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Sunday Reader Question: What is the Best Frequent Flyer Program for Combining Family Points

by on December 4, 2011 · 27 comments

in ANA, British Airways, Emirates, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Jody writes:

“Which points programs can and/or should be combined together as a household to maximize travel rewards? Also, when is it not a good idea to combine point programs with other family members?”

No major North American frequent flyer program allows family members to pool their miles in a central account- at least not for free. However, most programs allow you to book an award for anyone - so if your friend wants to go on a trip and you want to use your miles to pay for it, you can simply redeem for the flight and enter their name as the passenger. However, if your friend is 3,000 miles short of an award and you want to give them your miles, you’ll have to pay a fee – usually between 1 and 2 cents per mile plus a service fee. For example, United charges $15 per 1,000 miles (1.5 cents per mile) and Delta charges $10 per 1,000, but they currently have a 100% bonus which is a fantastic deal, which I wrote about here.

The main international frequent flyer programs that allow pooling of family member miles:
1) British Airways Executive Club - as long as you have the same address on file, you can create a Household Account which pools everyone’s miles and then uses them proportionately every time a ticket is booked. Check out my post on maximizing Household Accounts for more info. Even if you don’t fly British Airways, you can still transfer American Express Membership Rewards points (with a 30% bonus until January 31, 2011) and Chase Ultimate Rewards – along with hotel points.
2) All Nippon Airways Mileage Club has a Family Account Service option that allows families to combine their points. ANA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.
3) Qantas Frequent Flyer will allow you to transfer miles for free to family members. Minimum 5,000 to maximum 100,000 points per transfer. Maximum one transfer every 12 months.
4) Emirates Skywards has the Family Bonus Program where you can nominate up to 8 family members and you get 20% of the miles they fly.

I’m sure there are other programs as well, so please feel free to comment below if you’ve used another program’s combine miles feature.

Beyond airlines, some hotels will let you transfer points between members – most notably Starwood Preferred Guest. Both accounts need to have the same address, but the point transfers in between are free. So, if you have a bunch of Starwood points, you can transfer to someone else in your household who can then transfer to the airline partner of their choice for free – thus avoiding the pesky transfer fees the airlines impose. This is one of the reasons the Starwood American Express is one of the most popular mileage cards. See this post for more info on Starwood transfers.

Additionally, if you have an American Express card that belongs to Membership Rewards (like the Platinum and Premier Rewards Gold) you can transfer your points to anyone’s frequent flyer account. For example, Delta is a transfer partner, so you can link anyone’s Delta SkyMiles account to your Membership Rewards account (go here -> Points Summary and then on the bottom right Link Additional Accounts).

Chase Ultimate Rewards (the points program of the Sapphire Preferred and Ink Bold cards) also allows you to transfer points to anyone – even another person’s Ultimate Rewards Account. See more info on this topic here.

So, the bottom line is that most airlines will charge you obscene amounts to transfer miles between accounts. To protect yourself, you should have transferable points like Starwood Preferred Guest, Chase Ultimate Rewards  and American Express Membership Rewards so that you can top up accounts – whether your own or those you want to help reach an award.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonjeon Jason Jeon

    Asiana allows my wife and me to share the same pool of points without charge. :)

  • PJ

    if your trusted one is a flying hero ( ie has elite class as CO platinum ONEPASS) best to funnel all points to his/her account especially through Chase Sapphire Preferred.. those last minute flights are SO SO available to elite class members without paying extra fees or miles

    I think at AMex you need to be an AU to trasnfer points over ; and points at AMEX can not be transferred to another account… hope they match up UR soon

    I can see a buiness opportunity to buy Ultimate rewards into one Sapphire preferred account which can in turn churn out a lot of deep discounted short hop tickets ORD-NYC 7.5K + 2.5 dollars ORD-LAX 10K+2.5 with BA Avios..

    Anybody still redeeming ultimate rewards 1 points for a penny? think again :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/garyleff Gary Leff

    bmi Diamond Club offers family accounts. Sadly that outstanding program is expected to go away when the airline’s acquisiton by IAG closes.

  • Mike

    Ord-nyc is 7.5k in UR for one way?

  • Caveman

    Etihad has a very generous family account like BA allowing 100% pooling of miles

  • Dan

    marriott rewards also allows you to transfer miles for no charge. You have a to fill out a form and fax it in….

  • Goosh

    Japan Air Lines.

  • Anonymous

    You can definitely transfer Amex points to someone, even if they aren’t an AU. Just follow the instructions in the post- link their account to your Membership Rewards and then transfer.

  • Anonymous
  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.schmiedeler Bryan Schmiedeler

    I have a lot of AA miles (about 300K) and my wife has 80K. She had an account when we got married. I also have significant miles in BA, Chase UR, and Hilton. I would love to do something with my wife’s AA miles – transfer them to my AA account or another account, but I don’t want to pay a lot. Would rather not pay anything. Any suggestions?

  • Korean Air

    Korean air, too. It says “Bonus awards can be endorsed to the eligible family members : grandparents, parents, spouse, parents-in-law, brothers/sisters, children, son/daughter-in-law and grandchildren. “

  • Anonymous

    Most carriers let you make awards for whomever you want. The real utility of a family account is earning miles in one central account

  • Anonymous

    Why do you want to combine- to get an award? I’d just recommend using the miles- AA will let you do one way awards too so maybe just book one way with her miles and one way with yours? You can’t combine without paying fees

  • calbear77

    Am I missing details here? Oherwise, I have a radical idea. You and your wife could take a trip together somewhere. 80K miles is enough for two off peak roundtrips to Europe. If you don’t like that, 37.5K miles gets you to Hawaii and back. Or fly business to europe one time off peak.

    I think this post was meant for families where everyone has some odd number like 9.3K miles and pooling together would result in one or more awards. 80K miles is enough for just about anything.

  • calbear77

    Hi TPG,
    One idea for another post would be to highlight great long haul awards that are still out there. Losing BA to Asia and South America was a blow, but values still exist, right?

  • Priyanknevatia

    Kingfisher Airlines has a family membership account too. However Kingfisher is currently not part of any major alliance although it has been in the pipeline to join One World. For those who have not travelled on Kingfisher Airlines … They are one of the best in Customer Service. Sends you a car to pick you up at your house / hotel and even has porters waiting near drop off to collect your bags.

    *** Kingfisher Airlines is currently under a lot of financial trouble and maybe will follow American Airlines but who knows if they come out of this financial mess, I am sure they will be a force to recon with.

  • Antonio

    I am usin Qatar Airways since I’m in Doha, but kids get 50% of their miles. Lufthansa offers the same here, but I guess is just in the middle east in order to compete with the Gulf carriers (Etihad, Emirates and Qatar A.) lufthansa also allows 50% mileage accrual except for Senators and HON where you get 100% of the miles of all the family linked to your single account.

  • http://moneyunderyourfuton.wordpress.com muyf

    Yes, I second this. JAL has a “Family Club”, which is available to any family as long as at least one person, the “Primary Member” lives in the Americas. There’s a $30 annual fee, which in most cases will be way cheaper than transferring miles anyway. http://www.ar.jal.com/ar/en/jalmile/jalfc/about.html

  • Anonymous

    Hi TPG, what do you mean by propotionately in “uses them proportionately every time a ticket is booked.”. Does that mean that if I use 30k miles for an award and account1 has 100k miles, account2 has 200k miles, it will deduct 10k from account1 and 20k from account2?

    Thanks!

  • Lahaina12

    Hawaiian Airlines will let you pool family members’ miles together if you have their Hawaiian Airlines credit card (through B of A), I think. No fees.

  • Mwwalk

    Do both members have to have the card or is it enough for only one person to have the card?

  • Mwwalk

    Points Guy, I read somewhere in the past about the ability to use Hilton points to buy a reward certificate for a specific category and give it to somebody. Do you know if that is still available.

    Or, is it possible to book awards for somebody else. For instance, can my wife book a reward night in my name. If possible, that’d be great to have her book the first night, and me the second night. If we did that, do you think they would honor my gold status?

  • Paul

    FYI the ANA link in your blog post links to a British Airways site…

  • Mmt

    yes, thats the way the points are withdrawn. It has the advantage of giving “activity” to every account in the family to avoid expiration.

  • Jjezttt

    asiana

  • Fatima

    In regards to emirates ‘family bonus program’ I have read on other forums that a 20% miles is too less of a benefit to combine family miles. I am a little confused.

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