What Can You Do to Preserve your Frequent Traveler Miles? From Austin Estate Planning Lawyer Liz Nielsen

Frequent Traveler Miles

For the past couple of years, one thing that people may not be doing is traveling by airplane. Yet, many of us are still enrolled in miles programs with various airlines. If you’re a frequent airline traveler, one of your estate planning concerns may be what will happen to your accumulated miles once you’re gone. They could be worth thousands of dollars, so you probably don’t want them to just disappear, but some airline policies say that’s exactly what will happen.

You can’t take them with you, obviously. But under certain circumstances, you can transfer these accumulated miles to your heirs. Unfortunately, the rules vary widely from carrier to carrier. It’s important to know that all carriers consider miles to be property of the airline, not of the traveler. So, miles are technically not part of your estate. Despite this, disposition of miles can be handled in a will, as will be covered later. The law doesn’t consider airline miles assets that can be bequeathed directly to heirs, but there are still some steps you can take to help ensure your miles live on. It all starts with examining the airline policies in question. To give you an idea of the variation among air carriers, read the policies below for the major domestic carriers and three international carriers.


Domestic carriers

Alaska Airlines

Alaska does not state on its website a policy about the transfer of accrued mileage of deceased members. However, The Points Guy travel blogger reported that the airline will transfer unexpired miles with just a copy of the death certificate.

American Airlines

According to the AAdvantage program’s terms and conditions, AAdvantage miles – like award tickets, elite status and upgrades – are not transferable upon death of a program member. However, they may, at their sole discretion, permit transfers of accrued program mileage, subject to receipt of appropriate documentation, including applicable fees and of court-approved wills.

Delta Air Lines

Delta is infamously strict about prohibiting transfers of miles after the death of a SkyMiles member: they simply don’t permit it. Knowing this, many heirs don’t even try. That said, The Points Guy travel blogger has reported that a contacting the customer service number with a polite but firm request to transfer the miles had produced good results.


Like United, JetBlue takes the position that TrueBlue miles expire when the member does. However, under its Points Pooling program, JetBlue allows family members – up to two adults and five children – to share a single TrueBlue account, so the account won’t be deactivated when a single family member dies. Technically, the Points Pooling must be set up before the death of a family member.

Southwest Airlines

Like Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines does not state on its website a policy about the transfer of accrued mileage of deceased members Yet, according to The Points Guy reported that the airline will transfer, at no fee, unexpired miles with just a copy of the death certificate.

United Airlines

United’s MileagePlus rules are similar to those of American’s AAdvantage program. Like AA’s, UA’s rules still refer to fees, but some travel writers report that representatives of UA have stated they no longer charge fees.

Major international carriers

Air France-KLM

The Terms and Conditions for Flying Blue, operated by Air France and KLM, say “In the event of the death of a Member, the Company shall close that Member’s account and cancel all Miles and/or XP earned by the concerned Member upon receipt of the death certificate.” {Italics added.} If there are exceptions to this rule, they are not widely publicized.

British Airways (British Airways, Iberia, and others)

The published policy states that Avios miles cannot be transferred to an estate, but a Household Account, if established before death, can permit easy sharing of those miles among a designated group of travelers.


Like Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines, Lufthansa does not state on its website a policy about the transfer of accrued mileage of deceased members However, a number of travel websites report that the airline will transfer, at no fee, unexpired miles with just a copy of the death certificate.

How to Transfer Miles After Death

The main takeaway is that although airline policies may say they don’t allow miles transfers after death, employees often have the discretion to approve them. Still, there’s no sure way to know whether your airline will work with your loved ones regarding the transfer of your miles. Listed are options that you can take to transfer your miles and points after death.

  • Include a provision in your will that makes your wishes clear. This step is especially important if your airline requires a copy of a will as documentation, but it can be helpful in any event.
  • Leave your account number, login, and password to the person you would like to be able to use your miles. Some airlines permit such transfers and usage of miles after the account holder’s death.
  • Transfer miles to another person before death. Most experts advise against this, as the fees can sometimes exceed the value of the points. The Points Guy provides a chart, updated monthly, with his estimate of the value of points in virtually all airlines and hotels, which will enable you to decide whether paying the fee is worth it.
  • Transfer miles to another person going through each airline’s procedure. Before you decide to do this, however, ensure that you don’t want to just outright use the miles, as specified above. Once you tell an airline that someone has deceased, you can’t un-tell them.
  • You can specify the distribution of the miles in your will. The upside is that your wishes are clear. This could help deal with airlines that handle miles of deceased travelers on a “case-by-case” basis.

Final Thought on Frequent Traveler Miles

Frequent flyer policies can change at the whim of the airlines even as you are living, so another idea to keep in mind is to use the miles now and create experiences with your loved ones rather than plan to pass the miles on later. In doing so, you can be absolutely sure your miles aren’t lost; an added bonus is that you can also share moments none of you will ever forget. If you have an estate with miles you’d like to include or if you’ve never drafted an estate plan before, Nielsen Law can help set you up for Peace of Mind. Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area.  For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.