While I love redeeming miles & points for an amazing first or business class flight, one thing that brings me even more joy is being able to do that for friends & family.
A reader emailed to ask a question about which airline loyalty programs allow you to redeem your points for others, so I wanted to take a closer look at that in this post. In a separate post, I addressed the topic of whether you can redeem hotel points for others.
In this post:
You can freely redeem airline miles for others
While there are some areas where airline loyalty programs are stingy, the ability to redeem miles for others isn’t among those. Generally speaking, airline loyalty programs will let you redeem your miles for anyone you’d like (I’ll note some exceptions below, but unless otherwise noted, that’s what you should expect).
You can almost always do this directly through your frequent flyer program account, by just entering the name of the traveler during the booking process.
Now, it’s important to emphasize that this is for situations where you truly want to gift your rewards to others. Bartering airline miles violates the policies of virtually any airline loyalty program, and your account could be suspended and ticket could be forfeited if you’re caught doing this (and airline auditing departments are quite savvy).
So if you are going to redeem your airline miles for others, make sure you do so in good faith, without expecting anything in return.
The logistics of redeeming airline miles for others
To make things as easy as possible, I’d recommend that the person redeeming miles be the one to make the booking, rather than the person being redeemed for. Admittedly the policies do vary by airline:
- Some airlines only let the account holder be the one to authorize a transaction
- Some airlines let anyone make a reservation with miles, as long as they can verify specific account details
- Some airlines have a PIN system, whereby you can redeem as long as you have the PIN for the account
If you’re making your reservation online, you can always just share your account number and password with someone to make a booking, though that does potentially pose a risk if you can’t fully trust the person (in which case you probably also shouldn’t share miles with them, come and think of it).
I won’t break that down by airline, since there are so many different policies, they sometimes change, and phone agents also often interpret them differently. However, the best way to go about this is to have the person with the miles make the booking. Just make sure you have the full, correct passport or travel document details for the traveler, so that the name matches the ID that will be presented.
The programs that don’t let you redeem miles for others
There are hundreds of airline loyalty programs out there, and a vast majority of them will allow you to redeem your miles for anyone you’d like. There are some exceptions, though, as some airlines either limit the number of people you can redeem your miles for, or limit the types of people you can redeem your miles for (for example, direct family members).
Most of the programs restricting who you can redeem for are based in Asia. Let me note some of the most common programs with restrictions below. I’d like to emphasize, though, that this list is by no means exhaustive, so if I’ve missed any major programs, please do let me know.
Let me also mention that this is all about the program you book through, rather than the airline you travel with. For example, while All Nippon Airways Mileage Club has restrictions, you could book an award on All Nippon Airways through a partner program without being subjected to these rules.
There are airlines with just a few airplanes that have loyalty programs, so I’ll be focusing on “major” airlines, which I’ll define as airlines with 50+ planes. With that in mind, below are some of the major programs with restrictions:
- All Nippon Airways Mileage Club only lets you redeem miles for relatives within two degrees of kinship
- Asiana Club only lets you redeem miles for immediate family members
- British Airways Executive Club only limits who you can redeem Avios for if you have a household account; if you do, you can only redeem Avios for someone in your household account, or up to five nominated travelers
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles lets you redeem miles for up to five redemption nominees; they don’t have to be related to you, and removing a nominee can cost up to $50
- Japan Airlines Mileage Bank only lets you redeem miles for relatives within two degrees of kinship
- Korean Air SkyPass only lets you redeem miles for immediate family members
- Singapore KrisFlyer only lets you redeem miles for up to five redemption nominees; they don’t have to be related to you, but you have to keep them attached to your account for at least six months, and removing a nominee can cost up to $30
With a vast majority of airline loyalty programs, you’re free to redeem your miles for friends & family without many restrictions. The best practice is to have the person redeeming the miles out of their account make the reservation.
There are a limited number of airline loyalty programs that limit who you can redeem your miles for. In some cases you’re limited to redeeming miles for direct family members, while in some cases you just have to specify redemption nominees, limiting the overall number of people you can redeem for.
What has your experience been with redeeming airline miles for others?