Hey MasterCard, where have all my Eagle points landed?

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By | December 24th, 2016

Jennifer Schneider’s USAA Credit Card loyalty points are gone. Or are they? In fact, were they ever there?

Question: I have a Visa credit card from USAA. My most recent Visa statement says I have 119,132 Eagle points. The last time I redeemed points for a plane ticket was 8 months ago, last February (45,000 points).

Recently, after calling USAA to confirm how many Eagle Point miles I currently have (they said over 116,000), I offered my son two plane tickets from Austin to Rome, for him and his bride for their honeymoon in April.

But when I called to redeem those points (50,000 for an international ticket, for up to $1,000), I was told I had enough only for one ticket. So I ended up paying for the entire cost of the second ticket ($1,080).

I’d like to get reimbursed for $1,000 for the second ticket, which I should not have had to pay. And I’d like you to persuade USAA to provide a real solution, which would be to provide accurate information for customers on their USAA Visa statement about how many Eagle Points they have. — Jennifer Schneider, Tucson, Ariz.

Answer: For readers unfamiliar with USAA, it is a giant, offering insurance, banking, investment services, and credit cards to military service members and their families. Its bold-faced pitch: “We stand by you.”

After your extensive — and temperate — correspondence with and numerous telephone calls to a variety of USAA departments, you know what happened. They didn’t really stand by you.

It turns out there is no mystery about your points. You used 45,000 points in February. By a rough calculation, you had more than 100,000 points before that rewards redemption. You must have been pleasantly surprised when your September account arrived with not 70,000 points but instead a balance of around 119,132 points. You say that a call confirmed that higher-than-expected balance.

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Then, trouble: After promising to cover a family honeymoon trip to Rome, you tried to redeem the confirmed and printed points with USAA.

No dice.

Agents there said the effective balance covered only one 50,000 point ticket, not the 100,000 needed for two. With no apparent alternative, you purchased the second ticket for more than $1,000.

And you called USAA. And you wrote to the CEO. And finally, turned to our advocates.


During your pursuit, you uncovered something that, now confirmed by USAA, can only be considered shocking: For months, USAA or its rewards-program contractor, MasterCard International Incorporated, has knowingly mailed out — and apparently confirmed in telephone calls — points totals that were not adjusted for prior redemptions.

As a medical doctor, you make a comparison here to professional negligence. If only. Read the Terms and Conditions. While not explicit for USAA, common practice holds that the points belong to the program, not to the cardholder.

Release of Liability

Neither we, MasterCard, Explore Cruise Travel, nor any other service provider used in connection with this program, is responsible for any defects in any regard for which you redeem your rewards points. You release us, MasterCard, Explore Cruise Travel and any other service provider from any and all liability for any loss, expense, accident, injury, death, or inconvenience that may arise in connection with the use or defect of any reward. The actions or inactions of any service provider, or your participation in the program.

One further perspective, from the financial sphere. Bank account holders are not allowed under law to profit from bank errors or omissions. That USAA’s probable culpability extended to misinformation over an unconscionable period of time does not change the math in your favor. Had USAA issued two tickets, and then canceled one or sought reimbursement, a consumer claim might have more traction.

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Still, either no one at USAA recognized the problem before September (unlikely), or customer-service reps were not properly briefed to explain the error.

Either way, if you keep USAA “at your side” where you can at least watch them, then watch your travel points.

Update: About a month after your exchange, USAA acknowledged the reporting problem in a statement to us:

Members with rewards cards can view their point balances on usaa.com, monthly statements or by calling us, and they can redeem those points at usaa.com or by calling us. While a technical error showed older data in some monthly statements, point balances remained accurate in the channels where points can be redeemed, so members always knew the correct balance when redeeming points. This technical error for monthly statements has since been fixed.



  • AAGK

    I am stunned that this woman thought USAA needs to pay for her son’s honeymoon. Bc there was a delay in posting her own redemption? So what? When she booked the tickets she figured it out. This doctor has a lot of free time on her hands.

  • Alan Gore

    Remember folks: heads they win, tails you lose.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Basically, she thought she was getting away with something, and then got angry when she found out she wasn’t.

  • pauletteb

    She knew what she should have had but tried to take advantage of an obvious error. No sympathy.

  • cscasi

    I have been with USAA since 1978 and I am a bit embarrassed to read this. I know mistakes and things happen. But, if it was as Jennifer stated, it had been eight months since she purchased a previous ticket using her points, surely USAA would have figured out that it had not deducted the points and would have done so. Strange though that it did catch the error when she went to use her points(even though she said she recently called USAA before and that she was told she had 116000 points available.
    Further, I would like to see her most recent statement (is it the last one before she tried to redeem those points?) from USAA that shows she in fact had 11600 points available? Did her last several monthly statements say the same?
    If what she stated is true, USAA should have egg on its face, but it was able to correct the error and she did not have the number of points she thought she had. And obviously, when she went to use them she realized that the balance had been corrected and she only had enough for one ticket. I would be mad, too, but I would reaiize that the mistake had been corrected and would have to accept it; not demand they pay for the second ticket she had to pay for.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Exactly. I’d be annoyed that the error was made. However, she is not entitled to a windfall once she realized that it was an error. That is being greedy.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    I’m a little confused by the statement, “Bank account holders are not allowed under law to profit from bank errors or omissions.”

    I specially recall (from my childhood) getting these little rectangular yellow cards which read, “Bank error in your favor. Collect $200.” They were so cute. They even had a little man in a top hat looking surprised about his windfall.

  • Bill___A

    Although the statements should be up to date, the OP should have been aware of whether the points redeemed were used or not. Part of using these programs is to keep tabs on how many points you have earned, how many points you have redeemed, and how many points you have left. The answer to the headline of where did her points go? She redeemed them. That’s where they went. The USAA statement is obviously flawed, but no one took any points and no one is short any points.

  • PsyGuy

    I can understand the confusion, but the LW shouldn’t be able to profit and benefit from USAA’s error. The LW didn’t have the point’s needed, the statement was incorrect.

  • PsyGuy

    Agreed

  • PsyGuy

    Isn’t it the groom who PAYS for the honeymoon anyway, who (and what doctor) needs his “mother” paying his travel tab.

  • James

    So, successful children should not receive gifts from parents.

  • AAGK

    Definitely.

  • Bill___A

    I think banks are allowed to compensate you but you are not allowed to help yourself to things that are the result of an error..

  • PsyGuy

    Not honeymoons. The groom has three obligations in regards to the wedding: tux, ring, honeymoon.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    But they can compensate from our errors. If I pay my mortgage late (even if result of an error or screw up by the USPS), they can impose late fees.

    If I made an arithmetic mistake and overdraw my account. BOOM! Another fee. Or at least it would be before I disabled that feature.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this woman should get $1000 from USAA, but an apology or a few hundred goodwill points is not out of line.

  • C Schwartz

    Yes maybe an apology is in order and a few hundred points.

    I think the.profit from the bank error is knowingly profiting from a mistake. Let’s say i deposit a check for 1,000. It is wrongly posted as 100,000. Before the bank corrects the mistake I withdraw 99,000. I cannot tell the bank too bad my balance said I had a balance of 100,000 when I knew the check was only 1,000 and keep the extra money.

    I pay a lot of bills online now but I had have a stray late charge because of the mail. The charge was refunded because it was the first in several years (as long as they could look back) and the bank knew that was not normal. I am not sure how forgiving the banks are now.

  • Don Spilky

    ‘Nuff said!

  • BubbaJoe123

    If you’re living in the 1950s, sure.

  • DChamp56

    The OP should have been able to do the math himself and know he didn’t have enough points.

    Dan, shouldn’t it say you restore mid 19’th century houses? I’m not sure what a mid-1800-century house is.

  • starrfish479

    The groom is not a doctor. His mother is.

  • PsyGuy

    What GROWN man needs him mother to pay for his nookie trip with his bride?

  • starrfish479

    Most parents give their children a gift for their wedding. This was hers. What’s the big deal?