Between end of year tax planning, the holiday season and #GivingTuesday – this time of year creates the perfect storm for financial donations. According to a recent American Express Membership Rewards survey, this year 73% of Americans said they are likely to donate to a charity this holiday season, up from last year (60%). While cash is the most common form of financial donations, the survey showed that half of Americans (50%) are not aware that they can donate credit card rewards points as well. Donating miles, credit card points and rewards is not only a great way to support charity, but it makes use of those extra points sitting in your account.
There are multiple ways to donate these rewards. One is to go directly to the charity website and see if they include miles/points in their donations section. Make-A-Wish, for example, directly calls out the need for miles through their Wishes In Flight program. Because their charity is based around making kids wishes come true, their site states they would need more than 2.8 billion miles, or 50,000 round-trip tickets, to cover every travel wish each year. Once donated, your miles will never expire and are used to support wishes across the country.
The American Red Cross lists specific airline partners that they’ve partnered with for mile donations. They use donated miles to help their volunteers and staff get to critical areas in need of help.
A second way to explore your donation options is to go directly to your loyalty program site to see if they allow point donations.
JetBlue – Use your TrueBlue points to contribute to one of almost 20 charities JetBlue has partnered with. When you choose to donate points, they’ll go directly to the charity.
Southwest – Donate to nine different charities participating in Southwest’s donation program.
United – Donors have two different ways to donate their miles. They can choose a specific charity campaign running now, or donate to one of the many partner charities.
Delta – You can support charities by donating miles through SkyWish and the miles are then used to provide travel in a variety of a ways outlined in the Donate Miles Details.
American Airlines – Choose through multiple categories of charitable causes to donate to, including those doing social good, supporting well-being and heroes.
Similarly, most credit card sites will allow you to donate directly from their site. Barclaycard will allow freedom points donations to one of six charity partners. Discover encourages their cardmembers to donate their Cashback Bonus rewards to any of the organizations they partner with. Through JustGiving, American Express Card Members have the option to use their credit card rewards points to donate to over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations across the U.S.
In general, the government views credit card rewards as a discount rather than income. On the positive side, this means you are not taxed on points and rewards you earn. The negative is that usually you won’t be able to deduct these points on your taxes. The exception is if you earn cash back then donate that actual cash to a charity.