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Points and miles as a graduation gift? Consider alternatives

There are probably ways to accomplish the same goal without huge fees

Summary

If you want to give a college graduate the gift of travel, there are better ways to do so than by donating points. Here are your options.

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Dear Cashing In,

My niece is graduating from college next month. I have a lot of points and miles in a few different programs. Is there a way to give her those as a graduation gift? I’d love for her to be able to travel before she starts working. – Bill

Dear Bill,

It sounds like such a simple idea: You have a lot of points and miles. Your niece doesn’t. You need a graduation gift. So, you want to give them to her.

Unfortunately, although that seems to make sense intuitively, giving your points and miles to somebody as a gift is not as easy as it should be.

The reality is that even though you probably spent a lot of money to accumulate your points and miles, transferring them to your niece would cost you even more money – and a lot of it.

However, the good news is that there might still be ways to accomplish your goal – giving your niece the gift of travel – without giving her actual possession of your points and miles.

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Ask Tony a question.

See related: Sharing miles with friends, family: These airlines allow it

Donating miles: What to consider

A few points to take into account when considering donating miles as a graduation gift:

Transferring miles to somebody else is expensive

To convert miles in your account into miles in somebody else’s account, airlines charge a pretty steep fee.

  • On United, the cost is $15 per 1,000 frequent flyer miles.
  • On Delta, the cost is $10 per 1,000 miles, plus a $30 processing fee.
  • On American, the cost depends on how many you transfer, but 10,000 miles costs $112 (for the sake of comparison, that’s $11.20 per 1,000).
  • You can see that transferring enough for a domestic ticket – 25,000 miles – would cost nearly $400.

Buying miles for somebody else is even more expensive

If you didn’t have miles and needed to buy some, that cost is even steeper.

  • United and Delta sell 10,000 miles for $350.
  • American sells 10,000 miles for $330. Sometimes they run specials, but even with a slight discount, that’s a lot to pay.

Better to give the gift of travel using miles

Instead of going through those expensive processes with the airlines, you should consider other options for your niece – ones that are better deals that won’t cost too much money.

Think about:

Gift cards

Most airlines sell gift cards or gift certificates on their websites.

You might also be able to purchase airline gift cards using points or miles, though you should pay close attention to the cost.

Buying an airline gift card is a much more straightforward deal than attempting to transfer and redeem airline miles.

A miles or points IOU

Along with her graduation card, what if you included a handmade coupon that said something like, “Good for a trip costing 25,000 frequent flyer miles from Uncle Bill”?

When she wanted to travel somewhere, she could give you the flight information, and you could redeem your points for a ticket for her.

That way, there is no extra expense. Also, if she somehow fails to take you up on the offer, you don’t lose your miles.

It also encourages her to maintain contact with you, which could benefit your relationship with her.

Cash

Nothing is more flexible than cash, which is a traditional graduation gift.

It’s true that she might use it for beer money or rent instead of travel. But that would give her the ultimate choice. And you know it wouldn’t go to waste.

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Published: April 22, 2019

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