Why won’t Chase give me the 50,000 miles I was promised?

Gary Brauch checked his Chase credit card statement. He had charged $2,000 of purchases to his new account and was therefore supposed to receive 50,000 United Airlines frequent flyer miles at this point, according to the promotion that induced him to open his account with Chase. But the miles weren’t there.

“Where were the miles?” Brauch wondered.

As Brauch was to discover, Chase had associated his account with another promotion, and he did not qualify at that time for the miles. His story is a warning to consumers to document all promotions they apply for, to keep the documentation of those promotions, and to report any problems immediately. These precautions may make the difference between receiving and not receiving promised rewards.

Brauch had seen an advertisement by Chase, offering 50,000 bonus miles to new United MileagePlus Explorer Visa cardholders who charged $2,000 of purchases within the first three months after opening their accounts. Inspired by this offer, Brauch applied for the card and made the purchases.

When Brauch realized that he hadn’t received the miles, he called Chase’s customer service on multiple occasions. Chase’s representatives told Brauch that his account had been coded with another promotion – one that required him to charge $3,000 within the first three months of the accounts’ existence to qualify for the bonus miles. The representatives told Brauch that they could not help him obtain the miles. Brauch also called United, which referred him back to Chase.

As Brauch notes, “In every conversation, the Chase rep says this could have been resolved if I had contacted them within 90 days of opening the account, but of course I had no inkling there was any problem until after the 90 days passed and I noticed I did not have the 50,000 miles in my account.”

Three months passed as Brauch tried to resolve the problem. He tried using our executive contacts for Chase to request assistance, but when he received no response, he asked our advocates for help.

We reached out to Chase on Brauch’s behalf, and were told that he had not actually applied for the promotion awarding 50,000 miles after purchasing $2,000 within the first three months of opening his account. According to Chase, he had applied for the promotion with the $3,000 purchase requirement.

Our advocate asked Brauch whether he was certain he had applied for the $2,000 promotion, and Brauch insisted that he was positive that he had. He provided us with a brochure advertising the $2,000 promotion, but he did not have documentation of his contacts with Chase.

Unfortunately, Chase responded that:

We always have multiple offers in the marketplace. Mr. Brauch applied online through an offer that did not match the brochure he had. We tracked the source of the application and found that the offer Mr. Brauch clicked on online was the one I shared this morning (Earn 50K bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months). Hope that helps.

And a look at Chase’s website shows a promotion with different terms.

Chase’s United MileagePlus Explorer Card Rewards Program Agreement indicates that

Chase may make changes to this program and the terms of this agreement at any time. For example, we may:

  • add new terms or delete terms
  • change how you earn miles in this program

So in the end, Brauch did not qualify for the reward under the terms of the promotion he actually applied for. And he waited too long to complain to Chase, which informed us that it is standing firm in its decision not to award Brauch the miles. We can only warn consumers to keep all documentation of promotions and to act immediately when filing a complaint. Otherwise, companies may do as Chase has and insist that they are not obligated to issue the promised rewards.

Should credit card companies be allowed to run multiple promotions at the same time with different terms?

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