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TPG reader Paul posted the following question on my Facebook wall:
“My kids’ school is doing a charity auction and I would like to offer up miles as a prize. Can I transfer miles into someone else’s account without fees?”
Donating miles to charity can be one of the most fulfilling ways to put your frequent flyer miles to use. I recently teamed up with American Airlines to give away 1 million miles to the Kids in Need program and flew along with the Snowball Express to Dallas in December when the airline hosted the families of fallen military heroes, and it was a great feeling to be able to help those who needed the miles much more than I did.
So to Paul’s question – the quick answer is no. The airlines will still charge you a transfer fee, usually around 1 cent per mile plus a processing fee, whether you want to donate them to charity or not. You could always try calling the airline’s frequent flyer program and telling them what the transfer is for and asking them to waive the fees since it never hurts to ask. But in general, you’re going to get charged for moving your miles around. That’s especially true because airlines run their own charity programs to which you can donate miles and they prefer you donate your miles through them.
If you really want to use your miles for charity, I’d suggest looking into reputable organizations that accept miles such as Make-A-Wish, American Airlines’ Kids in Need Program, and others directly through your airline of choice.