While the holidays lend to traditions of material gift-giving, there’s also an important element of giving back associated with the festive season. Thanks to collaborations with charities and fundraising websites, select credit card, airline, and hotel loyalty programs allow members to engage in charitable giving using points or miles. Each has its own platform for converting points or miles into donations, often at cash equivalents.
While donating points and miles won’t qualify for any tax deductions, it does allow frequent fliers and credit cardholders to make a difference without spending a dime. Here, some of our favorite programs for altruistic use of points and miles this holiday season.
1. American Airlines AAdvantage
American Airlines allows you to donate your AAdvantage miles to partner organizations that fall under four umbrellas: Social Good, Global Health and Well-Being, Heroes, and Our Planet. By giving miles to Social Good, for example, you’ll support organizations such as the American Red Cross, Feeding America, and UNICEF.
2. American Express Membership Rewards
Through a partnership with JustGiving, American Express cardholders can convert Membership Rewards points to money for charities, nonprofits, or fundraisers. Cardholders can choose from countless registered U.S. nonprofit organizations through the JustGiving search engine and even donate a combination of points and cash. Big word of caution: Be diligent when looking for your desired recipient on the JustGiving page; far too many random crowdfunding sites and personal fundraising pages live within it. Be sure to scroll down to the subsection, under the headline “Charities,” where true charities with registered charity numbers exist.
3. Chase Ultimate Rewards
Through Ultimate Rewards’ “Pay Yourself Back” feature, cardholders of select Chase cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve can use Ultimate Rewards points to offset charges that fall under specific categories. One such category is “Select Charities” and includes Habitat for Humanity, International Medical Corporation, and United Way, among others.
Until December 31, 2023, redeem Ultimate Rewards points toward these charities with a 25 percent bonus for Preferred cardholders and a 50 percent bonus for Reserve cardholders.
4. Citi ThankYou Points
Citi ThankYou points can be used as monetary donations to numerous charities ranging from American Red Cross Disaster Relief to No Kid Hungry to Smile Train, a global charity that empowers local medical professionals to deliver surgical services and long-term care to children with cleft lips and palates. Simply log into the ThankYou portal through your Citi account, click on the banner that states “More Ways to Redeem” and then select “Charities.”
5. Delta SkyMiles
Through Delta’s SkyWish landing page, Delta SkyMiles members can allocate miles to any of 15 U.S.-based charities, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, as well as more than a dozen international organizations.
6. Hilton Honors
Hilton Honors has teamed up with PointWorthy for its giving-back initiatives. Simply set up a PointWorthy account, link your Hilton Honors account to it, search for your desired organization, and let the charitable giving begin. You can donate to multiple causes at once—just be sure to select Hilton Honors as your method of payment.
7. Marriott Bonvoy
Marriott Bonvoy members can cash out their points as contributions to dozens of charities from the Matthew Shepard Foundation to the World Wildlife Fund. At press time, Marriott is matching contributions point-for-point made to UNICEF and World Central Kitchen to help those impacted by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine (you must use this specific link for points matching).
8. Southwest Rapid Rewards
Through its “Points for a Purpose” program, Southwest Airlines allows Rapid Rewards members to allot points to seven different beneficiaries, ranging from Ronald McDonald House Charities to Polaris, a social justice movement dedicated to ending sex and labor trafficking in North America.
9. United MileagePlus
With “Miles on a Mission,” United makes it easy for MileagePlus members to contribute their miles to myriad fundraisers and partner charities, including Conservation International, Guide Dogs of America, and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
This article was originally published in November 2021; it was updated on December 22, 2022, with current information.