The Consummate Traveler: Donating Miles and Giving the Gift of Travel

December 28, 2014 Updated: December 28, 2014

For many of us, the holiday season is often a time of sharing our blessings and prosperity with those in need. In fact, charitable donations can take many shapes these days. Of course it can be in the form of money, clothes, and volunteering your time. However, did you know that you can even donate airline miles to a worthy cause? I’d like to share some useful tips for anyone interested in donating their miles.

1. Know your mileage balance and membership number: Before embarking on any donation opportunity, it is important to know how many miles you have in your account and what your membership number is. This is critical information that you are going to need no matter who you give it to. It is also important to create an online account with the airline mileage club so that you can easily navigate things over the Internet when you are ready to donate.

2. Explore airline websites: The easiest way to identify mileage donation options is to do an Internet search on your airline of choice and include the phrase “donation of miles.” I tried this with United Airlines and American Airlines, and both searches took me to a specific page on the airline website that summarized all of the mileage donation options. In some cases, the miles would be donated to the airline’s own charitable activities that they organized. In other cases, the airline had partnered with well-recognized organizations and listed many options. Overall, I found the process to be quite straightforward and easy to follow. If you are not tech savvy, another option is to call the airline and donate miles over the phone.

Approximately 25,000 miles equals one round-trip domestic flight for one person

3. Donate to specific organizations: Another avenue to take in donating miles is to do an Internet search on a specific group or cause that you are interested in supporting such as “veterans” or “terminally ill patients.” This will help you potentially identify smaller groups that you can support. In my Internet research, however, I found that some of the smaller organizations linked back to larger ones who had direct partnerships with various airlines. For instance, I found a group called Hero Miles Action that supported military service personnel. The donation button for their Hero Miles program linked back to fisherhouse.org, which is a well-known veteran’s aid organization and has many partnerships with U.S. airline companies on their donation page.

4. You don’t need a ton of points: Those of you who may not have tens of thousands of miles can still provide a donation of as little as 500–1,000 points. It is important to know that approximately 25,000 miles equals one round-trip domestic flight for one person, so keeping this in mind can help you determine how many points you would like to give.

 In the U.S. currently the IRS does not accept the donation of frequent flyer miles to be a tax deductible type of expense. However, this should not be a reason to deter you from donating. If you have points that you don’t expect to use or you have so many you don’t know what to do with them, supporting a worthy cause can be just the answer.

As always, I wish you all the happiest of travels