Using miles and points to book airline tickets and hotels for others
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The holidays are a time to spend with loved ones and, for many people, a season of giving. Points and miles can play a key role in both of these instances by making family travel both cheaper and more attainable, whether for yourself or as a gift for someone else.
Probably not surprisingly, some travel companies make it much easier than others to book travel for someone else. Luckily, there are a few tips to make things go smoother. Let’s take a closer look at how to use your points and miles to book tickets for a loved one.
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Booking an award ticket for someone else
Many airlines make it very easy to use your miles to book a ticket for someone else. The most important detail to be aware of is that you don’t need to transfer your miles to someone else to book a ticket in their name.
While a number of airlines offer mileage transfers, it’s often at a steep price. For example, United Airlines charges $7.50 per 500 miles transferred plus a $30 transaction fee. That means if you found a 25,000-mile award flight for someone, you’d spend $405 total for the privilege of just transferring them the miles.
Instead, you can book the ticket directly from your account. You’ll need all their secure flight info, such as date of birth and legal name as it appears on their ID, but you can book it for another passenger almost as easily as if you were booking for yourself. Most airlines make it pretty straightforward to book an award ticket online. In some cases, your elite status or credit cards may also help a family member secure a better price on an award flight.
Again using United as an example, that program makes extra award inventory available to elite members of their MileagePlus loyalty program. And if you hold certain United cobranded credit cards, you also get access to more award inventory even when booking for others.
This can be crucial for saving miles on award tickets. Where your elite status won’t help you is extending benefits such as free extra-legroom seats (Economy Plus on United, for example) or free checked bags as you’d have to also be on the reservation flying for those to extend to others.
When you can’t always share your perks and memberships
Though rare, there are some airlines that restrict booking to immediate family members. One example that comes to mind is ANA Mileage Club, which only allows you to book tickets for yourself and select family members.
Additionally, a handful of low-cost airlines such as Frontier and Spirit offer discount memberships. Frontier Airlines’ Discount Den program can be a great deal for families with programs like Kids Fly Free and Friends Fly Free. Spirit’s $9 Fare Club can save you money on select flights as well. Both programs work great for booking cheaper flights for a group of people.
Unfortunately, both programs require you to be one of the passengers on a reservation to take advantage of those discounts.
Booking a hotel room for friends or family using your hotel points
The major hotel loyalty programs generally allow you to use your points to book a hotel room for someone else.
Marriott allows you to book a room in someone else’s name, though you’ll have to call and work with a phone agent to establish the booking. Once you’ve made the booking with a phone agent it will appear in your Marriott Bonvoy account like any other reservation. The phone agent will require a credit card to guarantee the reservation, though it generally won’t be charged unless you cancel past the cutoff time.
Hilton also allows you to use your points to book rooms for friends and family. And fortunately, this can even be done online. You’ll want to make sure you search for rooms for two adults on the Hilton website. Once you select your property, the confirmation screen will have an area where you can designate a second guest.
As long as you select two adults (or more) and fill their name in as pictured above, that’s enough to allow them to check in without you.
Hyatt has arguably the best benefit when it comes to booking award rooms for someone else, though the goodies are only for folks who hold top-tier Globalist status in the World of Hyatt program. Hyatt allows you to make award bookings online but you’ll need to get a phone agent involved to add someone else to the reservation.
For Globalist members, your Guest of Honor benefit can turn a gift into a really great experience for a family member or friend.
When you make a Guest of Honor booking for someone, they enjoy virtually all of the same benefits you would receive if you were staying. This includes free breakfast, guaranteed late checkout and even complimentary suite upgrades when available.
One of the few restrictions of a Guest of Honor booking is that you can’t apply Globalist suite upgrade awards to the bookings. You can use free night certificates for someone else in conjunction with a Guest of Honor booking. And your “Guest of Honor” will earn elite credit for the stay.
It’s hard to disagree that Hyatt Globalist members enjoy one of the most rewarding benefits when it comes to using your points for friends and family.
Transferring hotel points to someone else
Similar to airlines, some hotel chains charge a fee to transfer your points. IHG Rewards charges $5 per 1,000 points, for example. Other chains, such as Marriott and Hyatt, readily allow transfers with some caveats.
Marriott will allow you to transfer up to 100,000 points per calendar year to another member. With the impending elimination of their award charts (and high-end properties already costing 100,000 points per night) this limit won’t get you very far in the middle and high end of the award spectrum. If you do go that route, you’ll also need to call Marriott to transfer points.
Hyatt allows point transfers “to have a sufficient number of points to redeem a particular award” without a fee. Hyatt also only allows you to transfer or receive points once every 30 days, and you’ll be required to fill out a form and send it in, so allow some time for the transfer to happen since the process is manual.
Even though it may be easier to transfer points to someone else, consider what happens if circumstances change and you have to cancel the reservation. Getting the points back can be a bit of a pain compared to making the reservation in your own account. The best reason to transfer points would be to top off a friend’s or relative’s account so they can afford to book the room themselves.
Or, send them to the Super Bowl
Often overlooked as a fun option, experiences can be an incredible value for your miles and points.
You can attend concerts, races, private culinary events and even sporting events such as the Super Bowl. Or, in keeping with the theme of this story, you can often book those things using your points for someone else. For example, if you have a big Marriott Bonvoy balance right now, you can redeem points for a handful of different Super Bowl packages.
Marriott Bonvoy Moments started as SPG Moments prior to Marriott acquiring Starwood. Many moons ago when it was operating under that name, I redeemed my SPG points for my wife to take a tennis lesson with Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open. Almost 10 years later, my wife hasn’t forgotten that moment. It may very well be my finest point redemption ever.
When to use miles and points for someone else
There really is no better gift than an experience and there are two obvious examples of how and when to use your miles and points to make the holidays more special.
First, think about ways that you can use them to bring your loved ones closer together. If you’re the one hosting the big family gathering, consider using your miles to fly some far-away family members in to spend time with extended family. After all, airline tickets around the holidays can be very expensive and if you can eliminate the financial burden of getting together with some miles, that may be of tremendous use to them.
While the shift away from a standard award chart and toward dynamic award pricing has also caused the number of miles necessary to book around the holidays to increase, there are still gems out there. I managed to find a flight for my cousin to visit for Thanksgiving for just over 20,000 miles round-trip on United, which was far better than cash fares for the flights.
The other great way to use miles and points is as a gift for someone else.
Wrap up a grass skirt and some sunscreen and give a Hawaii vacation to someone you love. Or, keep it simple and awesome and give them a note that says “redeem for two tickets anywhere in the world.” That will almost certainly result in one of the best holiday gift reactions you’ve ever seen.
You don’t have to break the bank to give great gifts this holiday season. Instead, you can use some of your points and miles stash to book hotels and airfare for your loved ones. Remember, some programs let you transfer points to other members, but you’re generally best off simply booking a stay or flight outright.
And whether you have the points budget to gift a trip to anywhere or simply to come to visit you, there’s really no better gift than the ability to travel, gather and experience.
Featured photo by Halfpoint/Shutterstock.com.
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