Details Matter: How I Nearly Made A 15,000 Mile Mistake

Late last year, I received an offer from Barclays for 15,000 bonus miles on my US Airways Dividend Miles Mastercard (it’s since converted to the AAdvantage Aviator Red card) if I would spend $500 or more in November, December and January.

I set a reminder on my calendar each month to put a couple of recurring payments on the card and then moved it to the primary position in my money clip until I hit at least $500 for the month. With Christmas shopping, a trip planned over Thanksgiving and our normal expenses this didn’t seem like a heavy lift.


Then I screwed it all up

November and December went smoothly hitting the $500 promotional spend requirement. Then in early January, my girls needed some new clothes so I figured I’d use that as an excuse to be done with the promotion.

Since we were headed to the mall, I grabbed some jeans I needed to exchange for another size and figured I’d kill two birds with one stone. The shopping for the girls helped me finish the final spending required and I stopped thinking about the promo.

After waiting the requisite 8 weeks for the bonus miles to post, I got in touch with Barclays to see why the miles didn’t show up. I couldn’t believe when they said I didn’t meet the terms of the promotion.

I wanted to reply but needed to have exact figures to rebut their claim. So, I started looking into my spending for each of the calendar months. As soon as I pulled my spending I kicked myself for how stupid I’d been.

It turns out the exchange of the pants was processed as a return and new purchase so it subtracted spending from December’s total and added to January. This transaction put me less than $4 shy of the $500 requirement for the month of December.

Barclays comes through with a fix

I know better than this and should have paid attention to the calendar month requirement. But, I stopped thinking about the promo each month as soon as my statement arrived and showed more than $500 in spend. That obviously didn’t matter because the terms of the bonus clearly stated it was net retail purchases in a calendar month that mattered. I had clearly screwed up.

Even with my stupidity, I figured this was a case where it couldn’t hurt to ask. And I had a hunch Barclays might be willing to be lenient since they were soon losing the ability to take new applicants for the US Airways card. They might be willing to show some goodwill to keep a customer.

I wrote them back to plead my stupidity and ask if they’d be willing to still honor the bonus. Thankfully, they responded by mail a few weeks later and generously said they’d post the miles to  my account as a goodwill gesture.

The fix continued

For some reason, the miles didn’t post to my USAirways or American account (this all happened in the middle of the merger). I gave it another month to see if it was a glitch caused by the merger and when the miles still didn’t show, I gave Barclays a ring.

A very nice representative named Karen said she could see on their end that the miles were posted to my account (I could see the same thing in my Barclays online account). She didn’t understand why they wouldn’t have come through at the airline.

After a brief hold, she came back on the line to explain she’d called American to double check the miles didn’t post to my American account. And after confirming they were lost in IT purgatory, she opened a case to investigate where they’d gone.

I was told to wait 30 days for the investigation and if the miles still hadn’t posted after 45 days, I was instructed to call them back. Thankfully, I never needed to call back. The miles were in my account about 10 days after I called (and 6 months after I sort of completed the promo).


Bottom line

I suppose there are a few lessons to be learned in this experience. The first is that details matter and your best bet for having great promotions like this one honored is to read the fine print and follow the rules. This is relevant with Barclays because I’ve seen reports of people receiving the same targeted promotion very recently.

The other lesson here is that when you screw up, it doesn’t hurt to explain the situation and ask if the bank will recognize that we’re all human.

Finally, it’s important to follow through in this game. It definitely took a few calls and emails to get the miles. But, in the end it was worth the extra effort. I track promotions, shopping portal transactions and minimum spend requirements like this in an excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything.

Have you had a similar situation where a bank or airline came through despite a mistake?


  1. I had a similar offer for 15x miles at Petsmart. I bought a gift card and a bunch of dog food online on one of the last days of the promo, but didn’t run the transaction until a few days later. I asked Barclays if it counted and at first they said no, but then said yes when I pushed a little harder.

  2. Nothing quite as dramatic as this, but I recently upgraded my iPhone and received trade-in value for my old one. No problem except that they put need to put the trade-in value on a credit card and the only cards in my wallet were in the middle of sign-up bonus spending. I recognized the effect right away but still annoying to set myself back a few hundred bucks on spending targets with a negative charge.

  3. I had a very similar situation happen just recently to me. I signed up for a Scotiabank (Canadian) Gold AMEX. When I finally received my card, I went back online to confirm what the promotion was – it was to spend $500 within 90 days to get the signup bonus, which would post 4 months after the card was activated.

    Turns out the promotion had quietly changed two days after I signed up – at the time I signed up the requirement was to spend $1000 in 90 days – a target I missed by $80. I called up Scotiabank, and they declined to do anything. I tried their “office of the President”, who also declined to do anything. Absolutely it was my stupidity… but it also shows what they are willing to do to keep their customers happy (ie. nothing).

    I have just paid my final bill to Scotiabank. Once my payment posts to the account, I will cancel the card and not bother returning to Scotiabank – at least not for many years to come.

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