The Gift of Frequent Flyer Miles Is Expensive

Reading the recent email sent by Continental to OnePass members, my eye was caught by the following headline: "Please pass the miles." The note continued, explaining that, "With MilePass, you can transfer up to 100,000 miles to friends and family so that they can join you on your next vacation."

Of course, there's a fee for passing those miles, $7.50 per 500 miles transferred. So to transfer 25,000 miles, enough for a free domestic ticket, the cost would be $375. Put another way, you're paying 1.5 cents for each mile transferred. And remember: The transfer fee is on top of what you paid to earn the miles in the first place.

This isn't a new offer—it's been available from Continental for more than two years. But like mileage mall bonuses and airport lounge memberships, it gets trotted out in the run-up to Christmas as a possible gift for the frequent flyer on your list.

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Should transferred Continental miles be in your Santa sack?

If the intention is to give someone a ticket as a gift, by transferring 25,000 or more miles into the recipient's OnePass account, the better option is simply to redeem your miles for an award ticket issued in the name of the giftee. True, you'll have to coordinate in advance with the recipient, to decide on travel dates for the ticket. But that beats paying the hefty transfer fee.

Don't get caught up in the holiday hype. Except in exceptional circumstances, where a small transfer might make economic sense, do yourself a favor and pass on MilePass.

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