Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult enough without added complications. So, what happens to their hard-earned airline miles after they pass away? It's not something we like to think about, but understanding the inheritance process for airline miles is important to avoid potential frustration later on. This guide will help you understand how airline policies work and what steps you might need to take to ensure the miles your loved one collected reach their intended destination.

What Happens to Airline Points & Miles After You Die?

The fate of your airline miles after death depends entirely on the airline you flew with. Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to inheriting miles. Each company has its policies, making it crucial to know the specific rules of the frequent flier program you were a part of.

Here's a look at how some of the major U.S. airlines handle the inheritance of miles:

  • American Airlines: Traditionally, you can transfer miles after death, providing some flexibility for your heirs.
  • Delta: Takes a stricter stance, with their SkyMiles not being transferable, even after death.
  • United: May allow transfers on a case-by-case basis. Their approach offers potential hope but less certainty than some other airlines.
  • Southwest Airlines: Provides the option to transfer miles to a designated beneficiary, making the process relatively straightforward.
  • JetBlue: Allows pooling points with loved ones for easier sharing, offering a more proactive way to manage miles.
  • Frontier Airlines: Offers a straightforward process for transferring miles after death, providing clarity for your loved ones.

Airline policies can change. It's always best to check the most up-to-date terms and conditions of your chosen airline's loyalty program or reach out to their customer service for the most accurate information.

Transfer Your Miles As You Transfer Wealth To Your Heirs

Frequent flier miles can sometimes hold significant value – both sentimental and financial. Just like other assets, it's wise to incorporate them into your overall estate planning strategy. Ideally, the transfer of your miles should be as seamless as the transfer of other parts of your legacy.

While airline policies can create hurdles, don't let that discourage you. Here are some ways to make sure your heirs can make the most of your hard-earned miles:

  • Document Your Wishes: Include specific information about your frequent flier accounts in your will or trust. Detail account numbers, passwords (if securely stored), and your desired beneficiary for each program.
  • Communicate Openly: Have conversations with your intended heirs about your miles and any plans you have for them. This avoids confusion and allows them to ask questions while you can provide the answers.
  • Explore Workarounds: If your chosen airline has restrictive policies, consider strategies like points exchange websites (more on this later). These can provide additional options.

Just like safeguarding your financial assets, taking steps to ensure the smooth transfer of airline miles provides peace of mind for you and demonstrates care for those you leave behind.

Explore Loyalty Program Exchange Sites

When dealing with restrictive airline inheritance policies, loyalty program exchange sites can be a lifeline. These specialized platforms act as a marketplace, allowing you to trade or convert points between different rewards programs, including airlines. Well-established sites like and The Miles Market specialize in facilitating these exchanges.

Here's how these sites can help you:

  • Bypass Airline Restrictions: If your airline doesn't allow direct mileage transfers, exchanging points for a different airline's program (that does allow inheritance) might be a clever workaround.
  • Increase Flexibility: These sites often let you switch between airlines, hotels, and other rewards partners, giving you more options about how you use your points.
  • Consolidate Miles: If you have points spread across various programs, you might be able to consolidate them into a single airline that's easier to inherit.

Check Out the American Express Membership Rewards Program

American Express Membership Rewards offers greater adaptability than some airline-specific programs. You earn points usable for various airlines and points can be transferred to others. Plus, setting up joint accounts is an option. Amex even has a dedicated department to assist with matters related to a cardholder's passing.

How to Inherit Miles from Specific Airlines

Let's look at the inheritance policies of some popular airlines:

Delta Airlines: SkyMiles

Delta Airlines takes a notably strict stance when it comes to transferring SkyMiles. Their policy explicitly states that miles are not transferable under any circumstances, including in the case of a member's death. This means that unfortunately, your SkyMiles cannot be directly inherited by a loved one.

What are your options?

  • Use the Miles Yourself: While not ideal in this situation, consider utilizing the miles for travel or other redemption options before the account becomes inactive.
  • Gift Cards or Merchandise: Some airlines allow miles to be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise, potentially offering a way to use their value outside of travel.
  • Explore Exchange Sites: While not always possible, check to see if points exchange sites offer options to trade Delta miles for other reward currencies.

Frontier Airlines: EarlyReturns

Frontier Airlines offers a more accommodating approach to mile inheritance. Their EarlyReturns program allows members to transfer miles to designated heirs after death. Additionally, their Family Pooling program lets you proactively link your account with up to seven other people, creating a shared pool of miles. To transfer miles due to the death of a member, you may need to provide documentation such as a death certificate or a letter from the executor of the estate. Contacting Frontier Airlines customer service is the best way to get the most accurate and up-to-date guidelines for the transfer process. The EarlyReturns program also offers added benefits like the potential to reach elite status faster through combined activity and the flexibility to manage who is included in your Family Pool.

JetBlue: TrueBlue

JetBlue's TrueBlue program offers a proactive solution through its Points Pooling feature. This allows you to create a shared pool with up to seven friends or family members, effectively combining your miles. It's important to be aware that transferring or gifting points within the program can have associated fees, so factor those into your decisions when utilizing this option.

Southwest Rapid Rewards

Southwest Rapid Rewards provides a relatively straightforward process for transferring miles in the event of a member's death. Members can proactively designate a beneficiary for their account. After the member passes away, the beneficiary would need to provide the necessary documentation and contact Southwest to initiate the mileage transfer.

United Airlines MileagePlus

United Airlines' MileagePlus program takes a case-by-case approach to mileage transfers after a member's death. While it's not strictly forbidden, there's no guarantee of approval. If you need to transfer miles under these circumstances, the first step is to contact United Airlines customer service and request a mileage transfer form.

Navigating airline mile inheritance isn't the most pleasant topic, but it's a practical matter worth understanding. Remember, airline policies differ significantly. Taking proactive steps, like including miles in your estate planning or exploring trusted platforms like The Miles Market, can help preserve their value and ensure they benefit your loved ones down the line.

If you're passionate about your airline miles, make a plan. It's the best way to guarantee those points are put to good use, regardless of the circumstances. Whether you choose to transfer them to loved ones, explore exchange sites, or convert them into cash, taking action maximizes the potential of those hard-earned miles.