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As holiday shoppers scramble to find last-minute gifts for friends and loved ones, it may be tempting to consider giving airline miles that were earned from credit cards. And while it can sound like a great idea to give your miles as a gift, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this.

Beware of Airlines Selling Gifts

Buying miles to give as gifts can make perfect sense, but only if you are an airline. For example, US Airway’s web site markets their gift miles program as a way to “Help friends or family reach the awards they want by buying miles for them!” They will happily sell you 25,000 miles for $875. But sadly, that is just enough for a round trip domestic flight at their lowest mileage levels, and even those awards are very scarce. They even offer a gift registry to encourage your friends and family to contribute these extremely overpriced miles.

But what if you already have a bunch of miles, and you just want to transfer them to someone as a gift? Unfortunately, this too is extremely expensive. Delta will transfer your miles to another person’s account at a rate of one cent each, plus a $30 processing fee. Therefore, giving the same 25,000 miles for a domestic round-trip (if you could find an available award at that level), would cost you $280. And while that might be a reasonable price to purchase miles, it represents an incredibly poor value for transferring the miles that you have already earned.

The Right Way to Use Your Miles for a Gift

As terrible as these offers are to gift or transfer miles, there is a simple way to avoid all of these fees. If you have enough miles in your account, and you want to give them as a gift, simply offer to issue an award in the name of the person you are giving the gift to. Every airline will allow their frequent fliers to issue awards in other people’s names.

Just think of the frequent business travelers who use their miles to issue awards for themselves and their family members when they take a vacation. The fact is that the holder of the account does not have to be traveling; an award can be issued in the name of any person you choose.


Many airline credit card users forget about their rewards and quickly accumulate more miles than they would like to use. For these people, airline travel awards can make for the perfect gift. Just be sure to avoid paying any fees for this service and to issue an award directly from your account in the name of the recipient. As long as you do it correctly, the gift of miles can be one of the most unique and memorable presents you will ever give.

Image: asenat29, via Flickr

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