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Donating Airline Miles and Credit Card Rewards

Looking for a way to support a cause you care on an already overstretched budget? Consider donating airline miles or credit card rewards you’ve already earned. When you donate airline miles, you can support the causes you care about without having to pull from your savings.

But how can you donate airline miles? Which organizations accept such donations? And what are the pros and cons of donating miles instead of dollars? Read on to learn everything you need to know.

How do you donate airline miles?

Many reputable charities accept donated miles or credit card rewards in lieu of money or clothes. For example, the Make-A-Wish foundation uses donated points to help sick children take dream trips with their families. Hero Miles helps injured veterans to travel to receive medical treatment. And the American Red Cross uses donated miles to ship relief workers out to crisis areas around the globe.

However, not every charity works with every airline. To find out what your options are, you’ll have to learn which charities partner with your airline of choice.

Read on to find out how to donate the miles you accrued from each of the major airlines.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airline’s Charity Miles Programs donates miles to ten different nonprofits, including the Dream Foundation, the National Forest Foundation, and the Seattle Children’s Hospital. To read the full list, click here.

American Airlines

American Airlines runs several different donor programs: Miles for Our Social Good, Miles for Our Well-Being, and Miles for Our Heroes. Travelers can decide whether they’d rather donate to organizations that promote social good, fund medical care, or support our veterans.

Delta Airlines

Delta’s SkyMiles program includes a charitable program called Skywish Miles, which connects flyers to 15 different nonprofit organizations. Their charities include The American Cancer Society, Hero Miles, Habitat for Humanity, and the Make A Wish Foundation.

Frontier Airlines

Travelers enrolled in the Frontier Miles program can donate to a number of charitable organizations, including the Red Cross, Make-A-Wish, and more. Donating miles through Frontier is free. If you’re interested, you can set up a donation by contacting Frontier Airlines Reservations.

Hawaiian Airlines

You can donate frequent flyer points to a variety of charities through Hawaiian Airlines. But that’s not all. Hawaiian Airlines will also match the first 500,000 miles for each participating charity.

Hawaiian Airlines primarily works with local charities, like the Coral Reef Alliance and the Blood Bank of Hawaii. Click here to view the full list.

JetBlue

Have you racked up a ton of miles on JetBlue? Then check out their True Blue donation program. JetBlue lets flyers donate to a ton of different nonprofits — everything from the Ocean Foundation and New York Restoration Project to Make-A-Wish and Angel Flight. You can find the full list here!

Southwest Airlines

Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program enables travelers to donate miles to nine different charities. Click here for more details.

United Airlines

If you fly United and are a member of the Mileage Plus program, you can donate your miles through the Charity Miles program. Charity Miles’ slate of charities is particularly prolific, with nearly 50 participating organizations. For the full list, click here.

Why should you donate airline miles to charity?

Because donating miles is a great way to support important causes without breaking the bank. By donating your airline points or miles, you can help to fund important charitable work even if you can’t afford to donate in cash. Plus, donating miles doesn’t necessarily mean donating travel — many charitable programs receive the cash equivalent of your miles, which they can use however they see fit.

And if your miles are about to expire, donating them ensures that someone gets some value out of your hard-earned miles!

Why shouldn’t you donate airline miles to charity?

If your miles aren’t on the verge of expiring, it might be wiser to donate good old-fashioned dollars to the cause of your choice. Why? For the following reasons.

First, donating airline miles limits your options. Instead of supporting your favorite cause, you’ll have to choose from a preselected menu of charities. If the cause you feel most passionate about isn’t included on the list, then you’ll just have to give your miles elsewhere. If your miles are about to expire but your preferred charity is not one of the listed options, consider redeeming your rewards for a gift card and donating that instead.

Second, unlike most charitable donations, donated airline miles are not tax-deductible. Of course, if you weren’t planning on itemizing your deductions, then you wouldn’t be eligible for this deduction regardless of what and how you donate. Still, if you’re planning on itemizing, it would be wise to donate dollars in lieu of miles.

That said, if your miles are about to expire, there’s no reason not to donate them.

How can you maximize your donation?

Point values vary depending on your rewards program, so you should do the math before you decide on your donation.

For example, suppose you’ve earned 12,500 points which you could redeem for either a $100 gift card or an $80 charitable donation.

To maximize your impact, you should choose the gift card and then donate it directly to your preferred cause. If your charity of choice doesn’t accept gift cards, just get a gift card to a store where you regularly spend money and then donate the equivalent value out-of-pocket.

Getting started

If you’re interested in donating airline miles, it’s a good idea to get a credit card that helps you rack up more miles. Check out these great travel rewards cards to accumulate miles faster than ever. Or compare top-rated personal credit cards here.