When you travel with a spouse, kids, and other relatives, you can rack up miles quickly. But those points usually go into separate accounts, and airlines, in particular, make it expensive to combine miles. Transferring 10,000 American Airlines points to your spouse, for example, will cost you $125—plus a $20 transaction fee. You have a (very) few options:
Join a family-friendly mileage program.
It might not help much with the miles you’ve already accumulated, but a handful of companies allow relatives to combine their miles for free. “JetBlue is really out in front of the other airlines in terms of family accounts, allowing for a family of up to seven people to pool points they earn,” says Edward Pizzarello, who writes the points blog Pizza in Motion. British Airways (BA) also allows families to share miles in household accounts, and Qantas gives fliers a certain number of free transfers per year.
Pooling can be powerful.
Typically, a BA ticket in premium economy from New York to London will yield 3,458 frequent-flier miles. For a family of four, that adds up to 13,832 miles—enough to get Mom a round-trip business-class seat between London and Paris.
Top off your accounts.
A few flexible programs, including American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Chase Ultimate Rewards, permit free transfers to airline, hotel, and other reward accounts, meaning you can boost balances to a usable level.