Whither you need to top up your account for an award flight or you have a few unused miles that could be put to good use by someone else, pooling miles is a great way to maximize your buying power. There a number of frequent flyer and credit card rewards programs that allow you to transfer points to other members, but each loyalty program has its own rules.
We’ve compiled a list of programs that allow transfers or pooling. Some programs make it easy, while others are more restrictive. You may have to live at the same address, pay a fee or be an authorized credit card user to complete a transfer. Let’s take a closer look.
Most domestic airlines charge a fee to transfer miles, but JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines and Sun Country allow you to do it for free. There are some restrictions, though.
JetBlue: You can share TrueBlue points within your family, which can include up to two adults and five children. Each family has to have a household head that controls the family account and the points that are transferred to it. The carrier also requires each person in the family to contribute at least 10 percent of the points they earn. You can transfer to non-family members, but it costs 1.25 cents per point
Hawaiian Airlines: You can transfer points for free to anyone who has a Hawaiian Airlines credit card. The carrier offers a personal card – Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® and business card – Hawaiian Airlines® Business MasterCard®. Both come with a 35,000 miles sign-up bonus and an Annual fee is $89/year. You can transfer if you don’t have a card, but it costs a cent per mile plus a $25 transaction fee. Each member can receive miles up to ten times a year and each transfer must be at least 2,000 miles.
Sun Country: This small Minneapolis-based airline has the most liberal transfer policy among domestic airlines. Any member of the UFly Rewards program can transfer points for free with up to ten other members.
The four largest U.S. carriers—American, Delta, United, Southwest and Alaska—will charge you to transfer points. In fact, those charges are so steep it probably won’t be worth the cost.
American Airlines: It costs 1.25 cents per mile to transfer between AAdvantage accounts. Those accounts must be at least 30 days old and there’s a 200,000-mile maximum per year.
Delta Air Lines: Delta charges one cent per mile, but each transaction incurs a $30 fee. You can transfer a maximum of 30,000 miles to up to four people per transaction. There’s a 150,000-mile maximum per year.
United Airlines: Not only do you have to pay a steep 1.5 cents per mile, but United also charges a $30 fee per transaction. There’s a 25,000-mile maximum per transaction and a 100,000-mile maximum per year.
Southwest Airlines: Transfers cost one cent per point, and there’s no transaction fee. You must transfer at least 2,000 points, but no more than 60,000 points a day.
Alaska Airlines: You’ll pay one cent per mile plus a $25 transaction fee. Transfers can be from 1,000 to 30,000 miles. A maximum of 100,000 miles can be transferred per year.
Virgin America: Virgin America charges the most at 2 cents per point. There’s a 30,000-point maximum per year.
Foreign carriers are more generous with transfers than domestic airlines, though most restrict the perk to family members. You may be required to set up a special family account to allow household members to pool their miles.
These airlines allow free pooling or transfers:
All Nippon Airways (ANA): Miles can be pooled in a family account, though members must live outside of Japan to qualify. Up to eight people can belong to a family account, and it costs 1,000 miles to join.
Asiana Airlines: Up to five family members can join a Family Mileage Plan account and pool points for free. Members must prove that they are related.
British Airways: Free transfers are allowed among up to seven people living at the same address. Unlike many airlines, British Airways limits who you can book award flights for. Travelers must either live at your address or be on your Family and Friends list, which can have a maximum of five people.
Emirates: Up to eight family members can join a Family Bonus account and transfer points for free. There must be a Family Head, and that person will receive at least 20 percent of all the miles earned by family members. Miles can be transferred to non-family members at a rate of 2.5 cents each.
Etihad: Family Guest accounts can have up to eight members, including one household helper. Members can pool miles for free. You may be required to prove that members are related.
Japan Airlines (JAL): Up to nine members can join a Family Club account and transfer points for free. It costs 1,000 miles or $30 to join. Members will be charged an additional 1,000 miles every five years. Spouses, parents, spouse’s parents, children and children’s spouses qualify, but they must live outside of Japan.
Korean Air: Members of the immediate family can join a Family Plan and share miles for free. Members must prove that they are related, and family accounts are limited to five people.
Qantas: Family members can transfer up to 600,000 points a year for free.
Virgin Australia: Transfers are allowed among up to six family members who reside at the same address. Only two members can be over the age of 18.
The following carriers allow transfers, but charge fees:
Air Canada: Transfers are expensive at 2 cents per mile. Each member is allowed only five transactions a year, which includes both giving and receiving miles. Miles can be sent to three different recipients per transaction.
Air France KLM Flying Blue: You can transfer up to 50,000 miles in 250-mile increments at a cost of 1.2 Euro cents (about 1.3 cents USD) each. Up to 250,000 miles can be given or received during a year.
Avianca: Transfers cost 1.5 cents per mile. A maximum of 75,000 miles can be transferred per year.
Cathay Pacific: Family and friends who belong to a Redemption Group can transfer 10,000 miles at a cost of $170 or 5,000 miles for $140. Neither is a great deal, but the 10,000-mile increment costs notably less at 1.7 cents per mile, versus 2.8 cents for 5,000 miles.
Credit Card Rewards Programs
Travel credit cards with transferable points are known for their flexibility. They allow you to earn points on everyday purchases and then transfer them to frequent flyer programs. American Express Membership Rewards is the most flexible with 17 airline partners, followed by Citi ThankYou with 12 and Chase Ultimate Rewards with seven.
Starwood Preferred Guest is technically a hotel loyalty program, but it’s basically a general travel rewards program because you can earn points with the co-branded Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express card and transfer them to over 30 different airlines.
These four programs offer a lot of flexibility, but can you transfer points between accounts?
American Express Membership Rewards: You cannot transfer points between MR accounts, but you can transfer points to your spouse’s frequent flyer accounts. You can also transfer points to an authorized user’s frequent flyer account. Adding users is free with many Amex cards, though some, like the American Express® Platinum Card®, charge a fee.
Chase Ultimate Rewards: Chase allows transfers between Ultimate Rewards accounts if the members share the same address. Unlike Amex, you cannot transfer points to someone else’s frequent flyer account unless they are an authorized card user.
Citi ThankYou: The ThankYou program is the most flexible, allowing any member to transfer points to any other TY account. However, you cannot transfer points to a frequent flyer account that is not in the cardholder’s name.
Starwood Preferred Guest: Like Chase, you can only transfer SPG points to another account if the members live at the same address. Both accounts must be active for at least 30 days prior to the transfer. You cannot transfer SPG points to a frequent flyer account in someone else’s name.
Consider All of Your Options
If your loyalty program doesn’t allow transfers, or if you want to transfer points to someone the program excludes—like a relative who doesn’t live with you—don’t give up. Nearly all of the programs we talked about in this post allow you to buy an award ticket for someone else. Just use their name when you fill out the passenger information. Don’t forget that you can top up your frequent flyer account with points from your rewards credit card, too.