Airlines & Airports
Expert Offers Awesome Ways To Gift Those Airline Miles This Holiday Season
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Chances are that you, the savvy and responsible traveler, have a pile of airline points and miles this holiday season. One fantastic idea is to put those to work and spread a little cheer to family and friends.
Thankfully, TravelPulse reached out to Danielle Brown who is the VP of Marketing at Points.com, which is “the global leader in loyalty currency management.”
Now you don’t have to stare blankly at your pile of miles, because Brown offered her expertise on how to manage them creatively, giving you a way to exchange them beautifully at this special time of year.
TravelPulse: The idea of giving away miles is a fantastic idea, one the perfectly suits the season. Are there difficulties that might arise from donating the miles or gifting them? Are there some companies that make it easier or more difficult to do this?
Danielle Brown: Giving or gifting points/miles is just like buying miles — you are essentially buying miles for another member. The difference comes in transferring points — which is the case where you already have those points in your account and want to transfer them to someone else, which you can do on Points.com. That would typically carry a fee per point/mile, and a flat transaction fee, which would differ by program. Donating points/miles to a deserving organization is a great option, but is not available with all programs.
TP: What are the steps a person who is new to the industry would take when they wake up with a bunch of miles and haven't a clue how to convert them to gift cards or donate them away?
DB: First off, make sure your points/miles don’t expire. A lot of people collect in programs with expiration dates and don’t even know they are building up a balance, so it’s important to keep track of them. Often, programs will require some form of activity within the year to keep the balance active. As for how, Points.com makes it really easy to convert your points into gift cards. Also, if you have a favorite program, check out their site. Many of them have malls or auctions for merchandise you can shop/participate in beyond redemptions for flights - same for donations.
Image of Danielle Brown via Points.com
TP: What is the usual conversion of miles to money with gift cards?
DB: The value of a point/mile varies wildly from program to program.
TP: Now we have been talking about giving away miles. Would it be the same procedure if we have a bunch of credit card points? Are those easily convertible to something that can be given or donated?
DB: Really, it depends on the program. Think of all of your loyalty points like different currencies. So you could have USD, CDN, GBP… Your loyalty points are just different currencies with different rules attached to them for trading them in for goods and services. Some programs are pretty open with what they’ll allow, and others are pretty restrictive. And some have a long list of partners they will enable you to use your currency with, while some are pretty restrictive.
TP: Now giving away miles or points for the sake of the season is enrichment enough, but are there any tax implications miles or points owners should know about as we head to the end of the year?
DB: No tax implications for buying or gifting miles, other than applicable sales taxes. You may incur a transaction fee for donations, and there may be some tax implications, but that’s highly dependent on the regional rules and the programs you are donating in.
TP: Let's say that you successfully bundled up that pile of miles and gave it away for a gift or a donation. Do some airlines put a time limit on when those gifted miles can be used?
DB: Again, it really depends on the airline and the program. Gifted miles generally have the same rules/restrictions as purchased miles, which generally behave the same way as earned miles. Donated miles would be pretty specific depending on the program as well.
TP: Are there airlines that offer holiday incentives for pulling off any of the three: gifts, donations, gift cards.?
DB: Different programs run different promotions all throughout the year — and the holidays are always a popular time to shop for deals in any industry. If you’re trying to get the most value for your money when buying / gifting miles, look for options that are offering discounts if you are budget conscious, or those offering bonuses if you want to get more for your money.
TP: Thank you so very much for your time. Is there anything else that you think our readers eager to rid themselves of miles might want to know?
DB: An increasing number of frequent flyer programs allow members to redeem miles for “non-air travel rewards” such as hotel stays or rental cars. This is a great way to spend excess end-of-year mileage balance: add an extra night to your next trip by purchasing that reservation extension with miles. Or treat yourself to a special luxury hotel or book into an ocean-view suite- all affordable options when you’re spending miles!
Points recently partnered with Suretap, which should come as great news to Candian travelers.
Jeppe Dorff, President of Suretap, expounded on the news via a press release: “The suretap mobile wallet is all about making it easier, safer and more rewarding for Canadians to transact in every step of the consumer journey, including getting more out of their relationships with local brands and retailers.”
As for Brown’s advice, you should now have some idea as how to use those points and miles you have virtually laying around your account.
The holidays are here, which means you are undoubtedly using vital brainpower to come up with that perfect gift.
Here is a way exchange your assets for something you might more readily use or, if you are so inclined, you can offer travel under that figurative tree of yours.
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