Some frequent flyer programs allow ‘ppoling’ of points within a family, everyone flies and then a family member uses everyone’s points for a reward.
Others offer family accounts on the theory that the points belong to the head of household. Family pooling is not uncommon with Middle East programs.
Still others want to reward the decision-maker in travel, Southwest Airlines was one of the first ones with this idea with their ‘Secretaries Program’ in the 1970s where administrative assistants could earn free travel by steering their bosses to fly Southwest. (Another tactic in the 70s was rebating take-home alcohol to passengers buying pricier tickets, when the Civil Aeronautics Board began ‘experimenting’ with price competition and national carriers were permitted to undercut Southwest fares.)
JetBlue has taken a step that’s a first for any North American frequent flyer program. They have introduced family pooling of miles.
On top of their elimination of points expiration, this is a really friendly move. I’m not a huge fan of the redemption options, but they’ve becoming very flexible for earning.
The claim about being the only U.S. or North American frequent flyer program offering this will probably be repeated several times over the next several days, perhaps you’ve already read the claim, and it’s only sort of true.
Delta Skymiles — a US frequent flyer program — has a family share miles plan for residents of Asia. It opened in 2010, and you can no longer register for it, but existing accounts using the option continue to have the ability to do so.
Here are the, quite reasonable, rules (some of which limit the ability to really game this):
- Families can consist of up to 2 adults and 5 children. At a minimum, there must be 2 individuals in a Family Pooling account.
- The Head of Household will manage all of the points in their Family Pooling account.
- Any adult can start a Family Pooling account and be the Head of Household. You just have to be a TrueBlue member to get started.
- An adult is anyone over the age of 21. A child is anyone under 21.
- Upon accepting an invitation to begin pooling, each family member will select how many points to contribute upfront (with zero transfer fees) and the percentage of points they want to contribute on an ongoing basis per transaction.
- Changes in contributions can be made once a year starting on the date the family account was formed.
- Members are not permitted to join multiple different Family Pooling accounts.
A handful of other programs around the world offer this.
British Airways has a household option that’s one of the better-known offerings. When you join a family account (up to 7 accounts can be so linked) miles are spent from all accounts when redeeming awards — but you can only redeem miles for people also linked to the household with their accounts (although it is possible to ‘unjoin’ a household).
The BA option is especially nice because they have credit card partners offering generous signup bonuses. Each member of the family can sign up for a card, even though only one person will fly on the miles. (Pooling is more convenient, though of course when family members accumulate miles most programs will let someone else be the one to spend them via an award ticket in the passenger’s name and without the need to transfer.)
It’s much more common to be able to move or pool hotel points than airline miles.
- Club Carlson recently tightened their rules. You used to be able to transfer points fee-free between any two accounts, in any amount, any time. Since June 1, non-elite members can only transfer to accounts at the same mailing address, the address must have been on their account at least 30 days, and the account must have been open a year. Elites still have free reign.
- Hyatt Gold Passport lets you transfer points to an any other account in conjunction with claiming an award.
- Starwood Preferred Guest allows you to transfer points between accounts at the same residential mailing address.
- Hilton HHonors used to have family accounts, but not longer does.
- Marriott Rewards lets you transfer points to a legal spouse or domestic partner at time of award redemption.
With all of this, JetBlue is the first U.S. airline that offers family pooling of miles to their U.S. members. That’s a nice added feature – kudos!