Choice Hotels’ Customer Service Gets Points Handling Rewards Issue

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MrConsumer recently got an email from Choice Hotels with some bad news. It said that his accumulated points in their rewards program were about to expire.

Choice Hotels email

The fine print explained how to keep one’s points from disappearing. Basically you have to earn or redeem points every 18 months or they go bye-bye.

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Choice fine print

So I looked to see what one could get for 5,000 points. Seemed like a nice round number — surely there was something of value available. But all the gift cards required 8,000 points at a minimum, such as this one.

Choice gift card choices

I did see that I could convert the points to American Airlines frequent flyer miles, but would only get 1,000 miles for my 5,000 points. Nonetheless, that seemed like the best option for me, so I called Choice customer service to make the transfer.

I explained the situation to the agent on the phone, Ken (a female), and she said “let me see what I can do for you.” After reviewing my account, she said that as a one-time courtesy, she would bump up my account from 5,160 points to 8,000 points so I could redeem them for a gift certificate right then and there.

What? WOW! She wished me a Merry Christmas, and proceeded to process a $25 Home Depot gift card for me.

I thanked Ken profusely. What amazing and unexpected customer service she provided! But it would be nice if Choice eliminated their points expiration policy just as most airlines have in their own frequent flyer programs.

Airlines Drop $200 Change Fees, But…

Last week, United Airlines made a bold move: it dropped its $200 domestic change and cancellation fee. In short order, American, Delta and Alaska all chimed in making similar announcements. So even on a nonrefundable ticket, if you want to change your flight or postpone it, you can do so without that financial penalty.

Change fees

The fine print of the new rules is not quite as rosy as the headlines, however, particularly for bargain hunters.

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“Basic economy” fares — the least expensive seats you can buy on the major airlines — are NOT included in the new plan. So you’ll still have to fork over $200 for changes. In a moment of unexpected generosity, American, United, and Delta all said that basic economy tickets purchased by December 31, 2020 will also be granted free changes.

There are some slight nuances in how the various airlines are implementing the new rules. On United, for example, if you exchange a $300 ticket for a $200 ticket, they will not give you back the difference even as a credit toward future travel. American, however, will. And Delta will only commit to providing a voucher for the difference for flights booked this year.

A bit of additional good news was contained in the airlines’ announcements. You can now standby for an earlier flight the same day without having to pay a change fee. It is unclear whether this also applies to basic economy fare passengers starting in 2021, however.

For complete rules, check with your airline since the rules keep changing. Here is a good summary of the American and Delta changes, and the ones for United.

Frontier Airlines Hides Its Refund Option

During the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Transportation reminded air carriers that they had an obligation to provide refunds (not merely vouchers for future travel) when a flight is cancelled or is significantly delayed.

One traveler whose flight was significantly delayed by Frontier Airlines posted this cellphone screenshot showing the options he was offered:

Frontier change options

The airline is offering a full credit voucher and a $50 bonus, both good toward future travel. But do you see that unreadable bit of fine print on the very bottom? We have enlarged it many times below.

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Frontier refund

Only if you saw that inconspicuous link could you apply for a full refund.

Come on, Frontier, be straight with passengers about all their options when flights are delayed or cancelled.