Hurricane Harvey has done unimaginable damage to Houston and the surrounding areas. It’s the wettest tropical storm ever recorded in the contiguous United States, dumping more than 40 inches of rain in just four days. Storm damages are estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.
As the storm recedes, estimates are starting to come in. Over 185,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, over 350,000 people have registered for assistance with FEMA and over 40,000 people remain in shelters.
In the aftermath of Harvey has come a huge relief effort. Many in the travel and finance industries have stepped up to lend support, including airlines and credit card issuers. Here’s a rundown of who’s donating to the effort and what you can do to help out.
During the storm both of Houston’s major airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and the smaller Hobby Airport (HOU), closed for several days and have just recently reopened with limited commercial service. This wreaked havoc on domestic air travel, causing all sorts of delays. All of the major airlines continue to work with customers to rebook them or arrange alternative travel, offering a variety of waivers for change fees, ticket price differences and other expenses.
In the days immediately after the storm, several airlines flew into and out of Houston’s closed airports to help evacuate stranded customers and employees, as well as to deliver relief workers and supplies. Many carriers are also donating money to various charities and encouraging their customers to give.
Delta, United, Southwest and Spirit all operated special flights while the airports were closed, evacuating several hundred stranded customers and employees. United and Alaska Airlines have gone one step further, partnering with various relief organization to help ferry supplies and personnel to the disaster area.
Southwest, Delta and Alaska Airlines are also donating directly to the Red Cross’s Harvey relief effort, giving $500,000, $250,000 and $100,000, respectively. But matching miles can make a much bigger difference. Alaska is providing a million miles to help with disaster relief, and will match up to one million more miles given by Mileage Plan members. Delta is matching up to 10 million miles given by its SkyMiles members.
United and American are also encouraging their frequent flyer program members to give by offering bonus miles. Until September 24, AAdvantage members will get 10 miles for every dollar donated to the Red Cross.
United MileagePlus members who give to various relief organizations, including the Red Cross, AmeriCares and Airlink, will also get bonus miles. The offer maxes out at 1,000 miles for donations of $250 or more. The airline will match those donations up to a total of $200,000.
Other Travel Companies
There are few other travel industry players that deserve a mention, too. Carnival Cruise Line and Enterprise Rent-A-Car are generously donating $1 million each. That tops all of the major airlines in terms of straight cash donations.
Hilton is giving $500,000, and the charitable organization founded by Conrad Hilton is giving another $500,000, for a total of $1 million. Hilton is also encouraging its Honors program members to give their points, offering to match up to $250,000 worth of donations.
Credit Card Issuers
Most of the major U.S. credit card issuers have committed to helping with Harvey relief. Most are offering cash donations and matching their employees’ contributions.
Bank of America, Chase and Citi are the biggest givers, pledging $1 million each. American Express is giving $500,000. BofA and Chase are also matching all employee donations, and Amex is matching up to $100,000.
While not giving a lump sum, Discover is encouraging its employees and customers to give. In addition to matching all employee contributions, the issuer will give up to a total of $500,000 more, matching cardholders who give through the CashBack Bonus program or use their Discover card to pay for a donation.
Payment processors, Visa and MasterCard, have pledged $250,000 and $100,000 each. Both companies are also matching employee donations.
PNC bank is giving $250,000 and matching up to $100,000 in employee donations. BB&T, Comerica, Regions Bank and RBC are donating $100,000 each, and PenFed Credit Union is giving $50,000.
Maximize Your Donations
Over 20 trillion gallons of water have been dumped on Houston due to Hurricane Harvey. The victims of that deluge will welcome any help they can get, so consider giving cash, miles or points.
If you want to help, think about giving through a company that’s matching donations. United and Discover for example will turn every dollar you donate into two. As an added bonus, United will also give you bonus MileagePlus miles.
If a cash donation isn’t an option, consider giving your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles, Delta SkyMiles or Hilton Honors points as all three organizations are accepting and matching all miles or points donations in their respective loyalty programs.