By Annemarie Schreiber, Esq., CELA & J.P. McCormick, Summer Associate
We have all heard about the reward programs offered by many major corporations such as those found in the airline industry, the hotel industry or the credit card industry. But what most of us have not heard about is that some of these reward programs can be transferred upon your death or at other times during your life. Many of us view our reward points as a nice extra benefit but savvy consumers are using their reward points as an asset and utilizing estate planning tools to help transfer their reward points. For instance, CNBC reported that Randy Peterson, founder of Frequent Flyer Services, “holds millionaire status in five hotel programs and four airlines”, meaning he has accumulated a significant amount of “wealth” in his reward points. Peterson is not the only person who is accumulating “wealth” in his reward programs. In fact, it is estimated that reward programs, also referred to as loyalty programs, had a collective value of $50 billion in 2011. But Peterson took his reward program “wealth” one step further, he has a mileage estate plan to ensure his millionaire status does not go to waste; his points will go to his wife.
It is not as simple as just including rewards points in your estate plan, rather, whether your points can be transferred depends on the terms of the agreement of the rewards program. If you are interested in including rewards points in your estate plan, then you should contact the reward program to determine if and when you can make such a transfer. Some companies allow transfers before death, others after death, some do not allow transfers at all and there are some companies that do not even address the issue. Similarly, there is no uniform treatment for fees, if any, that go along with transferring your points. For a small chart on how some airlines, hotels, and credit cards treat reward points, see http://www.cnbc.com/id/101137308.
Airlines, hotels and credit cards are major industries offering substantial rewards programs, but are by no means the only ones. If you have a significant accumulation of rewards points and want to discuss a rewards point estate plan, contact Certified Elder Law Attorney Annemarie Schreiber or Diana Anderson at (732) 797-1600.
Annemarie Schreiber is a Partner at CLDDS and a Certified Elder Law Attorney who specializes in Education Law, Family Law, and Elder Law. She can be contacted at 732-797-1600, or at firstname.lastname@example.org and would be happy to assist you.
J.P. McCormick is in his third year at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where he is an Executive Editor for the University of New Hampshire Law Review. Upon finishing his third year of law school, J.P. intends to practice in New Jersey, and is interested in all aspects of civil law. You can follow him on Twitter @JP_McCormick.