Warning: Booking With Credit Card Points May Get You Stuck in Basic Economy

Let's talk fine print, and why you need to read it

By Diane Rommel

 
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23 February 2017

Make note of this if you're booking a plane ticket on points accrued on a bank card — like American Express, Chase or Citi. 

Basic Economy fares are now available on all three major carriers, and each comes with its own minimal savings (around $40) and — depending on your POV — major or minor inconveniences, including a lack of access to the overhead compartment and restrictions on changing your itinerary. 

And now, points warriors are — justifiably — worried that they'll end up booking a Basic Economy fare without knowing it, a scenario shown to be entirely possible, according to Boarding Area

If you're booking your ticket using mileage accrued through the airline, you're safe — these tickets are amply advertised with their attendant restrictions. 

The problems come in when booking through a service like Amex's Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards, when Basic Economy flights can, at least through the respective websites, be indistinguishable from normal economy seats. Boarding Area found that it was, in some cases, only possible to figure out exactly what you're booking when calling into a telephone rep — which may in itself come at added cost or involve a higher fare. 

Basic Economy fares are new, and it's likely that the bank services will figure out a way to fill buyers in on exactly what they're buying — but until then, caveat emptor. 

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