How you can donate your points and miles to charity

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Time is treasured too

Having worked in the refugee space, I know how much work goes into resettlement and reunification. I also know exactly what is involved in redeeming miles at scale.

The effort required to combine the two cannot be overstated.

So if you feel compelled to help in some way, but don’t have the miles or cash to spare, consider reaching out to one of the above organizations (or any charity supporting a cause you feel strongly about), and offering to volunteer.

It may not seem like much, but I can speak firsthand to how valuable it can be to have even a few hours of help making calls or stuffing envelopes. In addition to taking some of the workload off the organization’s staff or regular volunteers, just knowing there are others interested and supportive of the same goals can be so helpful for morale in a tough environment.

Truly, it all helps.

Donating hotel loyalty points to charity

In addition to airline loyalty programs, these hotel loyalty programs offer donation opportunities.

Loyalty program Charities Important information
Hilton Honors American Cancer Society

American Indian College Fund

American Red Cross

Arthritis Foundation

Arbor Day Foundation

Books for Kids Foundation

City of Hope

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

DonorsChoose

GlobalGiving

Global Soap Project

GRAMMY Foundation

Habitat for Humanity

Hispanic Scholarship

Fund International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Kids Help Phone

Lance Armstrong Foundation

Make-A-Wish Foundation

National Coalition for the Homeless

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The Nature Conservancy Operation

Homefront Operation

Hug-A-Hero

Room to Read

Special Olympics

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

U.S Olympic & Paralympic Teams

World Vision World Wildlife Fund

For every 10,000 points you donate, Hilton Honors will send $25 to that charity.

A minimum donation of 10,000 points is required.

You can also donate to practically any 501(c)(3) organization via PointWorthy from just 4,000 points ($10 donation). Unlike other gifts of points or miles, these donations typically are tax-deductible.

Marriott Bonvoy Al Jalila Foundation

Amazonas Sustainable Foundation

American Red Cross

Arbor Day Foundation

Arne M. Sorenson Hospitality Fund

Asian University for Women

Bridges from School to Work

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Clean the World

ECPAT USA

Hotels for Heroes

Immigration Equality

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

International Rescue Committee

Marriott International Disaster Relief Fund

My Brothers Keeper

National Park Foundation Partnership with Marriott Bonvoy

NAACP Empowerment Programs

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

National Urban League (NUL)

Polaris

Prince’s Trust

Prince’s Trust Canada

SOS Children’s Villages

UNICEF

WEConnect International

World Central Kitchen

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Yao Foundation

Youth Career Initiative

A minimum donation of 2,500 points is required.
IHG Rewards Club American Red Cross

CARE International UK

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Goodwill Industries

The Prince’s Trust

Youth Career Initiative

You can choose to donate 2,500, 5,000 or 10,000 IHG reward points at a time.

Related: TPG’s year of giving in review

If youdo want to donate miles, choose a miles-savvy organization

That being said, if you have more miles than cash, and are looking for a high-impact way to share that bounty with folks who need the help, there are a couple of great alternatives.

While there might be others out there, I know of two groups who are either run or supported by mileage geeks, so they’re actively using the miles for award tickets.

Miles4Migrants

I first became aware of Miles4Migrants during my trip to Jordan, when I posted about the heart-wrenching scale of the refugee situation there. One of the Miles4Migrants directors is also an OMAAT reader, and shared how he and some like-minded folks had started using their frequent flyer miles to unite families separated by conflict.

Because they know about miles and points, they are able to parlay donated miles into international tickets that would otherwise be very expensive. How their process works is that donors “pledge” their miles, specifying the program and number of miles. When a match is found, volunteers at Miles4Migrants coordinate with the donor to get the flights booked for the recipient.

Over the past two years, Miles4Migrants has used ~3.1 million miles to help transport 150 people and reunite them with their families. Y’all can do the math on that and see that they’re clearly finding saver award space the vast majority of the time.

They’ve recently received a bundle of media attention due to their partnership with Michigan Support Circle, who is helping families and children who have been separated and detained at the U.S. border.

As a result, they’ve received pledges for over 28 million miles in the past few weeks, and are working with other organizations to best match donors with individuals who need flights. They probably need volunteers and cash more than miles at this point, though I’m sure they wouldn’t turn anything down.

Give A Mile

Give A Mile is a federally registered Canadian not for profit, with a goal of connecting people with their very ill loved ones.

Individual requests for flights are reviewed by volunteers, then posted on their website so people can donate directly to a specific person or situation. There’s a general fund as well, but there is something to be said for being able to see the immediate impact of your donation.

When I spoke with people from the Give A Mile team earlier this year, they said that for the most part they are able to use donated miles for saver Star Alliance flights, and do their best to keep the costs as low as possible.

Even better, because Give A Mile works closely with Aeroplan, they’re able to pool donated miles from a variety of individuals in order to secure the needed flights. They do separate fundraising to cover their operating costs, but also accept monetary donations to cover the taxes and fees.

Things to Know

Donating reward points to charity can be a very rewarding experience (pun intended)! It can feel great to know you are helping to make a difference, without having to spend your own money. With all that said, there are some things to keep in mind about donating frequent flier miles and other rewards points:

Charity selection: With so many charities out there, it can be tough to pick the best one. Obviously you may be somewhat limited if you’re donating miles, but we still recommend doing some research. Tools like CharityNavigator and CharityWatch can help you make an informed decision.

Taxes: Generally speaking, credit card rewards are not considered taxable income, and are viewed by the IRS as either a rebate or a gift. This also means that donations of miles/points are NOT tax deductible. Cash donations to the charities discussed above are usually deductible, but donations of any sort of rewards points are not.

Best use: In some cases, using reward points for charitable contributions is not necessarily the best use of the points. For example, you might donate 10,000 miles (converted to $50-$100), while that same 10,000 miles could have bought you up to $150-$200+ worth of free travel. Combine that with the fact that miles donations are not tax deductible, and the simple reality is this: sometimes it’s better to use the points yourself, and simply donate cash.

Friends and family: While supporting big charities is awesome, chances are you have someone in your life that could use a helping hand. In some cases, helping people you know that are struggling financially with free plane tickets, gift cards or hotel rooms may be a better use of your miles than donating miles to charity. Or, consider a more involved scheme: Offer to buy your friend’s $300 plane ticket with your miles, and have them donate $200 or so to charity. That way, your friend saves $100, and a deserving charity gets $200!

Have you ever found unique ways to support charity on the cheap? Let us know in the comments!

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