Today’s question comes from reader Ronnie, who writes in to ask:
“My grandfather has about 600k American Express Membership Rewards points. The family is trying to figure out what to do with them in the case he passes away in the near future. We have the option to sell them to point brokers, but wondering if it’s possible at all to transfer his points into my account and I can “hold” them for the family as we need them later on.”
It might be an uncomfortable topic but it’s great that Ronnie and his family are already starting to think through their options. It’s easier to make a plan before death than have to scramble to figure it out later. After brainstorming with Dan and chatting with an American Express representative, here are three main options.
Transfer Points to Airline or Hotel Partners
Membership Rewards can be transferred into airline or hotel program accounts in the name of primary account holders OR authorized users. If you aren’t already an authorized user on the account, talk with the account holder or someone who has power of attorney and go through the process to get added.
Before you start transferring, make sure you think about which airlines will be easiest for your family to fly. Also, familiarize yourself with the miles expiration policy of your chosen airline in case the miles sit for awhile.
Take Over the Account After Death
American Express is one of the few banks that will allow you to take over the account of someone who has died by becoming a new Basic Cardmember. To be eligible, the account must be a valid account (not all card types will allow this), the account hasn’t been closed for more than a year, the account cannot be 60-days or more past due, and the new Basic Cardmember must pass a credit review.
You will also have to take over any debt on the account and submit information for a credit review. This would allow you to keep the points in a Membership Rewards account which would give you more flexibility.
It’s important to note that I only verified that this is an option with American Express. More information about the process can be found here along with contact information if you have more questions about if your account qualifies.
Keep Account Open After Death
One last option to is holding off on alerting American Express about the death until you transfer or use the remaining Membership Rewards points. If you are an authorized user, you will still be able to transfer to your own accounts without worrying about points expiring as long as the card stays in good standing.
There is a higher risk of identity theft if you do opt for this solution. There is also a chance that important notices could be missed if the mailing address isn’t correct.
Do you have experience with trying to get miles and points transferred prior or after death? What did you do? Share in the comments!
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I’ve actually printed out articles on this topic and stashed them with my will and power of attorney documents 🙂 . I think if my points and miles went to waste, I’d have to come back and haunt someone! 😀
So smart Eileen! We work hard for those points so it would be a shame to have them go to waste!
Good foresight. One of my Mother’s credit cards caught that she was deceased before I even notified them. I was not an AU.
Oh wow! That’s surprising! I wonder how they caught it or if they were notified somehow.
Financial institutions get access to list of deceased social security numbers that they use to combat identity theft. Once your loved ones died, you don’t have days before their accounts are frozen.
Great article and good take on an interesting problem?
Delta miles die with the member, even if you have a Delta American Express card. Use the miles and don’t notify them or the credit card company.