Reader and friend of the blog Bill writes in:
A friend of ours doesn’t think she’ll be traveling anymore and wants to give us (insert drumroll here) 300,000 USAir Dividend Miles. I looked on their website and their transfer page has a dropdown that only goes to 50,000 and has a charge of $500 (Plus 7%) for that. That would mean it would cost about $3300 to transfer 300,000 miles, which would be about the same as just buying the tickets in the first place. Surely I’m misunderstanding this. If not, why don’t they just say “you can’t do that”?
You’re not misunderstanding this, Bill. Transferring miles comes with limits, and with high price tags. Airline-internal programs (between friends) and the points exchange offered by Points.com (between strangers) are both pricey.
At those prices, you’re frankly better off buying miles outright from US Airways. (I generally don’t recommend that either, given the high price, but US Airways has a 100% bonus running right now through November 15, 2010, for you to consider. Anyway…)
So what’s the best way to transfer miles to another person for award redemption?
Simple. Don’t do it.
Your very generous friend should just book the tickets for you, rather than transferring miles to your account. This is perfectly legitimate, according to the US Airways Dividend Miles program rules:
1. You may redeem your miles for award tickets for use by any person you designate. Simply provide the passenger name(s) at the time reservations are made.
2. Name changes are not permitted. If you or the person you designate are unable to travel, you may redeposit your miles into your account for a redeposit fee.
Of course, you’ll want to pay your friend for the cost of any taxes and fees incurred. She will be stuck with those costs when she books the ticket, so stay on her good side and reimburse her quickly.
One other warning/recommendation: There have been reports of travelers being questioned by airline staff when the travelers aren’t the ones whose mileage account paid for the tickets. Some folks with high frequent flier miles balances have sold their awards, which violates the program policies. So, to avoid a hassle, make sure your friend writes a short note on your behalf. The note should simply read something like this:
To whom it may concern,
I have given Bill a gift of this ticket, issued with miles from my account [number]. Bill has not paid me anything for these tickets. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at [phone number].
[Bill's generous friend]
Good luck getting the tickets you want. And consider yourself lucky to have such a generous fiend.