Update 4/27/2022: Air Canada is donating 100 million Aeroplan points to help bring Ukrainian refugees to Canada. Plus, any Aeroplan point contributions to the Ukrainian Relief Fund made through July 2022 will be matched by the Shapiro Foundation. So, we wanted to revisit this post from May 2021 which AwardWallet alumni Patrick Stouffer wrote about the excellent work Miles4Migrants is doing to help refugees from regions all around the world.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve written hundreds of posts detailing the best ways to earn and maximize points and miles. But what about the obscure or leftover miles? Enter Miles4Migrants — a 501(c)(3) charity with a mission to use donated frequent flyer miles to aid asylum seekers and refugees across the globe.
Every day, Miles4Migrants books flights that reunite torn families, rescue refugees, and assist asylum seekers fighting for a new life. All using donated frequent flyer miles! Long story short, it’s the perfect way for you to donate extra points and miles to help families in need.
What is Miles4Migrants?
Miles4Migrants is a unique charity concept that — interestingly enough — originated on Reddit. Seth Stanton, one of the charity’s founders, was a moderator in the famous r/churning subreddit community.
Together with fellow founder Nick Ruiz, they came up with the notion of using points and miles to assist refugees fleeing persecution. (In fact, the first Miles4Migrants ‘travelers’ were the family of Nick’s Pakistani personal friend, whom he helped fly to Europe using his own points and miles.) Later, Andy Freedman completed the founder-trio thanks to a shared personal desire to help refugees and a chance meeting with Seth and Nick. Together, they solidified the organization’s mission to use frequent flyer miles to assist refugees and asylum seekers who are legally allowed to travel to their new home—but can’t afford to.
Fast forward about 5 years, and that simple idea on Reddit has evolved into a full-fledged 501(c)(3) charity organization, with numbers to match. Since its founding, Miles4Migrants has assisted over 30,000 asylum seekers and refugees from over 90 countries using over 370 million donated points and miles.
My Personal Connection with Miles4Migrants
Aside from my genuine and heartfelt passion for Miles4Migrants’ mission, there’s another reason I feel compelled to talk about it: I’m now responsible for booking many of the flights.
In early 2021, I accepted a position on the Miles4Migrants booking team. That means I get to live a dream for any points fanatic: I book award travel all day! But even better, I’ve found a meaningful way to use my love of award travel to help those in need.
Now, instead of worrying about pre-departure beverages or priority boarding, I devote much of my time to learning unaccompanied minor policies and geographic travel restrictions. While it’s perhaps not as glamorous as first-class suites and champagne, every day I get to book flights that help reunite torn families or spare refugees the burden of starting a new life in debt. It’s a privilege I certainly don’t take lightly.
All that’s to say if you donate miles to Miles4Migrants, there’s a good chance I’ll be the one utilizing them. Meaning you can rest assured that I’m going to do everything I can to maximize their value to help as many people as possible.
Air Canada Connection With Miles4Migrants
While Miles4Migrants accepts donations from almost every airline loyalty program, Aeroplan is special. As the loyalty program for Air Canada, Aeroplan was the charity’s first official airline partner — placing faith in the organization’s mission while it was still in its infancy. Thanks to that partnership, Miles4Migrants has been able to reach a larger audience and, most importantly, help far more people.
How Can You Help Miles4Migrants?
In a word: donate!
If you’ve ever flown Air Canada or hold an Aeroplan co-branded credit card, you may have some extra Aeroplan points available. If so, this promotion is the perfect way to put them towards a good cause while also doubling their impact.
Here’s how to donate your Aeroplan points:
- Click this link to open the homepage for the promotion.
- Once there, log into your Aeroplan Account by selecting ‘Sign in to donate’.
- After you’ve logged in, you’re brought back to the homepage where you can now select ‘Donate now’. Then, simply fill in however many points you’d like to contribute.
Once you’ve confirmed your donation, your points will move to a pooled Aeroplan account — where Miles4Migrants uses them to reunite families and support asylum seekers.
How Miles4Migrants Helps Refugees
To give you a better idea of the power of your donation, here are just a few of the stories made possible by Aeroplan points:
Congo Refugee Reunites With Four Sons After Over Five Years Apart
Mr. Seme fled the Congo over five years ago. Since then, he’s toiled to save enough money for visas for the rest of his family — while also battling the complexity of the Belgian refugee program. After many failures and delays, he managed to secure visas for four of his six children.
Thanks to Aeroplan points donated to Miles4Migrants, Mr. Seme finally reunited with his four sons after over five years apart. He continues to save more money with the goal of reuniting with his wife and remaining two children soon.
A Mother Reunites With Her 10-Year-Old Son After Seven Years Apart
Hermon fled Eritrea over seven years ago, forced to leave her young son, Natan, in the care of cousins in Ethiopia. After a long and arduous journey, Hermon finally managed to secure refugee status in Belgium in 2016, immediately applying for Natan to join her. With the help of donated Aeroplan points and Miles4Migrants, Hermon and her son joyously reunited this year after seven years apart. Along with Hermon’s new family, they’re now building a life together in Belgium.
Daughter Reunites with Mother and Brothers After 5 Years Apart
This young lady has an unbelievable story of perseverance and determination, culminating in a heart-warming reunification thanks to donated Aeroplan points. I think it’s best shared in her own voice:
“My name is F., I am 19 years old. When I was only 14 years old, me and my family had to flee from our country Eritrea to Ethiopia.
My mother and brothers stayed in Ethiopia, but I decided to try to get to Europe to bring us all to a safer place. My little brother was only a baby when I left. It took me 2 years to reach Belgium.
I travelled through Sudan, Libya and Italy before arriving in Belgium when I was 16. The asylum- and family-reunion procedure took so long because of covid. When my mother and brothers finally got their visa, I could not buy them plane tickets, because I am still a student.
I was very happy when I heard that Miles4Migrants wanted to help me and buy the tickets for my mother and brothers. Their first flight a few weeks ago was cancelled because my brother tested positive on covid the day before their departure. But Miles4Migrants immediately bought them new tickets after a few weeks of quarantine.
I am very grateful for your help. Thanks to you my family could be reunited after more than 5 years apart. Thank you so much.”
Other Ways to Get Aeroplan Points
If you don’t fly Air Canada often, you may not have too many Aeroplan points just lying around. However, you can still participate in this promotion. That’s because Aeroplan is a transfer partner of multiple transferrable point currencies:
- American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer ratio, immediate transfer)
- Capital One Venture Miles (1:1 transfer ratio, immediate transfer)
- Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio, 4-5 day transfer)
- Choice Privileges (5:1)
- IHG Rewards (5:1)
- Hilton Honors (10:1)
Donate Amex Membership Rewards points
Between the 1:1 transfer ratio and the immediate transfer time, Amex Membership Rewards stands out as the best option for most. Anyone with a Membership Reward-earning Amex card can easily and instantly transfer their points to Aeroplan. Here’s how that works:
- If you don’t have an Aeroplan account already, create one here. It’s free and easy to join.
- Find your Aeroplan loyalty number and write it down somewhere. You’ll need it to transfer your points from Amex.
- Use this link to log into your American Express account. It navigates you directly to the ‘Transfer to Air Canada Aeroplan’ page.
- Follow the instructions on the page to link your Aeroplan account with your Membership Rewards Account. Complete the instructions on the screen to transfer however many points you can spare.
- Once you’ve initiated the transfer, the points will arrive in your Aeroplan account almost instantly. Log back into your Aeroplan account with this link and follow the instructions outlined in the above section for Aeroplan donations.
It makes sense that far more people have access to Membership Rewards points than Aeroplan points. So if you find yourself points rich, share the love with some folks who could really use them.
Miles4Migrants is a 501(c)(3) charity created by and tailored to points and miles enthusiasts. It uses donated frequent flyer miles to help reunite asylum-seeker families and assist refugees on their journey to their new home.
Now through July 2022, the Shapiro Foundation will match all donations to Miles4Migrants up to 5,00,000 points. If Miles4Migrants hits this goal, they will have 10 million more points to use towards helping Ukrainian refugees in their battle for a new life.
Over the last few years, many award-travel enthusiasts have found themselves with more points than they can use. If that describes you, consider donating now to double the impact it’ll serve.