When a loved one passes away, there are often many financial matters to deal with in the estate planning process. Often, you have to deal with collecting life insurance policy proceeds, closing out bank accounts, and dealing with the transfer of IRA and 401(k) accounts. In most families, there is also lots of discussion over possessions including automobiles, jewelry, or other collectibles. But, what about all of those frequent flyer points? Will they continue on to a beneficiary or just drift away into a black hole of frequent point oblivion?
Before we discuss various programs and what the potential outcomes are at death, let’s talk about some best practices.
- Most families don’t even really track their miles or points. This is why we encourage people to use the online personal financial dashboard with oXYGen Financial because you actually have the ability to track all and any point programs to know exactly what you have.
- It’s not a great idea to keep all of the points in the name of one person. Many programs let the points expire exactly at the same date as the individual expires, so having all of the “accounts” in one name can actually be counterproductive.
- Is there a note in your will? As bizarre as this may seem, if you have amassed more than 1,000,000 points cumulatively you might have people from the estate fighting over those points because in reality they are money.
- Never immediately cancel a credit card at death. The point companies may require a fee paid on the card of the holder to get the points transferred after the death of the individual.
Sometimes you can transfer points at death and sometimes you cannot. The rules and policies of companies are wildly different across the board, and this may alter your thinking on what programs you sign up for while you are living.
Here are just a few notable companies:
- American Express: points accumulated by deceased member may be reinstated to new basic account or redeemed by estate of deceased card member. If you are not an additional member you should send a formal written request to membership rewards for distribution of points. This should include the name and position of executor of estate, name of individual designated to membership points
- Jet Blue: points are non-transferable and can’t be combined with other TrueBlue members. Points do not constitute as property and are nontransferable upon death
- Southwest: points can’t be transferred to a member’s estate or part of a settlement.
- Delta: miles are not property of members. Unless authorized in the membership guide and program rules. Cannot be sold, transferred, etc.
- United: mileage and certificates are not property of member and not transferable unless authorized by airline.
- American Airlines : mileage, tickets are transferable by death. However, the airline in its discretion may credit accrued mileage to a person specifically identified in court.
- Hilton allows for points transfer upon death.
- 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 )
- 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.
If the account is cancelled all points will be forfeited and may have a certain time frame to use the points, so please make sure you just don’t go ahead and cancel the account. If you are struggling with how to handle these issues or are settling an estate, feel free to give oXYGen a call or shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] and we can assist.