Q. I have accumulated travel rewards I’ll never use, so what are my options to unload them?
A. The easiest route is to give them away. Most airline programs allow members with at least 25,000 frequent flier miles to redeem them, at no cost, for a ticket issued in the name of a friend or relative, says Tim Winship, publisher of FrequentFlier.com and coauthor ofMileage Pro: The Insider’s Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs.
You can also donate travel rewards to charity, but airlines usually dictate the eligible organizations and donations are not tax-deductible.
Aside from a gift, what are your other options?
Websites such as Points.com and LoyaltyMatch.com let registrants trade their rewards with other travelers or use them to buy merchandise. There is no cost for listing an offer to trade, but expect “swap fees” that diminish the value of accumulated rewards. These fees, about 1.2 cents per air mile, make trades a “questionable deal,” says Winship.
You can also try redeeming unused rewards for merchandise via your airline, but aside from magazine subscriptions, few offer robust non-flight awards. The exceptions: Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have programs in which some members can use their rewards—sometimes in combination with cash—to purchase gift cards, watches, cameras and other goods. Hilton, Marriott and other hotel chains have less restrictive programs to buy merchandise with their unused customer rewards.
Some airlines allow flier rewards to be bequeathed to a survivor, but policies regarding redemption of inherited rewards are complicated — see Inheriting Miles: Airline Rules and Procedures (PDF). Expect fees and paperwork. In some cases, recipients need to provide the donor’s death certificate.
One option that does not exist, despite customer demand: Airlines have shown “no interest” in letting customers sell back their unused rewards, Winship says.
Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.