Giving the Wedding Gift of Miles - Registries, Transfers, Upgrades, and More
Spring has sprung, and that means wedding season is here! If you have weddings to attend, points and miles make great gift options for those wanting to contribute to the honeymoon. We asked TPG reader Lori Zaino to show us how it's done.
Giving the gift of travel to newlyweds has become much more popular recently. Websites like Honeyfund make it easy for you to give the "gift" of a honeymoon via travel ( or as straight up cash with a pretty bow on it). However, points and miles offer another way to help happy couples fulfill their travel ambitions.
Here are a couple ways to leverage your miles and points to help give the gift of travel as a wedding gift:
1. Purchase plane tickets or hotel stays for the couple with your miles/points.
This option is the cheapest and easiest. Simply search for award flights or nights, and enter the bride/groom's information instead of your own. This option is most appropriate for very close friends or family, not for acquaintances or co-workers. This strategy works for most US airlines; however, some international airlines such as Korean Air only allow you to redeem for yourself and family, and you actually have to prove family relationships in order to do so. Make sure to check regulations for the airline in question before purchasing award tickets. Also, if possible on trips to Africa or on certain foreign carriers, have the recipient pay for any taxes and fees using their own credit card to avoid any hassle at check-in.
2. Transfer frequent flyer miles from your account to theirs, or buy miles for them.
These options are much more costly, as airlines charge a service fee plus a cost per mile (purchased or transferred), plus tax. Transferring or buying miles typically offers less value than direct redemptions, but may be worth the price in specific circumstances, such as when only a small number of miles are needed to redeem an award, or when other options are unavailable. Airlines routinely offer bonuses (such as those described below) for miles purchases or transfers, giving you more bang for your buck and making these options more viable.
American AAdvantage Miles: You have two options: shareAAmiles or giftAAmiles. AAdvantage is currently offering tiered bonuses of up to 30% when you purchase miles through June 13, 2014, so it might be the right time to take advantage of the giftAAmiles option. For purchasing 15,000-29,000 you get a bonus of 3,000 miles, for 30,000-44,000 you get a bonus of 7,500 miles, for 45,000-59,000 you get a bonus of 13,500 miles and for 60,000+ you get a bonus of 18,000 miles.
With the giftAAmiles program, each AAdvantage member is limited to purchasing or receiving a combined total of no more than 80,000 AAdvantage miles in a calendar year. The price per mile is 2.95 cents for purchases of 1,000 to 5,000 miles and 2.75 cents for purchases of 6,000 to 80,000, plus a 7.5% Federal Excise Tax and a processing fee of $30 per transaction. However, if you bought the 60,000, you'd get 18,000 bonus miles for a total of 78,000, bringing the cost down to 2.32 cents per mile.
The shareAAmiles program allows AAdvantage members to transfer miles from their AAdvantage accounts into those of other AAdvantage members. Members may transfer a maximum of 100,000 AAdvantage miles from their accounts per calendar year, and may receive a maximum of 100,000 AAdvantage miles from other accounts per calendar year. The cost to transfer miles starts at $20 for transfers of 1,000 miles up to $550 for transfers of 50,000 miles, plus a $35 processing fee per transaction.
Gifted and transferred miles do not count towards elite status qualification and are non-refundable.
In total you can gift and transfer up to 180,000 miles (assuming you have enough in your account), plus bonus miles if you act before June 13. However, remember you do not receive a bonus for any miles purchased over the 60,000-so that may be the winner number to purchase if you hope to get the best deal.
Delta: You can either gift or transfer Skymiles to another account.
The maximum amount of miles you can gift to a single account per year is 60,000 miles. There is also a minimum of 2,000 miles. The cost per mile is 3.5 cents, and miles must be purchased in increments of 1,000. There is also an additional 7.5% Federal tax on the total.
For miles transfers the rate is 1 cent per mile, and the processing fee per transaction is $30. There may also be an applicable tax. A maximum of 150,000 miles may be transferred out of any SkyMiles account per calendar year.
Like with the AAdvantage program, gifted and transferred miles do not count towards Medallion status qualification. In total you could gift and transfer up to 210,000 miles.
Southwest: Until May 31, 2014 you can get a 25% discount when you gift or transfer Rapid Rewards points.
Points can be bought as a gift or transferred in increments of 500 with an initial minimum purchase of 2,000 points and a daily combined maximum of 60,000 points. With the discount factored in, the cost to gift miles is approximately 2.06 cents per mile (normally 2.75 cents per mile). Transfers will cost you 0.75 cents per mile (normally 1 cent per mile). Keep in mind that the Rapid Rewards program is revenue-based; you'll be buying miles for 2 cents apiece, but they'll only be worth 1.4 cents apiece at redemption, so this option is undesirable unless you're exchanging just a small number of miles. Otherwise you're better off just buying a Southwest Airlines gift card, and if you do so at an office supply store like Staples or Office Depot, you can get 5 points per dollar by using an Ink Bold/ Plus/ Cash card.
In total you can gift/transfer 120,000 points per day.
United: You can transfer or purchase miles as a gift with the Mileage Plus program. Soon to be married couples can also set up a registry.*
You are allowed to transfer up to 100,000 MileagePlus miles to other MileagePlus accounts. Mileage transfers cost $15 per 1,000 miles with a $20 processing fee per transaction. All miles must be transferred in increments of 1,000, with a minimum of 2,000.
You can also gift miles. United offers an option to print gifted miles in the form of a gift certificate, which is nice to include in a wedding card. There is also an e-gift certificate available. Miles cost $35 per 1,000 plus a 7.5% tax. You can purchase a maximum of 150,000 MileagePlus miles per calendar year per recipient (there is no limit on the number of recipients).
Technically you could transfer/gift a total of 250,000 Mileage Plus miles to one person (for example the groom), and you could also gift up to 150,000 more to the bride.
*IF you're getting married, you can create a Mileage Plus Gift Registry which works like any other bridal registry-people have the option to gift or transfer miles into your account, but it is basically just the normal, expensive price to buy miles so it does not appear to offer any actual value.
US Airways: Through May 25, 2014, you can buy miles with a bonus of up to 100%. You can transfer or share miles with the Dividend Miles program, as well as set up a registry.*
You can transfer miles in 1,000-mile increments to another member's account for 1 cent per mile with a $30 processing fee, or you can earn up to 100% bonus miles (with a maximum of 50,000 bonus miles) for purchasing US Airways Miles by May 25, 2014. Purchasing 10,000-19,000 miles earns just a 50% bonus, while 20,000-29,000 miles earns a 75% bonus. Purchasing 30,000-50,000 miles earns the full 100% bonus. Miles normally cost 3.5 cents each plus a 7.5% tax, so this is an excellent deal especially if you choose to purchase 50,000 miles, which lowers the cost to just under 1.9 cents per mile.
*IF you have a wedding coming up, set up a gift registry where both Dividend members and non-members can purchase miles for you.
In conclusion, gifting and transferring miles can be costly, but it's a wonderful way to help a couple take their dream honeymoon. Transferring miles is cheaper, so if you can go that route, it will save you some money. Don't forget to use a points earning credit card when you purchase miles in order to get miles yourself.
3. Use Chase Ultimate Rewards points or Amex Membership Rewards to book award travel for others
You can use Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards to book travel directly through the respective websites (for yourself or, in this case, for the newlyweds). Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders get a 20% discount for travel booked with Ultimate Rewards points (e.g., a $500 flight costs only 40,000 points). Booking travel through these programs has the added benefit of being counted as a paid fare, so travelers will earn points and miles (unlike with award bookings).
While the option to transfer Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards directly between accounts is restricted to immediate family, you can alternatively transfer points from Chase and Amex into your own airline or hotel programs, and then book award travel for someone else as described above. Both Chase and Amex offer a variety of transfer partners, as listed below.
Chase Ultimate Rewards partners:
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Korean Air
- Virgin Atlantic
Amex Membership Rewards Transfer Partners
- Air Canada
- Asia Miles
- Best Western Rewards
- British Airways
- Choice Privileges
- El Al
- Air France/KLM
- Hilton HHonors
- Iberia Plus
- Jet Blue
- Singapore KrisFlyer
- Starwood SPG
- Virgin America
- Virgin Atlantic
4. Upgrade flights or hotel stays using your points and miles
If the couple has already booked their travel itinerary, you can still add a dash of luxury by upgrading their flights or hotel rooms. Those with top tier status at United and American can gift system-wide upgrades, which makes for a great gift with no money out of pocket. Many airlines and hotels also allow you to use your points and miles to upgrade someone else's travel. British Airways has a particularly generous upgrade program with Avios that involves no copays and offers high value. Upgrade policies vary widely, though, so contact the loyalty program in question. As usual, upgrades depend on availability, so make your move sooner rather than later.
These are just some ideas for how to give points and miles as a wedding gift. Stay tuned for coming posts in this series on how to maximize points on wedding gifts through shopping portals.