While it is in principle a “normal” thing for family members to inherit things such as funds, possessions and much more, only few of us will think about the deceased’s miles and points.
But miles and points have a certain equivalent value. What actually happens to the valuable award miles? Can these be inherited “simply” like assets? Or do they even threaten to expire? We want to get to the bottom of the matter and look at various miles and points programs.
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Let’s first take a look at the Central-European top dog: Miles&More. The Lufthansa Group’s frequent flyer program states that in the event of the death of a loved one, relatives should contact the Miles&More service centre immediately. The transfer or direct redemption of the award miles to be inherited can then be organized. When transferred to another account, the miles are again valid for 36 months – regardless of how old they were before.
However, for this to work, as is usual with inheritance matters, the submission of a certificate of inheritance, or a copy thereof, or (notarized) last will, will be necessary. Of course, the beneficiaries also need their own account with the frequent flyer program.
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American Express Rewards
It is also possible with American Express (at least according to the US site) for the Rewards Points to be credited to or redeemed for the surviving dependents. This probably requires similar formalities as with Miles&More. Here, too, the beneficiaries will certainly need a corresponding account with American Express.
In the event of the death of a member of the Hilton Honors loyalty program, the deceased member’s points may be transferred to surviving dependents upon the presentation of an affidavit.
The corresponding form must be completed by the executor. The death certificate or proof of death of the Hilton Honor member must also be included before the documents can be emailed to Hilton Honors. However, this information also comes from the US Hilton Honors division.
It should be much easier to transfer the points to the heir using the regular way. Hilton’s members can transfer up to 500,000 points per year to other members free of charge. Only the login information is required for this (Honors number + password).
British Airways Executive Club
Unfortunately, the British Airways Executive Club joins the ranks of those miles and points programs that are anything but accommodating in the event of the death of a member, because the frequent flyer program has precisely defined that after the death of a member, the Avios that were not used up to the time of death will be deleted.
The only real way to still use those Avios would be to access the account. Of course, this requires their access data. In principle, award flights can also be booked for other people and a different credit card can also be used for payment. However, this procedure officially violates the regulations of the Executive Club, although it is unlikely to be punished or noticed.
United Airlines MileagePlus
United Airlines at least gives you the possibility to transfer miles of its MileagePlus program to another person. At least assuming the documents “satisfy” the airline. This probably means that, similar to the other programs, official documents must be submitted in order to increase the chances of it being approved. United also mentions there would be fees for doing so, but doesn’t mention how high they might be.
While miles and points may have some value and the issue of inheritance should be obvious to many, it’s not necessarily that simple. Theoretically, it could happen that a frequent flyer program refuses to pass on the miles.
In principle, the miles and points are owned by the respective airline or the program and, to a certain extent, do not belong to the member at all. Delta Air Lines SkyMiles, for instance, has defined this point precisely:
Miles are not owned by a member. Except as expressly authorized in the Membership Handbook and Program Rules or otherwise in writing by an officer of Delta, under no circumstances may miles be sold, mortgaged, confiscated, pledged or transferred, including, but not limited to, by operation of law, in the event of death or in connection with domestic relationship disputes and /or legal proceedings.Delta Air Lines SkyMiles
However, a simple workaround to avoid this problem could be to pass on the account data. In this way, relatives could access the account and, e.g. redeem those miles for flights. As a rule, bookings for other people are usually possible for award flights.
Inheriting or receiving miles and points can be a complicated undertaking. Ultimately, the loyalty programs themselves determine whether this is even possible and, if so, in what form. In most cases, as in other inheritance matters, appropriate documents are required. A number of airlines and programs have not defined exactly what happens to the miles and points in the event of death.