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Memorial Day is more than just a long weekend and a chance to get together with friends for barbecue and beer – it’s a chance to honor the men and women who have died serving in our armed forces. So for today’s Maximize Monday, I wanted to take a look at opportunities all of us have to give back to those brave folks who dedicate their lives to the nation.
**Note: For tax reasons it is much easier to donate cash and take a charity write off than it is to donate miles. Also, any time you receive miles for a donation there is a chance you could be 1099’d (taxed) on the value of the miles received, so check with the charity and your accountant before donating if the tax implications are important to you.
Fisher House Foundation’s Hero Miles Program provides airline tickets to wounded, injured and ill military members and their loved ones. By donating award miles, you can help bring patients and families together either to a healing soldier’s bedside or to an approved occasion in the believe that family helps promote and continue the healing process of military heroes. The charity partners with AirTran, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, United and US Airways as well as AmericInn, Best Western, Choice Hotels, Marriott, La Quinta, Starwood, and Wyndham, all of whom will accommodate traveling soldiers and their families based on donations through the Hotels For Heroes initiative, and you can even donate Marriott Rewards points instead of cash.
Bonus American Miles For USO Donations
In honor of Memorial Day, American Airlines is offering AAdvantage members the opportunity to earn miles for donating to the USO through American’s “Miles in Support of All Who Serve” program.
American Airlines will host a six-week campaign supporting the USO’s mission to lift the spirits of America’s troops and families. They are offering AAdvantage members 15 bonus AAdvantage miles for every dollar donated through American’s Miles in Support of All Who Serve program. This is a good cause and a way to earn some bonus miles as an added bonus.
This offer is only valid on contributions made online now through July 4, 2013. There is a minimum $25 donation required. American has a mileage cap for a 12-month period of 60,000 AAdvantage miles per AAdvantage account. These bonus miles do not count toward elite-status qualification or Million Miler status, and should be posted your account within eight weeks.
In addition, you can also support the military and their families with the USO co-branded gift card. For every $50 of travel purchased on a gift card, American will donate $5 when you select the USO gift card option.
Delta and Luke’s Wings
Delta has several great, well-respected charity partners to whom you can donate miles including amFAR, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Habitat for Humanity. Another that you might not have heard about, however, is Luke’s Wings, which provides airline tickets to wounded veterans and their loved ones as well as final flights to unite veterans in hospice care with their families. The organization also partners with Spirit Airlines.
JetBlue and KULA Causes
KULA Causes launched back in 2010 and partners with both JetBlue True Blue points and Milepoint to let frequent flyers donate their miles to the cause of their choice. KULA supports 2.5 million projects in 80 countries, including several charities that help members of the military travel to see loved ones, seek medical treatment and transition into civilian life. Some of these include Hope for the Warriors, the Invisible Disabilities Association, Operation Revamp and Paralyzed Veterans of America. You can read about the ones that are in your area or work with a cause that you admire and donate your points specifically toward it. It’s a great platform to put your miles to use in exactly the way you want while also engaging with the charity to which you donate. To see what charities are supported, you can log into the TrueGiving page.
United Airlines and Military Charities
United’s charity partners include several veteran and military-focused organizations where you can donate miles to do everything from helping soldiers travel to get the medical attention they need to providing rehabilitative bicycles for their road to recovery.
Wounded Warrior is a great organization that has a number of dynamic programs aimed at helping soldiers readjust to life back at home through initiatives like combat stress and recovery, family support programs, transition training and work placement programs, adaptive sports events and peer mentoring. All in all, the charity has 18 different programs that aim to help military members make a well-adjusted transition back to civilian life. The great thing is, you can donate cash, but you can also donate miles from your United MileagePlus account help soldiers travel to medical facilities for much-needed treatment.
Ride 2 Recovery is an organization dedicated to improving the health and wellness of healing veterans by providing rehabilitation services and activities including fundraising bike races and events. R2R raises money to support Spinning Recovery Labs and outdoor cycling programs at military and VA facilities throughout the US to help wounded veterans face and recover from their physical injuries and challenges.
Hilton HHonors Giving Back
Hilton partners with dozens of charities ranging from cancer research foundations to the World Wildlife Fund, including some great military organizations such as Hug-a-Hero and Operation Homefront. HHonors members can donate points in increments of 10,000 in exchange for $25 donations to the charity of their choice. Operation Homefront provides emergency financial assistance and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors with more than 4,500 volunteers in 23 chapters serving 32 states nationwide. Hug-a-Hero addresses the needs of children whose parents serve in the military in a simple way by providing kinds with free Hug-A-Hero dolls to families who cannot afford one, or who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.
Credit Card Points
Several credit card points programs also give you the opportunity to redeem your points for charitable donations. Through American Express’s Members Give page, Amex cardholders can redeem Membership Rewards points at the rate of one cent apiece (10,000 points = $100) to the charity of their choice including over 4,500 military ones. Capital One cardholders can donate via the bank’s No Hassle Giving site, which waives transaction processing fees for 1.2 million verified charities, including thousands of military and veterans’ organizations.
We all have a lot to thank our service members for, and whether you give cash, miles or points, giving something to an effective, responsible organization like many airlines, hotels and credit cards partner with is a great way to do so.
A happy, safe Memorial Day to all of you and to our brave men and women!