On Monday, when I first posted information regarding opportunities for frequent flyers to use their miles to assist relief efforts in Japan, the scope of last week's disaster was only just coming into focus and there was little frequent flyers could do beyond the normally available miles-for-charity channels.
In the past few days, however, many of the larger airlines and hotel companies have scrambled to offer members of their loyalty programs one or more options for using their points to assist with the relief efforts.
It's a mixed bag. Some programs offer a mileage bonus for cash donations; others match members' donations; and still others do nothing more than provide a conduit for channeling miles into the account of a supported charity.
If anything, there's now a surfeit of charitable options. Which can be overwhelming—what's a frequent traveler to do? Two things to keep in mind. First, doing anything is better than doing nothing. And second, cash is likely to be more useful than miles and points.
Aeroplan has donated 1 million miles to the Canadian Red Cross and is matching its employees' cash contributions as well. Program members may also donate their miles to the Canadian Red Cross.
"Donated Aeroplan Miles will be redeemed for flights, car rentals, hotels and equipment purchases to support the relief effort in Japan."
Alaska's Mileage Plan program has earmarked members' mileage donations to Charity Miles and Angel Flight West to helping with the transportation needs of medical staff and volunteers assisting with Japan relief efforts.
AAdvantage members who make a cash donation to the Red Cross, using this link, will earn a one-time bonus of 250 miles for donating at least $50, or 500 miles for donating $100 or more.
The offer applies for donations made through April 15.
"American Express Cardmembers can donate today using their American Express Card and redeem Membership Rewards points to make a donation at a number of organizations dedicated to supporting the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami relief efforts." Separately, American Express is rebating the merchant discount rate for charitable contributions made on its cards to non-profit organizations listed on the USAID.gov website for Japan earthquake and tsunami assistance.
Best Western Rewards members can support World Vision Japan with points donations: 4,000 points is worth a $15 donation; 8,000 points is worth $30; and so on.
Choice Privileges members can donate their points to the Red Cross. A 1,000-point donation is worth $5 and 5,000 points are worth $25. No special incentives offered.
HHonors members can donate their points in 10,000-point increments to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Every 10,000 points translates into a $25 cash donation to the IRFC, which Hilton will match dollar-for-dollar, up to a combined total of $250,000.
For the General IFRC Fund, request reward code IRFCDR. For the Japan Fund, request reward code RCJERD.
Priority Club Rewards members may donate 10,000 points to the Japanese Red Cross Society or the American Red Cross.
Marriott offers Rewards members several options for supporting Japan relief efforts, including donating 18,000 points to provide the Red Cross with a $50 Marriott Cheque, and donating 10,000 points to make a $25 contribution to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Through April 30, Starwood will match members' Starpoint donations to the American Red Cross. Every 2,000 Starpoints donated equal $25.
Members of the Continental OnePass and United Mileage Plus programs can earn a one-time bonus of 250 miles for donating a minimum of $50, and 500 bonus miles for donating $100 or more to the American Red Cross.
Dividend Miles members may donate their miles to the Red Cross. No special incentives offered.
Of course, when it comes to doing good, miles may be beside the point. The challenge is choosing a charity that you're confident in generally, and that is directing its efforts toward helping to mitigate the effects of the tragedy in Japan.
The Society of American Travel Writers recommends making donations to the Japan Society, which has established a disaster-relief fund specifically to assist victims of last week's earthquake and tsunami.
And Charity Navigator, which evaluates and reviews non-profits, has a list of recommended Japan-focused charities, including Action Against Hunger, Convoy of Hope, Doctors Without Borders, and World Vision.
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.