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Rookie Wednesday: The “Best” Delta SkyMiles Redemption When Your Loved One Dies

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


This is one of those topics that is simply hard to blog about but needed. Let me bring you up to date before we look at my suggestions for you if you have had someone you love die with SkyMiles still in their accounts (since they never expire – until you do).

Delta, back in the day, used to have the best “award winning” SkyMiles rules when it came to your loved one dying with a points balance. All it took was one form filled out and, at no charge to anyone, you could transfer the points to someone living. This, compared to what most airlines do, is charge a fee to transfer the points. Delta was the best! That did not last.

Delta then changed the rules in 2013 and SkyMiles can now be called “DieMiles” because when you die – Delta takes away your hard-earned points. Nothing like a swift knife in the back when your family is already grieving. #KeepDescending.

So what can you do? Many, in the time of loss, want answers. Look at what FlyerTalk user KeaauFlyer posted recently:

My husband of 29 years passed away last month with 70,000+ SkyMiles and an e-certificate for $800 in his Delta account. Thanks to a FlyerTalk search, I know the miles are officially forfeited, and I also know that some people manage to use them anyway. I have not, however, been able to find out if it is possible for someone to use the e-certificate which he obtained when he had to cancel a trip due to his final illness. It is good through April of next year if that matters. Any guidance would be appreciated.” – KeaauFlyer on FlyerTalk

First off KeaauFlyer, I am truly sorry for your loss. Those on FlyerTalk, in the thread, have done a decent job of answering your question. But I have suggestions for my readers on this topic of what to do.

First things first. Please do this now. Create a spreadsheet with all your frequent flyer account login names, passwords and any other data your loved one may need. Save it somewhere secure but accessible to your loved one. Many folks use Awardwallet for just this kind of event and give that user name and password to the loved one. I do both fyi.

So now you have died. What is my advice to your loved one? Act fast. I mean NOW – TODAY! You see in the FlyerTalk thread I learned a new nasty point. If your loved one had a Delta Amex card – and their death means the account is closed – Amex is telling Delta and Delta is acting fast to shut down your loved one’s account! Ugg.

OK so act fast how? What should I do? First off don’t tell Delta about the death. Spend the points ASAP! Got it – but on what?

Anyone with a SkyMiles account can buy a ticket for anyone else with their SkyMiles. One of the best “value” redemptions is buying a ticket with the miles of the deceased. But that can be really hard to do when you are in the middle of the pain of grieving and there is another reasonable choice that locks in your value.

Delta gift cards from the SkyMiles Marketplace. You are locking in at 9/10th of one cent per SkyMile. Not bad considering most nowadays value a SkyMile around 1 cent each. Also notice what Delta says on the “FAQS” page about Delta gift cards.

“Is there an expiration on the cards?

Delta Gift Cards never expire. No service or inactivity fees apply.”Delta.com

So once you have redeemed them for gift cards you have converted the SkyMiles from “DieMiles” to a gift card that truly never expires (just don’t lose it because they will not replace them). This would be my suggestion as the best “value” when you have to make a choice FAST! Are there other gift card choices?

Again, back in the day, you could get a $100 Amex gift card for 11,000 SkyMiles. That was a decent return to exchange SkyMiles into “cash”. Not today. Getting less than 4/10th of a cent value for each SkyMile is just disgraceful. As you can see, other choices are similarly disappointing and should be avoided. I looked at many of the other choices in the maketplace but nothing is nearly as high a locked in value as the Delta gift cards.

Bottom line is this: Go for the Delta gift cards and do it ASAP and especially so if your loved one had a Delta Amex card. – René

 

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

4 Comments

  1. Did anyone answer what happens to the $800 ecertificate in the deceased person’s account? Also, if the deceased had other unused Delta tickets, would DL refund the money after his/her death?

  2. Chuck Lowenstein Reply

    Are you implying that AMEX reads the death notices everyday ? How would AMEX know if a holder of one of the SkyMiles cards has died? And, for that matter, how does DL know?

  3. Just don’t Close the Amex card until the miles are used. It took Amex about five years before they realized that my brother in law had passed on to the great beyond. My sister kept paying the annual fee and used almost all the miles in the account. Delta never knew.

  4. Please just recommend folks use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass. These are a much safer, more secure option. Some of these even have an “SOS” feature where you can allow a loved one to request access after a waiting period if you don’t respond.

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