If you’re a traveler with a lot of frequent flyer miles, you may be wondering if it makes sense to turn them into gift cards in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
With much of the world’s travel brought to a halt, money expert Clark Howard says cashing in your frequent flyer miles is a fascinating question to consider.
Here’s what we know about frequent flyer programs and converting miles into gift cards right now.
Can You Turn Your Frequent Flyer Miles Into Gift Cards?
Before we get into whether we should turn our miles into gift cards, we must consider if we can do it.
The answer is yes, but customers have few options. Several airlines have temporarily stopped non-travel redemptions, but not all of them. Here is what a few of the major carriers are doing:
- American Airlines: A customer service representative confirmed to Clark.com that American does not have any programs that convert miles to gift cards at this time.
- Delta Air Lines: A representative with the SkyMiles Marketplace confirmed to Clark.com that the gift card program is on hold as of March 2020.
- United: A customer service agent told Clark.com that United is still allowing the transfer of MileagePlus miles into gift cards and merchandise.
- Southwest: The airline says on its website that it has temporarily paused the ability to redeem points in its More Rewards program.
Other airlines may be continuing their frequent flyer miles transfer programs. You should check with your airline loyalty program if you have specific questions.
Now that we’ve answered the question of can you turn your miles into gift cards, let’s weigh whether you should or not.
Should You Turn Your Miles Into Gift Cards?
Clark says while he understands the fear some customers may have about certain airlines failing during this time of economic uncertainty, carriers typically will petition a bankruptcy court to allow it to preserve frequent flyer miles.
With that being said, converting your miles into gift cards may look more attractive.
“The assurance of turning those miles into gift cards is that you know you’ve got the money,” he says. “As long as whoever you get the gift cards for stays in business.”
But Clark says the big issue with turning miles into money has to do with the value of the exchange.
“The problem is the ratio of payout on those gift cards is terrible,” Clark says. “So you’re getting the ability to use the miles as cash eventually, but the payout you’re getting is relatively poor compared to the value of the miles if you use them to fly.”
Because frequent flyer miles significantly drop in value if you use them for anything other than travel, you may choose to wait things out to see if the airline industry can rebound in the months ahead.
If you’re a frequent flyer with an airline, contact them to see what their current policy is on converting miles into non-travel redemptions.