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Opinion

Subsidizing Travel For Friends and Family With Points

Subsidizing Travel For Friends and Family With Points
Ariana Arghandewal

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?

 

View Comments (13)

13 Comments

  1. SF1K

    April 15, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Since most of my points and miles are earned because of business travel, which means time away from home and family I consider those miles and points to be part of the compensation for that time. Therefore it is just like any other income and there should be no expectation from friends and family that I will share my income with them (husband excluded of course). That being said I do offer/share benefits that don’t necessarily cost me anything when traveling with friends/family – booking rooms in my name so that we can all get lounge access, booking shareable suites using suite upgrade awards and splitting the cost of the room, using any “clout” to get them better rooms, resort fees waived. I have no touble being in first while everyone else (again besides my husband) is in coach. If they want to fly up-front I’ll be happy help them figure out the most economical way to do that, but I won’t just pay for them.

  2. nadabrainiac

    April 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Depends on the family member. Depends on the friend.

  3. htb

    April 15, 2018 at 10:50 pm

    I think it shouldn’t be possible to earn hundred of thousands of miles per month by churning credit cards and gift cards. That would solve your dilemma, and it would make redeeming miles easier for the rest of the world who have to earn miles the “hard” way.

    HTB.

  4. HLT1904

    April 16, 2018 at 6:29 am

    I agree with a lot of your post. Like anything, people see the fun but don’t realize the work earning points can be. I share points with family and friends, but usually friends share in a reasonable cost. Points to me are a currency, just because it isn’t dollars doesnt mean it doesn’t have value.

  5. chrisboote

    April 17, 2018 at 5:08 am

    htb “I think it shouldn’t be possible to earn hundred of thousands of miles per month by churning credit cards and gift cards. ”

    Why?

  6. darthbimmer

    April 17, 2018 at 8:58 am

    When you ask others to compensate you for your use of points, be careful that you are not *selling* the points. That is against the terms of all the programs. Perhaps instead of asking for money in exchange for use of points, offer to pay for one expense if your friend/relative pays for another. Like, “I’ll cover the cost of our hotel rooms if you pay for the tours and jet-ski rentals.”

  7. UALfromMSN

    April 17, 2018 at 10:19 am

    You weren’t willing to pay cash for a hotel that was at a price point your friend could afford/was comfortable with, but you also weren’t willing to spend your points on a hotel you could afford/were comfortable with?

    I agree with Darthbimmer, above. A deal where you pay points for hotels you want and your friend covers meals/excursions would be a positive sum game, rather than the zero sum game you make it out to be.

    Honestly? If you’re putting in the time/effort to earn hundreds of thousands of points a month and you’re quibbling over a couple of nights hotel with a friend, I wonder where your true priorities are.

  8. UAAAPeter

    April 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Oh this topic is right on. I long ago concluded that there are two types of people. The eternally grateful, and the self entitled who think that miles come for free, both financially, and free of stress and hassle. The hard working poor are never self entitled. The rich are truly appreciative. There is a band in the middle, especially lower middle, who think that not only they should receive, but that they should receive more. I find it fascinating, and wish I had more data to publish an article in a real psychology magazine. So, especially now that earning miles is so tough, I quietly give tickets to kids who need a leg up. They need them. And they never forget.

    As for family, well my parents are same as me, not that they are alive anymore, so whatever works for me works for them. Their money is my money and my miles are their miles. My mother always worried that she was draining my miles, and I just told her that she was paying for this in very expensive meals. She would just laugh – she knew it was true, and she didn’t care. Traveling with her was always fun. She would get so annoyed with me for not tipping the girls (as she called them) in the airline clubs. And she told me that I was not to drink a second alcohol drink. Her 3 year old. And anyone who posts on Flyertalk is of course a 3 year old.

    Traveling in business is indeed problematical when your guests are in coach. People don’t seem to get that they have a free mileage ticket, and I have a paid ticket with an upgrade. My money is in effect buying their miles, even on the flight they are on. Goes over their heads. And it can stay over their heads for all I care. It is a good way to find out who is a clinical narcissist. And there are a lot out there.

  9. Fabo.sk

    April 18, 2018 at 1:24 am

    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.

  10. kkua

    April 18, 2018 at 6:34 am

    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.

  11. top987

    April 18, 2018 at 6:50 am

    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.

  12. chrystinp

    April 24, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    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.

  13. pointchaser

    May 1, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    @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.”

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