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How to Transfer Your Miles to Someone Else (& Why You Should Avoid It)

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Find yourself in a pinch, a few thousand miles short of what you need to book that (nearly) free award ticket? That's where transferring or combining miles with a spouse, friend, relative, or travel companion often comes up.

But consider yourself warned: Many airlines (especially here in the U.S.) don't let you transfer miles for free – not even close. Many will charge $100 or more just to share a few thousand miles with a friend or family member. Fortunately, that's starting to change: United recently introduced free mileage pooling and across the pond, Virgin Atlantic now offers a cheap way to share miles.

In other cases, you won't be so lucky. But you may not even need to transfer miles at all…

If you do, though, we're here to help. Here's a look at how it works – and what it might cost you.


How Transferring Airline Miles Works

Most airlines will charge you an arm and a leg to transfer your hard-earned miles to another traveler.

With two notable exceptions, transferring miles on most major U.S. airlines is far too expensive to be worth it. Booking flights with frequent flyer miles is meant to save money – not require you to spend more.

But in some rare cases, it might be the best move. Let's say you and your travel buddy are planning a trip together and while you've got plenty of miles, your pal is 5,000 miles short of what they need to book a flight. While paying anything might hurt, sending them 5,000 of your miles might be the cheapest way to get it done.

But exactly what you might have to pay – if anything – varies from airline to airline. Here's how some of the major U.S. airlines handles transferring miles to another account.


Transferring Alaska Mileage Plan Miles

You can transfer Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to the account of a friend or family member. But it'll cost you.

You can transfer in increments of 1,000 miles at a cost of $10.00 per 1,000 miles, plus a $25.00 processing fee per transaction. There's a cap of 30,000 miles per transaction.


Alaska Transfer Miles


So if you were looking to transfer 30,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles to another user, it would cost you $325 ($300 for the miles and a $25 processing fee). Save your money: Don't do it if you don't have to.

Alaska caps these transfers at 100,000 miles in or out of an account per calendar year.

Transferring American AAdvantage Miles

Like Alaska, American Airlines allows users to transfer AAdvantage miles between accounts for a price. Fortunately, that price has decreased significantly.

Now, American charges just $5 to transfer 1,000 miles. And the airline doesn't tack on a separate transaction fee.


AAdvantage Miles Transfer


That means if you were looking to transfer 30,000 American AAdvantage miles to another user, it would cost you $150. That's better than many other airlines on this list … but still not great.

Each AAdvantage member is limited to receiving no more than 200,000 AAdvantage miles. You can transfer no more than 200,000 AAdvantage miles out of an AAdvantage account in a calendar year

You can learn more about AA mileage transfer on American's mileage transfer terms & conditions page.


Transferring Delta SkyMiles

While you can transfer miles between two different Delta SkyMiles accounts, it's not a good idea.

The fees to transfer SkyMiles add up fast depending on how many miles you're trying to send to another flyer: Delta charges $10 per 1,000 miles that you transfer, plus a $30 processing fee. That means transferring 30,000 SkyMiles would cost you $330.


Amex transfer to DeltaYou can transfer a maximum of 30,000 SkyMiles per transaction, which means larger transfers would require multiple transactions – and be on the hook for multiple processing fees.

Within a calendar year, one SkyMiles account can transfer a maximum of 150,000 SkyMiles. If you're receiving SkyMiles, however, you can get up to 300,000 SkyMiles each year via transfer.

You can learn more about this on Delta's mileage transfer FAQ page.


Transferring JetBlue TrueBlue Miles

No major U.S. airline does mileage transfers better than JetBlue.

In 2020, they expanded their points pooling feature, allowing pools of up to seven friends, family members, or even complete strangers to share your points with. The best part? There is no cost to operate one of these pools.


transfer airline miles jetblue


You can add up to seven total members of a pool, no matter whether they’re family or friends. The “Pool Leader” can decide which members can use pooled miles to book reward flights.

One thing that's worth noting: 100% of any pool members’ miles earned are automatically added to the pool account.

With that, there are some other important aspects to keep in mind:

  • TrueBlue members can only be part of one pool
  • Pool leaders must be 21 or older
  • Pool leaders can remove members and designate which members can use pooled miles
  • Members can leave a pool at any time, taking unused miles with them


Transferring United MileagePlus Miles

Like the other biggest U.S. airlines, United also charges a substantial fee to transfer miles. But that's not the end of the story.

United currently charges $7.50 for every 500 miles you transfer plus a $30 processing fee per transaction (plus applicable taxes), making transferring United MileagePlus miles the most expensive on the list. So if you were looking to transfer 30,000 United MileagePlus miles to another user, it would cost you $480 ($450 for the miles and a $30 processing fee).

United Miles Transfer

You can transfer up to 100,000 miles to each recipient's account per calendar year and receive up to 100,000 transferred miles each calendar year. Learn more about it on United's mileage transfer terms & conditions page.

But there's a much better way.

United Airlines was the first of the “big four” U.S. airlines to introduce mileage pooling – and it's completely free. After a brief outage soon after launching in late March 2024, it's back up and running.

Up to five travelers can share and redeem miles for free from a joint account – and they don't have to be in the same household … or even related. Plus, each member can decide individually how many miles to kick in to share with the group: You don't have to share your entire balance of miles just because you join a pool.

There's only one major limitation: Only redemptions on United and United Express are allowed when redeeming pooled miles – not United's many Star Alliance partner airlines like Lufthansa, SWISS, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and others.


united miles pooling


So long as you're looking to fly with United using miles, starting a mileage pool is your best option. If you want to book ANA business class or Lufthansa First Class with a buddy, however, your only option might be paying an exorbitant amount to transfer miles.


Transferring Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

Southwest Airlines charges $5 per 500 Rapid Rewards points you transfer to another user. Unlike many others on this list, Southwest doesn't add on a processing fee for these transfers.

You can transfer Rapid Rewards Points in increments of 1,000 during promotional periods (and 500 points at all other times) with a minimum transfer amount of 2,000 points – and a daily maximum of 60,000 points.


Southwest Miles Transfer

Using our same 30,000-point example, it would cost you $300 to transfer 30,000 Rapid Rewards Points. That's … not a great deal, and should be avoided at all costs.

You can learn more about it on Southwest's mileage transfer terms & conditions page.


Do You Even Need to Transfer Miles?

This is the big question. And in many situations, the answer is an easy “No.”

We hear from travelers all the time who have plenty of miles and assume they need to transfer them in order to book a flight for a friend or a family.

If you have the miles in your account, you can book a ticket for another person directly from your account – whether you're traveling with them or not! All the major U.S. airlines (and most international carriers, for that matter) allow you to book an award ticket for absolutely anyone.

So rather than paying a whopping $750 to transfer 66,000 of your Delta SkyMiles to a friend so they can book these flights to Madrid (MAD), you could just book that ticket for them from your own account without paying an extra dime.


jfk to madrid skymiles


If you both have enough miles to book tickets, there's also no reason to pay big bucks to combine them and book together. You can book the tickets separately, then simply choose seats next to each other.

If you've got transferrable credit card points from banks like Chase, American Express, or Capital One, there might be other options, too.


Bottom Line

Think you have to transfer airline miles to your friend or family member? Think again.

Many airlines will charge you a small fortune to share your hard-earned miles, so it's worth avoiding at all costs. And nine times out of 10, there's a much better solution – if you need to transfer miles at all.

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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

11 Responses

  • Not being able to transfer miles raises a minor dilemma — my wife and I each have over 80k miles that we would like to use for a joint overseas trip — would you prefer each booking a roundtrip, or each booking two one-ways?

    • You can book each ticket out of each account and then contact the airline to let them know you’re traveling together should anything happen to your itinerary. This is the easiest way and avoids having to transfer miles.

  • Although it costs money to transfer miles, how does it work if I book my granddaughter on a flight with my miles. Is that the same?

  • What is the business logic for even having this program? To catch a few free bucks from less discerning individuals? Cash in on high net worth divorces?

  • Following up on Mike’s question. Don’t airlines want redemption of their miles so that they can book the redemptions as revenue (and reduce the liabilities side of their balance sheet)?

  • My spouse started on Hospice care a week ago. Do you know if airlines have a bereavement exception where I can transfer his miles without incurring any of the fees you mentioned?

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m not aware of any such exception but it does not hurt to ask. Otherwise, you could simply book travel from his account for yourself (or others) using his miles.

    • It may be worth asking Alaska directly if you need them ASAP. However, I would imagine the transfer would complete within a few days.

  • Can I use my dad’s AA miles to upgrade mine and my husband’s seats on a flight purchased even though my dad won’t be traveling with us?

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