It Almost Never Pays To Transfer Miles

by Credit Card Wisdom on May 29, 2013

Airlines and hotels all offer to transfer miles between account holders, but usually at a cost of several cents per mile or point. In fact, the cost of these transfers usually exceeds the value of the points or miles in the first place.

But what many travelers don’t realize is that in most cases, these transfers are completely unnecessary. The key to saving money is to issue an award from one account in the name of another traveler. This is perfectly within the terms and conditions of all plans, even if the account holder is not traveling on the same itinerary.

What is against the rules is the sale or barter of awards. Those who issue awards frequently to others may encounter some scrutiny, although it is rare. To be extra safe, make sure the traveler knows which account the award came from and understands that there was no sale or barter allowed. In the event that the traveler is questioned by airline staff, he or she can satisfy their concerns by providing this information. It may even be wise to provide the traveler with a letter saying that the award is a gift and was not sold or bartered, just in case.

On rare occasions, it can make sense to pay to transfer points or miles. This is when the airline or hotel is having a huge sale and the cost of the points or miles is worth redeeming immediately for a specific award. In other instances, an orphaned account might have just a few miles in it that need to be transferred to top off another account for an award. In cases where transferring miles is the least expensive way to quickly procure the needed amount, this can make sense.

By understanding why paying to transfer points and miles is almost always a bad deal, you can save money while generously redeeming awards or other people’s travel. is an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. receives compensation from the credit card issuers whose credit card offers appear on the website. The compensation may impact the order in which they appear within listing categories. does not include the entire universe of available credit or financial offers. Our editors rate credit cards objectively based on the features the credit card offers consumers, the fees and interest rates, and how a credit card compares with other cards in its category. The Editor's Picks credit cards are the expert opinion of our editors, and not influenced by any remuneration this site receives from card issuers.
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