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Subsidizing Travel For Friends and Family With Points

When you’re earning hundreds of thousands of miles every month, some friends and family expect you to share the wealth if you’re traveling together. It can get awkward – especially when I have to sacrifice hotel quality and airline cabin because of someone else’s budget. I know people who have no problem flying first while their friends are in coach. And I know people who have booked hotels during group trips with friends…and still had to pitch in $5 to cover resort fees.

It can be tough to manage expectations while also being fair. So what’s the best course of action? Do you subsidize travel for family and friends using your miles?


The Way I Do It

For me, the answer is a bit complicated. I have no problem covering travel for immediate family members using miles. My parents have their own rewards credit cards…that I obtained for them and met the spending requirement for. As an authorized user, I regularly churn gift cards using these cards. I’m happy to do this for my parents and there’s no question I’ll cover their travel any time. Same goes for my siblings – they may not do much to help with earning points and miles, but they’re family and as an older sister I’m happy to do nice things for them. I’ve also on occasionally booked travel for family members living abroad. The area where it gets dicey is when you’re all traveling together.

A year and a half ago, my family decided to travel to Mecca for Umrah. There were five of us, plus my grandmother, aunt, and cousin decided to come along. It got a little tricky, trying to find reasonably priced fares that coincided with our award flights. It worked out in the end and I did manage to fly my grandmother in business class, but then we got to Dubai…around New Year’s Eve. Hotels were expensive and I had a bunch of Hilton points and free nights.

Booking the Conrad Dubai made the most sense for us – for everyone else, it meant paying $500 per night. The options were

1.) we stay at different hotels, which seemed like a douchebag move or

2.) I subsidize their hotel stay with my points.

I ended up going with the second option. I never told them I used my points, but rather that I scored a great deal for them. It worked out for everyone.


The Way I Won’t Do It

When my cousin and I planned a trip to Europe a couple of years ago, she had a budget. It basically meant we’d be staying at a lot of non-chain hotels that weren’t that nice. Plus, I’d have to pay my share out of pocket since I didn’t have points to cover non-chain hotels.

In that instance, I sort of drew a line. I didn’t want to spend 25,000 points per night at hotels that were out of her budget. Subsidizing the stay by asking her to pitch in a low cash rate didn’t make sense for me.

When it came to redeeming airline miles, I thought about subsidizing her flight so we could both fly in business. But then I did the math on what it cost me to acquire those miles and again, it didn’t make sense. Especially since she could afford her own airfare.

Ultimately, the trip got derailed due to other circumstances, but I started to create boundaries in terms of when I would and would not subsidize travel for friends and family.


What It All Boils Down To

Whether I decide to cover or subsidize flights for others comes down to fairness for me. If we’re in Dubai on New Year’s Eve and hotels are $500 per night, sure – I’ll cover it with my Hilton points and say the rate was $250 per night.

That’s totally fair, considering they got a better hotel in a great location with breakfast/lounge access included. Of course, I wouldn’t take anything from my grandmother, but my cousin and aunt were already saving a ton of cash and getting a superior travel experience because of my status and points.

But when it comes to gratuitous “upgrades” and booking travel for people who can afford it, there’s no need to come out of pocket. Even if you are earning hundreds of thousands of miles every month.

When I started collecting points and miles seven years ago, I wanted to tell everyone about it. Whether they wanted to hear it or not. It made no sense to me why people wouldn’t look into churning credit cards or gift cards to fund their travel.

It wasn’t until I actually started redeeming miles that friends and family took it seriously. Suddenly, they wanted in on it – but it seemed like a lot of work, so they didn’t follow through.

I teach this stuff on my blog weekly, so I feel like since I’ve made the information accessible, I’ve done my duty. People who don’t want to be bothered to learn about reward travel and put effort into it shouldn’t expect to have their travel subsidized by friends and family who do earn miles to cover theirs. That’s my take on it. Especially, if they can afford it but are being cheap.


What do you all think? Would you subsidize travel for family and friends using miles?


Comments are Closed.
pointchaser May 2, 2018

@htb come again? I don’t understand your logic. How does my earning miles leave less for others? And there is no “hard” way to earn miles. You either travel or churn gift cards/cc’s. None of it is particularly difficult. @UAAAPeter very true. A lot of people in this hobby lean towards the greedy/selfish side. Very nice of you to try and help people out who need a leg up. Btw my parents are exactly the same - if I tell my dad a flight I’m booking costs 5k miles he’ll say, “that’s too much! I’ll pay.”

chrystinp April 24, 2018

I have used my points to accomodate travel for my spouse, mother, sisters, nieces, nephews, and children. I have also gifted them to friends who needed to travel and had no money. One friend needed travel from the Caribbean - NYC for cancer treatment. Note my friends/family don't ask--I give when I can. I don't earn hundreds of thousands of points monthly, never have, and don't know anyone who has. I have earned close to 4 million flight miles over many years of travel and have 400k in the "bank." I don't believe in sitting on points. I have earned about 1.95 million hotel points in one chain with about 100K in the "bank." Other chains I've earned lesser, but still several hundred thousand and use them all up with less than 100K in the "bank." I don't give my miles away to charities and those sponsored by the airlines to shift miles. Only to real people that I know. I don't sell them in any manner, shape, or form.

top987 April 18, 2018

I have no problem traveling in a different class. My wife and I go to Hawaii every year, it's 2 5+ hour flights. Usually we both get upgraded or both have enough points to go business class. But if only upgrade is available she goes up front. It's not like we don't see each other often enough. And many times when we do both get upgrades we end up sitting apart anyway. And she sleeps the whole flight and I watch movies. No biggie. But I only give out points to my mother. No one else in the family is needs to know how my travel arrangements are done.

kkua April 18, 2018

Sounds like more work than it has to be. My best approach to subsidizing family travel using points is for them to pay me what it will cost for commercial flights. The funds given to "purchase my miles" goes towards hotel accommodations that I dictate. No qualms... everybody pitches in. Don't try to redeem both flight and accommodations for the same trip.

Fabo.sk April 18, 2018

I don't get much of airline miles, but I do score decent amount of hotel points. Either case, I consider them as if they were currency. Would I be willing to pay for this or that persons hotel/flight in cash? Not necessarily donate, but in an I get the hotel, you get the X sort of deal maybe. Parents? Sure. I mean, it's the least I could do. My sister? Just booked a room for her yesterday. But then she lets me use her car when I'm at home, which is also something she doesn't have to do, so it's really no problem. Random family friend that we happen to travel with? Maybe, I guess. If I know that I can expect them to take care of the Disneyland tickets, or whatever.