Monday, October 28, 2013
If you die, your rewards points may die with you. According to a recent study by market research firm Colloquy, major rewards programs like Delta SkyMiles, Southwest Rapid Rewards, and Hilton HHonors generally do not allow points to be transferred after death.
According to their research, outstanding loyalty points had an estimated total value of $50 billion in 2011, but around 76% of loyalty club members have not considered who would inherit their balances.
Their study also shows that many companies may not have considered the issue either. American Express Membership Rewards, Citibank’s ThankYou Rewards, and Best Western Rewards don’t detail their policies online, which can lead to conflicting interpretations from customer service reps. Other companies can have complicated or restrictive inheritance policies such as only allowing transfers to spouses, only allowing heirs to redeem points but not transfer them, requiring executors to pay transfer fees, or requiring a death certificate to be sent within a certain time frame.
Loyalty club members should consider including account numbers, passwords, and balances as an addendum to their will. However, bequeathing point balances will not supersede the terms of service of particular programs.
Click here for a chart detailing different policies from major airline, hotel, and credit card rewards programs.
See Kelli B. Grant, ‘Til Death Do Us Part: Reward Points Don’t Live On, CNBC, Oct. 24, 2013.
Special thanks to Joseph Greer, J.D. (Johnson Bender & Company) for bringing this article to my attention.