Why I Don’t Sell Miles and Points

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Folks often wonder what to do if they have airline miles that they can’t use, or that might be expiring soon.  And Million Mile Secrets’ readers have asked if it’s okay to sell miles they won’t be using to online agencies that buy frequent flyer miles (“Miles Brokers”).

It’s NOT okay.  I would never sell my miles or points to a broker, even if I could make good money doing it.

I’ll explain why, and give you some better options for getting rid of miles you can’t use.

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

Ticket Brokers Will Pay You Cash for Miles, but It’s NOT a Good Idea!

How Do Folks Sell Their Miles?

I won’t list them here because I don’t want to promote their business, but there are a number of online brokers that will buy miles from folks who can’t use them.  Depending on the frequent flyer program, these agencies will pay between 0.8 and 2 cents per mile.

The brokers then turn around and book award tickets for customers who pay them a fraction of the price of a paid ticket.  Usually these customers are looking for cheap First or Business Class seats.  They may ask you to log into your frequent flyer account and make the booking yourself in the customer’s name.

But your name and frequent flyer number are still linked to the ticket, even though the ticket is for someone else!

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

Brokers Will Use Your Miles and Frequent Flyer Account to Book Award Tickets for Their Customers, Often in Business or First Class

While there’s nothing wrong with booking award tickets for others with your miles (Emily and I do this often for our family, for example), selling your miles violates the terms and conditions of every major frequent flyer program.

And very bad things can happen if you get caught!

Is This Legal?

There are no US laws (except in Utah) that prevent you from selling your miles to others.  So you can’t be charged with a crime if you do this.

However, you’re breaking the rules of the airline’s frequent flyer program.  For example, American Airlines AAdvantage program terms and conditions say:

At no time may AAdvantage mileage credit or award tickets be purchased, sold or bartered (including but not limited to transferring, gifting, or promising mileage credit or award tickets in exchange for support of a certain business, product, or charity and/or participation in an auction, sweepstakes, raffle, or contest).  Any such mileage or tickets are void if transferred for cash or other consideration.  Violators (including any passenger who uses a purchased or bartered award ticket) may be liable for damages and litigation costs, including American Airlines attorney’s fees incurred in enforcing this rule.

And United Airlines Mileage Plus rules are very clear:

The sale or barter or attempted sale or barter of any such mileage, certificates, awards or benefits other than as authorized and/or sponsored by United is expressly prohibited.  Any mileage, certificates, awards or benefits transferred, assigned or sold in violation of the Program Rules, in addition to exposing the member to the penalties otherwise associated with violations, may be confiscated or canceled.  The use of award tickets that have been acquired by purchase, barter or other conduct in violation of Program Rules may result in termination of membership, cancellation of accrued mileage, certificates, awards or benefits, confiscation of the tickets, denial of boarding with respect to the ticket holder, and, at United’s discretion, completion of the travel only upon payment of an applicable fare.

All major US airlines have similar language in their frequent flyer program rules.

What Happens If You’re Caught?

Selling your miles is a very risky proposition.  Though many folks don’t get caught, some do, and the consequences can be bad for both you and the passenger using your miles.

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

If Caught, the Airlines Can Cancel Tickets, Take All Your Miles Away, Freeze Your Account, or Worse!

And the airlines have really ramped up their fraud prevention departments in the last few years.  They’re able to detect unusual account activity quite easily now, and even audit folks who legitimately use their miles to book tickets for friends or family.

Folks on this FlyerTalk thread report a wide range of penalties imposed by the airlines if they catch you, including:

  • Cancellation of the award ticket
  • Confiscation of any remaining miles in your frequent flyer account
  • Freezing or cancelling your frequent flyer account
  • Removal of elite status, upgrades, or any other perks associated with your frequent flyer account
  • Attempts by airline to recover costs by threatening to sue, making you pay for a full fare ticket, etc.

The consequences are just NOT worth it.  And most folks who get caught end up regretting the decision to sell their miles!

Plus, folks who do this are taking available award seats away from those of us who use our miles legitimately and want to travel.

So What Can You Do With Miles You Can’t Use?

Nobody wants to see their miles go to waste.  Here are some ideas for what to do with airline miles you can’t use yourself.

1.   Book Award Tickets for Your Friends and Family

Maybe you can’t use the miles, but have friends or family who can.  You can book award tickets for anyone using your miles, as long as you’re not getting paid for them.  So why not treat your parents, siblings, or close friends to a trip they otherwise might not have been able to afford?

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

We Took Our Family to Hong Kong and Macau Last Christmas

Emily and I often use our miles to travel with our family.  It’s our way of sharing the joy of getting Big Travel with Small Money!

You can also share miles with friends and family, but you’ll pay fees.  For example, American Airlines charges $20 per 1,000 points you share, plus a $35 processing fee.  But you won’t pay fees if you book tickets for loved ones directly.

2.   Redeem or Transfer Miles Through Points.com

You can transfer miles between frequent flyer programs through Points.com.  You can also trade miles with other frequent flyers, or redeem miles for merchandise, dining, Paypal credit, or gift cards.

Although airlines prohibit bartering miles, they’re collecting fees when you trade through Points.com, so in this case it’s okay.

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

You Can Trade Miles With Other Points.com Users, but Will Pay Substantial Fees

I don’t normally recommend this, because you’ll lose a lot of miles in the transfer and will be charged fees (similar to what the airlines charge to transfer miles themselves).  And if you’re trading miles for gift cards or merchandise, it’s not a very good value.

For example, a $100 Bed Bath and Beyond gift card costs over 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles!  I’d rather use those miles for a round-trip ticket.

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

You Can Get Gift Cards for Your Miles, but It’s Not a Good Value

But if your miles are going to expire anyway (or you really have no better use for them), this could be a good deal for you.

3.   Donate Miles to Charity

Most major US airlines give you the opportunity to donate miles to different charities.  I like this idea very much!  Wouldn’t you feel good knowing your miles have helped a child visit Disneyworld through Make-A-Wish America, or allowed wounded soldiers to travel for treatment at a military hospital?

Why I Dont Sell Miles And Points

You Can Donate Miles to Organizations Like Make-a-Wish and Help Sick Kids’ Wishes Come True

Here are some of the programs you can donate your extra miles to:

Note:   Donations of airline miles are generally not tax-deductible.

Bottom Line

If you have airline miles you can’t use or that are expiring soon, you might be tempted to sell them to an online miles broker.  But it’s NOT a good idea!  You could lose all your miles, have your frequent flyer account frozen, and worse!

There are many better ways to use those miles, like treating friends and family to a trip, donating to charity, or using Points.com to transfer or redeem miles for gift cards, merchandise, or Paypal credit.

Have you ever sold miles?  Do you regret it?  What other ways have you gotten rid of miles you can’t use?

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16 responses to “Why I Don’t Sell Miles and Points

  1. I have sold miles. I will not state the buyer’s name here, out of respect, and overall it was a better than not situation. My initial miles and points accumulation was all about the conversion to cash. This made me very tempted to sell my AA miles when I found an interested buyer. AA points are a bit trickier for me to use, due to my personal situation, so when I got the chance to sell them I took it. Almost exactly a year later I was contacted by AA in regards to the situation. They sent me a very stern email letting me know that they felt I violated the T&C and yadda yadda. They were absolutely correct, and they had also stated that I needed to prove myself innocent if I were in fact. I sent them a brief email in which I did not reveal any information about the buyer and took the blame all onto myself. The final result, they removed some points (not all points) from my account. End of story. It was still worth it to me, as AA points are not as valuable as others, and if I had to do it over again I would have still gone through with the sale. I would not do this with the airlines I do use, but outside of that you have to decide on what the best value for you is. I have also sold other kinds of points and the value was good enough that I would do it again. Each individual has to weigh the pros and cons and decide why they collect points. As of today, I have less interest in selling points as I see more value in the experience and vacation/traveling opportunities that those points offer. I have also narrowed my focus to going after the points that make the most sense. Selling makes sense for certain points/situations, but as I see it becoming more difficult and risky I see my own focus moving in a safer and more worthwhile direction.

  2. I disagree completely with this article. The only one that can get in trouble is the one buying the miles. They are going after the big fish. They don’t care about someone who just sells 50K points from a signup bonus. They care about the buyer whose buying 1 million points per day.

  3. So I see the “utah is the exception” all over the Internet and can’t find one reference except to another random post. I’m dubious but I might be wrong….can anyone provide a reference to utah statutes or a case or something solid? It seems like it’s just something someone said and now everyone perpetuates it without ever dong any checking. Let me know if I’m wrong. 🙂

  4. I don’t sell miles because I make bank off credit card referrals.

  5. If I purchase the Awards ticket (AA) paying taxes and fees with my credit card, use my friend’s name on the ticket and then have her pay an amount for the ticket, is this also a no-no or will this be okay? She , by the way, has an AA mileage awards account but does not have enough miles to travel. Another question- will AA only call the seller about this or will AA call the buyer to ask?

  6. @Jane: you’ll be fine, you’re allowed to book award tickets for others, they’re just not “allowed” to give you money for it. Your friend just needs to state it was a gift if asked by the airline.

  7. @sellmiles: I was a mileage broker from 1991 to 1998 and there’s a reason I stopped.
    Back “in the day” Southwest didn’t care if you sold their Rapid Rewards. They do now.
    Other airlines always cared, and I can point you to plenty of lawsuits against brokers and plenty of closed mileage accounts, the latter mainly occurring as a result of one of the largest brokers being involved in a massive Ponzi scheme (see Raejean Bonham wiki).
    There were plenty of other accounts closed when an airline’s security department asked the traveler who gave them their tickets and they did not know.
    Bad brokers who would not explain the deal to the customer, and frequent flyers who repeatedly sold miles to brokers that were used for travel all over the country , where the ff was not also traveling resulted in closed accounts.
    I’ll admit it was a small percentage that got caught, but frankly I could always cancel my credit card charge if I was the passenger…..you can’t get your ff account back

  8. I’ve never sold miles or points but years ago I did attempt to sell a discount voucher that was a premium with the NWA World Perks Visa. After listing it on e Bay my current reservations and account were frozen. I got a threatening cease and desist email, so I backed off pretty quickly. Agree with Darius– it just isn’t worth it. Enjoy what you’ve earned within the rules and if you bit off more than you can chew, take the opportunity to do something nice for someone.

  9. Totally disagree with this article. If you do things right, it should not be a problem at all! Selling miles is not illegal in any way!

  10. I have AA miles that I want to sell because AA has changed their rewards travel so that it is nearly impossible to get a decent flight. I have tried to book internationally and domestically and it always requires ridiculous overnight layovers,leaving and returning from different airports,date changes, etc. So I canceled my AA rewards card and will not fly American anyway, so it wont bother me if they close my FF account. I have found that it is harder to find a buyer for AA miles.

  11. I think it also depends on the situation.

    Situation 1. You signup for a CC for the mile bonus and don’t plan on using the CC to accumulate more miles, not much can go wrong in that situation. Worst case they freeze the card and your at no loss.

    Situation 2, You have a platinum Airline card and travel a lot and love those additional perks like upgrades and lounge access your risk is much higher.

    I think your better off seeing if a family or friend is flying somewhere and offer to book it for them via points and they pay you cash for the ticket (throw in a discount to them), win win. Most people know someone who is flying often and its an easy win-win for both people.

  12. Total BS. Sold miles for years, made thousands of dollars, and never had a problem.

  13. I have sold miles before, but some of the companies who do this I have had horrible experiences with. One of them is MilesMoola.com. I submitted for a quote, and honestly they provided the best price for my Southwest miles. After confirming that I would accept the quote and providing my secure airline account info, I never heard from them. I called them the next day, and the gentlemen on the phone was very rude and basically said he would get back to me tomorrow. Several days went by and still no word (all they while they are sitting on my account info), and after following up with an email asking if they are going to proceed, I get a reply within 10 minutes saying “no thanks. Please send elsewhere”. Amazing. They could have at least used proper grammar.

    In any case, DO NOT USE MilesMoola.com.

  14. what about Amex points? I have about 20M and looking to at least turn some into cash.

  15. I have 2200 AA miles which I will never use because I seldom travel and apparrently there are not enough miles for me to purchase a gift card you need over 6000 to purchase a $25 gift card.
    ultimately I would have liked to use them to replace the RCA Viking Pro Tablet my husband got me for my 50th birthday that was broken when security decided they needed to phyiscally search my suitcase they also broke a 50th birthday coffee mug that my parents got me for my 50th birthday. Cannot find that mug online anywhere. AA sent me a $15 check for that. For the Tablet they sent me a $100 travel voucher.

  16. Yeah, this does not ring true for me. I sold my AA miles, which would have expired, but weren’t enough for me to travel anywhere I wanted to go. Essentially, AA forced me to do this. Made good money, was afraid broker would stiff me, but they didn’t. If AA eventually comes after me, I don’t care. I sold all my points, rarely fly them.