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Beware of Travel Rewards Programs That Aren’t Barrier-Free

Most of us have at least one credit card. If you’re like me, your credit card of choice will help you accumulate points that can be used for travel rewards, like free flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars.  While some rewards programs make it easy to reserve these items online or over the phone, some make it difficult, if not impossible, to reserve them with accessible options.

For example, I am a member of the ScoreCard Rewards program, which is affiliated with dozens, if not hundreds, of smaller banks and credit unions across the country. I spend thousands of travel-related dollars every year, and thus accumulate thousands of points every year, which I have used many times to book free airline tickets. However, I have routinely had trouble booking accessible hotel rooms through their website. At first I thought it was because no accessible rooms were available at the hotels I chose on the dates I chose. But recently, I discovered that wasn’t the issue.

I contacted the rewards program directly over the phone recently to book a room in Las Vegas, and I had to go through a very complicated process that lasted several days in order to book an accessible hotel room using my reward points.  Even though at the end of the days-long and frustrating process I had the room I wanted, I knew this was an ADA violation because I wasn’t able to book that room the same way able-bodied people were able to book their rooms online using their points.

This whole process made me start wondering if other rewards programs–particularly those associated with credit cards–pose the same online reservation obstacles for accessible hotel rooms as ScoreCard Rewards. If you find yourself coming across this problem when trying to use your points, don’t hesitate to defend your rights under the ADA to equal access, and to elevate the problem to management. Only then can we improve the process for other points-holding travelers!

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