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What Happens to My Rewards Points and Miles After I Die?

Managing your reward points and frequent flyer miles once you’re gone requires some thoughtful planning, but it could go a long way in helping family and friends.

One of the perks of travel is the advantages that come from having brand loyalty. From airlines to hotels, travelers are encouraged to enroll in a company’s program to earn points and miles to redeem for upgrades, beverages, and free stays or flights. The rewards can stack up pretty quickly for frequent travelers. While talking about death is not a joyful subject, it’s worth taking into account what will happen to your points and miles when you’re gone—if only so your loved ones have one less thing to deal with in your absence.

Five Benefits of Your Loved Ones Having Account Access

My dad passed away a few years ago during the holidays, a time when travel is exponentially more expensive. Situations like these are not uncommon because no one knows when they’re going to die. The distance between Pensacola, Florida, and New Haven, Connecticut, was just over 19 hours of drive time for the 1,200-plus-mile journey. I was able to use Delta’s bereavement fare policy for my fare there. On the way back, I was able to snag a promo deal with Southwest in combination with the miles I had available on the airline. I saved almost a thousand dollars total. With other travel-related expenses, such as airport dining, parking fees, and extended lodging, traveling for a memorial service can cause financial hardship for some family members. Here’s how leaving them access to your benefits may prove helpful:

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1. If you are a frequent traveler, giving your family access to miles and rewards account can alleviate some expenses, particularly for those who have to travel far or multiple times to handle any outstanding obligations.

2. It can help your family carry out any final wishes, such as scattering your ashes in a place of your choosing.

3. Providing an opportunity for your loved ones to explore cultures and destinations that they enjoy. In my dad’s passing, I became more in tune with nature. It helps me feel connected to him. The same can be true for a pastime like travel. It can bring people closer, even during difficult times.

4. If your loved ones aren’t big into travel for themselves, they can donate your miles to charitable organizations in your honor. Programs like Miles4Migrants and JustGiving are great places to consider airline miles donations. Similarly, Hilton will donate $25 to a charity of one’s choosing per 10,000 miles redeemed. This is a great alternative to monetary contributions.

5. Undoubtedly, the passing of a loved one brings about a lot of grief. The last thing on anyone’s mind while planning a memorial is rest, relaxation, and self-care. But in the weeks or months following, the opportunity to escape day-to-day responsibilities to do just that may surface. Your loved ones can book a fun vacation or staycation with the remaining airline miles and hotel points. Think of it as your final gift to them.

How Popular Airlines Handle Mile Transfers

We often skip the fine print when signing up for rewards accounts. That fine print from most major airlines has outlined that miles and points are not transferable upon death or that transference is at the sole discretion of the program. Here are some of the most common policies among popular carriers:

Delta SkyMiles Program

According to the SkyMiles program, Delta reserves the right to deactivate or close an account under the following circumstances: fraudulent activity occurs, a member requests an account closure, a member is deceased, a member does not respond to repeated communication attempts regarding the status of his/her account, a member resides in or relocates to a country where membership is prohibited under applicable law or a member violates the terms of the membership guide and program rules.

But there is still a glimmer of hope for those who may be leaving behind a substantial amount of SkyMiles. The beneficiary can provide Delta with a copy of the death certificate and a completed affidavit and release form to transfer SkyMiles. It can take up to four weeks to successfully transfer miles between accounts.

JetBlue TrueBlue Program

The TrueBlue terms and conditions explicitly state that accrued points are non-transferable upon death, as part of a domestic relations matter or otherwise. However, members with loyalty accounts can pool their miles together. Up to seven TrueBlue account holders can contribute their miles into one pool. This feature allows members to continue using miles even in the passing of a group member.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

The Rapid Rewards terms and conditions state that in the event of a member’s death, their account will become inactive after 24 months from the last earning date (unless the account is requested to be closed) and points will be unavailable for use.

In a phone call with Southwest, a customer service agent shared that with proper documentation,  such as a copy of a death certificate, rapid rewards miles can be transferred to a beneficiary. There are no applicable fees. Customers should call 1 (800) 435-9792 to initiate the process.

United MileagePlus

The United Mileage Plus terms and conditions state that in the event of the death or divorce of a member, United may, in its sole discretion, credit all or a portion of the member’s accrued mileage to authorized persons upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to United and payment of applicable fees.

To have the miles roll over, customers should call 1-800-421-4644 to request a mileage transfer form.

Can Points From Hotels Be Transferred?

The process of transferring points with hotels is straightforward.  Most transfers can be completed with proof of death and a completed transfer form. Here’s how some common hotel brands are aiding customers:

Hilton Honors Program

Like TrueBlue, Hilton Honors has a points pool. Up to ten people can be a part of the pool.  Within this setup, each member can contribute up to 500,000. In the event of a loved one’s passing, Hilton Honors points will still be accessible to group members.

To specifically have points transferred between two accounts, the beneficiary should complete a death transfer affidavit within one year of their loved one’s passing in addition to a copy of the death certificate. Hilton does not charge any fees to transfer points.

Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy’s terms and conditions ultimately deem the transfer of points up to the company. The policy states that in the event of a member’s death, the company may, in its sole discretion, allow unredeemed points from the deceased member’s account to be transferred to a family member or a friend who is an active member upon the company’s receipt and review of all requested documentation and communications.

To transfer points the beneficiary should email Bonvoy customer service a copy of the death certificate and proof of being executor of the estate in addition to the name, address, and account number of both Bonvoy members. Marriott does not charge any fees to transfer points.

IHG One Rewards

The IHG One Rewards terms and conditions state when a member passes, their points can be transferred to a beneficiary within one year.

The beneficiary should submit transfer requests to IHG’s customer care with a copy of the deceased’s will, death certificate, and proof of being executor of their estate. IHG does not charge any fees to transfer points.

What to Do If You Can’t Transfer Miles or Points to a Family Member

One of the best ways to get real-time experiences and input is to pose a question in a travel thread or forum. In this Reddit thread, users share advice for the best way to have continued access to earned points and miles. The consensus is to avoid notifying travel rewards hosts about a loved one’s passing. By simply having the login information to the reward account, they can book travel utilizing any available points and miles. For airlines, they will add their name as the primary traveler in the check-out process. For hotels, they will add their name as a secondary guest on the reservation.

However, if one account does not have enough points or miles to redeem, consider transferring them all to one account. For example, Hilton Honors points can be transferred to American Airline miles.

What Information Does Your Family Need?

Ultimately, miles and points aren’t considered personal property. In the event of your passing, your family and loved ones will not automatically inherit your earnings. To assist your loved ones in gaining access to your travel rewards, provide them with your legal name, associated phone number and email address, and mailing address or zip code attached to each loyalty account.

Additionally, your loved ones would need to know your reward numbers, usernames, and passwords to gain online access to loyalty accounts.

As an additional step, although policies can change, provide them with a link to the terms and conditions of each program or the dedicated customer support number. If your account has two-factor authentication, consider removing that feature or granting access to your associated email address to bypass any security measures.

pauldavis1849 December 17, 2023

This is a great topic.  I'd be interested in reading more about this.  I'd love to see information about American Express, Chase ultimate rewards and Capital one miles.

willieron December 14, 2023

You didn't mention American Airlines in your article.  My wife passed last year with almost 100k AA miles.  I used them to book flights for myself since I didn't want to be at their mercy or pay a fee to transfer them.  

SamirD December 13, 2023

Most of the time if you're asking this question when someone has passed, the opportunity has passed as well.

Planning for end of life starts well before someone is faced with death.  And this means even when you are perfectly healthy or don't have substantial assets.

Just having clear instructions as well as access information in a 'safe place' along with a will and other necessary documentation will make things much easier for someone that has to deal with these tasks.  And talking with your family or designated individual beforehand is even better because you're still around in case they have questions.

I dealt with the swift passing of my mother and father within 2 years.  We saw our mom's coming and we didn't want that outcome so didn't plan as much as we could.  Our father's was much more of a shock, taking him from living life to gone in 2 months thanks to Covid.  I had been helping them with their life for the last 10 years so I knew where everything was and even what their healthcare wishes were--made the process of losing them and having to let them go far less painful as it could have otherwise been.