Sunday Reader Email Question: How Do I Book Awards for Others?

Aug 21, 2011

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TPG Reader Karin writes:

“Would you please consider an analysis (… or point me to someone else’s) of airlines whose awards can be shared, and under what conditions?  With family or non-family; with restrictions; and at what cost?

BA’s conditions appear very rigid – award miles are shareable only with family members, only if you live at the same address, and a max of 19,000 points a year – and you pay for the privilege.  It’s not clear whether one can flat-out purchase an award flight for another person, family or non-, as opposed to transferring miles.

Also not clear whether this is a BA rule, or applies to all oneworld partners – that would be important to know.

The Miles+More website seems to let you buy an award ticket for anyone you want.  This should be encouraged!

Haven’t looked into Flying Blue, Skyteam, AsiaMiles or others…  my interest is mainly in major international carriers, but if partner airlines apply different rules to sharing award miles that would be a brilliant loophole.”

Okay, first things first – you are confusing the concept of physically transferring miles to another person and booking an award for them. BA does limit transfers (and mileage purchases), but not booking awards for other people. Under a normal account, you can book tickets for whomever you’d like. If you have a BA Household Account, you can only book for someone in your Household. Adding people to your Household is very easy and can be done online.

Beyond British Airways, almost every frequent flyer program allows you to book awards for other people, so it really doesn’t make any sense to transfer miles unless you need to top up a mileage account (or take advantage of Delta’s current lucrative transfer miles promotion). Most allow booking online, so you just enter in the person’s name when it comes time to redeem.

Another aspect of transferring miles is with respect to American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Both programs allow you to transfer your points to other people’s accounts, instantly and free of charge (besides the normal excise fees).

For example, you can link another person’s Delta SkyMiles account to your American Express Membership Rewards account (membershiprewards.com -> Points Summary -> Link Additional programs) and then transfer miles directly into their account. This even works for promotions, like the 50% bonus and 25,000 elite miles when you transfer at least 100,000 Amex points to Delta. If you got the bonus for yourself, you can still transfer points to someone else and they’d be eligible as well since most Delta promos are pegged to your Delta account – not American Express account.

This flexibility is one of the reasons why Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards points are extremely valuable. If a family member/friend needs a little boost to be able to book an award, I can instantly top up their account – I’ve been a hero on multiple occasions because I knew about this option.

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