Polite Complaint Letter Frees Customer From Capital One's Hassle-Filled Rewards Trap

It seems that you can’t turn on a television without hearing about Capital One’s “no-hassle” credit card rewards. Haim learned that these rewards actually are, um, sort of a hassle. He wanted to use his rewards points to pay for part of his vacation, and pay for the rest himself. This concept was too much for the nice folks at Capital one, and he hit a customer service roadblock. Haim then used his finely honed consumer skills to send an executive e-mail carpet bomb emphasizing what a great customer he’s been. It worked.

I have a capital one “no hassle” rewards card, and after 4 years of accumulating points, I wanted to use the 38,000 points I have to get at least some savings on a trip to Puerto Rico. It says in their rewards program, use 35,000 points for a trip up to $350 dollars. What it didn’t say is that if it is more than $350 you need to claim the next tier, which is 60,000 points. The rewards CSR said there was no way to pay for part of the trip. After talking to 4 different CSR supervisors, I got upset. I am not getting the consumer protection that comes with AMEX, and I now have to keep these useless points until I meet the stringent demands. I launched an EECB with the following letter:

To Whom it May Concern

I have been a capital one member in various forms since the age of 15 (10+ years). In the course of that time period, I have never missed a payment and have always payed my balance off in full. I have never called in to dispute a charge, or take part in any of the additional services you offer. In that process I have accumulated approximately 38,000 reward points.

I wanted to finally redeem these reward points on a trip over Christmas to Puerto Rico. Each ticket was $393, and wanted to use those points to pay it off. When I tried to redeem the points I was told that because the ticket was over $350 I had to earn 60,000 points. I will have to double my current rewards points status, for $44, instead of another $300. There is no way to partially pay for the ticket.

The way your rewards points work is very one sided for being “No Hassle Rewards. The example in my case is: use 35,000 points to redeem $150 – $350 on travel. If my hotel room was $151, I would have to use all 35,000 points. So the best case scenario is to use all $350 or loose $200 worth of points, which equates to over 35,000 reward points using your conversion methods for cash.

For a company to offer “No Hassle Rewards,” and to have a customer have to call the rewards department, speak to both a first responder, than a supervisor, hang up, call customer service, executive customer service, to only be told, we can’t do anything for your, is quite the hassle.

What I am asking, and I believe this is a fair request is to use 35,000 points to redeem my $350 worth of travel. I do not want to redeem all 35,000 points for a trivial $175, which is what I’m being offered. I’ve already explained this to the rewards department, as well as senior customer support, and both times I was told, those are terms you agreed to. If I can’t use those points for travel, my next suggestion was to take the $175, and be given a credit in the amount of $175 to equal the $350.

These are the charges in question:

OCT 29, 2010 CONTINENTAL HOUSTON TX Airfare $394.20
OCT 29, 2010 CONTINENTAL HOUSTON TX Airfare $394.20

If this can’t be done, I will want to terminate my relationship with Capital One. I will redeem the $175, and take my business elsewhere. I can’t have a credit card who wants my business, but does not in good faith try to help out its on time customers. I also want to stop other people from falling into this trap, so I will contact the necessary consumer action groups.

Thank you for listening,

Haim [redacted]

Well, it worked. I got a call the next morning from someone saying, that she could not just credit me the charge. However, she will raise my rewards points to 60,000 miles, and then apply them all to one of the tickets. This will take 5 business days. She said in the future, call this number, and someone in the executive office will help me.

Haim didn’t send us the special number that Capital One gave him, but that’s okay. If you’re having trouble with the company, you can learn how to send an executive e-mail carpet bomb of your own.