What to Do With Your Frequent Flyer Miles and Hotel Points During Coronavirus

You don't have to go anywhere to use them.

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The coronavirus pandemic may have put a hold on your travel plans, but that doesn’t mean your valuable frequent flyer miles and hotel points have to go to waste. In addition to travel companies making major extensions to expiration dates and elite statuses for loyalty program members, there are plenty of things you can do on your own to make the most out of your rewards.

Remember, business class upgrades and free hotel stays aren’t the only things your rewards are good for. From gift cards to a shiny new iPhone SE, scroll through below to check out what you can get for your hard earned frequent traveler bonuses.

How to Use Frequent Flyer Miles and Hotel Points Without Traveling

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Credit: Marriott

1. Donate to Charity

Is there an organization that means a lot to you? See if your go-to airline or hotel also supports them, as chances are there are ways for you to turn your miles or points — which all have an exact monetary value — into a charitable donation.

For instance, Southwest works with The American Red Cross along with a number of other national disaster relief partners while Marriott Hotels is partnered with UNICEF, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and many others.

2. Get a Gift Card

Since you’re likely not going anywhere anytime soon, consider trading your rewards in for a gift card you can use whenever you want. United has a MileagePlus eGift cards site that makes it super easy for customers to use miles to purchase gift cards. Don’t worry, the airline has over 270 stores to choose from including WalmartThe Home DepotNordstrom and more, so there’s definitely something for everyone.

Radisson has a similar system that allows Radisson Rewards members to log into their accounts and redeem points for gift cards to a variety of retailers. Depending on the amount of miles or points you have, there’s no doubt your particular airline or hotel has a way of getting you the gift card you want.

3. Treat Yourself to a New iPhone or Other Electronics

Typically, travel experts don’t recommend cashing in your rewards for merchandise because you would get more value in terms of dollars if you went with a free flight or upgrade instead. Just think about how much business class costs, or the price tag on a luxury suite.

At the same time, who knows when you’ll feel like traveling again? Recently, I clicked through to Delta’s SkyMiles Marketplace and saw that I could get everything from the new iPhone SE to a Sonos speaker and more for my frequent flyer miles. To tell you the truth, these items over an international flight sound pretty good right about now.

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Credit: Magsforpoints.com

4. Grab Magazine Subscriptions with Leftover Miles

For those that flew with an airline just one time or other travelers who didn’t accrue enough mileage for a free flight, consider Magsforpoints.com. Don’t forget about these miles because for as little as 200 Hawaiian Airlines miles, you can receive 12 complimentary Travel + Leisure issues, and just 1,000 Frontier miles will land you Vanity Fair free for one year.

5. Support Local Businesses and Order Takeout

On the flip side, the lack of travel makes it difficult to even think about earning miles or hotel points again. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts encourage rewards members to support local restaurants by ordering takeout with DoorDash.

From now until June 1st, new DoorDash customers can earn 3,000 Wyndham Rewards bonus points after their first order and existing members can earn 500 bonus points for every eligible order.

6. See What You Can Get for Free

It’s no secret that travel companies are looking for other ways to engage with customers. This has led to exclusive promotions like World of Hyatt offering a free 30-day subscription to Headspace Plus (originally valued at $12.99/month), an app specializing in mental health and meditation.

Simply download the app and use promo code HYATT to get the premium one-month subscription at no extra charge. Hurry, the offer is only valid until July 31st.

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Credit: Delta

7. Or, Just Plan for 2021

It’s worth knowing that a lot of airlines and hotels extended expiration dates for rewards, and for others your miles and points never expire. If none of the above exchanges seem worth it to you, don’t force it, and simply save your rewards for that dream trip in the future. Don’t feel like you need to use what you earned ASAP.

Once travel inevitably starts back up again, you never know when those miles and points will come in handy. In the end, it’s possible that the best thing you can do is wait it out and plan ahead for where you want to go next.

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Isis Briones

Isis Briones is a freelance writer who covers everything from travel to video games, fashion and everything in between. From Manhattan to Muramvya, Burundi, she's also lived all over the world. There's actually no telling where she could end up next, but she's always ready with a carry-on packed for whatever adventure comes her way.

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