TPG reader question: What happens to your points and miles after a cardholder has died?

Jun 7, 2021

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While we may not want to think about it, the death of a loved one means a host of logistical arrangements. For travelers, that can include what to do with a collection of points and miles that may be left behind.

If someone passes away, what happens to their stash of loyalty currencies? Does it disappear into the abyss without a trace or is there a way to retrieve them? This week, TPG reader Ira Serkes asks us this exact question.

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How do you transfer miles and points after the cardholder has died? I’m thinking ahead and thought it would be something I should at least plan for.

Ira Serkes, TPG reader

The main thing you need to know is this: Your points and miles are not your property. You’ll see language saying the loyalty currency doesn’t belong to you in almost every loyalty program’s terms and conditions. That’s the bad news.

However, the good news is that most (but certainly not all) programs make it fairly easy to transfer points and miles upon death.

For instance, here are United’s MileagePlus terms:

“In the event of the death or divorce of a Member, United may, in its sole discretion, credit all or a portion of such Member’s accrued mileage to authorized persons upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to United and payment of applicable fees.”

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, there is no catch-all process when it comes to points and miles after a cardholder’s death. Some programs will allow you to transfer them with a simple phone call and a copy of a death certificate (United MileagePlus and American AAdvantage). Others may require a court order (i.e., Delta SkyMiles).

When it comes to card programs, Amex says that with Membership Rewards, in the event of death, an executor or personal representative may request to use the points in the program account in a one-time redemption by calling them.

For more specific information about individual programs, read our full guide to points and miles after you die.

However, the easiest tip may be to ensure that your loved ones have your login information so they can continue using your points or miles after you die.

Related: What happens to credit cards after a cardholder dies?

Bottom line

Dealing with the death of a friend or family member can be an incredibly challenging time. Thankfully, most programs make it fairly easy to retain a loved one’s points and miles, contrary to what terms and conditions might actually say.

Those loyalty currencies may be worth thousands of dollars in free travel, so it’s something you likely wouldn’t want to go to waste. A quick call to the loyalty program in question will likely help you figure out the next steps. But in almost all cases, you can also log in and use a loved one’s points or miles even after they pass.

Additional reporting by Richard Kerr.

Featured photo by Mirko Vitali/EyeEm/Getty Images. 

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