What Happens to Your Airline Miles When You Die?
Following Anthony Bourdain's death on June 8, it was reported that the celebrity chef included an unusual proviso in his will: he left his frequent-flier miles to his wife.
Bourdain, according to Page Six, bequeathed his miles to Ottavia Busia-Bourdain and asked her "to dispose of [them] in accordance with what [she] believes to have been my wishes." The will was written in 2016, shortly before the couple separated.
Are frequent flier miles an asset for which you should make plans, just like securities or real estate? Is it really possible to bequeath one's airline miles? The answer, it turns out, is that it depends on the airline and credit card company.
Here's how a few of the major U.S. airlines handle miles transfers:
TRANSFERS ALLOWED: YES
American has a policy stating that "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."
But it goes on to say that the airline "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."
TRANSFERS ALLOWED: NO
The SkyMiles Program Rules state that "Miles are not the property of any Member" and go on to say that "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."
Only certain airlines allow frequent-flier miles transfers after death.
TRANSFERS ALLOWED: YES (BUT NOT AFTER DEATH)
"Accrued Points and Award Travel do not constitute property of Member and are non-transferable (i) upon death, (ii) as part of a domestic relations matter, or (iii) otherwise," JetBlue's policy reads. However, travelers can use the airline's family pooling feature to combine TrueBlue points as a family.
TRANSFERS ALLOWED: YES
United will transfer miles—it even has a program dedicated to it. Mileage transfers cost $7.50 per 500 miles, plus a processing fee of $30 per transaction, according to the airline. A United agent told the Points Guy that in cases of death, "the typical transfer fees may be waived, subject to the airline’s approval after the required documentation has been submitted."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.