This week sees the return of a not so often talked about topic in the points and miles world and that is “What happens to your points and miles after a person passes away?” Global BC’s Consumer Matters reached out to me for an interview (see the piece here) as one of their viewers contacted them when her husband passed away and all his Canadian Tire Money was lost. In the end it was good news for her as they provided her with a gift certificate worth more than the points that were lost but it still stands to bring forth the details and to discuss this subject.
Here at Rewards Canada we have discussed death and miles numerous times over the past 20 years and it is a topic that seems to come up every once and a while. The last time I recall was in 2019 with CTV and now it has come to the forefront again thanks to Global BC. Going back to the original question, it really depends on the loyalty program as to what happens to the points or miles earned when a member passes away. Some programs make it easy to transfer points to a beneficiary or family member like Aeroplan & AIR MILES while others state points or miles are forfeited upon death. A famous one of the latter is Delta Airlines who state SkyMiles are forfeited upon death however that has been successfully challenged in the courts. Closer to home we do have several programs, and big ones at that, who also state points are forfeited upon death. Most notably those are Canadian Tire’s Triangle Rewards (which brought about the topic this time) and PC Optimum.
The rules for popular programs in Canada:
Here are the terms that are in place for what happens when a member passes away for some of Canada’s most popular reward programs:
Air Canada Aeroplan
Air Canada states that you cannot will your Aeroplan points to someone else however named beneficiaries can request to have points transferred to them from the deceased member’s account. Learn more here.
AIR MILES allows you to transfer Rewards Miles to beneficiaries by completing their AIR MILES Estate Matters form. Learn more here.
American Express Membership Rewards
The beneficiary can have the points transferred to them or take over the account of the person who has passed away.
BMO allows the beneficiary to redeem the points earned by the deceased cardholder:
In the event of the death of the primary cardholder, points earned in the points account may be redeemed by the beneficiary designated by the primary cardholder’s estate trustee or executor in writing. We may request additional documentation to process these redemptions.
We already know from this article what happens to Canadian Tire Money in the Triangle Rewards program.They are forfeited upon death.
CIBC allows the beneficiary to transfer or redeem the points earned by the deceased cardholder up to 12 months after date of death:
the event of the Primary Cardholder’s death where his or her spouse or
common-law or civil union partner is an Authorized User of the same
Credit Card Account, and such spouse or partner applies and is approved
as the replacement Primary Cardholder, all Aventura Points will remain
in the Aventura Account. Otherwise, the Aventura Account will be closed
and the Aventura Points in it will be available for redemption by the
Primary Cardholder’s estate, in accordance with these Aventura Program
Terms, no later than twelve months after the Aventura Account is closed.
All Aventura Points must be then redeemed in a single transaction
unless otherwise advised by us. If the Aventura Points are not redeemed
by that date for any reason (including due to a dispute among the legal
representative(s), beneficiary(ies) or other claimants), the Aventura
Points will be cancelled.
Marriott Bonvoy allows the transfer of points if a member passes away however benefits like Free Night Awards are forfeited. Learn more here
In the event of a Member’s death, the Company may, in
its sole discretion, allow unredeemed Points from the deceased Member’s
Account to be transferred to a family member or a friend who is an
active Member upon the Company’s receipt and review of all requested
documentation and communications. Awards, Elite Membership Status,
Lifetime Membership Status, and the related benefits, including, without
limitation, Elite Night Credit, will not transfer to the recipient of
This one is a bit trickier as you have to have your More Rewards account linked to another More Rewards account. So do that right away! If the deceased person’s account is not linked to another account those points are forfeited.
Upon the death of a Member or cancellation of a More Rewards account:
a.if the More Rewards account is linked with another More Rewards account, all collected Points will remain available to the remaining linked More Rewards account(s); or
b.if the More Rewards account is not linked with another More Rewards account, all collected points will be forfeited without compensation and the Points balance will be reduced to zero.
PC Optimum is one of the sticklers as points are forfeited upon death. Since most redemption with PC Optimum are flat rate your best bet is to use them almost as fast you earn them.
Upon the death of a Program member, the member’s Account will be closed and any PC Optimum points in the Account will be forfeited.
The program allows transfers of points between cards. Simply call Petro-Points customer service and they will take care of it for you.
RBC allows points to be redeem by a beneficiary but do take note they
can only redeem up to 90 days after the date of death. That’s not a
very long time especially for someone who may be grieving and needs more
time to take care of their loved one’s affairs.
Upon the death of the holder of a Points Account, the Points must be
redeemed by their estate within ninety (90) days of the date of death
and the Points Account will be closed. If this is a joint Points
Account, the death of any co-holder will require the redemption of all
Points by the estate of the deceased co-holder or by any surviving
co-holder(s) within ninety (90) days of the death. If the Points are not
redeemed within this time, they shall be cancelled and the Points
Account will be closed.
Cineplex’s SCENE program allows for the transfer of points:
SCENE Points may be transferred in the event of the death of a Member,
provided that the recipient(s) are existing Members or are otherwise
eligible to become a Member, and create an Account for the SCENE Points
to be deposited.
Scotia allows points to be redeem by a beneficiary but do take note they can only redeem up to 60 days after the date of death. That’s not a very long time especially for someone who may be grieving and needs more time to take care of their loved one’s affairs.
Upon the death of a Primary Scotia Rewards Cardmember and verification by Scotiabank, if there is no Co-Borrower on the Program Card Account, the estate of the Primary Scotia Rewards Cardmember can redeem unused Scotia Rewards points for up to 60 days from the date of death provided that Account is in good standing1 after which time, unredeemed Scotia Rewards points will be permanently cancelled.
TD allows the beneficiary to redeem the points earned by the deceased cardholder. You’ll note those points cannot be redeemed for travel.
On the death of the Primary Cardholder, the Beneficiary has 1 year from the date of death of the Primary Cardholder to notify the Bank and redeem the TD Rewards Points in the TD Rewards Points Balance for only any Other Redemption Options. If the Beneficiary notifies the Bank more than 1 year after the date of death of the Primary Cardholder, then any TD Rewards Points in the TD Rewards Points Balance cannot be redeemed by the Beneficiary and will be forfeited.
WestJet Rewards allows beneficiaries to redeem WestJet dollars from the account of the person who passed. You’ll note that similar to RBC and Scotia you are limited in time to do so and in this case it is 90 days.
Upon receiving notice or becoming aware of the death of a WestJet Rewards member who has accumulated WestJet dollars in WestJet Rewards, WestJet will terminate the membership, the account will be closed and the WestJet dollars in the WestJet Rewards member’s account will be available for redemption by the WestJet Rewards member’s estate…. WestJet dollars that have not been claimed as of ninety (90) days after the deceased WestJet Rewards
member’s account is closed will automatically be cancelled and may not
subsequently be redeemed, consolidated, converted, exchanged, combined
So what should you do to make it easier should you pass away?
- If you have a will make sure you include your loyalty program points, miles, digital currencies and so forth in your will.
- Use up your points and miles – try not to hoard them. That’s been hard with COVID-19 but as soon as the pandemic is over use up those points and miles. Especially so with the programs listed above that don’t have options to transfer the points after passing away. In any regard, programs like Canadian Tire and PC Optimum which typically have a flat redemption value shouldn’t be hoarded (well PC Optimum does have those special promotions where they give you more value for your points but if you don’t use them then there’s no value at all) For example when I shop at Canadian Tire I always redeemed my Canadian Tire Money at the till whether its $1.14 or $11.40!
- Give your loved ones your loyalty program account details. Membership number, login id and password. This will make the transfer of points and miles easier and also allows for the ability to follow the next section.
The Grey Area workaround for programs that forfeit points upon death
Give your loved ones your loyalty program logins and passwords. When you do so they can, at their discretion, use those points and miles in those accounts as they see fit without letting the program know that member has passed. For example, most frequent flyer programs and frequent guest programs let you book flights and hotel stays for other people. That means they can log in to your account and book flights or hotel stays for themselves. With programs like Aeroplan and WestJet you won’t have to do this but others such as Delta SkyMiles you would have to consider this route. I am not a legal expert and can’t advise you on whether this is right or wrong and cannot condone it but it is a methodology we at Rewards Canada have mentioned for as long as I can remember (see this Global News article from 2013). No matter what you will want to provide your login details for the programs to make the process easier of transferring points and miles from those programs that allow it.
Wrapping it up
With this topic fresh in your mind you may want to take steps right now to make sure you have your points and miles covered in the future. If you are a member of program not listed above I would recommend that you go right now and read the terms and conditions of that program or programs to see what their rules are. After that follow the tips listed above, get them in place and all should be set. One final note – if there are a lot of points or miles at stake in a program that has rules in place that states they must be forfeited it may be worth a legal challenge. There are noted cases in the past where beneficiaries who were willed points or miles successfully challenged to have those points or miles given to them rather than being forfeited. This will depend on the value of those points and miles of course as to whether it is worth it to pursue them.