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Donate Frequent Flyer Miles and Make Them Count

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PlaneFlyingIf you’re like most people, you don’t often think about your airline miles.

You know they’re there, accumulating with each flight you take; then comes that elusive, eventual time when you decided to cash in on a free flight … and they’re impossible to redeem.

So basically, your miles don’t serve much purpose.

But, what if they could?

What you may not know is that you can put those miles to good use. Donate frequent flier miles. Many non-profit organizations have frequent flier mileage donation packages, and several major air carriers have developed charitable programs using earned miles. Some are exclusive partnerships geared to one or two specific charities, while others have multiple organizations with quarterly or monthly rotations, allowing all the participating charities equal time to receive miles.

And if you were wondering, it is sometimes tax-deductible.

With so many American families divided due to the war in Iraq, you can help out by donating to The Fisher House. This not-for-profit organization supports American military troops by aiding in humanitarian efforts outside of what the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs can provide. Their program, Operation Hero Miles, is overseen by The Fisher House for the Department of Defense and supplies free airline tickets to military personnel undergoing treatment due to injuries received while serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. It also provides free round-trip airfare to service men and women’s families, enabling them to visit the injured soldiers while at the treatment facilities. 888-294-8560, www.heromiles.org.

The Dream Foundation is geared specifically to providing aid to terminally ill adults and is always in need of gifted miles to provide air travel to their foundation recipients. The Dream Foundation has three partner carriers from which you can donate miles: United Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines. However, you may also be able to donate miles from other airlines if approved by the Dream Foundation. 310-385-0848, www.dreamfoundation.org.

The Pennsylvania-based Twilight Wish Foundation is dedicated to making the dreams of aging seniors come true. Whether it’s reuniting with family member one last time, traveling to a native country, or even taking a Caribbean cruise for the first time ever, the foundation works to fulfill the wishes of citizens ages 68 and older. 877-893-9474, www.twilightwishfoundation.org

If you’re a pet lover, you may consider donating miles to Save the Dogs, an Italy-based non-profit company dedicated to rescuing stray dogs in Romania. With your gifted miles, a volunteer can fly to Romania and oversee the rescue and transfer of up to five dogs back to different cities in Europe. Save The Dogs works with two European carries: Millemiglia and Lufthansa’s Star Alliance. 39 388 3610629, www.savethedogs.it

If you’re not sure where you want to give miles, check out Miledonor.com. This non-profit site that assists in the charitable distribution of donated frequent flier miles, points and awards across the globe. This site seeks donations and also links people seeking donations with charities available to help.

If you’d rather donate directly through the airline where your miles are accumulated, many of the major carriers have developed relationships with established charities or have created their own charitable programs:

Dash 8 planeAmerican Airlines’ AAdvantage program works along with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Project Hero to collect miles for those in need. American also has its own program, Miles for Kids In Need, which provides air transportation to ailing children and their families to obtain medical treatment. American has a 250 miles minimum requirement for donation. 800-421-0600, www.aa.com/milesforkids

Delta Airlines frequent flier charity division, SkyWish, works with select charities including; UNICEF, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Red Cross, among others and highlights a different organization every quarter. Members wishing to make a contribution must donate a minimum of 5,000 miles and can gift to the participating charity of their choice. 800-323-2323, www.delta.com/skymiles/donate_miles/index.jsp

Northwest Airlines’ AirCares program works with many charitable organizations, offering members a wide variety of causes, including the American Cancer Society, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation and Oxfam International. The KidCares program, you can donate your WorldPerks miles to help a child and a parent or guardian travel for necessary medical treatment. You must contribute a minimum of 5,000 miles initially with any additional donations being given in 1,000-mile increments. If you’d like your contributions to be on-going, Northwest also offers members the option to pledge donations from future flights and encourages individual members to get family and friends to promote the program. 800-327-2881, www.nwa.com/corpinfo/aircares

Other airlines offering frequent flyer donation programs are:

Alaska Airline Charity Miles: www.alaskaair.com/mileageplan/CharityMiles.asp

Continental OnePass Miles: www.continental.com/onepass/oDonateMiles.asp

Midwest Express American Miles: www.midwestairlines.com

By Loretta Copeland for PeterGreenberg.com.

For more Responsible Travel Tips, click here.

Previously by Loretta Copeland for PeterGreenberg.com:

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