airplane windowOne way to bump up your frequent flyer mile earning is to use points from friends and family members who may not have any intention of using them. You can also be generous and share you own miles, which makes for a great, inexpensive travel gift. But rather than outright transferring them to someone else’s frequent flyer account, you can save on fees by simply booking the flights directly for your friend or family member.

Transferring Miles Can Cost You $100 Or More In Fees

When the amount of miles you’ll be gifting aren’t enough for an outright upgrade or free flight, you’ve got little option other than having them transferred to another account. Such transfers carry fees ranging upwards of $100 or more per transaction, generally making bulk mile transfers more sensible (e.g. $100 for 10,000 miles instead of $100 for 1,000). You can however get around transfer fees altogether when you book for another person directly, something the airlines don’t really advertise you can do.

Call Your Friend, Get Their Flight Details, And Book

I recommend giving the airline mileage programs a call, instead of booking online, when searching for reward flights. Generally it takes less time and somehow those agents find you many more flight options than are available through their websites. In the case you’re booking for someone else, have them come over, or at least call you with their flight details. It’s just like booking for yourself, except it’s not you who’s going to be traveling. Get your friend or family member’s flight dates (spread over 3 days for departure and return as allotted reward seats may not be available), birth date, and passport number. Also, don’t forget their seat and meal preferences for good measure.

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When you give the airline mileage program operator a call, let them know you’ll be booking for someone else (United Mileage Plus operators almost always ask, the others, not-so-much) and proceed with the booking. Although you’ll still be liable for the taxes (depending exactly how generous you want to be) you don’t have to pay any mileage transfer fees on top of them.

Works On The Big Airline Alliances But Funnel Your Miles To Maximize Them

Travelers looking to make the most of their frequent flyer miles (no matter how much you fly) should accumulate your miles in one place – preferably in the three most flexible major airline programs. Using United Mileage Plus or KLM Flying Blue, for example, you can use your miles on all of their partner airlines, which doesn’t always work in reverse. I’ve booked flights for friends and family using my miles on all three of the major alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld, and SkyTeam) – actually more than I’ve used for myself – avoiding additional transfer charges by using this method. You’ll end up saving $100 or more on reward flights for others, no matter who ends up paying the final booking bill.