Merry Miles: How to Give Your Loyalty Rewards to Charity

Here we are, in the height of the holiday rush, with all of the gluey fruitcakes and elfin carolers one season can muster. Business as usual is slowing down a bit to make time for family, friends and a dollop of charitable holiday giving.

Most people give money or time in the midst of all this merriment. But road warriors are in a unique position to do more than write a check or donate an afternoon – here are a few altruistic alternatives for business travelers:

Donate your miles

Several charities accept donations of air miles that allow sick children, struggling families or wounded veterans to connect over the holidays and throughout the year. If you’re a frequent flier with more miles than destinations in the New Year, consider giving them to your charity of choice.

The easiest way to give is through your airline. Most major carriers (and a lot of minor ones) have a “redemption option” in their frequent flier programs. Specifics, like which organizations participate, minimum mileage requirements and procedures, vary among carriers. Here’s a shortlist:


  • JetBlue – Frequent fliers can support more than 2.5 million causes locally or globally. Through December 17, the carrier will match donations of up to $25,000 for local and global charities through their True Giving program.

  • American Airlines – The American Miles for Kids in Need program supports a number of child-focused charities, including A Wish with Wings, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Starlight Foundation.

  • Delta – You can split your donation across a maximum of five charities with the Delta Skywish program, which include several humanitarian, health and ecological organizations.

  • US Airways – The Miles of Hope program supports five nonprofits in the United States, including a new partner Keep America Beautiful, a volunteer service organization.

  • Alaska – Through its Charity Miles program, you can support a number of domestic causes, including Hurricane Sandy relief and Hero Miles, a program that supports wounded soldiers and their families.

Give the gift of points

Road warriors can turn their loyalty into charity beyond the airport, too. Plenty of hotels celebrate the benevolent spirit of the season, turning your reward points into cash donations to hundreds of charities at home and abroad. A few highlights:

  • Hilton – For every 10,000 points you donate, the HHonors Giving Back program will give $25 to one of about 30 charitable organizations, from literacy to humanitarian efforts.

  • Starwood – Give away 2,000 of your StarPoints, and the chain will donate $25 to the American Red Cross.

  • Marriott – Contribute 18,500 Rewards points to equal a $50 donation to the Children’s Miracle Network, among others.

The holidays can be a time of year for celebration, reflection and helping out perfect strangers. If you’re short on time or money, consider making a difference with the resources you’ve racked up in your day-to-day travels. With loyalty points and miles sitting idle, or set to expire, donating miles and points is the perfect way to get creative with charities.

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