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Business Travel: When Your Credit Card Eats Your Miles

Basically, the best way to avoid paying for exorbitant fees that come with international purchase is to 1) clarify the policies for international purchases with your credit card company; 2) shop for a new credit card if the policies of your old credit card company do not seem fair for you; and 3) always use the currency of the country you are in to avoid “dynamic currency conversion fees.”

Most, if not all business travelers opt to use credit cards where they can earn frequent flier miles with every purchase they charge to that card. Certain points are equivalent to a certain amount of frequent flier miles, depending on the credit card company.

I encountered an article about frequent flier miles being “eaten” by a credit card company by Christopher Elliott in which first came out in 2002. Though the article was written sometime ago, the ideas are still as relevant today as it was back then.

This was the question a reader posed to Mr. Elliott:

American Express offered to upgrade my charge card to a corporate card more than a year ago. But when it did, it lost all of my frequent flier miles. I found out about the missing miles recently when I went to cash them in for my honeymoon. When I told American Express what had happened, they asked me to file a claim in writing. I wrote them, and they sent me a form letter that showed they had not even read my letter.

I wrote them again, and they sent me the exact same letter again. Every time I call, they say the department that handles this is only reachable by mail. I’m sickened that American Express is completely unreachable. I’ve called every phone number I could find. I’ve sent in all the records — old card and new card — showing that I was in a mileage program. I just keep getting the same response. Please help me!

Mr. Elliott replied that American Express had not only looked into the reader’s case but also credited him with 60,000 points for the inconvenience. However, Mr. Elliott pointed out that the problem was made more difficult by the fact that the reader waited a year before filing a complaint with American Express. In waiting for a year, the reader had made it appear that his concern is not as high in priority as he feels it to be, and thus he failed to get an immediate response. He advised the reader to read carefully his charge card statements and to check his mileage balance online.

This speaks to all of us, not just on frequent flier miles and credit card usage, but also on other concerns. If we perceive a problem, we should act on it immediately and not to wait on it. Otherwise, we might find ourselves in a difficult situation which we cannot make reparations or where we cannot extricate ourselves as easily as we want to.

About the Author: Anna Lynn C. Sibal has worked with traveling business executives for the past seven years, providing them with close personal and administrative assistance. Along with her innate interest in travel, this experience has given her many insights on how traveling executives think and what they need.

Anne is a journalism graduate from the University of the Philippines, the leading state university of that country, as well as one of the premier academic institutions in Southeast Asia. Aside from travel, Anne also displays a keen interst in literature, the cinema and the Internet. She has written and contributed actively to various student publications and has managed an in-house publication for a real estate association in the Philippines. She has also won an award for her screenplay from the Film Development Foundation of the Philippines in 2001.

Check her blog at

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