How to transfer and cancel airline accounts and travel reward miles after a loved one dies.
Transferring unused airline or travel reward miles from a recently lost loved one can often be an overlooked or forgotten step in the estate settlement process. And it’s no wonder, as discovering and closing any existing airline reward accounts can be a fairly tedious process. To help you manage this process, Atticus has the following instructions and tips on how to transfer miles and close accounts.
Travel reward programs tend to be fairly ambiguous when it comes to their policies around the death of a customer. While many airlines issue blanket statements within their policies declaring that miles are not transferable, many of the airlines do actually have legacy programs allowing for miles to be inherited or transferred to a beneficiary.
It’s also worth noting that many airline policies state that travel reward miles aren’t technically own-able assets, but are instead owned by the reward program itself. What this means is that the reward program is generally able to assume control of any miles upon being notified that a reward customer has died.
Which brings us to a hushed practice you may hear others mention or suggest— including some of the airlines themselves.
If someone has the login information for the deceased owner’s account, they can technically continue to access or use remaining reward miles in the account until the airline becomes notified of the account owner’s passing.
While some individuals proceed comfortably with interpreting this as loose practice, when in doubt we always recommend contacting the airline to notify them of the situation, learning more about their internal policies and/or asking what exceptions they may be able to extend.
In the event you don’t have login information to a loved one’s account, then the following list should point you in the right direction for contacting the appropriate airline company, navigating their internal policies around transferring points to a beneficiary or estate and getting in touch with customer support to begin the process of closing the account.
Keep in mind that the best practices for handling or transferring of digital assets is a quickly evolving landscape. As such, corporate policies and their program specifics change often and may even do so without adequate notice or written documentation. And regardless of the written policy on their websites, many of these companies actually have informal inheritance practices that differ from their publicly disclosed policies.
If you see legal phrases such as “exceptions are made at the sole direction of the airline,” this generally means that a customer service agent may likely be empowered with an ability to transfer airline miles after the death of a family member, especially when the request is reasonably and respectfully made.
For these reasons, it’s always worth a conversation with customer support to make sure their online policies are up to date.
Ultimate Guide to Airline Policies
Transfer Policy: N/A no written policy, but informally, “yes”
Travel Reward Program Name: Alaskan Airlines Memorial Miles
Alaska Airlines doesn’t currently have an official written policy around the transfer of unused reward points after an account holder dies. That said, they do have an internal program called “Memorial Miles,” which allows for a ‘fee-free’ transfer of unused miles from the deceased’s account to a beneficiary, heir or estate.
There’s no email to connect with Alaska Airlines, so the airline recommends calling. Once you’ve reached an agent, ask about their “Memorial Miles” program. After that, you’ll be asked to provide a death certificate, which enables a transfer of miles fee free.
Alaska Airlines Online Help Center
For hearing and speech impaired (TTY), dial 711 for relay services.
Transfer Policy: No... but yes, with discretion.
American Airlines does allow customers to transfer unused AADvantage miles following a death.
“Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor status, nor upgrades are transferable by the member upon death,” says the AAdvantage terms and conditions. “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.”
Travel Reward Program Name: AADvantage® miles
While American Airlines has a seemingly strict no transfer on death policy, it’s also set up to favorably allow for exceptions following receipt of satisfactory documentation. American Airlines recommends calling customer support, and after informing them of the situation, the airline provides an affidavit by email and a request for a certified copy of the death certificate. The affidavit will require you to know the deceased person’s account number, and the number of the account you want the miles transferred into. For families that decide to pool, split or share the unused miles, American Airlines makes this easy through its AAdvantage ShareMiles Program.
AAdvantage Online Customer Service
Delta Air Lines
Transfer Policy: No, but...
Delta’s official policy states that SkyMiles will not be transferred or inherited following the death of an account owner.
“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.” As stated in the Restrictions on Transfer section of Delta’s Membership Guide & Program Rules.
Travel Reward Program Name: Delta SkyMiles
Delta does not have a formal program in place for transferring Delta SkyMiles upon death of an account owner. When informed of the death, their written policy states that they will proceed with cancelling the account with any unused SkyMiles being forfeited.
That said, some surviving family members have reported their experiences have been otherwise, sharing that exceptions are not uncommon if beneficiaries or heirs contact customer support with a polite, yet firm request. Either way, you will generally be required to fill out an affidavit and provide a copy of the account owner's death certificate. Delta has also been known to require a court order prior to transfer or release of unused miles.
Delta Customer Support Phone: 1-800-221-1212
Transfer policy: Yes
”Miles are non-transferable and may not be combined among FRONTIER Miles Members, their estates, successors and assigns except as follows: Miles may be pooled using Family Pooling (view Family Pooling Terms), Miles may be purchased and gifted at a cost by using our business partner Points.com (view Buy, Gift) Accrued Miles and Award Travel do not constitute property of Member and are non-transferable including:”
“Upon the death of a Member, without: (i) the death certificate of the Member or (ii) letter from the executor. In instances of multiple executors or heirs of miles based on court documents, miles are divided as directed by the court. In the event an heir does not have a FRONTIER Miles account, they may enroll or submit written permission to waive their rights to the miles and those miles will be divided among the remaining heirs,” states paragraph 15 (b) (2) of the Frontier Airlines Terms and Conditions.
Travel Reward Program Name: Frontier Miles Program
Frontier has a very accommodative written policy around the transfer or inheritance of unused Frontier Miles to surviving family members, heirs, or one’s estate. Frontier makes it easy for family and heirs to transfer these rewards with it’s Family Pooling program, through which two or more members can link their accounts to earn, share or transfer each other’s Frontier Miles points.
If an account owner dies without linking their account with someone else’s, the executor or surviving family members will need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate or other appropriate legal documents to request the transfer of unused miles.
Frontier Airlines Support Phone: 801-401-9000
Hours: Monday - Friday, 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. (MST) & Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. (MST)
Frontier Online Support: Contact Us
Corporate Office Address: Frontier Airlines, 4545 Airport Way, Denver, CO 80239
Transfer Policy: No, but…
JetBlue’s official policy states that miles will not be transferred or inherited following the death of an account owner.
“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,” states the TrueBlue terms and conditions website.
Travel Reward Program Name: JetBlue TrueBlue points
JetBlue’s formal written policy is for unused TrueBlue points to be forfeited, not transferred, when a member dies. However, like Delta, many family members have shared that they were successful in receiving a transfer of a loved one’s unused JetBlue miles after calling customer support and presenting the appropriate documentation for the account credentials and certified copy of the death certificate. Family members may also be asked to provide details around their involvement as a qualified beneficiary of the estate.
JetBlue also offers its TrueBlue Family Pooling Program, which allows account owners to add family members to their account for purposes of accessing or sharing the points as long as the account is active. This can be particularly helpful when setup in advance.
Transfer Policy: No
“Points may not be transferred to a Member’s estate or as part of a settlement, inheritance, or will. In the event of a Member’s death, his/her account will become inactive after 24 months from the last earning date (unless the account is requested to be closed) and points will be unavailable for use,” states the Program Terms and Conditions.
Travel Reward Program Name: Rapid Reward Points
Southwest has a strict written policy advising that unused Rapid Reward points will not be transferred to an owner’s estate following a death. Once notified of the account holder’s passing, Southwest will automatically schedule a closing of the account at the expiration of 24 months (unless you request it to happen sooner).
Differing from the formal policy, customers on Southwest’s community forums share various experiences of a much more accommodating practice, often receiving assistance and guidance from customer service around the transfer of a deceased person’s unused account points.
Phone: 1-855-234-4654, option #3 OR 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792)
Transfer Policy: Yes
“In the event of the death or divorce of a Member, United may, in its sole discretion, credit all or a portion of such Member’s accrued mileage to authorized persons upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to United and payment of applicable fees,” says the MileagePlus Program Rules.
Travel Reward Program Name: United Airlines’ MileagePlus Program
United’s policy states that surviving family members are able to transfer unused miles of a deceased loved one to a beneficiary or estate. A certified copy of the death certificate will need to be submitted, after which any accrued mileage can be transferred to another MileagePlus account through United’s Transfer Miles Program. While the policy also states ‘applicable fees,’ the website is vague with the amount or consistency of charging such fees and further investigation revealed there are a number of customer claims online mentioning that this fee is often waived.
United Customer Support: 1-800-421-4655
United Airlines’ Online Contact Us