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TPG reader Danny sent me a message on Facebook to ask about selling travel rewards:
“Where can I sell my points and miles for top dollar?”
I get a lot of questions like this — some from readers like Danny and others from people who mistakenly think I’m a mileage broker myself. I can understand the temptation to exchange points and miles for cash, especially if you have no plans to use them. However, attempting to buy or sell travel rewards outside of authorized channels is a bad idea for several reasons, and while it’s not on this list of costly award travel mistakes, I strongly advise against it.
For starters, you’d be violating the terms and conditions of your loyalty account. Selling points and miles is not permitted, and loyalty programs don’t take kindly to it. Increasingly sophisticated tools are being used to identify unusal activity (like pricey awards booked in the name of someone you don’t know), and your account could be shut down if you’re caught. When that happens, you’ll likely come away with nothing, all your rewards will be forfeited and you could be banned from the program entirely. So you’re not just risking the rewards you already have, you’re also risking your ability to earn rewards and elite status in the future.
Another reason to be wary is the risk of getting ripped off. You can certainly find mileage brokers who are on the level, but there are also plenty of scammers out there who will take your money or miles and disappear. You often have no recourse in this case — you’re breaking the rules to begin with, so you can’t appeal to the loyalty program for assistance. Once your points or miles are gone, there’s no getting them back.
Even if you’re able to sell your rewards without trouble, you’re not likely to get good value for them. Rates vary with demand, but you won’t be paid anything close to what you could get by redeeming them yourself. Mileage brokers need to turn a profit, so they can only offer you a fraction of what your rewards are worth. If you’re going to cash in points and miles for around one cent apiece, you might as well just look for a credit card that earns cash-back rewards, or at least play it safe and redeem for merchandise or gift cards (though I don’t recommend doing that either).
If you’re thinking of selling rewards because the expiration date is approaching, keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to keep your points and miles active. Even if you have no plans to travel yourself, you can always use your points and miles to book awards for friends and family. If you’re looking to buy, I suggest you keep an eye out for promotional sales from airlines, hotels and authorized third parties. You’ll pay a higher price, but you won’t have to worry about getting shut down.
For more info on how to get good value out of redeeming your rewards, check out these posts:
- How to maximize value with Chase Ultimate Rewards, Amex Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Citi ThankYou Rewards
- How to book awards with Delta, American, United, Alaska, Virgin America and Air Canada
If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at email@example.com.