Can You Use Your Deceased Partner’s American Airlines Miles?

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Million Mile Secrets reader Mary emailed:

My husband passed away 3 months ago. Can I use his accumulated American Airlines miles to buy an airline ticket for my son?

Use Your Deceased Partners American Airlines Miles

American Airlines Rules State You Can Not Transfer Miles From a Deceased Spouse but There Might Be an Exception

Mary, you have our condolences on the loss of your husband.  I hope you’re able to find peace during this difficult time.

Our reader Mary wants to know if she can use her deceased husband’s American Airlines miles to buy a ticket for her son.  Technically, she’s not allowed to do that.  But there’s an unofficial way around the rules as well as an official appeal process.

The easiest way is if Mary can log into her deceased husband’s account and book the award.  This requires access to his username and password.

If Mary doesn’t know his username and password, but has access to his email accounts, she can change the password to gain access.

American Airlines Policy

Link:   American Airlines Mileage Expiration Policy

According to the terms of American Airlines mileage expiration policy, miles do NOT belong to the person who has earned them.  So American Airlines miles can NOT be transferred upon death.

Except as otherwise explained below, mileage credit is not transferable and may not be combined among AAdvantage members, their estates, successors and assigns. Accrued mileage credit and award tickets do not constitute property of the member. Neither accrued mileage, nor award tickets, nor upgrades are transferable by the member (i) upon death, (ii) as part of a domestic relations matter, or (iii) otherwise by operation of law. However, American Airlines, in its sole discretion, may credit accrued mileage to persons specifically identified in court approved divorce decrees and wills upon receipt of documentation satisfactory to American Airlines and upon payment of any applicable fees. Mileage credit is transferable between AAdvantage accounts when offered by AA online, with the shareAAmilesSM program. The member must adhere to the rules and limitations of the shareAAmiles program.

This means that Mary’s husband’s American Airlines miles can NOT be transferred or used to book a ticket for Mary’s son.  However, there could be an exception.

If Mary’s husband left his American Airlines miles to his wife in his will and his American Airlines miles have not expired, Mary might be able to use his American Airlines miles.

Use Your Deceased Partners American Airlines Miles

Mary’s Husband Could Have Left His American Airlines Miles to Mary in His Will

1.   The Unofficial Way

Mary could use her deceased husband’s American Airlines miles if she knows his username and password and can log into his American Airlines account.

If Mary doesn’t know her husband’s username and password, she could change or reset the password if she has access to his email accounts.

2.   The Official Way

To be able to use her deceased husband’s American Airlines miles, Mary has to provide a death certificate, a copy of the will and (possibly) pay a fee of $50 to American Airlines to transfer her deceased husband’s American Airlines miles to her American Airlines account.  Then she could use his (now her) American Airlines miles to buy a ticket for her son.

However, American Airlines could deny the request.  If they do, Mary might be tempted, but Mary should NOT sell her husband’s American Airlines miles.

Because she would lose all the miles in his American Airlines account (if American Airlines hasn’t already closed the account) and she could lose any American Airlines miles in her account!

For folks in the unfortunate situation of having a critically sick loved one, you might consider updating the will to include frequent flyer miles.  Or, if it makes sense financially, you might pay the fee to transfer miles out of the account to your partner or child.

If there are enough miles in the account for an award flight, you can book a flight with the miles for someone else in the future, even if you’re not sure of the dates and destinations.  It could be better to pay the fees associated with changing the flight later than to lose all the miles.

And make sure to keep the username and passwords so that you can access the account later on.

Bottom Line

While normally you can use your miles to book a flight for anyone, Mary can NOT use her deceased husband’s American Airlines miles to book a ticket for her son.

But if she has access to her husband’s username and password, she can book the ticket for her son as if she were her husband.  😉

In the case that Mary can’t get into his American Airlines account but does have access to his email, she can change his American Airlines password and then proceed with booking the ticket.

American Airlines doesn’t consider American Airlines miles as property.  So they can NOT be transferred or used after death.  However, American Airlines does sometimes allow exceptions for American Airlines miles that are bequeathed in a will.

So if Mary’s husband left his American Airlines miles to her, they might permit her to transfer them to her account and book a ticket for her son.

Mary, Emily and I send you our sympathy.  Please let us know if American Airlines grants your request.

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10 responses to “Can You Use Your Deceased Partner’s American Airlines Miles?

  1. Mary:

    Call customer relations. They are far more accommodating. There are several more ways to do what you’re trying to do that I can’t write about. Explain your situation, be creative, and you might just get your way.

    Condolences to you.

  2. This is great information. Is these policy standard with most airline rewards programs? My husband and I have just begun collecting miles this year, and thanks to bloggers like you, have a accumulated quite a lot. Neither of us is ill, but you never know what can happen in a person’s life. It’s always good to be prepared. We don’t have kids and haven’t thought it was urgent to create a will, but this is just one more reason to do so.

    Thanks!

  3. Booking online, aa.com has a rule that the name on the credit card used to pay taxes and fees on an award must match the name on the AA account where the miles come from. And using the credit card of a deceased person is likely criminal fraud. Any ways around that?

  4. If you have a joint credit card account, you have joint authorization and responsibility for all charges incurred. Whether you use your or your spouse’s name is a moot point, as both have legal responsibility for the charges.

  5. You have to use a credit card in the name of the mileage account holder to book an award in my experience. I am still keeping my mother’s AMEX hilton nofee card open seven years after her demise.

  6. I really like your blog. You have loads of great advice! I have an unrelated question to this article… Can my parents each send me their United miles from their Mileage Plus accounts? We traveled to Seoul together in Feb. They never got any credit for their miles. I could have them each pay $50 (I’d reimburse them) to reinstate their miles and sign up for Mileage Plus accounts. Then in theory they could transfer those miles (14,172 each) to my account, right???

  7. Good post for a sobering situation that could happen to any of us…. Need to check with each program.

    Occurs to me this post may have been triggered in part by quip I posted elsewhere re. Delta’s skypesos….. (and the recent policy change so that they never expire) I had sardonically chirped that I can go to my grave knowing that my unusable 30K of Delta miles would never expire, even if we can’t use them. I see now I need to check even that assumption. 🙂

  8. My husband passed away in 2014. He has enough miles of United/Continental that he could have gotten a return ticket for a long distance travel across Atlantic. I have access to his account. So far I’m keeping it active by donating miles, as they expire after 18 months of inactivity. How can I use these miles myself? Fyi, I closed all his credit cards upon death for fear of misuse, therefore I don’t have any cards in his name. Plz help.

  9. My husband’s account only has 13K left. I already used it by buying myself a ticket on his account. Now, I can’t use 13k all by itself. I can pay about $160 to transfer those points to my account. That is 3 1/2 cents a point. About the same as buying points from Delta. Although I am loathe to forgo them, it seems economically pointless.