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Tis’ The Season to Give: My Million Mile Donation To Kids In Need and How You Can Help Too

by on December 4, 2013 · 27 comments

in American, Charity Opportunities

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In the miles and points world it can be easy to become jaded with just how good we have it. Even though program devaluations are rampant and it is becoming harder (though far from impossible) to maximize miles and points, we still need to take a minute and be thankful that we are even able to travel. It can be easy to complain about poor service at hotels or grumpy flight attendants, but these issues truly pale in comparison to so many people around the world who are struggling to provide the most basic needs for their families.

On a personal note, this year has been great for the site – we’ve seen traffic increase dramatically and thanks to the support from our readers, advertising has grown steadily. Beyond the growth, it is incredibly gratifying to hear from so many TPG readers about how they’ve been able to achieve travel dreams they never thought would be possible. To put it bluntly, I’m extremely grateful to be able to do what I love – traveling the world at affordable prices and helping others do the same. However, so many people are not as fortunate as me and this holiday season I wanted to give back as much as possible and hopefully inspire others to do the same.

The Backstory

Back in October, I wrote about an amazing deal where you could earn 35 AAdvantage miles per dollar spent at eBags.com. I originally thought I’d buy some odds and ends and pad my AA account, but then I thought about how I could maximize this promotion for a good cause. The plan was to mint a million miles in just 20 minutes by buying merchandise and then donate the miles to a charity, so it was kind of like maximizing my miles, but in reverse – by giving them away.

Boxes taking over my apartment!

Boxes taking over my apartment!

I donated approximately 100 designer Kate Spade and Michael Kors handbags purchased from eBags to Housing Works, an organization in New York City which gives housing, medical, and legal support to those who are homeless and living with HIV & AIDS. I decided on designer handbags because their resale value is strong and would hopefully get the organization as close to the $29,000 original purchase price as possible. Housing Works operates 12 highly successful thrift shops across NYC and they recently held a Fashion For Action benefit that featured a lot of the handbags for sale. The bags are still being sold, but I’m confident they’ll be able to recoup a large portion of the original donation.

Double Charity Dip
The one million AAdvantage miles that I earned from the purchase were given to Kids In Need, a program run by American Airlines that helps numerous charities helping to improve the lives of children around the world. I decided on this charity because it is administered by American Airlines directly and the miles are actually donated into a pool for numerous charities to use. I used to think that when miles were donated they’d be liquidated for a fraction of the real value and a minor donation made to the charity. This is not true for Kids In Need and these 1,000,000 miles will provide up to 40 roundtrip domestic flights for kids and their families- which could easily be worth more than $16,000.

American Airlines Kids in Need sup SM sup program JoinUs

One of the causes that will benefit from the mileage donation is the Snowball Express – a charity that helps the children and families of our fallen military heroes. This year, Snowball Express will be taking place in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas from December 12-16 and American Airlines has given me the opportunity to attend the event, so expect a future post on my experience.

Being able to attend and show my support for our fallen heroes and their loved ones is something that is very important to me and I’m really looking forward to it though I know it will be a tough and emotional experience for everyone involved. Watch the video below to see what Snowball Express is all about:

With the holiday season upon us, I often think about how lucky I am and how grateful I am for my family, friends, health and success. Nothing brings me more joy than being able to give back and help those who are less fortunate than I am, but this post is not about what I’ve done, but more about informing you all about some incredible charities that can use your miles, time or money.

How You Can Help Those In Need
If you too would like to contribute to Kids In Need, Operation Hero Miles or Snowball Express please visit the links below where you can make a donation, sponsor a child, or find out about volunteer opportunities.

Donate Your Miles: Miles can be donated to Operation Hero Miles to help bring home America’s heroes or Miles for Kids in Need.  A minimum donation of 1,000 miles is required. Members who have an available balance of less than 1,000 miles may donate their entire balance.

Make a Contribution: Donations can be submitted online by credit card or by mailing in a check to Snowball Express c/o Amegy Bank Dept D8256 P.O Box 650002 Dallas, Texas 75265-0002.

Sponsor a Child Program: $250 will help bring one child to attend this event that honors and celebrates their hero. This amount helps cover everything for four days including food, lodging, entertainment, transportation, and more.

Volunteer: Sign up for volunteering services. You can still sign up to volunteer at this year’s Snowball Express.

Volunteer with Housing Works.

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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  • LK

    wow, good for you, I hope this inspires others to donate

  • AJ

    This is awesome.

  • http://adamporter.com/ Adam Porter

    Kudos Brian!

  • Juno

    Great work Brian!

  • becky

    Fantastic and thanks for the charitable giving reminder just as we start our holiday shopping.

  • Gabe

    I read a lot of these blogs and share an obsession for all things mile/points/travel. Ultimately, it can sometimes feel like a world full of taking advantage of mistake fares, gaming the system, maximizing every last cent out of every last mile and churning credit cards. It is great to see a story like this, and I hope the miles/points world taks notice. Bravo

  • Curtis

    Very awesome!

  • ryan

    Nice. I’m wondering of the tax benefits you may have received from this donation. Technically, you made two donations: 1 – The merchandise and 2 – the points. I don’t know if you did this through a corporation or as a personal donation but depending on your tax situation I can see how this is a great way to help a lot of people while costing you almost nothing.

  • Rae

    This is wonderful. Keep on doing good works, and thanks for letting us know how we can help. With all the good causes and charities out there it can be a bit overwhelming trying to figure out which ones to support and how. Thank you, and happy holidays.

  • Joe

    Good for you – and welcome soon to my hometown of DFW. The airport does some great charity promotions around the holidays!

  • vortix

    What a nice way to offer your support! Obviously it is easy to document the tax deduction for the value of the bags that were donated. But is there also an opportunity to obtain an additional tax deduction for the value of miles that are donated to a charity? Curious how this works (if it works at all!).

  • John

    Nice job! But question: you spent USD29,000 on charity and got nothing back? So basically, you donated USD29,000 to charity?

  • thepointsguy

    Correct- I could deduct the merchandise donation, but not the miles. I’m not an accountant, but most I’ve spoken to state that mileage donations are not tax deductible

  • thepointsguy

    I was able to get a writeoff for merchandise donation, but not for the miles.

  • thepointsguy

    Correct.. I could have kept the 1 million miles, but wanted to donate that too. I did also generate $29,000 in credit card spend- those miles/points generated will help me go to Dallas for the Snowball Express event.

  • ryan

    It’s a tough one – as the value of the points is based on what they’re used for. I know in Canada, where I live people have successfully claimed for points donations based on the value of the trip purchased.

  • Mark M

    good for you sir! It’s great to see giving back to those who need it most.

  • SOLTATIO

    Great way to use up the few orphan miles I had lying in my AA account. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • dee seiffer

    That’s great, Brian! Kudos.

  • Pointsandtravel

    This truly is awesome Brian!! Kudos to you and your team!

  • SFOPhD

    Kudos. Well done sir.

  • McCaron

    nice work Brian ! i don’t have the chance to have so many miles to share but i usually give a few days of my time every year for charity causes
    i would encourage people to do so if you can’t donate

  • tringuyen82

    Must of have missed this post the first time around, but it got recirculated via The Frugal Travel Guy – Nice gesture Brian. Some people talk about giving but you stepped up.

  • Traveling Parent

    Brian

    Wanted to say kudos to you. I think we should all take something from what you did.

    I read this article awhile back and have been thinking about it ever since. I
    was inspired by it. And as I sat on my flight the other day thinking about how great that was of you I thought to myself, yeah but he obviously has it to give, if I did I would do the same thing. Then it hit me, that is an excuse,
    sure I can’t afford to do anything close to what you did, but I can do
    something, and if everyone else who reads this article does something we could make an impact.

    I work all over the US and unfortunately about 95% of my travel to and from
    work is paid out of my pocket. This is due to many of my projects being 6-9
    months long, and my office only pays 1 trip there and 1 trip home regardless of project length. So my miles mean a lot to me, but as I said your generosity got me feeling guilty about not doing something more to help others. I do other charitable things, but on a much smaller level(due to my limited funds).

    So after a long talk with my fiancée, and a brief sit down with our two
    daughters, (to explain that daddy is going to be gone longer than usual)
    “we” have decided to donate all the miles in my account (87,620aa
    miles) to the two charities listed above. Operation Hero Miles to help bring
    home America’s heroes and Miles for Kids in Need. To most of you this is
    probably nothing, but to my family this is two trips home. I hope this
    inspires other to donate at least something, anything at all.

    So whether your saving for a cheap family vacation, a trip to see old friends, or in my particular case, trying to get home to see my children. We are all saving for our own enjoyment and benefit. Perhaps we take this year to help others who really need it. Because;

    “Sometimes those who give the most are the ones with the least to spare.” ― Mike McIntyre, The Kindness of Strangers

  • thepointsguy

    That is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing- I hope you feel good knowing that the miles will impact a lot of people’s lives. Well done

  • thepointsguy

    Time is just as valuable as money, so kudos for stepping up!

  • Traveling Parent

    I just received two confirmation emails from AA confirming my donations. 47,594 miles to each of the two. I made the donations through Advantage customer service it only took 4 minutes. I feel great and I hope more of you are able to join in the Holiday Spirit. Even a 1000 miles can make a difference
    Thanks again Brian for getting this started

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