I’ve described several frequent flyer worst case scenarios:
- Use Your Miles to Escape Terrorists, Avoid Natural Disasters, and Evade the Mob
- How to Rescue Your Trip During Bad Weather
- You Save Money on Airfare With Throwaway Ticketing, and Then…
- What Causes a Frequent Flyer Account Audit: How to Prepare Yourself and Respond
Not there’s no worst case scenario quite like dying. Perhaps the least important thing that happens when you die is where your miles go (the frequent flyer afterlife) and yet it’s always good to be prepared.
Here are policies and some anecdotal reports for several programs:
- Aeroplan “membership terminates on death” per the terms and conditions but I’ve read reports that they’ll allow heirs to redeem miles for 12 months afterwards.
- Update: Aeroplan reached out with the following clarification.
- A spouse or residual heir if no spouse can transfer points to their account at $0.01/mile plus a $30 processing fee (plus taxes).
- The spouse or residual heir if no spouse can redeem points from the account for a period of 12 months for a processing fee of $30 (plus taxes). After 12 months, remaining miles are forfeit.
To choose one of these options, provide a copy of death certificate and will to Estate.email@example.com
- Alaska has an unpublished policy to follow the transfer instructions of the member — allowing a fee-free transfer to a spouse, or to another designee with copy of will (a death certificate would be required in both cases).
- American has a policy against transferring points on death but then offers that they’ll do it as an exception.
American Airlines, in its sole discretion, may credit accrued mileage to persons specifically identified in court approved divorce decrees and wills upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.
- Delta miles expire when you do
- Southwest has a policy similar to Delta’s — your miles pass onto the afterlife when you do.
- United will not allow transfer of points upon death, either, at least according to the program terms though I’ve seen more than one reference to it being allowed anyway for a fee so ‘hang up call back’ may be required.
- Club Carlson will, anecdotally, allow transfer of points upon death.
- Hilton allows for points transfer upon death. Here’s the required form.
- Hyatt will permit transfer of points to someone at the same residential mailing address. (They actually let you transfer points to any member for free anyway.)
- IHG Rewards Club points may be transferred to a beneficiary within one year of death
- Marriott points can be transferred to a spouse or domestic partner upon death.
- Starwood will allow transfer of points to another active SPG member upon review of requested documentation.
In general the best advice is to:
- Use a mileage tracking service like Award Wallet, and leave your intended recipient your account information so they can access your frequent flyer accounts. This will help them keep track of accounts, prevent miles from expiring, and even redeem miles without informing the program of your change in status.
- Add a note along with your will indicating your intentions for whom you wish to receive your points. This will avoid doubt (as folks fight over your assets, and also so that programs feel comfortable releasing points to the intended recipient). The points aren’t your assets and won’t obligate a program to do as you wish, but it makes your intentions clear.
- Some programs, like American, may require that taxes be paid for with a credit card belonging to the member whose miles are being used. So an authorized user card in your name may be necessary.
- If your recipients don’t want to ‘redeem as though they were you’ then consider asking the program for help even if their policies say they don’t. Many programs have been known to offer points transfers on an exception basis.