Airlines Rigid About Transferring Miles After Death

Kathe Holmes is in a transitional period. Her husband recently passed away and she's trying to settle his affairs. But she's run into one struggle she never expected - transferring his airline miles.

"I just think it's just uncaring," expressed Holmes.

Holmes' husband Chuck was a rewards member with Alaska and United. She wanted to transfer his points to her accounts. Alaska handled everything for free and in just a couple of days, but things were a bit more turbulent with United.

"They said I needed certain things and they said I need to pay $150 to transfer. I was kind of appalled at that," explained Holmes.

United says it charges for this transaction because it requires extra review and handling of legal documents. That got me thinking about how other airlines handle rewards miles in cases of death.

It turns out, transfers aren't easy.

Alaska & US Air are the only two I've found that do it for free.

American, Delta and Southwest all say no to transfers. However, American says it will use discretion in situations of divorce or death. Delta says it stopped offering transfers when it announced rewards would no longer expire. Southwest will allow you to use another customer's points if you know their online account information.

"I can see if I'm just trying to transfer miles. But on a death, it just seems like they can do that," said Holmes.

Holmes ended up having to pay United the $150 to get Chuck's miles.

Bottom line: Even if it's against their policy, some airlines will to bend the rules in times of death.

If the transaction is going to cost you, make sure the miles you're getting are worth it because with all the fees and taxes it may be cheaper to buy a full priced flight.


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