guys are my current winner of the “Are you really kidding me?” award. I went to book the flights as usual, but when I went to enter in my father’s frequent flier number and my name, I got an error saying “Unable to process points. Please call our customer service for assistance.” The same customer service that adds a fee for calling, rather than using the Internet?

Giving up on this train of thought, I saw a link for “Gift AA miles.” My holy savior, he can just give me the miles, it’ll be in my account, I can use them, easy! I entered in his account information, my account information and selected how many miles I wanted to transfer, 40,000, since thats how many miles it would be to cover our hotel in Vancouver for three nights. Clicked continue, and was presented with what I thought was a joke.


Number of Miles: 40,000 Cost: $1000.00 USD Federal Excise Tax: $75.00  USD Processing Fee: $30.00  USD Total Cost: $1105.00  USD


So let me get this straight. For him to GIVE ME miles, it costs him $1,105, including fees. Maybe I can understand some processing fees, maybe some tax included because in some twisted math formula these miles have actual dollar values, but eleven-hundred dollars!? That’s actually several hundred dollars more than what the hotel in Vancouver would have cost me if I just paid for it in cash.

At this point, I give up. I think I might end up having to pay for the entire vacation instead of trying to use the miles my father is trying to give me as a gift. I know my rant is a drop in the ocean of other rants against these type of programs, but it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to use them myself and I’ve lost all faith in them completely.