Frequent travelers often amass a large number of points and miles by using some of the best travel credit cards. Sometimes, it can be difficult to use all of these rewards before they expire. Fortunately, certain organizations can make use of your points and miles if you donate them.
If you’re feeling generous and want to help others during the novel coronavirus pandemic, you can donate them to a charity of your choice. It’s a simple process, and many charities accept these types of donations. Here’s how to do it and which charities you can choose from.
Which loyalty programs allow you to donate your points and miles?
The easiest way to donate your points or miles is through a loyalty program associated with an airline, hotel, or credit card issuer. For example, if you fly Southwest Airlines often and you’re a Rapid Rewards program member, you can donate your points to different charities through a dedicated page on the Southwest site.
Here are popular loyalty programs that allow you to donate your points and miles to charity:
Airline loyalty programs that let you donate points and miles
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Alaska Airlines LIFT Miles
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Delta SkyMiles
- Frontier Miles
- JetBlue TrueBlue
- KLM Flying Blue
- Lufthansa Miles & More
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United MileagePlus
Hotel loyalty programs that let you donate points and miles
- Accor ALL
- Best Western Rewards
- Choice Privileges
- Hilton Honors
- IHG Rewards Club
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Radisson Rewards
- Wyndham Rewards
Credit card rewards programs that let you donate points and miles
Although every credit card issuer may not have a dedicated donation page for its rewards, you can always redeem your rewards for cash back and make the donation yourself.
Support COVID-19 relief by donating your points and miles
Recently, several airlines, hotels, and card issuers have stepped up to support COVID-19 relief. You can help by donating your points or miles to these efforts. American Express has pledged to match up to $1 million in points donations to Feeding America through JustGiving. And through its MileagePlus program, United is matching donations supporting COVID-19 relief through June 30th, up to 500,000 miles per donation per charity.
Best Western and Marriott have also launched dedicated programs to support first responders during the pandemic. Not only are they offering discounted or free hotel stays to workers on the front line, but they are also making it easier for loyalty program members to help.
If you’re a Best Western Rewards member, you can donate your points through Best Western for a Better World to support the coronavirus relief efforts worldwide. Marriott Bonvoy members can donate their points to charities such as the American Red Cross, World Central Kitchen, and UNICEF, all of which are helping during this public health crisis.
Members of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program can also donate their points to a charity like Team Rubicon, which deploys military veterans and first responders to communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
What charities can you donate points and miles to?
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are 11 great charities you can donate airline miles and/or hotel points to:
1. American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is made up of volunteers and staff that provide relief and support to those in need, especially in times of crisis and emergency. If there’s a natural disaster, you can expect to find ARC there. It also provides health and safety courses and aid around the world.
2. Smile Train
Smile Train is an international charity organization that focuses on treating children with cleft lip and/or palate. The charity also partners with hospitals around the world to promote better care for cleft patients.
3. Make-A-Wish Foundation
The Make-A-Wish Foundation provides life-changing experiences for children with critical illnesses. These children are often faced with difficult medical treatments and their parents may also be having a hard time. The Make-A-Wish Foundation helps grant wishes for these children — from spending a day in the snow, to being a firefighter, or meeting a real-life unicorn. Through these experiences, the children, families, and everyone else involved is impacted for the better.
4. Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF)
The BCRF is a nonprofit organization focused on preventing and curing breast cancer. Its funding fuels worldwide research on the disease, with the goal of accelerated breakthroughs from leading minds in science and medicine.
5. Canine Assistants
Canine Assistants is a nonprofit organization dedicated to using service dogs to enhance the lives of children and adults with physical disabilities or other special needs. The organization teaches dogs and people how to enrich each others’ lives.
6. Fisher House Foundation
The Fisher House Foundation offers housing (Fisher Houses) to families of military members and veterans while a loved one is in the hospital. Through its Hero Miles program, Fisher House Foundation uses donated airline miles and hotel points to bring family members to injured service members.
7. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s mission is to fund research and treatment for childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Families that seek treatment for a child at St. Jude’s will never receive a bill because of generous donors.
UNICEF is an international nonprofit organization that strives to help children as much as possible. This includes defending their rights, saving their lives, and helping them to fulfill their potential.
9. The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is an international nonprofit organization seeking to help people and nature thrive together. Some of its priorities include protecting land and water, providing food and water sustainably, and building healthy cities.
10. Feeding America
Feeding America is a hunger-relief organization dedicated to providing food to those in need throughout the U.S. Its vast network of food banks and food pantries has served Americans for more than 40 years.
11. World Central Kitchen
The World Central Kitchen has a mission to provide food to those that need it around the world, often sending chefs and volunteers to sites of natural and man-made disasters. After an emergency is over, it works to implement programs that can help communities become more self-reliant and knowledgeable about food. Programs may involve clean cooking solutions, culinary training, and sustainable food systems.
How does donating your points and miles work?
The majority of loyalty programs allow you to donate points by simply getting online and navigating through a few steps. Here’s how the process works:
- Go to your loyalty program’s donation page. Enter the name of the loyalty program plus the word “donation” into a search engine. For example, if you search “delta skymiles donation,” the correct page should show up.
- Log into your account.
- Select the charity you wish to donate to. Each program will be slightly different, but most of them should have available options for well-known charities, such as the American Red Cross and Make-A-Wish Foundation.
- Select how many points or miles you want to donate.
What do the charities get?
Some charities, such as the Fisher House Foundation, will use donated hotel points and airline miles for their intended purpose — which is for flights and hotel stays. This allows Fisher House to book flights and hotel stays for the family of injured service members so they can be together.
Marriott Bonvoy points, though, become a straight cash amount to the charitable organization. For instance, if you donate 25,000 points to UNICEF through Marriott Bonvoy, that would be worth $100.
Does this count as account activity?
Apart from being generous, you can also restart the clock on your points and miles expiration date by donating to charity. Many credit card points programs will generally attach an expiration date to the points — so if you don’t use them, you lose them. Because loyalty programs will normally count a donation as account activity, this can help you hold onto points and miles that may otherwise expire due to inactivity.
FAQs about donating your points and miles
What can I do with unused airline miles?
Unused airline miles can be donated to different charitable organizations through the corresponding loyalty program’s donation page.
Are donated miles tax deductible?
Donated airline miles are not considered tax deductible. The IRS recognizes them as gifts to charitable organizations from the airline itself and not the individual.
Can you donate Marriott points?
Yes. If you navigate to the Marriott Bonvoy donation page, you can donate your Marriott points to the charity of your choice.
Can you donate Delta SkyMiles?
Yes. If you navigate to the Delta SkyMiles donation page, you can donate your SkyMiles to a Delta partner charity of your choice.
The bottom line on donating your points and miles
You can build large point pools when you use airline credit cards and the best hotel credit cards during your travels. If you find you have extra or unused points or miles, you might consider donating them to a charitable organization. Charities around the world can use these donations as they seek to offer COVID-19 relief to those in need.
Charitable donations using points or miles can be beneficial for both you and the organization. You’ll be helping a worthy cause and it may keep your remaining points or miles from expiring.