If you want to book a flight for a loved one, relative, or sometimes a friend with miles, you've first got to rack up a lot of miles. Once you've got a lot accumulated, you need to figure out how to book a flight for someone else using your miles or points. But what if you don't have enough yet? You can obviously start flying a lot and join an airline's membership rewards program.
The other common way to accumulate a lot of miles is to sign up for a travel rewards credit card. The more you spend, the more travel miles you get for free flights.
As someone who has traveled to over 60 countries and counting so far, my favorite travel credit cards are the:
Both credit cards offer great sign-up bonuses and the best travel mile benefits. I've used both cards to get my family dozens of roundtrip flights to Hawaii and a couple international trips to Europe and Asia over the years.
When To Use Your Miles For Someone Else
As a general rule, it's better to use your own miles to book a flight for someone than to transfer your miles due to the fees associated with transfers.
The only time you should transfer miles away is to help a family member or friend fill up their miles account so they can get a flight themselves. In this case, transferring your miles could cost less than them having to buy more miles.
Be aware though that miles transferred from one account to another do not count towards elite status. But this isn't really a big deal if you're mainly focused on saving money and helping someone you care about. I know I'd be thrilled if a friend or someone in my family booked a flight for me!
Also keep in mind that selling miles or points to someone is against the terms and conditions for most programs. While you may be able to get away with it, you'd be doing so at your own risk because your account will likely be shut down if the airline finds out.
Now let's take a look at the booking and transfer policies for some of the major global airlines and credit card issuers, as well as show how much it could cost. The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to make the best decision when it comes to sharing your miles with others.
U.S. Airline Programs
Alaska Airlines MileagePlan
With its headquarters in Seattle, Alaska Airlines flies mostly on the west coast. I've heard great things about them and remember they had some great promos when they added flights from San Francisco (my current home base) to Hawaii (my home away from home and extended family's stomping grounds)
Did you know that you can book an award ticket for anyone through your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account for free? You can also transfer them into the account of a friend or family member, but at a cost.
You’re allowed to transfer between 1,000 and 30,000 miles in increments of 1,000 miles at $10 per 1,000 miles, plus a $25 processing fee, per transaction. In most cases, miles will post to the transferred account immediately. But occasionally it may take up to 72 hours. Just be aware that transferred miles are not refundable or reversible and do not count toward MVP Gold status.
American Airlines AAdvantage
One of the largest airlines in America, American Airlines flies the most routes along with United Airlines. I often take American Airlines cross country. You can book an award ticket for anyone from your own account by simply making the reservation in the name of the passenger you want to use your miles for. Easy peasy.
You can also buy or gift between 2,000 and 150,000 miles — but it will cost you somewhere between $94 and $4,460. When using miles for a gift, you’re better off just booking flights directly from your AAdvantage account rather than transferring them.
While you can transfer your AAdvantage miles from one account to another, you’ll pay a processing fee of $15 plus a cost ranging from $28.75 for 1,000 miles to $640 for 50,000 miles. Sometimes you can save money when there are special discounts for transferring miles that can go up to 30%.
Be aware that miles transfers are capped at 200,000 miles into or out of an account within a calendar year. And transferred miles don’t count toward AAdvantage elite status, which may or may not be a big deal to you. Note that AAdvantage accounts less than 30 days old are not permitted to share miles, so newbies have to wait out their first month.
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
You can book an award ticket for anyone you want from your own Delta SkyMiles account, so transferring miles isn’t necessary. If you’re short on miles, you can always buy more too. This costs between $70 for 2,000 miles and $2,100 for 60,000 miles. Keep in mind you can only buy up to 60,000 miles per calendar year.
Purchased miles are also nonrefundable, so make sure you're set on buying them before you pull the trigger, and note that they can’t go toward Medallion Status. With Delta you also have the option to transfer your own miles at a rate of 1 cent per mile, along with a processing fee of $30 per transaction, plus tax.
Frontier Airlines myFrontier
You can redeem awards for someone else using the myFrontier loyalty program. It’s also possible to buy or gift your Frontier miles to another person — but it will cost 2.5 cents per mile to transfer between 1,000 and 25,000 miles.
I find this to be an extremely high cost to transfer miles, so I wouldn't recommend taking this option with Frontier unless the person you’re transferring to only needs a few more miles to book award travel.
Hawaiian Airlines Hawaiian Miles
My favorite airline in the whole wide world, where they serve spiked punch before landing, is Hawaiian Airlines! If you can make it in Hawaii, you can make it anywhere because life is too good to work a lot over there.
Hawaiian kindly allows you to book a flight for someone else using Hawaiian miles. You can also transfer miles to another member for a $25 service fee and 1 cent per mile – with a minimum transfer of 2,000 Hawaiian miles.
What's nice is if you have a Hawaiian Miles-branded credit card, transfers are free and you can do up to 10 transactions per calendar year.
JetBlue Airways TrueBlue
JetBlue is a fantastic airline that I've taken multiple times. I've always been happy with their pricing, routes, schedules and service. For those of you who also enjoy JetBlue and are part of their TrueBlue program, you have the option to book a flight for someone else using the TrueBlue points from your own account.
You also have the option to transfer TrueBlue points at a rate of 1.25 cents per point to other TrueBlue members. Note there's a maximum of 30,000 points allowed per transaction and up to 120,000 points per calendar year.
But you also have the flexible option to take advantage of Points Pooling, where you can compile your points between two and seven members for free. This is handy if you have a big family or a large network of friends who are all TrueBlue members.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
For those of you who love Southwest and are part of their Rapid Rewards program, you can book award tickets for others with points on Southwest, but only you can make changes to or cancel the reservation.
You could also choose to transfer Rapid Rewards points to another member, but it will cost $10 per 1,000 points, with a minimum transfer of 2,000 points. But if you buy 10,000 points or more, you’ll receive a 40% bonus.
Unless someone needs only a few miles for an award flight, it doesn’t make sense to pay to transfer points to them, especially since you can book their flight using your points for free.
United Airlines MileagePlus
United is the largest airlines in America. I've been flying with them since I was a kid and chances are you have too. If you're a MileagePlus member, you have the option to book an award ticket for anyone you like using your own miles.
Plus, they offer plenty of options if you want to bump up your cache, but this doesn't come cheap. Buying more miles will cost you $35 per 1,000 miles. United offers a 40% bonus for purchases of between 5,000 ($175) and 25,000 ($875), however. And you can receive an 85% bonus for buying miles between 30,000 ($1,050) and 94,000 ($3,290).
You can buy up to 175,000 miles per account per calendar year with United but those miles don’t count toward MileagePlus status, which can be a real bummer. It also costs between $70 for 2,000 and a whopping $6,125 for 175,000 miles if you choose to gift them. Expensive, but at least you have the option to do so if it suits you.
International Airline Programs
Below are the policies for using frequent flyer miles to book flights for other people using the major airline transfer partners of Chase, Citibank, and American Express. I'm personally a 10+ year client of Chase and Citibank.
Whenever I fly internationally, I always like to turn it a business trip so I can expense my flights, hotel, food, and transportation. As an international financial blogger, I've got to experience the sights for myself in order to write about them firsthand.
I own the Chase Ink Business Cash credit card and the Chase Ink Business Unlimited credit card for my main business credit cards. Both have no annual fee and great sign-up bonuses.
Air Canada Aeroplan
Aeroplan members can book a flight for someone else using your own miles. You can also transfer miles from one Aeroplan account to another, online and instantaneously at a rate of 2 cents (CAD) per mile. Even in Canadian money, this is a really expensive, last-resort option.
Each Aeroplan member is limited to five transactions per account, per calendar year. You can transfer your Aeroplan Miles to three recipient members at one time; the maximum number of Aeroplan Miles that can be transferred to any one recipient during any one transaction is 999,999; the minimum amount is 1,000.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue
Flying to Paris every year for the French Open is one of my favorite treats. The food is incredible and I love to watch tennis all day long as a 5.0-rated tennis player myself.
You can book a flight for anyone using your Flying Blue miles for free, including the sometimes very lucrative promo awards on select routes for up to 50% off. Miles can be used on KLM, Air France, Aircalin, HOP!, Joon, Kenya Airways, Tarom and Transavia, in economy or business class. You must pay taxes and fees on award tickets though.
You can also choose to transfer Flying Blue miles to other members for $3.40 per 250 miles at a maximum of 50,000 miles per transfer and up to 250,000 miles a year.
And if you need extra miles, you can buy them starting at $62 per 2,000 miles, but only as a last resort because of the high cost. Those with basic Flying Blue Explorer status can buy up to 75,000 miles a year. Silver or higher status can buy an unlimited number of miles a year.
ANA Mileage Club
One of the great bucket list items I have is to take first class round-trip flight to Japan on ANA. It is one of the best airlines, alone with Singapore airlines. The service is impeccable and Japan is another one of my favorite international destinations.
ANA mileage club members can only redeem miles for up to second-degree family members, defined below. In other words, you can't redeem miles for friends, colleagues, or casual acquaintances. Even though this is stricter than most other airlines, you can still cover quite a lot of family members.
Image source: Ana.co.jp
Be aware that uou cannot share or combine earned miles or transfer miles with other members, with the exception of the Family Account service. ANA Mileage Club members who reside outside Japan can register between two and eight family members, as defined above (including themselves) for this service. There is also a nonrefundable registration fee of 1,000 miles and miles will be combined upon redemption of an award.
British Airways Executive Club
Executive Club members can book a flight for someone else using Avios at no cost. You can also pay to transfer up to 162,000 Avios, with a maximum of 27,000 Avios to any Executive Club Member, in a calendar year. You will be charged a nonrefundable fee of $20, plus a whopping $41 per 1,000 Avios transferred.
British Airways Gold members are able transfer up to 162,000 Avios a year for free to those on their family and friends list. However, Gold members can only transfer a maximum of 27,000 Avios points for free per recipient per year; recipients can receive up to 54,000 Avios points every year, half of which can be free and the other half paid.
Another option is to use a household account to pool your points with members of your household for free. You can pool your Avios with up to six people who live with you. Even children can join, so everyone in the family can collect Avios each time you travel.
Just note that household account members can’t redeem their Avios for anyone outside of the account. Changes to the registered household account address can only be made once every six months and Executive Club Members must be 18 years or older before they can spend their Avios.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Every time I go to Hong Kong for work, I take Cathay Pacific. It is the number one carrier for HK-America routes. Too bad there is so much civil unrest these days due to the rioting.
You can only redeem award tickets for five nominees in your redemption group. You may register the first five nominees in your membership lifetime with no fee applied.
Thereafter, you can change up to three nominees per membership year with a service fee (online: $50; other channels, including the Asia Miles Service Centre, Asia Miles service desks at Hong Kong International Airport and any non-online self-service channels: $75).
Similarly, you can only transfer miles to a member of your redemption group. To transfer miles, the minimum block transfer is 10,000 miles for a service fee (online: $170; other channels: $250), and further blocks of 5,000 miles can be transferred for a service fee per block (online: $140; other channels: $200). Note that transferring miles extends their validity for a further three years from the date of transfer.
Emirates allows you to book a flight for someone else using Skywards miles. If you choose to gift the miles, it costs $30 per 1,000 Skywards Miles, up to 100,000 miles each year. You can transfer miles to family or friends for $15 per 1,000 Miles, and you can transfer up 50,000 miles a year. Miles can only be transferred if the receiving account has at least one earning activity.
There’s also the My Family option, which allows you to pool your Skywards Miles with up to seven members of your immediate family, including: husband, wife, partner, son, stepson, daughter, stepdaughter, mother, mother-in-law, stepmother, father, father-in-law, stepfather, brother, sister, granddaughter, grandson and domestic helper. They must also be Skywards Miles members to participate in the program.
You’re allowed to set aside 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% the miles you earn for the My Family account.
Korean Air SkyPass
South Korea is a wonderful place to visit if you get the chance and I'm sure all SkyPass members would agree. With this program you can only redeem miles for registered family members, with proof of relationship. Family members may include the spouse, children, parents, siblings, parents-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, grandparents and grandchildren.
Korean Air also offers a Family Plan where members with insufficient miles for an award redemption can supplement their miles with the miles of immediate family members. Up to five family members, including the registered member of the account, may redeem awards through Family Plan.
If you've never been to Korea, I highly recommend going on the way to other Asian countries. The food is amazing, the palaces are huge, and our trip to the DMZ was unreal!
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Qantas offers redemption awards for family members defined as: husband/wife, parent/stepparent, domestic partner/de facto, child, including foster and stepchild, brother/sister, half brother/sister, grandparent, grandchild, son/daughter-in-law, brother/sister-in-law, father/mother-in-law, uncle/aunt, nephew/niece, first cousin.
Similarly, you can only transfer miles to the same family members with a minimum of 5,000 miles transferred and a maximum of 600,000. It is free to do so online, while there is a charge of AUD 35 over the phone.
Singapore Airlines is a top three airline in the world. The service is spectacular, the food is great, and the seats are quite comfortable. If you want to eat the best food in the world, go to Singapore or Malaysia!
My wife and I used our credit card rewards miles to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I used to live for four years as a middle schooler. We then drove 4 hours to Pulau Redang to scuba dive and snorkel in the below pristine water. It was the best!
The Singapore Krisflyer program only allows members to redeem points for family members, defined as: husband/wife, parent/stepparent, domestic partner/de facto, child, including foster and stepchild, brother/sister, half brother/sister, grandparent, grandchild, son/daughter-in-law, brother/sister-in-law, father/mother-in-law, uncle/aunt, nephew/niece and first cousin.
There’s a minimum 5,000 to maximum 600,000 points per transfer, with an unlimited number of transfers in any 12-month period. It is free to do transfers online, but you’ll be charged $25 over the phone.
Best Travel Credit Card Programs
My favorite travel credit card rewards programs is Chase Ultimate Rewards and those offered by Capital One. As an owner of multiple Chase credit cards, plus multiple banking accounts with Chase, my wife and I rack up over 200,000 travel miles a year for free travel.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
If you have one of these Chase cards — the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve — you’ll get 25% more value for your points on the first two cards and 50% on the third. But they all have annual fees.
You can transfer your Chase points to others, but there are two caveats. First, you need an Ultimate Rewards-based card with an annual fee in order to transfer points to an outside loyalty program.
Second, while Chase Ultimate Rewards offers 1:1 transfers to nine airline and three hotel partners, you can only transfer your points to authorized users of your account who live at your address, and for business cardholders, with authorized card users who are co-owners of your business.
These transfer restrictions may not work out the best for you, but the Chase credit cards come with a ton of other perks that round them out quite nicely.
You can also share your points with a spouse, domestic partner or business co-owner who have an active Ultimate Rewards account by using the Combine Points page on UltimateRewards.com.
Another option for sharing Ultimate Rewards points involves transferring them to someone else’s frequent flyer program. If you want to do this, you will need to add them as an authorized user on your credit card and they must also be a member of your household.
Use Your Points To Help Someone Else
Hopefully this post has provided you a thorough guide on how to book a flight for someone else with miles or rewards points.
I've laid out the important things you need to know when using the most popular domestic and international airlines along with Chase Ultimate Rewards.
I think the best way to help someone get a free flight is to use your own points and miles to book their flights directly, given it's generally free to do so. Transferring can get expensive.
But you can always top up your friend's miles if that's what you prefer, and they can then simply book their own flight whenever they want and to wherever they want. But make sure you know there is often a fee to do so.
Finally, make sure you have a great travel rewards credit card to make the most of your money. It feels fantastic earning miles and rewards when spending money you would have spent anyway.
Pay off Your Debt Faster
If you don’t have enough cash, getting a personal loan from Credible is a good place to start.
Personal loan rates have come down significantly in comparison to the average credit card interest rate. Thus, if you have expensive credit card debt, consider consolidating your debt into a lower interest-rate personal loan.
Credible has the most comprehensive marketplace for personal loans. Up to 11 lenders compete for your business to get you the best rate. Get real personal loan quotes in just two minutes after you fill out an application. Check out Credible today and see how much you could save.
For further suggestions on saving money and growing wealth, check out my Top Financial Products page.
In addition, if you enjoyed this article and want to get more personal finance insights and tips, please sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. You’ll get access to exclusive content only available to subscribers.
About the Author: Sam worked in investment banking for 13 years at GS and CS. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income. He spends most of his time playing tennis, traveling for free with credit card miles, taking care of his family.
Financial Samurai was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites on the web with over 1.5 million pageviews a month.