Can you sell loyalty points that you no longer want?

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After an unfortunate accident, Bob’s health declined so much he was no longer able to fly on airlines and therefore no longer has any use for his frequent flyer points. He wonders if he can sell them.

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Q. Bob
My doctors have told me I should never board an airline because of the multiple health conditions I have acquired since my debilitating car accident, which would worsen on a flight. As I have collected a large number of frequent flyer points that I have no use for now, I would like to sell them. Can you recommend a reputable broker?

A. We hate to say ‘no’ to our readers, Bob. But this is one of the rare times that we will need to do just that, sorry. No, we cannot recommend a broker, reputable or otherwise, because  selling frequent flyer points is prohibited by the terms and conditions of the airline which has awarded them.

That is not to say people don’t sell their points. There are brokers set up specifically to buy unwanted loyalty points. But our understanding is that the experience they offer is less than perfect, and if the airline finds out, it could penalise you.

If you have no need for your points, you could consider transferring them under the name of a relative or perhaps donating them to a good cause such as the Make a Wish Foundation.

But like you, we hope that one day, airlines will drop the restriction on selling points. This is exactly what a Brazil court recently ordered an American airline to do.

Earlier this year, a Brazilian traveller took the airline to court for cancelling a ticket acquired through another person’s frequent flyer account.

Interestingly, and for the first time anywhere in the world as far as we know, the carrier was ordered to reverse its action. Here is a transcript of part of the court’s ruling:

“(Frequent flyer) programs involve special financial engineering in which the program manager earns significant profits. It would be naive to imagine that the airlines, increasingly eager for high profits, do not include in the price of the ticket sold to the user, the cost of tickets issued due to redemptions made by participants in their loyalty plans.

“In this type of relationship there is no fairness, since behind the loyalty program there is an extraordinarily advantageous business for the company that manages it, and a seemingly small gain for the consumer, depending on a high level of consumption linked to the purchase of airline tickets, or other participating companies.

“There is no doubt, therefore, that the loyalty companies want this market for themselves … at the expense of the consumer … Thus, in establishing restrictive rules, these companies not only violate the right of the consumer, but also, in a disguised way, protect their profits.”

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Written by Olga Galacho

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