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Donate Your Unused Miles and Credit Card Points to Charity

November 26, 2018

Have you gotten a message from your credit card company telling you to “cash in your points before they expire”? You can donate airline miles and points to charity instead of doing something last minute, points3blike scrolling through the choices and picking another home decorator item you don’t actually want.

Converting something you don’t need into support for a cause, like donating a car to charity, is a practical way to show your generosity. If you aren’t planning a trip and you don’t want anything your points can buy, you can donate unused or soon-to-expire miles or points.

Donated miles can benefit many different charities.

Whether your passion is animal rescue, children’s education or another great cause, there are many ways to support a favorite non-profit group. Miles donations have brought comfort, safety and relief to people through a variety of charity groups.

Americans have become increasingly aware of the challenges faced by returning members of the military. Statistics show that approximately 22 veterans per day commit suicide – a sobering thought by many standards. Families of military members suffer as well, in part, because of both the physical and emotional health issues that affect everyone in the household.

You can donate a car to veterans and help the work of a related 501(c)(3) to bring relief to the wounded and support to their families. The Wounded Warrior Project and the USO are two of the best-known organizations, but any non-profit that serves veterans can receive the benefit of your car donation. 

There are also ways to support veterans if you’ve earned points from your bank or credit card companypoints4 that you don’t plan to use. For instance, the Hero Miles Program is offered by five different airlines and benefits individuals from the military. The non-profit helps injured service members and their families stay connected during treatment, flying family members to and from their loved one who is in a VA hospital or military facility.

It’s a successful benefit program for the Fisher House Foundation, with nearly 100,000 tickets booked and awarded so far. 

Because the presence of family helps patients in the healing process, over 8 million lodging days have been given by Fisher House so far, and Hero Miles provides the transportation. Airlines work cooperatively with the organization, waiving booking fees and rescheduling emergency flights as needed, without charging extra.

Your miles donations can also provide funding to help patients with life-threatening medical conditions by supporting cancer research and treatment. A non-profit medical center can receive a financial boost, which means more patient care from nurses and a greater level of healing options.

You can benefit children with life-threatening diseases through a car donation to a Children’s Hospital or a charity like the Childhood Leukemia Foundation or March of Dimes.

Most major airlines allow you to donate your miles to charity.

Transferring your miles to benefit a charity is a widely accepted practice, but each airline has its own guidelines.

American Airlines

points1According to American Airlines, more than 60,000 AAdvantage members donated more than 140,000,000 miles in one year through its Kids In Need program, which provides transportation to hundreds of families of children that need medical, educational and social services.

Miles of Hope is the airline’s program contributing to organizations that give food, clothing and shelter to individuals through trusted organizations such as the American Red Cross. The program enables members to make 1,000 miles donations per gifting through the program.

AAdvantage members can support the military through Miles for All Who Serve. It assists organizations that support veterans, members of the military and their families.

Delta Airlines

The flexibility allowed by Delta Airlines’ miles donations program enables you to buy, gift, transfer or donate miles to a cause. Through your SkyMiles account you can gift miles to someone who needs to get from Point A to Point B.

Unlike a vehicle donation to charity, which is tax-deductible, your miles can be transferred to up to four recipients as a simple gift. A friend or family member who lacks the miles they need for a trip can utilize yours, which puts them to use, even when you don’t. There are terms and conditions, including transaction fees.

Southwest Airlines

Points for a Purpose is Southwest Airlines’ program, which allows you to donate to the following nine different charities:

• All Hands Volunteers
• American Red Cross
• Dream Foundation
• Honor Flight Network
• Team Rubicon
• The Mission Continues
• Make-a-Wish
• Ronald McDonald House
• Student Conservation Association

United Airlines

MileagePlus members can make donations to the American Red Cross through United’s charity program. You can do more than just award travel points – you can donate frequent flyer miles and help people in need.

With a minimum of 500 miles, you can donate airline miles to charity through United’s Airline Ambassadors. MileagePlus frequent flyer miles can combat human trafficking by supporting humanitarian teams sent by the airline throughout the world, saving orphans and other vulnerable children.

Alaska Airlines

The charity miles program at Alaska Airlines offers Mileage Plan members the chance to support any number of charities, including:points2

Angel Flight West
Dream Foundation
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Foundation
Hero Miles
Make-a-Wish Foundation
United Negro College Fund
Medical Teams International
National Forest Foundation
The Nature Conservancy

JetBlue

The ball is in your court when you donate airline miles to charity through JetBlue. You can donate TrueBlue points to any charity you choose. The points go directly to the non-profit. 

With three simple steps you can give your miles to support the work of a charity you admire and trust. All they have to do is accept the transfer. First, choose a charity; second, decided on a quantity of miles to transfer; and third, give them to the cause!

Some charities accept miles donations directly without going through an airline.

To donate airline miles and points to charity, you don’t have to go through an airline’s program. You can transfer your frequent flyer miles directly to a favorite cause as well.

Your miles can be the vehicle that flies a victim of tragic circumstances to a new home. Miles4Migrants uses miles donations to help those who have been displaced by war and oppression.

Leaders of the non-profit combined donations from a church congregation and came up with $12,000 for nine plane tickets from Burundi to Toronto. Members of St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church in Canada had learned a parishioner’s husband and eight children were granted permanent residence visas to join her in Canada, but she couldn’t afford to fly them over from the Republic of Burundi in East Africa.

The Burundian family’s arrival was the first time the charity worked with a Canadian organization to reunite refugees — and the 350,000 miles was the highest mileage redeemed on a single case for the group since its inception in September 2016, according to an article in The Star.

Miles4Migrants is run online by volunteers and has had more than 39 million airline miles pledged from donors around the world and has flown individuals to join their loved ones in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.

The charity only assists refugees whose separated families have been issued legal permanent residence visas from the receiving country and are referred by community.

Make-A-Wish America is a well-known non-profit group making fantasies into reality for kids who are ill. points5The pediatric patients have become more ambitious since the first wish was granted in 1980 to a child who wanted to become a policeman. In 2016, fulfilling a typical wish cost about $10,000.

More than 77% of all wishes have a travel component, the non-profit’s website says. Granting every wish that comes in would require 50,000 round-trip tickets each year.

“More than 168 million airline miles were donated to Make-A-Wish,” says Josh deBerge, director of communications for Make-A-Wish America. “To put this into context, Make-A-Wish would need more than 2.8 billion airline miles to cover all air-related costs for wish kids and their families.”

Demand is always high, as children contract terminal illnesses continually. Your miles donations can help to offset the high cost of bringing happiness to these special kids.

You can also donate points to charity from your credit card companies.

Donated charity miles are not tax-deductible, like a car charity donation, but credit card points can be, which is one advantage over miles donations.

American Express cardholders can transfer points through the Members Give Program. It allows individuals to donate their points to one or more charities, making the process of charitable giving much easier. AmEx emails you a receipt for your records so you can write it off your taxes.

Cardholders can even do it on a regular basis: You can arrange recurring donations, which are a tax-deductible way to give back.

Citi Card has its PointWorthy Program for its members. Cardholders can currently participate in a promotion with Hilton Honors, which will match donated points to any charity. These benefit the cause you choose and donations are tax-deductible. 

Some of the charities that are front-and-center in the PointWorthy program are California wildfire efforts and other disaster relief programs.

Discover Card encourages their cardholders to donate their cashback bonuses to one of the eight charities they partner with. Discover will contribute an additional $25,000 to the charity that receives the most contributions from their members.

The sky’s the limit points6when it comes to ways you can benefit your fellow man, woman and child. But for many of us, just donating raw cash isn’t always possible.

It’s mutually beneficial when we find a way to fund the hard work of organizations putting food, clean water, safety and other needs into the lives of the powerless. They get funding and the giver receives a tax benefit.

Something we have in our possession – miles, points, a car we no longer use – can bring those good deeds to life. When you donate airline miles and points to charity, or donate your car to charity, you join that effort.