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When it comes to estate planning and leaving a legacy behind for your loved ones, you might wonder if you can transfer your frequent flier miles when you die. Although the standing policy for many frequent flier mile accounts is that miles expire upon death, that’s not always the case.
Every airline has a different stance on what happens to your miles when you’re no longer here. Some airlines will make a transfer for free, others might charge a fee, and some won’t permit transfers at all. We’ll cover the death transfer policies for the major airlines and a few other actions you can take to help make the transfer process as easy as possible.
Will Airlines Let You Transfer Frequent Flier Miles When You Die?
Many airlines will let you transfer your frequent flier miles to another relative when you pass away. They will ask you to present a copy of the death certificate and written proof that you’re a designated beneficiary. The three notable exceptions to this benefit are Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest. They won’t make a transfer under any circumstance.
Some airlines consider frequent flier miles as airline property and will not transfer them to another person.
Aeroplan won’t automatically transfer miles to a person’s account just because their name is mentioned in the will. Estate beneficiaries can request a mileage transfer when they submit three pieces of information:
- Copy of the death certificate
- The portion of the will that lists the estate beneficiaries
- A signed statement from the other beneficiaries waiving their right to the Aeroplan miles
You don’t have to pay a transfer fee for estate transfers with Aeroplan.
Transfer your miles for free to a spouse or the beneficiary mentioned in the deceased’s will. In both cases, you need to give Alaska Airlines a copy of the death certificate.
In a court-approved divorce and an established will with proper documentation, American Airlines will transfer your frequent flier miles to a beneficiary.
Even though Delta SkyMiles never expire when you’re alive, they will expire when you pass away. While you’re still living, you can transfer them to another SkyMiles partner for a fee. You will need to decide if paying the fee is worth the cost.
JetBlue doesn’t let anybody inherit miles, but you can still transfer them with their “Family Pooling” perk. Of course, JetBlue will cancel the deceased’s account if they learn about their death. The pooling option isn’t always a guaranteed success.
Southwest does not permit death transfer benefits.
You will need to pay a fee to transfer your miles to an heir with United Airlines.
How to Transfer Your Frequent Flier Miles When You Die
Because every airline has a different policy on transferring frequent flier miles, you may have to jump through a lot of hoops to complete a transfer. Following these steps can ensure those miles can still be used by the next person.
Create a Will
Drafting a legal will doesn’t quite have the same effect it did a few years ago, but it’s still one of the best ways to put your wishes on paper. The airline doesn’t have to grant the deceased’s request, but it’s written proof that a beneficiary can inherit the miles.
Most people probably haven’t thought about adding a frequent flier mile clause to their will. That is, until the recent unexpected death of Anthony Bourdain who bequeathed his frequent flier miles to his second wife.
Give Your Frequent Flier Information to Loved Ones
This is a “grey area” for some, but you can leave your frequent flier account information with your loved ones so they can still access your account if you pass away unexpectedly. If the airline doesn’t know the account holder passes away, the surviving family can still access the account. To avoid cancellation by account inactivity, survivors should access the account as soon as possible.
You can also go a step further and leave your email password and even track all of your award mileage accounts on an app like AwardWallet. With this information, your family can easily find your frequent flier information.
In the digital age, it’s not a bad idea to still write your account information, username, and password on a piece of paper. Only tell people you trust where this information is. It will make the task of transferring your estate significantly easier if you pass away unexpectedly.
Pool Your Frequent Flier Miles
Some airlines (like JetBlue) are letting you pool miles with other family members. This might be the easiest way to ensure the miles of a deceased family member never expire. You don’t have to pay a transfer fee and you already have access to everybody’s miles.
You can also use this tactic for hotel points too. Point pooling is more common in the hotel rewards space than frequent flier miles.
Use an Airline Rewards Credit Card
With an airline rewards credit card, you might have the option to redeem your miles for the primary cardholder or authorized user. If the primary cardholder passes, the mileage balance will disappear when the credit card account closes. So, the authorized user will need to book an award flight before the account closes.
The same principle holds for flexible travel rewards cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With 1:1 point transfers, you usually have the option to transfer your rewards points balance to the frequent flier account of the primary cardholder or the authorized user.
Transfer Your Points Before You Die
If somebody’s flying days are over, being proactive about transferring miles can prevent a large headache for the survivors. It can be easier for the actual account holder to initiate the transfer.
Most airlines have an estate benefits administrator. When you contact the customer service department, ask to speak with this coordinator.
Summary of What Happens To Your Frequent Flier Miles When You Die
Your frequent flier miles don’t always expire when you pass away. It’s possible to transfer them to a beneficiary. Some airlines don’t charge a transfer fee either. The recipient will need to present a death certificate to begin the transfer process. It is better to be prepared to transfer your frequent flier miles when you die.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.