Donating Your Miles and Travel Points for Charitable Causes

Have you been holding onto your credit card rewards? Donating them to charity could be the best use for them.

Advertising & Editorial DisclosureLast Updated: 9/13/2022
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Last Updated: 9/13/2022

Responsible credit card users can quickly rack up credit card rewards, especially if using a high-reward credit card. For those who find themselves sitting on their points or miles for extended periods, donating your rewards could help you put them to good use. Plus, you can support charities of your choice in just a few clicks!

As you’ll see in this article, donating your travel rewards can be easy. Keep in mind that there are a few drawbacks to consider before you hit the donate button.

How Does Donating Your Credit Card Points Work?

Many credit card companies now allow you to donate any points or miles you’ve racked up straight to charity. It may be the charity of your choosing, or your lender may have selections from which you can choose. Many major credit card companies, including AmEx, Chase and Discover, offer donation programs. Additionally, certain charities will take your points or miles directly.

What’s the Value of Your Donations to Charities?

Charities will accept your donation in various ways, but it’s not always dollar-for-dollar. It’ll depend entirely on the specific loyalty program and the charity of your choice.

Generally, your rewards will go to the charity in two ways: via travel credits or a direct cash donation. When your donations translate into travel rewards, some charities will use them to cover the cost of travel for marginalized groups in need. For example, Miles4Migrants is a nonprofit that accepts frequent flier miles and uses them to book flights for refugees and asylum-seekers.

Some credit card issuers transfer your points or miles as cash. Some of these points will transfer dollar-for-dollar or cent-for-cent, depending on the issuer. For others, however, it’ll be a percentage of your points.

When Should You Donate Your Rewards or Give Cash?

There’s never a bad time to donate your points or miles to charity. Whenever you rack up a nice amount of points, instead of cashing in, consider donating them instead. Often, over time credit card companies will change their redemption structure, which could mean a sudden devaluation of your points. So it may be best to donate points periodically rather than in a giant lump sum to take advantage of the total value of your points.

Additionally, keep an eye on the expiration date on your points, if there is one. If your points are close to expiration, donating them can help ensure they don’t go to waste.

Key Takeaways

rewards
Donating as Reward Points
  • You can often easily donate through your loyalty program portal. Many credit card companies have easy-to-use redemption portals so that you can donate your points in just a few clicks.
  • Some points don’t transfer cent-for-cent. You’re not often getting the exact value of your points when you donate them to charity.
  • Many charities accept rewards point donations. When looking at your loyalty program’s donation portal, you’ll often find dozens of charity options.
money2
Donating as Cash
  • More charities accept cash. While some charities accept miles or points, more charities accept direct cash donations.
  • You’re getting the exact value of your points or miles. If you cash out your points and donate that cash value to charity, you know exactly how much your charity of choice is getting.
  • Cash back credit cards could help you earn more. Certain cash back cards offer higher cash rewards than miles and points cards. Cash back cards often make it easier to donate to charity or get cold hard cash that you can then donate.
A checklist with a credit card.

How to Donate Your Rewards

You can donate your rewards in various ways, all of which can be completed in a few simple steps. Some methods, like making a cash donation, will be a better deal, but some charities also accept direct travel credits, which can be an easier way to offload your rewards.

Here are four of the most common ways rewards card holders can donate their rewards:

1

As travel credits

If your credit card company allows for donation via their portal, there should be an option to donate your miles or points as they are.

2

As cash

Some credit card companies will let you translate your points into cash before sending them to charities. AmEx, for example, works with JustGiving and makes it easy to redeem your points through statement credits you can use to donate. You simply create a free account on JustGiving’s page and enter your eligible card info.

3

Through hotel and travel loyalty programs

Any major loyalty program, whether a hotel or airline, has a page full of charities that will accept your donation. For example, JetBlue works with charities like Make-A-Wish, the Red Cross and Miles4Migrants, all of which gladly accept donations in the form of points or miles.

4

Directly to charities

If your charity of choice is a well-known, larger organization, you can often find a direct donation option through their website. The American Red Cross, for example, has a whole list of loyalty programs from which they accept donations.

How Donating Your Points and Miles Can Benefit You and Charities

Although donating your rewards has a few downsides, donating to charity is always a good thing. Even if your points or miles don’t add up to thousands of dollars, anything can help charitable organizations support those in need. Here are a few reasons donating your rewards to charities can be beneficial to you and the charity:

  • This is an icon

    Some charities prefer this type of donation

    There are certain charities, like Miles4Migrants, that can get a lot of use out of your miles and points. For instance, they can book flights for those seeking asylum or other support.

  • This is an icon

    It’s an easy way for you to use up almost expired points

    Miles and points often expire. If you don’t have an immediate use for them, donating to charity is the perfect way to use them up.

  • This is an icon

    You may have a better idea of where your donation will go

    Often, a charity’s website will tell you where your points and miles will go. Unlike cash donations that go towards various costs, miles and points have a direct purpose, so it’s easier to know where your money is going.

tip icon
HOW TO EARN MORE MILES FOR CHARITY
  • Spend in the most rewarding areas. If you’re part of specific loyalty programs, prioritize those airlines or hotels during travel. These stays or flights can rack up points quickly if you're a frequent traveler.
  • Take advantage of sign-up bonuses. If you’re in the market for a new credit card, picking one with a sizeable sign-up bonus could score you a large sum of points you can donate.
  • Stick with cards that have the best transfer rates. Certain programs have better transfer rates than others, so be sure to read the fine print before choosing a card.

Donating Your Miles and Travel Points FAQs

Donating your miles and travel points looks different across loyalty programs and credit card issues. Here are a few commonly asked questions about donating rewards to charity.

There are places where people can donate their points or miles.

Where to Donate Your Airline Miles

Many big-name airlines let you donate your loyalty points. You’ll see similar charities like the Red Cross and Make-A-Wish on most of the program lists, but others focus on specific regions. For example, Hawaiian Airlines have charities that focus specifically on the Hawaiian people. The same goes for Alaska Airlines, which focuses on Alaskan charities.

Below, you’ll find a table with various loyalty programs and the charities they support.

  • Loyalty Programs
    Charity Programs
    What You Should Know
  • American Airlines
    AAdvantage

    • Alaska Airlines
      Disaster Relief Pool
    • Alaska Airlines Miles
      for Youth
    • Angel Flight West
    • Dream Foundation

    Many of American Airlines’s
    charity options support direct
    mile donations that can help
    veterans, the environment
    and more.

  • Delta SkyMiles

    • American Red Cross
    • Breast Cancer
      Research Foundation
    • Canine Assistants
    • CARE
    • Children’s Miracle
      Network Hospitals
    • Fisher House
      Foundation
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • Junior Achievement
    • Luke’s Wings
    • Make-A-Wish
      America®
    • Polaris
    • St. Jude Children's
      Research Hospital
    • The Nature
      Conservancy
    • The Salvation Army
    • UNICEF

    Delta allows you to select
    from domestic and
    international charities all over
    the world.

  • JetBlue TrueBlue

    • Miles4Migrants
    • Make-A-Wish
    • DREAM Project
    • World Central Kitchen
    • Together We Rise
    • Angel Flight Northeast
    • Carbonfund
    • Autism Speaks
    • The Jet Blue
      Foundation
    • The American Red
      Cross
    • The Stonewall Inn
      Gives Back Initiative
    • The Center
    • Public Theater
    • Cradle of Aviation

    JetBlue makes the donation
    process incredibly easy. You’ll
    donate directly to your charity
    of choice in just three steps.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards

    • Polaris
    • Student Conservation
      Association
    • Ronald McDonald
      House Charities
    • Team Rubicon
    • Honor Flight Network
    • Hispanic Heritage
      Foundation
    • United Negro College
      Fund

    Southwest supports some
    very well-known charities and
    allows you to donate straight
    from your account page.

Where to Donate Your Hotel Points

Like many major airlines, most major hotel chains have donation programs. You’ll see similar charities to airline programs, but many chains also choose to focus on specific causes. For example, Accor focuses on environmental and social causes, as does Marriott.

Hotel loyalty programs tend to support fewer charities than airline programs, but they’re still worth contributing to.

  • Loyalty Programs
    Charity Programs
    What You Should Know
  • Hilton Honors

    • American Cancer
      Society
    • American Indian
      College Fund

    You’ll need to create a Point
    Worthy account and link your
    Hilton account to donate.

  • Marriott Bonvoy

    • American Red Cross
    • Children’s Miracle
      Network
    • UNICEF
    • World Central Kitchen
    • Clean the World
    • WWF
    • Asian University for
      Women
    • Prince’s Trust
    • WeConnect International
    • Polaris
    • True Colors United

    Marriott Bonvoy wants its
    cardholders to be able to
    donate to several causes,
    including global health
    organizations, sustainability,
    empowerment and human
    rights.

  • Radisson Rewards

    • American Red Cross
    • First Climate

    You can donate your
    Radisson Rewards via phone
    or by filling out their online
    form. You’ll need a minimum
    of 3,000 points to donate.

  • Wyndham Rewards

    • Save the Children
    • Fisher House
    • Polaris
    • Christel House
    • Armed Services
      YMCA
    • Clean the World
      Foundation
    • National Parks
      Conservation
      Association

    Wyndham offers many charity
    choices, with many of them
    requiring a minimum of 500
    points.

Where to Donate Your Credit Card Points

Not every credit card company allows you to donate your points, but many prominent players in the game do. While many of them make it easy to donate, you must read the fine print before donating to ensure your miles are maximized. It may be worth it to cash out on your points if it’s a direct dollar-for-dollar transfer and make a cash donation to the charity of your choosing instead.

That said, the programs below are worth checking out.

  • Loyalty Programs
    Charity Programs
    What You Should Know
    • AmEx’s partnership
      with JustGiving

    AmEx has partnered with
    JustGiving to allow you to
    donate to various charities all
    from one place.

    • American Red Cross
    • Equal Justice Initiative
    • Feeding America
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • International Medical
      Corporation
    • Leadership
      Conference Education
      Fund
    • NAACP Legal
      Defense and
      Education Fund
    • National Urban
      League
    • Thurgood Marshall
      College Fund
    • United Negro College
      Fund
    • United Way
    • World Central Kitchen

    Through Chase Pay Yourself
    Back, you can make a
    donation to charity and then
    pay yourself back with your
    points. Chase works with
    select charities, so call
    customer service to ensure
    the one you choose qualifies.

    • American Red Cross
    • No Kid Hungry
    • Smile Train
    • Susan G. Komen
    • UNICEF
    • World Central Kitchen

    You’ll need at least 2,500
    points to donate to any
    charities Citi works with, but
    you can do so straight from
    your rewards portal.

  • Discover

    • American Cancer
      Society
    • ASPCA
    • American Red Cross
    • Carbonfund.org
    • Children’s Miracle
      Network Hospitals
    • Junior Achievement
    • Juvenile Diabetes
      Research Foundation
    • Make-A-Wish
    • Operation Homefront
    • World Wildlife Fund

    Discover lets you donate your
    Cashback Bonus® rewards
    over the phone or at their
    account center.

Expert Insight on Donating Miles or Travel Points

To get some expert insight into the rewards point donation world, we spoke with three individuals who shared a few tips on donating any extra points or miles you may have.

  1. In your experience, what credit card company makes it easiest to donate to?
  2. Why would credit card users consider donating their points/miles/cash back to charity?
Jon Kozesky
Jon Kozesky

Founder & Principal of Jon Thomas Consulting

Jenna Lofton
Jenna Lofton

Certified Financial Advisor, Stock Trader & Small Business Owner at Stock Hitter

Resources for Donating Miles or Travel Points

  • Before Giving to a Charity guide: Your intention to give is always the right thing, but unfortunately, scams exist. Use this FTC guide to ensure you're donating to the right causes.
  • American Red Cross Donate Points To Charity page: One of the most common charities listed on any rewards donation page is the American Red Cross. Their direct charity page can help you easily determine if your rewards qualify for donation.
  • Calculate The Cash Value of Points and Miles: To learn your points' cash value or what your loyalty program points are worth, check out this calculator.
  • Miles4Migrants: Another common option for donation is Miles4Migrants. This organization is one of the more well-known charities that accept direct travel credits. They use your donations to help refugees and asylum-seekers get flights to the U.S.

About the Author


Christopher Murray is a professional personal finance and sustainability writer who enjoys writing about everything from budgeting to unique investing options like SRI and cryptocurrency. He also focuses on how sustainability is the best savings tool around. He has a bachelor's degree in both English literature and gender studies. You can find his work on sites like MoneyGeek, Money Under 30 and ChooseFI.


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