How to Turn Points and Miles Into Holiday Gifts

'Tis the season for shopping, so use loyalty to stay on budget.

Did you know that American consumers plan to spend an average of $935 during the holiday shopping season this year? Personally, I know my estimated figure is right around there too. I have a lot of people to shop for, and I usually end up spending more than I think I’m going to.

I’ve written before about how I mitigate some of those costs by maximizing the amount points and miles I earn while holiday shopping. Ending the holiday season with a little less in my bank account, but a lot more in my loyalty accounts can really feel great. But there are a few more loyalty tricks I pull out at this time of year that help me stretch my gift-shopping dollars even further.

Share Your Own Points and Miles

One of the best things about being a serious loyalty collector is being able to share your wealth of points and miles with your loved ones. Helping someone get a free flight or hotel stay is such a great gift to give! So if you have a few spare points and miles lying around, look into transferring them to someone else as a gift. It’s inexpensive (or even free!) for you, and valuable to the lucky friend or family member who gets them.

For example, if you collect Marriott Rewards points, you can transfer them from your account to another member’s account in increments of 1,000. Best of all, depending on your status in the program, either a modest $10 fee applies, or it’s free! Many airline programs also give you the ability to share your miles. Delta SkyMiles lets you transfer miles for $0.01 per miles plus a flat fee of $30. United Airlines MileagePlus and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan have similar miles transferring programs as well.

Turn Points and Miles Into Gift Cards

Some people may think it’s impersonal, but I always appreciate receiving gift cards for the holidays! I like giving them too — I’d rather my loved ones get the chance to shop for what they really want, and not have to return a gift they’re not so keen on. You might remember my post where I talked about loyalty collectors who don’t have the patience to save up points and miles for a big reward and love the instant gratification of redeeming smaller amounts of loyalty currency for gift cards. This strategy can really come in handy when the season of giving rolls around.

Redeeming your points and miles for gift cards to give as holiday gifts is incredibly easy, can be done online, and helps you keep your shopping budget down. Let’s say you’re a collector of American Airlines AAdvantage miles. You can redeem 6,566 miles for a $25 gift card to AMC theatres, and wouldn’t that make a great stocking stuffer? Or for 12,590 miles, you can gift a college student with a $50 gift card to Target; Bed, Bath and Beyond; or Domino’s Pizza — always appreciated. (To redeem AAdvantage miles, just sign up for a free account with the Points Loyalty Wallet.)

Give an Experience They Won’t Forget

Sometimes, points and miles can open up doors to amazing experiences that you can’t buy with cash. Loyalty programs know that members are seeking out unique rewards, and are responding with some very cool options. These rewards can be straight redemptions (i.e., for 50,000 points you get a pair of concert tickets), and sometimes they’re auction style when you bid your points in the hopes of being the highest bidder. The Hilton HHonors program, for example, has offered rewards like a meet-and-greet with singer Gavin DeGraw, or the chance to win a New Year’s Eve getaway package in Brussels.

Starwood Preferred Guest’s SPG Moments program also lets you redeem your points for exclusive events like celebrity meet-and-greets, sports tickets, and backstage tours. For 20,000 Starpoints, you could get tickets to the Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in New York. Want to see Carrie Underwood perform from the SPG Luxury Suite in Madison Square Garden? That’s 55,000 points.

If you’re sitting on a stack of rewards, consider giving one of these experiential rewards as a gift this holiday season. If you’re lucky, your recipient might even bring you along.

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