Donate Your Frequent Flier Miles To Charity

Why bother with frequent flier miles when you can donate them to charity? The donations are tax-deductible, making them an attractive alternative to the Sisyphean challenge of ferreting out an eligible seat.

Many non-profit organizations have frequent flier mileage donation packages, and several major air carriers have developed charitable programs using earned miles. Some are exclusive partnerships geared to one or two specific charities, while others have multiple organizations with quarterly or monthly rotations, allowing all the participating charities equal time to receive miles.

Peter Greenberg lists several charities that accept miles as donations, from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to Save The Dogs, an Italian non-profit committed to rescuing stray dogs in Romania. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Donating Frequent Flier Miles and Making Them Count [Peter Greenberg]
(Photo: Daquella manera)

Update: Miles are deductable only in very limited circumstances.

From MileDonor.com:

The donation of miles is generally not tax-deductible. In essence, they are not “property” in the eyes of the IRS, and thus have no monetary value.

The reason for this is simple, you generally have earned miles as a non-taxable rebate from other purchases and have not paid exclusively for the miles in which to establish a donation.

There may be one exception. You may be able to purchase miles directly from the programs then donate them to charity — thus qualifying for the tax deduction. But that is a BIG ‘maybe.’ We highly recommend consulting with a qualified tax attorney or other financial professional before making any decisions regarding the deduction of donated miles, points or awards.

Comments

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  1. eli_b says:

    It’s like David Cross says in a stand up bit… why should you give up your miles, when the company could easily accommodate them? There are frequently empty seats, why can’t sick kids sit there?

    And this is just a way to steal miles from you, helping to maximize profit.

  2. 160medic says:

    Stray dogs in Romania? Ha Ha

  3. badhatharry says:

    That’s nice that the airlines have it set up so we can donate our earned miles to charity. I’m not trying to be selfish, but the airlines still come up. The miles are already earned, they are just transferring them to someone else. The seat next to me on my last flight to Seattle was empty. Why doesn’t Alaska donate that to charity?

  4. JEWatson says:

    Donating frequent flyer miles to charity is NOT tax deductible/ Try Googling the phrase: donating frequent flyer miles charity tax deductible.

  5. iMike says:

    Simple question: what’s the FMV of an airline award that you can’t transfer for value under the rules of the frequent flier program?

    Cuz that’s what you get to deduct.

    I think the deductibility of such gifts is far from a sure thing.

  6. Bluefreak says:

    This is definitely bad advice–air miles donated to charity are NOT tax-deductible. See the Red Cross’ web site (http://www.redcross.org/donate/donatemiles.html) as well as Smarter Travel (http://www.smartertravel.com/travel-advice/miles-given-charity-deductible.html?id=13454) for an explanation, but basically unless you explicitly paid for the miles you cannot take a deduction (and if you did pay for the miles, why are you donating them anyway?)

    So go ahead and use the miles for yourself or your friends, and take the money you saved and donate it directly to the charity of your choice.

  7. krunk4ever says:

    @Bluefreak: thanks for clearing that up about this being BAD ADVICE. this struck me as weird as how was the conversion made if i didn’t actually pay for the miles?

    Linkified for the lazies:
    American Red Cross: Donate Airline Miles
    Smarter Travel: Are miles given to charity tax-deductible?…

  8. cornish says:

    As someone who has flown on donated miles going to an American Red Cross assignment I can tell you that, tax deductible or not, they’re certainly appreciated.

  9. CapitalC says:

    Forget giving my points to charity, my airline makes it difficult for me to use points on a flight for MYSELF.

    Thanks for nothing, Air Canada.

  10. Michael says:

    Why would you donate something that you earn slowly over a long period of time and is relatively worthless, in relation to the time it takes to acquire? Sounds to me like the most unsatisfying way to donate possible.