How Can I Sell My Miles and Points Without Violating User Agreements?

by on October 20, 2013 · 15 comments

in Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Michael has a ton of points and would like to sell them:

“I have over a million points (a mixture of United miles, American miles, Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, British Airways Avios, Southwest points, StarPoints, US Airways miles, ANA and Delta SkyMiles). How can I sell the points without violating airlines’ user agreements? If I can sell them, how much can I get? How does the IRS look at the sale of points?”

The short answer is – you can’t sell them. There are plenty of miles brokers on the internet, but it is against the terms and conditions of all frequent flyer programs to sell your miles, and airlines are very active in trying to hunt out people who are selling miles. There is little tolerance for any activity of this sort and the airlines do have technology to hunt for people who sell miles. They look for activity that might be unusual for your account.

American Airlines Terms & Conditions

American Airlines prohibits the purchase, sale, and barter of AAdvantage mileage.

American Airlines prohibits the purchase, sale, and barter of AAdvantage miles.

These brokers will most likely have you transfer your points into a third account and pay you a fraction of what they are worth (usually about 1 cent apiece) and then basically these brokers are sell discounted business class tickets to unknowing parties most of the time using your miles, so people could easily at the airport say, “I paid for this ticket,” and if the flight is cancelled or if something else goes wrong, there is a very good chance that it could still come back to haunt you. If you get caught you will lose all your points, no questions asked and no recourse.

Selling miles is severely frowned upon and against the rules of every frequent flyer program.

Selling miles is severely frowned upon and against the rules of every frequent flyer program.

I have never sold miles and I don’t recommend it. You could probably search the internet to find a broker since I am sure there are more reputable ones than others, but as I said, I wouldn’t advise doing it because when the airlines do find out you will lose all your miles and it is just not worth it in my opinion. I have discussed selling American Express Membership Rewards points in the past and brokers I contacted offered a 1-1.3 cents value on them, which is not a good deal – on top of the risk that you could lose them altogether.

While it is against the rules to sell miles, many programs do allow you to gift them to friends and family without making a profit. It is a decent way to keep your miles active, make sure they aren’t wasted, and give back to someone you love. For example, US Airways recently held a 100% share miles bonus (which unfortunately expired on October 15). Through the promo, “Members may receive a maximum of​ ​50,000 bonus miles during the offer period,” but you could send as many miles as you’d like to other accounts and each was eligible to earn up to 50,000 bonus miles. Sharing with this bonus meant you were creating miles for about 1.1 cents apiece, which is worth it to me since US Airways miles can be redeemed for valuable Star Alliance awards.

Sharing miles is another way to avoid losing them.

Sharing miles is another way to avoid losing them.

American Airlines also had a shared miles bonus that expired on October 10, where you would receive a 20% bonus when sharing 5,000-25,000 miles; a 25% bonus for sharing 26,000-40,000 miles or a 30% bonus if you share 41,000-50,000 miles. To share miles there was a fee of $20 per 1,000 shared miles for the first 5,000 miles, then $10 per 1,000 shared miles for anything on top of that plus a $35 transaction fee. Not nearly as good a deal, but still something to consider.

Earlier this month, JetBlue launched a Family Pooling, which allows up to 2 adults and 5 children to essentially share a single account.

In short, if you have miles all over the place and are looking to consolidate, rather than selling your miles, I’d look for ways to share or transfer them, get in on some lucrative credit card bonuses to hit redemption thresholds, or find another way to keep them or put them to use.

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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  • ryan

    Its not good value if you travel, but many people just want the cash. It’s a dicey area of course. If you’re selling Amex or Chase points then you can transfer in to some other account. But if its Airline miles you’re selling, usually the broker will want direct access to the account as you usually cannot transfer those points to another account for free – so proceed with caution.

    Brokers are pretty good at avoiding scrutiny and they’re not going away. For some people accruing points is strictly a way to supplement income by selling points. A million points can easily be worth $15,000.

  • tpup

    Another way to convert miles to cash is to buy something using miles and then sell it. It’s not good value, but not against the terms either.

  • BM811

    I don’t know if they are still in business or if it still works the same way but years ago I had 40k delta skypesos that I sold for $600 and the way it worked was the company put the reservation on hold and I called up delta and told them I wanted to fund the award ticket for my longtime friend “Mr. John Doe”. No problems at all. If you are worried about dealing with a mileage broker then you can always do it yourself with relatives and/or friends you trust and sell them discounted airline tickets that you fund with your miles/points.

  • Spencer

    When I have family traveling ill often buy their trip with miles and ask them to pay me 25% less than the cheapest fare. I did this with my brother on his trip to Europe. 60k miles for $800 is not great value but I could use the cash and he was happy to save $350.

  • Michael

    Avios also allows family (they call it “household”) pooling.

  • A.J.

    Redeem miles for gift cards? Or transfer them around to programs that offer gift card redemptions withe the best option for maximizing points. Not the greatest value per point but an option that is within the terms & conditions. Use the gift cards like cash at your favorite retailers / restaurants / gas stations. Or possibly trade those gift cards with online services or the CVS gift card program. I use my Priotity Club points for gas station gift cards all the time.

  • Sam Wolfe

    Yes, Delta are still in business.

  • ROB

    most of you bloggers are publicly promoting devaluations and when this happens you whine & complain but do nothing about it.

    either shut up or fight to stop it when & if this happens. The only
    blogger I like is GREG of FM. He is not like any of you. He doesn’t
    keep imploring to apply for cards and doesn’t post nonsense stuffs like
    most of you. This is why we have been applying for cards from his site

  • BM811

    I meant the company that pays for miles, not Delta, which IS still in business.

  • mm

    It’s pretty silly to pay to transfer points to a family member. You can make a reservation with your account and put in their name.

    This would also be a much better way to sell points if you have a relationship with the buyer (not just a broker). By making the reservation in their name from your account there is no wasy for the airline to realistically track down a sale of points unless the travelertells the agent at the gate.

  • Aaron

    I’ve also booked tickets for family & friends. Are there any concerns for booking trips for others that should be kept in mind?

  • Mark D.

    Ultimate rewards can easily be cashed out at $0.01 per point as a statement credit, right?

  • shonuffharlem

    Is it against T&C if you share miles to someone (like a wife that you trust – and I say that being divorced once!) to get the bonus USAIR bonus? And then, if they run a bonus 6 months hence, get them shared back? I wouldn’t think so – you are paying 1.1 cents a mile. And she gets them in a divorce! ;)

  • Veronica Sachs

    If you have useless miles, you are welcome to sell them on this forum:

  • Jack

    It is important to be careful who you sell your points to. Most people who have a website and corporation are reliable. Yet, you want to be in control of where and how your points are being used. I actually sold to and had a good experience.

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