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Giving Tuesday: Donate Points & Miles To Those in Need

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We often get emails at TPG asking about using points and miles for things other than travel. If you don’t plan on using your points for flights or hotels, donating them is a great way to pay it forward. To help you narrow down some options, TPG Contributor Lori Zaino has mapped out some information for donating by airline, hotel or charity. 

Keep in mind that point and mile donations are not considered tax-deductible, as the IRS recognizes award points and miles as a gift from a corporation or to the individual. However, if you plan to donate large amounts, you can always contact a tax professional to check out your options.

DONATION INFORMATION BY AIRLINE

Help to fund disaster relief around the world with miles and points. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Help to fund disaster relief around the world with miles and points. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Alaska

Alaska only allows donations to a handful of charities. Donate your miles to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Foundation, a biomedical research institution, or Medical Teams International, which funds disaster relief. Note: Miles expire in 24 months.

American

Donation options include giving miles to kids in need (focusing on medical, educational and social services issues); donating miles to those who serve and organizations that work to support veterans, military members and their families; and Miles of Hope, which supports food, clothing, shelter, health, education and employment for those in need.

An alternative option is giving cash donations to Miles for the Cure. You’ll be awarded AAdvantage miles for every dollar you contribute to Susan G. Komen. Note: AA Miles expire after 18 months, and minimum donations of 1,000 are required for most charities.

Delta

You can support the training of service dogs by donating points and miles.
You can support the training of service dogs by donating points and miles. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Delta SkyMiles never expire, but donating them to charity is still an option. Delta has a myriad of options for donating and each associated charity has its own miles minimum for donations. TPG favorites include AMFAR, the foundation for AIDS research, and Canine Assistance, which trains service dogs that help those with special needs. Note: You can donate to up to five charities in one transaction. If you’re located in Europe, Latin America or Asia, there are specific European-based charities that you can donate your SkyMiles to as well.

JetBlue

As with Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue points don’t expire. Still, the carrier has a fairly long list of causes you can contribute your rewards to, spread out over three different categories: youth & education, community and environment. The New York Restoration project helps create beautiful spaces in the city; KaBoom creates playgrounds and spaces for children; and First Book provides education resources for children. Note: Minimum donation is 500 TrueBlue points.

United

United offers an option to simply donate your miles to Airlink, a company that links charity organizations with airlines that can offer free or discounted passenger and cargo space.United also works with several more local charity organizations such as Cleveland Clinic and Community Kitchens of Birmingham, allowing people to donate miles a little bit closer to where they may reside. Note: Minimum donations start at 500 miles.

Non-US Airlines

Airline programs outside the US also have opportunities for donating, so if you have points and miles balances with Lufthansa, Emirates or Aeroplan you can offer those up to charity. Virgin Atlantic also has a partnership with Free the Children where you can donate your Flying Club miles.

DONATION INFORMATION BY HOTEL PROGRAM

Hilton

Use your Hilton HHonors points towards a greater cause.
Use your Hilton HHonors points toward a greater cause.

Hilton operates its points donations through Point Worthy. You link your Hilton HHonors account to Point Worthy and from there you can transfer your points to the cause of your choice. The categories are environment, arts & culture and education, allowing you to donate your points to a huge variety of organizations such as the Smithsonian, animal rescue societies or universities such as Yale. Note: For every HHonors Point you donate, Hilton will submit an equivalent cash donation on your behalf to the organization and/or cause of your choice. Minimum donations are 4,000 points.

Hyatt

You can donate Hyatt Gold Passport points in increments of 5,000 to Mercy Corps to help those affected by natural disasters. For each 5,000-point donation, $50 will be given to Mercy Corps. Note: To donate, call 1-800-228-3360 in the US and Canada or +1-402-593-8615 from everywhere else.

Marriott

Marriott’s donation program isn’t extensive, but you can still donate points to two charities: Hotels for Heroes, which helps provide hotel rooms for family members of wounded military service members, and the Red Cross.

Starwood

Donating points and miles to organizations like Unicef can help children around the world. Photo courtesy of Lori Zaino.
Donating points and miles to organizations like Unicef can help children around the world. Photo courtesy of Lori Zaino.

You have the option Starpoints to three charities: Unicef, Red Cross and Clean the World, which is dedicated to improving hygiene around the world by recycling hotel soap, among other things.

IHG Rewards

You can also use your IHG Reward points toward Shelter in a Storm. Donating 2,500 points buys a mattress for someone who has been displaced due to a natural disaster; 5,000 points buys a solar-powered lamp; and 10,000 points buys a tool kit.

DONATION INFORMATION BY CHARITY

Donating to Hero Miles through the Fisher House can help bring family members to see veterans.
Donating to Hero Miles through the Fisher House can help bring family members to see veterans.

We highly recommend doing some research on your selected charity before donating, and Charity Navigator is a great resource. Please note that TPG is not affiliated with any of the below charities; these are simply some options that accept points and miles.

Fisher House is an organization where veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. The charity operates the Hero Miles program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members as well as the Hotels for Heroes program which uses donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge. It accepts miles and points from several different airlines and hotels. Minimums for each airline program, along with information on how to donate, is listed on the Fisher House website.

Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. The organization accepts points and miles donations from airlines like American, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest and United. Minimums vary by airline and range from 500 to 2,000.

Make-A-Wish helped make Deacon's wish come true. Photo courtesy of Make-A-Wish Facebook page.
Make-A-Wish helped make Deacon’s wish come true. Photo courtesy of Make-A-Wish Facebook page.

If you want to be sure your miles get properly used, you can consider contributing to an organization such as Women of Hope International, which assists women with disabilities in West Africa. The organizations works with you to help bring field staff to the US for training programs or get staff to conferences. Your miles could be used to book a staff member a ticket, or you could give the charity access to your loyalty program account in order to them to book the ticket, ensuring your miles are really used for the greater good.

CREDIT CARD DONATIONS

You can donate Citi ThankYou points to various charities through Points Worthy.
You can donate Citi ThankYou points to various charities through Points Worthy.

You can also donate points earned through credit cards through various issuers:

Also note that if you’d prefer to donate money to a charity rather than points, consider putting your transactions on the FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature card, which always offers triple points on charitable donations, assuming the organization is properly categorized.

TPG loves Peace Jam!
TPG loves Peace Jam!

Finally, we have to mention one of TPG’s favorite charities, PeaceJam. This wonderful organization uses the resources and wisdom of 13 Nobel Laureates — from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to the Dalai Lama — and inspires today’s youth to become leaders and create positive change on a global level. Get involved by joining the One Billion Acts of Peace movement, where you can create and share acts of peace on social media. Check out Episode 2 of TPGtv to learn more about TPG’s involvement with PeaceJam and how you can help.

Share your favorite charities to donate to — with points and miles or otherwise — in the comments below.

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