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How Can Miles Be Transferred Between Spouses?

Dear Tim—

My husband has 160,000 miles on United and is no longer able to travel due to severe lung disease. Is there any way I can transfer his miles to my account or use his miles without paying a transfer fee?

Or given the cost of transfer fees, should we just forget it and let the miles expire?


Dear Jane—

United does have a provision for transferring miles between Mileage Plus accounts. But it’ll cost you to do so: 1.5 cents per mile, plus a $35 service fee. Since the average frequent flyer mile is only worth about 1.2 cents, the fee makes such transfers financially illogical, except perhaps in situations where a few miles are needed to top off an account to reach an award threshold.

{{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}And even if you deemed those costs reasonable, there’s an annual limit of 15,000 miles that may be transferred to any one account.

But this is actually a good-news story.

Since you’re willing and able to use the miles yourself, there’s no reason to transfer the miles from your husband’s account to yours. The fees and transfer limits are moot.

When you’re ready to travel, simply have your husband book the award ticket in your name (or for that matter, in the name of anyone he chooses). It’s done all the time and is entirely consistent with program rules.

Here’s the relevant section of the Mileage Plus program rulebook:

Awards may, at the request of the member, be issued by Mileage Plus in the name of the member or in the name and for the use of any other person. If an award ticket is to be issued in the name of someone other than the member, United may require the member to execute the request for the award transfer in person at a United ticketing location, by endorsing each certificate redeemed in favor of the specified designee and providing official photographic identification.

You mentioned in your note the possibility of just letting the miles expire unused. By no means should you allow that to happen. Assuming they have a value of 1.2 cent apiece, the miles in your husband’s account are worth $1,920. That may not be enough to fund your retirement or splurge on a Ferrari, but it’s not chump change.

Put another way, 160,000 miles are enough for a round-trip first-class flight anywhere in the world United or its partners fly. For many, that would be the trip of a lifetime.

That’s not an opportunity to be missed.

This article originally appeared on

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