Which Loyalty Programs Let You Gift Points for Free?

Dec 20, 2015

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TPG reader Mary sent me a message on Facebook to ask about gifting points and miles:

“Which programs allow you to gift or transfer rewards to friends inexpensively?”

Points and miles can make a great gift for your traveling friends and famly, and most loyalty programs allow you to give rewards to other members. However, these gifts often come at a steep price, even when you’re just transferring from your existing account balance.

Mary is looking for options that won’t incur heavy fees, and fortunately some programs have favorable policies. Citi lets you share ThankYou points with any other member at no cost. However, shared points expire after 90 days, so you should only take advantage of this feature when the person you’re sharing with has immediate plans to redeem for travel.

Hyatt and Club Carlson also allow free transfers to other members, though there are some restrictions. You can only combine Hyatt Gold Passport points for a specific award, but you’ll have to mail or fax in a request form, so it’s not a good last-minute option. Club Carlson lets you transfer to any other member if you have elite status — which you can get with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature or other co-branded credit cards. Without elite status, you can only transfer to people in your household.

On that note, several programs make it easy to transfer rewards to “family,” and there are some fairly generous rules about who qualifies. Starwood Preferred Guest lets you transfer points to members who have lived at your same address for at least 30 days. Amex Membership Rewards limits transfers to a spouse or domestic partner, but also lets you send points to authorized cardholders. Chase Ultimate Rewards restricts direct transfers to spouses only, but it recently updated its rules so that you can transfer points to other loyalty accounts in the name of an authorized user.

Citi lets you share ThankYou points with other members, but make sure to redeem them within 90 days so they don’t expire.

Some airlines like British Airways and JetBlue offer family pooling, so you can both earn and redeem rewards using one account as a group. Other airline and hotel loyalty programs (like Marriott and Best Western) offer limited transfers to certain family members. These are some of the more flexible free transfer options, but there are others. Check the rules of whichever program you hope to use for more details.

If you don’t have good options for transferring or gifting points to someone else, you might be better off simply paying for their award travel. Most programs let you book awards directly in another person’s name even if they don’t share your address. This could even be preferable to transferring rewards, especially if the recipient doesn’t have much experience booking award travel.

For more info about gifting and transferring rewards, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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