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I’m Putting Points and Miles in My Will — Here’s Why

Brett Holzhauer's image
Brett Holzhauer
Brett Holzhauer's image

Brett Holzhauer

Content Contributor

31 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 22U.S. States Visited: 29

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he's had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards.
Edited by: Stella Shon
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Stella Shon

News Managing Editor

101 Published Articles 710 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 25U.S. States Visited: 22

With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in ...

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Making plans for your assets after you’re gone can evoke a wide range of emotions. It’s typically a financial task associated with older folks, but unfortunately, we never know when that day will come. And with a list of assets under my belt, I made it a priority this year to create a will and trust.

While I wouldn’t consider travel rewards a true asset, it’s something I want to be transferred to my closest family members to use for their travel — rather than be lost in the ether.

Here’s what you should consider if you want to do the same.

Travel Rewards Points Are Still Usable if the Account Holder Passes

First, note that frequent flyer miles and hotel points are not your property, but rather the property of the loyalty program itself. This is typically listed in the terms and condition of each program and prevents users from selling or manipulating the rewards. If you’re found in violation of the terms, the program can close your account for any reason.

Venture X Amex Platinum Amex Gold infront of TV Upgraded Points LLC
You’ll want to have a plan for your stash of points and miles. Image Credit: Upgraded Points

In the case of someone passing away, the rules are clearly outlined, but the reality is a bit of a gray area. As an example, here’s what Delta Air Lines and American Airlines have listed in their respective terms and conditions when an account holder dies:

  • Delta: “Miles are not the property of any Member. Except as specifically authorized in the Membership Guide and Program Rules or otherwise in writing by an officer of Delta, miles may not be sold, attached, seized, levied upon, pledged, or transferred under any circumstances, including, without limitation, by operation of law, upon death, or in connection with any domestic relations dispute and/or legal proceeding.”
  • American: “Except as otherwise explained below, mileage credit is not transferable and may not be combined among AAdvantage members, their estates, successors or assigns. Accrued mileage credit and award tickets do not constitute property of the member. Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor status, nor upgrades are transferable by the member (i) upon death, (ii) as part of a domestic relations matter, or (iii) otherwise by operation of law. However, American Airlines, in its sole discretion, may credit accrued mileage to persons specifically identified in court approved divorce decrees and wills upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees.” (This appears to be a seamless process according to this Reddit thread.)

How To Manage Miles of Someone Who Is Deceased

The way to avoid dealing with complicated loyalty programs is to ensure the right people in your estate plan have the log-ins for your account, and do 1 of 2 things:

  • Maintain the account as if the original account owner is still alive
  • Transfer the points from the deceased account holder to the recipient

I believe the former is the easier option. The loyalty program doesn’t need to know that the account owner has passed — simply use the points in the account until they are gone.

However, if my brother decides to do differently, I have it listed in my will and trust for him to be the beneficiary, along with my login information for all of my accounts. Here’s what it looks like in my trust:

Travel Rewards Will
Image Credit: Brett Holzhauer

In the grand scheme of my estate, my points and miles are a small line item — these rewards are worth maybe a few thousand dollars on a good day.

It’s not about the monetary value for me, but rather leaving my family an organized plan during a potentially difficult time if something were to happen to me. Without one, my estate could be sent to probate, making the grieving process that much more difficult.

Hot Tip:

Antavo’s global customer loyalty report from 2023 found that only 48.6% of points earned are redeemed. This means that over 50% of points issued are never redeemed. One could imagine that some of these points simply disappear after the account holder passes.

Final Thoughts

It’s uncomfortable and overwhelming to plan for your death, so take your time with it. I find that a will and/or trust is a necessity for nearly everyone, regardless of age, net worth, or marital status.

We’re all going to pass one day, and leaving these documents can give legal support and guidance to those who need it. They don’t just have to only list out major assets like a home or retirement account, and can contain directions for relatively smaller possessions, like your points and miles.

For myself, leaving my brother my points and miles, among other possessions, gives me a sense of peace knowing he can continue exploring the world with the rewards I’ve earned. Lastly, be sure to consult an estate planning attorney in your state to ensure your documents are compliant.

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Brett Holzhauer's image

About Brett Holzhauer

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he’s had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards. He learned the tricks of the trade from his mom, and has taken many steps forward. He wasn’t exposed to much travel as a kid, but now has a goal of reaching 100 countries in his life. In 2019, he sold all of his possessions to become a digital nomad, and he says it was one of the best decisions he ever made. He plans to do it again at some point in his life.

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