'Tis the Season

'Tis the Season

Hey, you!

Yes — you. The one with the miles.

It’s holiday time again. So put down the eggnog for a second and listen up.

There are other people out there who may not be as fortunate as you are, and there’s no better time than now to lend a hand. And you can do that with a quick, simple donation of miles.

In the past, frequent flyers have been reluctant to donate miles to charity, largely because there are no tax benefits associated with such donations. And frankly, that’s a good thing — we don’t want to give the IRS any ideas.

But the fact remains that even though many airline programs have allowed charitable donations for years (and many members have, in fairness, donated plenty), the demand for gifted miles and points still greatly outstrips the supply.

Since 1981, when frequent flyer programs began, more than 11 trillion miles have been earned by the traveling public. Of those, less than 400 billion — about 3 percent — have been redeemed for awards. Factor in the 9 to 10 percent of outstanding miles that expire each year, and the number of unused miles is staggering.

Yet every year, charities clamor for what amounts to table scraps.

To alleviate some of that need, here are our top three reasons to donate some miles this year.

1. The “I didn’t get a tax deduction” excuse won’t cut it at the Pearly Gates, and you know it. We’re not talking about a huge sacrifice here. American AAdvantage and Continental OnePass don’t even require a minimum amount when donating to their allied charities, so surely you can part with the 500 miles you “earned” by visiting a Web site or buying the right shoelaces.

2. Donations can count as “account activity,” and therefore might keep the rest of the miles in your account from expiring. The industry rule of thumb is that accounts without activity in the past 36 months can simply disappear, unless the member’s account shows some sign of life. Some programs require earning activity, but many simply require some activity. A few miles given to a worthy cause could save you thousands.

3. Almost everyone who travels on a regular basis ends up with “orphan” accounts — that is, accounts with programs they never really intend to use. In most cases, the total amount of these orphan miles is piddling. While it is true that currency exchange services like points.com can now transfer almost any program’s points into any other program’s, the value of those points is diminished greatly. Through donation, their value is preserved (not for the member, obviously).

If you’re not sure how to donate, or don’t find the airline charity partners quite to your liking, here’s a tip: Surf on over to miledonor.com, an online clearinghouse of information on how to put your miles in the hands of those who need them.

Beginning in 2002, Miledonor has been featured in the national media as a great way to navigate the world of mileage contributions. From the homepage, interested donors can find step-by-step instructions on how to donate through their frequent flyer programs, how to donate to specific charities, and even how to donate to individuals who post their specific needs on the site. The site also features the latest news about the charitable work performed by the loyalty industry itself.

Below we’ve listed a few of the major programs, the charities with which they’re affiliated, minimum donation amounts, and contact information for contributions.

So take a break from shopping, or eating, or hiding from extended family members, and consider sending a little goodwill where it can really count.

Program:
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
“Charity Miles”
Charity:
Make-A-Wish Foundation, Angel Flight West, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Alaska Shriners
Minimum Donation:
Donations accepted in increments of 5,000 miles.
How To Contribute:
By phone: (800) 654-5669

Program:
America West FlightFund
“Miles of Hope”
Charity:
American Red Cross, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Angel Flight, National Runaway Switchboard
Minimum Donation:
5,000
How To Contribute:
Online: www.americawest.com
Log into your account, click Donate Miles. Print and mail form to:
America West Airlines
FlightFund Service Center
P.O. Box 20050
Phoenix, AZ 85036-0050

Program:
American Airlines AAdvantage
Charity:
AAdvantage Fundraising, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Miles for Kids in Need, National Parks (donate & earn), UNICEF, USO (donate & earn)
Minimum Donation:
Any
How To Contribute:
Online: www.aa.com
Click: Partners > Charities
By phone: (800) 882-8880

Program:
American Express Membership Rewards
Charity:
Choose your charity and donate points or dollars.
Earn double points for every dollar donated online through Dec. 31 using an eligible AMEX card.
Minimum Donation:
1,000
How To Contribute:
Online: www.americanexpress.com/donate

Program:
Continental Airlines OnePass
Charity:
American Red Cross, AmeriCares, CAREFORCE, Healing the Children, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Operation Hero Miles
Minimum Donation:
Any
How To Contribute:
Online: www.onepass.com
Click: Use Miles>Non-Travel Awards>Donate Miles
By phone: (713) 952-1630

Program:
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
“SkyWish”
Charity:
C.A.R.E., Fisher House Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, The United Way, Charity of the Quarter (rotating)
Minimum Donation:
5,000
How To Contribute:
Automated by phone: (800) 325-3999
By email: delta.bids@delta-air.com
By fax: (404) 773-1945
By mail:
Delta Air Lines, Inc.
SkyMiles Service Center, Dept. 745
P.O. Box 20532
Atlanta, GA 30320-2532

Program:
Diners Club Club Rewards
Charity:
American Heart Association, America’s Second Harvest, Arthritis Foundation, Childreach, City of Hope, Home at Last, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Club, Y-Me Breast Cancer Awareness
Minimum Donation:
5,000
How To Contribute:
By phone: (800) 234-4034

Program:
Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns
“Miles 4 Smiles”
Charity:
Adoption Exchange, Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, El Jebel Shrine, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence* (*Frontier will match one mile for every four miles donated.)
Minimum Donation:
1,000
How To Contribute:
By phone: (866) 263-2759

Program:
Hilton HHonors
Charity:
Starlight Children’s Foundation (10,000 HHonors points = $25)
Minimum Donation:
10,000
How To Contribute:
Online: www.starlight.org
Click on HHonors logo and follow instructions.

Program:
InterContinental Priority Club Rewards
“Room for Hope”
Charity:
American Red Cross, Arthritis Foundation, C.A.R.E., Give Kids the World, UNICEF
Minimum Donation:
10,000
How To Contribute:
Online: www.priorityclub.com
Click: Corporate Information > Social Responsibility > Supporting Humanitarian Efforts
By phone: (800) 272-9273

Program:
Northwest Airlines WorldPerks “AirCares”
Charity:
More than 30 affiliations, including American Cancer Society; Big Brother/Big Sister of America; Guide Dogs of America; The Nature Conservancy; SightFirst and KidCares.
500 WorldPerks Bonus Miles for a $50 or more cash donation.
Minimum Donation:
5,000
How To Contribute:
By phone: (800) 327-2881

Program:
Starwood Preferred Guest
Charity:
Make-A-Wish Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, UNICEF
Minimum Donation:
One point
How To Contribute:
Online: www.starwood.com
Click: Awards>Transfer>Charities

Program:
United Airlines Mileage Plus
“Charity Miles”
Charity:
More than a dozen partners, including Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation; Salvation Army; Shriner’s Hospital for Children; TRIO (Transplant Recipients International Organization); US Olympic Team
Minimum Donation:
1,000
How To Contribute:
By phone: (800) 421-4655

Program:
US Airways Dividend Miles
Charity:
Make-A-Wish Foundation
*US Airways matches one mile for every five miles donated.
Minimum Donation:
5,000
How To Contribute:
Online: www.usairways.com
Log into your Dividend Miles account and select Donate Miles.
By phone: (336) 661-8390

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