Can I Earn Airline Miles from Someone Else's Ticket?
TPG reader Tyler emailed me to ask about earning airline miles:
“My wife and I each have our own frequent flyer accounts, and we each earn miles when we pay for flights. It would be easier if we could accumulate the miles in one account, since we'd build up a larger balance more quickly. Is there a way to get credit for both passengers while using only one frequent flyer number?"
The points and miles game can be more challenging when you travel as a couple or in a larger group. You need to find greater availability for the flights and hotels you want to book, but even before that, you have to coordinate how you earn rewards in the first place. Tyler has the right idea in thinking about how to accumulate miles efficiently, and while you can't bank someone else's flights to your own individual account, there are other solutions.
Most frequent flyer programs only allow you to credit mileage to the account of the person flying. Inputting the same frequent flyer number for two different passengers wouldn't work, because the name on the account has to match the name on the ticket. Most likely, the miles simply wouldn't be credited, if the number's even accepted at all. (I suppose it might work for two people with identical names and birthdates, though.)
Some airlines let you share or pool rewards in a household account (typically among family or other designated members), so you can effectively earn and redeem together. Unfortunately, JetBlue is the only domestic airline to offer this as a standard feature (Hawaiian Airlines allows free sharing only with select co-branded credit cardholders). The good news is that transferable points programs are more flexible when it comes to sharing points, so it's less of a concern if you tend to earn rewards through spending more than travel.
If your airline of choice doesn't make teamwork easy when it comes to earning miles, then the best solution is to get creative about how you redeem them. You can book award flights for other people, and most programs let you book one-way awards at half the price of a round-trip. For example, consider a round-trip domestic award that costs 25,000 miles per person: If you have 40,000 miles and your travel companion has 15,000, you could book both outbound flights for 12,500 miles apiece, and then you could each book your own return flight. You'd end up with a few separate reservations, but it would get the job done.
If you're desperate, most airlines will let you transfer miles to another member for a fee. I generally don't recommend this, because the cost to transfer is greater than what the rewards are worth in the first place. However, paying to transfer can make sense if you just need a few miles to top off your account, especially if the award you're booking is particularly valuable.
For more on earning, sharing and transferring points, check out these posts:
- Pool, Share and Transfer Hotel Points to Maximize Rewards
- Can I Earn Frequent Flyer Miles for Buying Multiple Seats?
- Should I Pay to Transfer Points or Miles to My Account?