How Can I Earn Miles From Buying My Sister’s Ticket on a Delta Flight?

by on August 4, 2013 · 14 comments

in American Express, Delta, Sunday Reader Questions, Ultimate Rewards, Video Blog Post

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TPG Twitter follower Ben will be going on a trip with his sister and is going to pay for her airfare. He tweeted me the following question:

“Hey @thepointsguy any advice on how I can earn miles from buying my sister a ticket on a Delta flight? I’m taking a sibling trip with her to Chicago.”

Looking at the fundamentals of frequent flyer points, even if you buy a ticket for someone else, the person who takes the flight will earn the miles. The beauty of that is when you travel for business you get to keep all of your frequent flyer miles and bank them into your personal account (for the most part). So unfortunately for Ben, even if he buys a flight for his sister, he can’t earn miles by attaching his frequent flyer number to reservation because the airline will match the name on the account to the name on the ticket.

However, there are a lot of different ways to bank miles through credit card purchases. If you buy the tickets using your Delta Gold SkyMiles American Express, Delta Platinum SkyMiles Amex or Delta Reserve card,  you will earn 2 miles per dollar, but the better option is to book using an American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, which earns 3 points per dollar on all airfare purchases. Even better, you can book those same tickets through American Express Travel and get 4 points per dollar. Prices on American Express Travel are usually only a little bit higher, but worth the extra 1 point per dollar in most cases.

Earn an extra 2 points per dollar on Travelocity when you click through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Earn an extra 2 points per dollar on Travelocity when you click through the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Another option is to purchase the tickets using a Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which earns 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on all travel. If you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards earning portal and click through to Travelocity you’ll earn an extra 2 points per dollar, earning a total of 4 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar along with the 7% annual dividend at the end of the year. Taking this route you’re looking at 4.28 Ultimate Rewards points for ever dollar spent on your sister’s ticket to Chicago.

Once you click through the Ultimate Rewards portal or American Express Travel site, it doesn’t matter who you’re buying a ticket for. If you ever purchase airfare for a large group make sure to use these portals and put the charge on a point-earning credit card.

Some of the other best credit cards to purchase airfare with because they give airline category spending bonuses include: 

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature: 3 miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines tickets and vacation packages

Barclaycard Arrival: 2 miles per dollar on all purchases

Barclaycard Arrival No Fee: 2 miles per dollar spent on travel

British Airways Visa Signature Card:  2.5 Avios for every $1 spent on British Airways purchases

Capital One Venture Rewards: 2 miles per dollar on all purchases

Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage Visa Signature Card: 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

Citi Platinum Select / AAdvantage World MasterCard: 2 miles per dollar spent on eligible American Airlines purchases

Bank of American Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature: 2 HawaiianMiles per dollar spent on tickets purchased directly from Hawaiian Airlines and on in-flight purchases, as does the Bank of Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines Visa Signature.

JetBlue Amex: 2 extra points per dollar on JetBlue purchases

Lufthansa Premier Miles & More World Mastercard: Earns 2 miles per $1 spent on Miles & More purchases.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Personal and Business: 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and Airtran Airways purchases.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Personal and Business: 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and Airtran Airways purchases.

United MileagePlus Explorer Card: 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from United

United MilagePlus Club Card: 1.5 miles per dollar on all purchases

US Airways Premier World MasterCard: 2 miles per dollar when you make US Airways purchases

Virgin America Visa Signature: 3 Elevate points per $1 spent on Virgin America purchases (in addition to the usual 5 points per $1).

Virgin Atlantic Amex: Earns 3 miles per $1 spent directly on Virgin Atlantic purchases.

Some hotel cards also offer category spending bonuses on airfare including the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Visa Signature , which earns 2 points per dollar spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline as does the Marriott Rewards Premier card. The Hyatt Card earns 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent on airline tickets purchased directly with the airline.

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Frequent Flyer Business Programs

You should also sign up for SkyBonus, which is Delta’s business program. SkyBonus gives small to mid-sized companies a way to earn points towards business travel rewards. Some other airlines have these kind of business frequent flyer programs as well where you technically should have a big time business to join, but I know many people have been able to sign up with their small consultancies or sole proprietorships so it cant hurt to try!

Delta SkyBonus:

Businesses can earn up to 30 SkyBonus points per dollar on purchased business class fares or 6 points on all other fares, but only 10 SkyBonus points per dollar on business fares or 3 points on other fares to/from Delta hubs ATL, CVG, DTW, MEM, MSP and SLC – on not only Delta flights but also Air France, KLM and Alitalia. You can then redeem earned points on things as small as 10 drinks coupons (10,000 points), a Delta SkyClub one-visit pass (30,000 points) or a free coach roundtrip in the US (85,000).


American Airlines: With Business ExtrAA companies earn 2 base points per $10 spent to fly on published fares. Companies can redeem those points for over 50 award redemption offers.

British Airways: With On Business companies that join earn triple points for the first six flight sectors (individual flights) employees take on qualifying flights during the first 12 months of membership.

United Airlines: With PerksPlus last-minute or premium fares in F, J, Y classes earn 6 points per dollar for flights to/from non-hubs and 3 points for flights from hubs. Business class fares in A, C, B, M, E, U, H classes earn 4 point per dollar for flights to/from non-hubs and 2 points for flights from hubs. Discount fares in D, Z, P, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G classes earn 2 points per dollar from non-hubs and 1 point per dollar from hubs.

Depending on which route you take you should be able to bank a couple extra points on your sister’s tickets. Safe travels and kudos for being a nice brother and taking your sister away!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Jared

    Wow that must be a record for credit card links in one posting!!! Also way to go advocating borderline fraud with the frequent flyer business program idea!

  • Peter

    Nice link farm, brah!

  • Dan

    The next reader’s question is going to be: “How many credit card links can TPG post in a single worthless post?”

  • Scott

    In his defense, there is utility in having an evreward-style summary for airfare across cards and I bet most people didn’t even know about the business programs.

  • Ben Price

    Why do people get so angry at his posts lately? Not everyone who comes to this site is an expert. 1) He’s gotta make money and 2) this site has to be accessible to everyone.

    If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

    I’ll be the first to admit that the quality of the articles (or the utility, so to speak) has gone downhill lately. I think that may be a statement on my increased knowledge, not TPG.

  • SeaBee3

    Probably the best from a point earning and diversity is to use the Amex PRG through the UR portal at Travelocity. That equals 3x MR points and 2X UR points.

  • thepointsguy

    Yea, the only issue is that some people have had issues getting portal points posted when not using a Chase card. While not required, it helps and 2.14 Chase are close to 3x Amex in value, in my opinion

  • Lisa

    I only have AMEX Rewards right now, so I don’t know about the other cards. He could link his sister’s Delta Skymiles account to his AMEX Rewards account. Then when he wants to use the miles, he can transfer his AMEX points to his sister’s Skymiles account and book his award ticket with her account.

  • Eric

    TPG wouldn’t another option be to set up a frequent flyer account with whatever airline they chose to fly and than transfer over the points to his account? I was thinking the same thing for my mother and brother. My mom has an account with AA and she just recently opened up the CITI AAdvantage card. She bought my kid brother a ticket to Argentina for end of this month.

  • Eric

    I’ve confirmed with AMEX that booking through AMEX travel does not qualify for the 3X category as booking directly with airline, as it’s only a travel agency.

  • warrenkerr

    Can i pay off my VISA credit card using my AMEX credit card and get points from AMEX?

  • Fanfoot

    Of course the person who’s frequent flyer ID is on the ticket earns 2500 miles flying from San Francisco to New York (before any bonuses) while the one paying for it at 1X earns maybe 150-500 points based on the price they paid. Not quite the same thing. Still if you didn’t get an extreme discount and you get 3X-4X I guess you’re doing pretty good in comparison.

  • Fanfoot

    You don’t have to do that. You can use YOUR points to buy tickets for anybody. You just can’t get the points for a ticket purchased for money for somebody else.

  • Fanfoot

    One way to get the points into your account of course is to pay to transfer them after they’ve earned the points. In the case of Delta it costs $0.01 per mile (in increments of 1,000) plus $30 per transfer. So presumably a flight across the US that earned 2,500 miles for your sister, 2,000 miles could be transferred to your account for $50. Course then you’d be paying 2.5 cents per point, which is a bit steep. Makes more sense the more miles you’re transferring. Also of course its now in your sister’s account and she’d have to agree to transfer the miles…

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