Giving miles or points through a gift registry
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. He writes "Cashing In," a weekly column about credit card rewards programs, for CreditCards.com
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Dear Cashing In,
week, my nephew posted on Facebook that he and his fiancee have created a gift
registry for frequent flier miles for their wedding this fall. I need to get
them a wedding gift and would love for them to be able to travel. Is there any
reason I shouldn't do that? -- Liza
of times, gift registries bring to mind fine china, fluffy towels or no-stick frying
pans. But nowadays, all kinds of companies have established gift registries to
allow you to spend money, er, make a big day special.
as you note, Liza, it is now possible to set up gift registries to receive
frequent flier miles. Some hotel chains allow the same option with their points
just because you can, should you?
problem is that generally, buying or donating miles or points is not a good
deal. Sure, it's a good deal for the recipient. What's not to like about padding
additional miles or points into an existing account? But as a giver, you might
want to stick with the gravy boat or electric wok off the department store
do some quick math. Take United Airlines, which says "friends and family
will enjoy fulfilling the recipient's travel wishes and will also appreciate
the no-guesswork giving that a MileagePlus gift registry offers." If you're
buying miles, they cost $35 per 1,000, plus a 7.5 percent excise tax. According
to United's reward travel chart, domestic round-trip flights
start at 25,000 frequent flier miles, for flights of more than 700 miles each
way. That's $875 for a round-trip domestic flight -- assuming you could find
award seats available. US Airways also runs a
miles registry and charges the same price. In both cases, you'd do much
better just paying for a flight.
slightly more appealing way to give miles is to transfer miles from your
account. Maybe you've accumulated them through travel, or maybe through
spending on a rewards credit card. With United, transferring miles costs $15
per 1,000, plus a $20 per transaction processing fee. So that round-trip award
ticket is now $395. With US Airways, sharing 25,000 miles costs $298.75. More reasonable, but
remember that you've already spent something to accumulate these miles, and you
could simply cash them in for a ticket for the registry recipient at no cost.
also allows points transfers to a gift registry. It charges $12.50 per 5,000 points. A one-night redemption at a
low-level Hampton Inn (Category 2) costs 10,000 points, so that's $25. To stay
somewhere nicer for a night, you'd probably have to burn more like 50,000
points, which would come to $125 to transfer. That's not a horrible deal.
Hilton says its points registry is "the perfect way to celebrate a
wedding, anniversary, birthday, graduation or other special occasion," and
the hotel chain encourages you to spread the news on Facebook and Twitter.
you might be better off giving something more traditional. Or if you really
want to give the gift of travel, consider a gift card for an actual dollar
amount. You might even be able to purchase that gift card using miles or points
through an online shopping mall. That's likely to be much more flexible and a
better value than donating points to a gift registry.
great you want to give your nephew something he wants. But you can find a
better way to give it to him.
See related: 7 signs you need to cash in your rewards -- now!
When you can, can't transfer rewards points
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Published: July 8, 2014
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