Transferring Airline Miles to a Beneficiary

Where have you traveled with reward miles? Did you know that you may be able to share your love of travel by passing on any miles that remain in your account when you pass away? Today’s frequent flier programs allow one to amass points that are, most liberally, a form of currency, and most conservatively, something of value. In either case, something of value can typically be passed on to family or friends when one passes away. However, many airlines have a formal policy stating that these points do not constitute property of the member, and therefore, they cannot be inherited. Other airlines do expressly allow for the transfer of points upon death. Whether or not your particular reward program allows for the transfer of miles, an estate planning attorney may be able to help you accomplish your goal. In some instances, this may take advance planning. Find out what your airline’s policy is below:

Airlines That Do Allow Transfers

 U.S. Airways’ policy states that “a deceased or incapacitated member’s miles can be transferred to another member’s account free of charge,” though proper documentation of death and beneficiary is required. The request must be made within one year of the member’s death, and at the time of the member’s death, the account cannot have been inactive for more than 36 months.

Airlines That Do Not Allow Transfers

Delta (Skymiles), United Airlines, Jet Blue (TrueBlue) and Southwest (Rapid Rewards) all have policies stating that miles are not the property of the member, and as such, cannot be transferred upon death.

Airlines That May Allow Transfers

American Airlines (AAdvantage)has a policy similar to Delta, United Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest, stating that miles are not a member’s property and cannot be transferred upon death. However, American Airlines adds that “in its sole discretion,” accrued miles may be transferred “to persons specifically identified in…wills upon receipt of documentation to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.”Regardless of the particular policy of your credit card, the general consensus in the frequent flyer community seems to be that “it never hurts to ask.” It appears that the airlines falling into the “do not allow transfers” category on paper actually mirror American Airline’s policy in practice if an accommodating customer service representative is provided with satisfactory documentation such as a will or trust. A will or trust should be drafted by an estate planning attorney whenever possible, as the extra attention to detail – specifically referencing the miles – becomes helpful and may streamline the process. Alternatively, you may wish to pay any applicable fees to transfer your miles during life instead, if your airline allows. If you have airline miles and would like to ensure that they are usable by a loved one after your death, be sure to make this information known to your estate planning attorney so that your loved one will be in the best position to have your miles transferred, whether specifically allowed by policy or not.

To learn more, contact Mammel Law at 248-644-6326 .

** The information in this article is accurate as of August, 2015. We will do our best to keep this information updated, but you should check the relevant pages listed or an estate planning attorney if you would like to plan to transfer your airline miles or points during your life or upon your death.

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