As an amateur when it came to focussing on accumulating miles (what I am calling an un-roadwarrior), I ended up with miles accumulated on multiple airline programs. Some of these airlines do not fly on routes I want to redeem these miles on. So, the question, can I sell or trade these miles for miles on airline that I can fly?
Let me first address the question – how do you sell, buy or trade miles with someone else? Selling here is defined as you selling the award ticket or upgrade you receive for redeeming your miles. While miles can be transferred to another flier, airlines charge a hefty fee for that. So, if you want to use your miles for someone else, you would essentially ‘sponsor’ an award ticket or award upgrade for them, using your miles. Airline allow this for no fee. As I discuss next, airlines have a problem though if you get paid for the ‘sponsorship’.
While it is not illegal to sell miles, as far as US law is concerned (cannot speak for the laws of other countries), but it is against the policies and rules of all airline mileage programs.
Airlines consider selling miles a big no no. It can result in the termination of your account and loss of your miles. The whole selling miles concept does fall into a gray area though. If I sponsor my brother-in-laws trip to Jamaica and he brings me back a crate of rum to show his appreciation, did I just ‘sell’ my miles to him?
There may also be an impact on your taxes, if you do sell your miles.
If you are short on miles for an award, you can always buy miles from the airline itself. There is of course a fee for it. My survey of various airlines shows that airlines typically sell miles at $0.03 a mile. Is it worth it to buy? Do the math!
Trading or bartering miles goes on frequently and openly. When trading miles, you are actually trading your award for an award from someone else. Here is how it works. You have enough miles for an award ticket or upgrade on a airline you do not want to fly. You want an award on another airline. You post the airline and the amount of miles you have and the airline and miles you want on the trading website/forum. Someone else who has what you need and needs what you have responds and you make a deal. The catch here is that the travel dates will obviously not be the same. So, you are making a ‘gentleman’s’ agreement here. If the person trading with you rescinds on his end of the deal and you have already redeemed your miles for the award they needed, you are up the creek without a paddle (or up in the air without a parachute). Unless you have an uncle who knows someone who knows someone who can ‘make problems go away’, you really have no recourse to recover your miles. The airline of course, will have no interest in helping you here. So, be careful.
There are dedicated bartering websites out there. These in fact allow you to barter your miles for things other than miles too. There is a ‘hidden’ forum on FlyerTalk called ‘Coupon Connection’. It is only available to dedicated forum members who have qualified to gain access. Other websites that allow bartering or trading of miles are points.com and loyaltymatch.com.
(Disclosure: Since writing this article, this website has become an affiliate of Points.com. I endorse them and use them. If you click on their link on this site and avail of their superb services, I will receive a small fee).
A final note of advice, if you do trade miles, make sure you use a reputed web site or do it with someone you trust. It is very easy to get ripped off here.
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