‘Tis The Season: Donating Miles To Charitable Organizations And Causes – Is This A Good Idea?

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Christmas time is coming and a popular topic that has been talked about many times already is the donation of miles and points to charitable organizations and how much benefit there really is to such donations.

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Over the years Loyalty Lobby has investigated several cases where airline and hotel loyalty programs have lobbied for donations their individual currency for cause xyz.

More often than not the converted value of these mileage amounts was very low and made little to no sense as the value the programs assigned to their miles was very little.

You can see the big airlines mileage donation options here:

United Airlines Mileage Plus

Delta Skymiles

American Airlines AAdvantage

Lufthansa Miles & More

In most of the above cases there was no assigned value visible that would indicate how much ($ wise) the program is going to contribute in lieu of the miles you give up.

But even if there are such values assigned it’s important to have a second look and determine if the ratio actually makes sense of if you better just make a cash donation to the cause of your choice.

When the Nepal earthquake hit, Hyatt Gold Passport was promoting such a donation for their members and initially offered a ridiculously low $/points ratio to be donated on the participants behalf. That value was changed upwards after getting some flack. LoyaltyLobby wrote about it here.

One option to donate your miles which could be worthwhile I found with the Make a Wish Foundation where the miles are being used to fly people (mostly children) around for a good cause. You can find out more about it on this page.

Conclusion

Considering these miles, even if used for air travel would mostly be used for economy class travel (which usually is a low redemption value) I’d still consider a cash donation a better choice but I realize not everyone has that option at all times.

Depending on the program we’re talking about I value 10,000 miles with about 150$US so if the value the airline offers in lieu for my miles is way underneath that I’d make a cash donation (actually I never ever donated miles or points before – always money directly to the cause of my choice). Also, be aware that the donation of miles and points are not tax deductible by the IRS  in the United States.

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