The Undoing: How I (almost) lost 295,000 Amex Membership Rewards

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One of the things to remember when you come to a crossroad of transferring your points to a travel partner, you better make sure to do this when you are just about ready to book. Do not transfer for the sake of transferring points. Why? Once you transfer the points, say from Chase or American Express to one of the many airlines or hotel programs, there is NO undoing. Your precious points will stay with the travel partner. So it’s always best to have a booking in mind, ready for you to book when you decide to transfer.

The backstory

Two days before our flight to Maui, instead of packing, I was on a mission to book our return flights from Maldives back to LA. I had my eyes on booking flights with Aeroplan (Air Canada’s loyalty program), where I could book flights flying Etihad first class back to Los Angeles. I found the flights on the Etihad site, and on Aeroplan’s site. Since it was my first time booking with Aeroplan, I ended up having to call them to confirm. (Note, it took over an hour to get to an Aeroplan rep on the phone). The rep knew my plans, she knew I had no points yet in my Aeroplan account. She knew that I had my points ready to transfer from Amex to Aeroplan.
She found the itinerary I was looking for. She confirmed the total # points I needed from Maldives to Abu Dhabi and on to Los Angeles – first class for two. Total points needed to transfer 299K. She confidently advised me that I could go ahead and transfer the points from Amex to Aeroplan (a transfer partner).

The transfer from American Express to Aeroplan was instant

To get to the 299K, I had to do two separate transfers of  104K and 195K from 2 of our American Express Membership Reward accounts. The points moved quickly, so we were all good. Once the Aeroplan rep confirmed I had the points, I started to book the trip on their website, the flights were still there, I saw the exact same amount of points needed, but things didn’t add up when I calculated the miles and the fees. It was charging me so much more. To make matters worse, the Aeroplan rep who was trying to help me couldn’t pull up the same flight itinerary on her end so she couldn’t book it herself. My call was escalated to one of the supervisors who couldn’t pull up the same flights.

The transfer refund….the undoing

The supervisor, Rhonda, offered to refund my 299K. Clearly, her rep and I had very good intentions to book the flight, but Aeroplan simply could not book the flights nor search for the same flights. Returning the points back to American Express, I was told, was going to be an exception based on the events that took place. But the refund was not instant. All Rhonda asked was for me to send a an email to their supervisor team group box, detailing my American Express  Membership Rewards account info and the amounts that need to be refunded. This all happened on July 24.

My big gripe with Aeroplan

Since we had to deal with 299.000 points, not sure about you, but that’s a LOT of points. Yes, while I was in Hawaii, I called Aeroplan 2-3 times, waited on hold very early am Hawaii time, got through a few supervisors, and none of them could share with me if Rhonda had indeed moved forward with  the refund process. I checked my Amex account everyday, no points were refunded, and called Amex as well, they were not aware of any points that were about to be returned.
After returning from Maui, I called Aeroplan again 2x asking for an update, and the last supervisor finally read an update from Rhonda that this refund began on 7/24 (over 2 weeks) ago, and that it was indeed taking longer than expected. For over two weeks, my 299K was in limbo. It was no longer in Aeroplan. It was not with Amex. No one could tell me where it was in the process. Ugggghhh…..then 17 days later, the refund finally appeared on our Amex accounts.
Aeroplan refund back to American Express

Am I still going to do business with Aeroplan

I’m not saying I’m done with Aeroplan, but I’m having to rethink my strategy for our flight back to the US from Maldives.

Lessons-learned

When transferring points to a travel partner, do so when you know you have a booking in mind.
When things do not work out, those points will be stuck with the transfer partner.
Yes, there are exceptions, but it has to be an error on the transfer partner’s end for the points to be refunded.

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