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Transferring miles to family – what airlines won’t tell you

by on Mon October 1, 2012 • 4 Comments

If you’ve ever considered transferring miles to a family member or friend, you know the airlines themselves are happy to let you do it.

For big, fat fees.

Search for transfer miles on and you’ll see they will let you transfer for a price of $15 for every 1,000 miles, up to 15,000 miles. That works out to $225 dollars just to transfer 15,000 miles, and they only let you do 15,000 miles in any year. Delta will do you a little better, they charge $10 for every 1,000 miles, and let you transfer up to 150,000 miles per year. That works out to $150 for 15,000 miles, plus a $30 service fee.

American has a sliding scale…

  • 1,000 – 5,000 miles = $50
  • 6,000 – 10,000 miles – $100
  • 11,000 – 15,000 miles = $150
  • 16,000 – 20,000 miles = $200
  • 21,000 – 25,000 = $250

Which means you’re getting the ‘best’ deal by transferring the max in each range (which works out to $10 per 1,000 miles). There is a 100,000 mile annual limit.

So how can you get around this?

Airlines won’t actively tell you about these options…

1. Use your own account to book the ticket. A lot of people don’t realize this, but you can use your miles to book a ticket with anyone’s name on it. You don’t have to be traveling to use your miles. So consider giving a ‘loan’ of miles to the friend or family member you are thinking of transferring miles to. Book the award ticket out of your own account, and when they have enough miles let him or her book one for you in the future.

2. Consider a one way award. American and United let you book one way tickets with miles for half the number of miles of a roundtrip. You may find it economical to do that, and buy the other direction in cash, as in many markets the one way fare is just half the cheapest roundtrip fare.

3. Earn miles in a program that offers *free* transfers. Did you know that some credit card programs – Chase Ultimate Rewards,  American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest – let you transfer points you’ve earned into other people’s airline miles accounts with no processing fees? With Membership Rewards and Ultimate Rewards you can transfer to an authorized user of your card who lives in your household, and Starwood you can transfer to any family member.

Among US carriers Chase offers transfers to United and Southwest, American Express to Delta, JetBlue, and Virgin America, while Starwood offers transfers to Delta, American, and US Airways (United as well, though they cut the number of points in half when you transfer).

The catch is, the transfer feature is only offered on premium level cards that carry an annual fee ($95 Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, $60 Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, $95+ American Express Green / Gold / Platinum). But it can be well worth it for the flexibility; they offer transfer to many other non-US airlines as well.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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4 thoughts on Transferring miles to family – what airlines won’t tell you

  1. Patricia

    United miles, Chase card $95 fee.
    I have 58000 miles my husband 98000 miles my daughter 52000 miles how can we transfer all the miles into my husbands account to buy 3 round trip tickets to Rome Italy from Denver and not pay $1785 transfer fee.


      @Patricia – You can transfer 2,000 miles to your account to get 60,000 miles. Then book it as 6 one way tickets (3 roundtrips = 2 one way) using all 3 accounts (United lets you book tickets in the name of anyone you’d like, so for example your husband can book a ticket for your daughter with his miles for no additional fee).

      His account: Book 3 one way tickets (his roundtrip plus one direction of your daughter’s ticket)
      Your account: Book 2 one way tickets (your roundtrip)
      Daughter’s account: Book 1 one way ticket (the other direction of your daughter’s ticket)

    1. MileCards

      @alohastephen – Good point, there is a $0.0006 per point tax that can be up to $99 if you make a large transfer.


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