Many sites offer to redeem miles and points from your loyalty programs for cash. If the operation can be tempting at first sight, it can especially bring you problems.
Miles and points are, as is often said, the currency of loyalty programs. This currency is a bit limited because you can only use it in one place and even if hoteliers and airlines are trying more and more to offer something else than hotel nights and flights, you can’t say that you have total freedom of use.
So there are people who have miles and would like to buy things that their miles can’t buy, people whose miles are going to expire without them being able to use them, but there are also people who would like to have more miles to buy a trip or can’t afford a trip at the last minute. All that was missing was one player: the broker who buys miles from some people to buy tickets that he resells to others at a more attractive price than if they had bought the ticket in cash.
Sell My Miles, MilesBuyer, The Miles Broker…. non-exhaustive list of these sites that offer you to redeem your miles.
How does a miles broker work?
The process is quite simple. You go to a broker’s website and tell them how many miles or points you want to sell and on which program.
Some time later you receive a proposal to buy your miles, which you may or may not accept. If you accept it you will receive the cash, usually through Paypal, within a few minutes.
The broker then uses these miles to buy tickets for other customers and sells them to them.
So everything looks simple and you can already imagine making a significant amount of money from the mountain of miles you are sitting on? Not so fast! You could be in for a lot of trouble.
Selling miles is legal…but it isn’t
I won’t even mention the case where you come across an unscrupulous broker who will leave with your miles without giving you the money… It is up to you to check the reputation of your intermediary if you want to play this risky game. But there are other elements to consider.
The video above tells you that selling your miles is legal just about everywhere and that’s true as long as there is no law against it (well unless you live in Utah obviously). But this is misleading because while the law does not prohibit it, the terms and conditions of your loyalty program do.
Your miles and points are the property of the program and you cannot dispose of them as you wish. And no matter how it’s worded, every program has in its terms and conditions something about it.
Let’s take the example of Flying Blue, the Air France and KLM loyalty program.
1.4.7 The Flying Blue account, the XP, Rewards, the status level and the Miles earned by the concerned Member cannot under any circumstances be transferred, bequeathed, assigned, sold or combined, whether or not for valuable consideration, with the account of the Miles of any other person whether that person is a Member of the Programme or not, or with any other account belonging to the Member, except if it concerns a Flying Blue Family as described in Section 4 hereafter and, or as otherwise provided by the Company and specified in the Flying Blue Communication. Violators, including any passenger who uses a purchased or bartered Rewards, shall be liable to the Company for damages and litigation costs. XP, Miles and Rewards have no cash value and can never be exchanged for cash.
1.4.8 Violation of the general conditions of carriage or tariffs of Air France, KLM, or any Airline Partners, including SkyTeam, the general terms and conditions of Non-Airline Partners, material violation of the General Terms and Conditions, abuse of the Programme including the failure to follow Programme policies and procedures, the sale or barter of Rewards or tickets or any misrepresentation of facts pertaining thereto, improper conduct including any untoward behaviour or harassment with reference to any Air France, KLM or their Partners’ employee, unruly behaviour on board or in lounges, or any refusal to honour employee instructions, or if the Member is duly registered on the list of persons restricted from boarding Company’s aircrafts may result in termination of the Member’s account and future disqualification from the Programme, forfeiture of all XP and Miles accrued, cancellation of previously issued but unused Rewards and payment by the Member or passenger of the full applicable fare for any segment travelled on Rewards that have been misused.
Selling your miles may result in the closure of your account, the loss of all previously earned bonus and status points, the loss of status, the cancellation of purchases made with points and not yet consumed….
Yes, the sale of miles is not prohibited by law, but when you join a program, you agree to its terms and conditions, which are a contract between the program and the customer, a contract that has the force of law between the parties.
Selling your miles is not illegal by law, but it is prohibited by the program, so it is strictly the same.
Of course, you have the right to ask yourself if it is really monitored and enforced, if you can’t take a chance. Just be aware that loyalty programs have algorithms that detect suspicious movement between accounts.
After all that it may be a game you still want to play but TravelGuys position is the same as for Mistake Fares and especially the Hidden City Tickets : there are rules and you can do whatever you want within those rules. If you decide to play with it, just take the consequences and don’t complain.
Many sites offer to buy miles and points that you don’t use or that will expire. If the law doesn’t prohibit it, it goes against the terms and conditions of your loyalty program and the penalties are severe enough that we think it’s one of the dumbest ideas you could possibly have.
You have been warned.