What to Do When the Miles & Points You Want to Use Aren’t In Your Loyalty Account
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Trying to book award travel for a family can be challenging. But it’s worth the extra effort for the memories you’ll create!
Family vacations with miles & points are possible to book, especially when everyone is earning lucrative welcome bonuses! But then you’ll end up with miles & points in lots of different accounts.
Typically, you can pool hotel points for free (or cheaply) into certain folk’s accounts within the same loyalty program. But transferring airline miles from one loyalty account to another account with the same airline can be absurdly expensive (for most airlines).
So what are your options for Big Travel with Small Money when the miles & points you want to use aren’t in a single loyalty account?
Million Mile Secret Agent Darren asked on Facebook:
My wife and I are headed to Italy this spring on award flights. We want to bring my parents along. I’m thinking of booking them flights with our American Airlines miles.
If my parents signed up for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® or Barclaycard AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard®, could they have the miles credited to my American Airlines account as a way to reimburse me? I know you can book other people on flights with your miles, but can you actually use someone else’s award account when signing up for a card?
Unfortunately, Darren, you can NOT attach your loyalty account number to someone else’s rewards credit card. The name on the credit card application and loyalty account will need to match.
You can transfer airline miles between loyalty accounts with the same airline. But it’s usually not a good deal, because you’ll usually pay substantial fees. So your best option might be to have your parents sign up for an American Airlines miles earning card. And after they’ve earned the miles, you can book the flights you want with their American Airlines miles.
Starwood Points Might Be the Answer
Opening an American Airlines credit card is NOT the only way to earn more American Airlines miles! If Darren wants to book his parents’ tickets with his miles, and have them reimburse him later, there’s another option.
You can also transfer Starwood points for free between Starwood accounts that share the same address (for at least 30 days). So the free transfer might not be an option for Darren.
But because of the Marriott-Starwood merger, there is a workaround. Starwood points transfer to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio, so every 1 Starwood point converts into 3 Marriott points. And Marriott lets you transfer points to other Marriott accounts for only $10 per transaction (free for Marriott Gold or Platinum members).
Marriott limits transfers into or out of your account to 50,000 Marriott points per calendar year (unless you’re using the points right away for a specific redemption, then there is no limit).
Darren’s parents could apply for cards that earn Marriott or Starwood points. Then transfer 50,000 Marriott points into Darren and his wife’s accounts, which would convert at a 3:1 ratio into ~16,666 Starwood points each (50,000 Marriott points / 3).
Darren could then combine his Starwood points with his wife (in increments of 1,000 points) for free. And the transfer limitation is per calendar year, which is January to December. So they could receive 50,000 Marriott points into each of their accounts between now and December. And another 50,000 Marriott points January 1. So depending on when they wanted to book their next award, this could be a good option.
You can earn Marriott or Starwood points with the following cards:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express – 25,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express – 25,000 Starwood points after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account
- Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card – 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account
- Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card – 75,000 Marriott points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account
Don’t forget, AMEX limits folks to earning the welcome bonus to ONCE per lifetime per card.
And Chase will NOT approve you for most of their cards if you’ve opened 5 or more credit card accounts (from any bank) in the past 24 months (NOT counting Chase business cards and these other business cards). But there are exceptions to this rule, including the Chase Marriott Business card.
Don’t Forget Transferable Points!
One question you should always ask yourself when you’re collecting miles & points is – where do I want to go? Then you can be sure you’re earning the right rewards for your situation.
Even if Darren uses American Airlines miles to book his parents’ flights, they can earn any type of miles & points to reimburse him! And maybe American Airlines miles aren’t the best miles to earn for the next trip he wants to take.
So they could focus on collecting flexible points. You can often move these points between accounts for free! But transfers are limited to certain people.
- AMEX Membership Rewards – You cannot transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to other AMEX Membership Rewards accounts. But you can transfer points directly into the loyalty accounts of authorized users
- Chase Ultimate Rewards – You can combine Chase points with a member of the same household (or a joint business owner). But you can only transfer Chase points to an airline or hotel loyalty account of a member of the same household who is also an authorized user
- Citi ThankYou – You can transfer points to another Citi ThankYou account, but they expire after 90 days. And you can NOT transfer ThankYou points directly into someone else’s airline or hotel account
Airline Miles Transfer Fees
You can earn a welcome bonus and then transfer the miles into another person’s account with the same airline. But this typically is NOT a good deal because of the fees.
But if you are a few miles short of an award, it can make sense to do a small transfer or purchase. Before you make a transfer, here are the key terms for airline mile transfers & purchases for each of the major US airlines:
|Airline||Cost to Transfer Miles||Cost to Buy Miles||Other Conditions|
|Alaska Airlines||$10 per 1,000 miles + $25 per transaction||$27.50 per 1,000 miles + 7.5% tax||You can only transfer 100,000 miles per year & no limit on the amount of purchased miles|
|American Airlines||$12.50 per 1,000 miles + $15 per transaction & applicable taxes||$29.50 per 1,000 miles + $30 per transaction & taxes||You can transfer or receive through transfers a combined total of 200,000 miles in a year. You can purchase or receive as a gift a combined total of up to 150,000 miles per year|
|Delta||$10 per 1,000 miles + $30 per transaction||$70 per 2,000 miles + applicable taxes||You can purchase up to 60,000 miles per year. You can transfer up to 150,000 miles from your account each year. You can receive up to 300,000 miles into your account each year through transfers|
|JetBlue||$12.50 per 1,000 points (JetBlue offers free transfers to certain family members through their Family Pooling program)||~$37 per 1,000 points (taxes included). The price varies by the amount purchased, larger purchases cost less per point||You can purchase or receive as a gift up to 120,000 points per year. You can transfer or receive from transfers up to 60,000 points per year|
|Southwest||$5 per 500 points. |
Minimum transfer amount is 2,000 points
|~$13 to ~$15 per 500 points. Points can be purchased in 500 point increments with a minimum purchase of 2,000 points||You can purchase up to 60,000 points per day. You can also transfer up to 60,000 points per day|
|United Airlines||$7.50 per 500 miles + $30 per transaction||$35 per 1,000 miles + taxes. Minimum purchase of 2,000 miles||You can purchase up to 150,000 miles per year. You can transfer up to 100,000 miles per year|
There are some airlines that allow you to transfer your miles & points for free. But most of them are international airlines.
Booking Award Flights for Others
As Darren mentioned, most airlines let you use your miles & points to book award flights for anyone else. And this could be a simple solution to having his parents reimburse him for their award flights.
And if there aren’t enough miles in the account you’re booking the award with, then it could make sense to pay for a (hopefully) small transfer to top up the account.
When you want to get Big Travel with Small Money for the whole family, it makes sense to work as a team. Because then everyone who is eligible can earn lucrative welcome bonuses!
But you’ll end up with miles & points spread out in different accounts. Because you can NOT enter someone else’s loyalty information on your credit card application. The names on the application and loyalty account must match.
Hotel points can sometimes be combined into a single loyalty account within the same program for free (or cheap). But most US airlines charge huge fees if you want to transfer your miles into another person’s account with the same airline. So this is typically a terrible deal.
Thanks for the question, Darren! Have fun in Italy!
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)