Many Canadians collect loyalty points with hopes of redeeming the points for various rewards including free air travel, hotels, gas, groceries, and cash.
This year with international travel interrupted by COVID-19, many people’s plans to redeem their travel points have been put on hold. Other Canadians have amassed large collections of points over the years with the potential to translate into prizes with a high monetary value. But what happens to points that are never redeemed before the collector’s death? Are they considered a (digital) asset of an estate? Are they lost forever? Should you make provisions in your will to include reward and loyalty points?
A lawyer’s favourite answer is “well, it depends.” For each individual reward program, the collector should review the terms and conditions set out by the individual companies. Most companies include language specifying that their points are their property, have no monetary value, are not divisible upon death and are not transferrable. However, many companies do set out procedures to allow for the transfer of points upon the collector’s death.
With respect to travel miles, most companies (Aeroplan, Air Miles, and WestJet) allow for the transfer of points to a beneficiaries’ account upon receipt of a letter from the estate trustee enclosing proof of the collector’s death.
Other companies, such as PC Optimum and Petro Points, clearly set out that any points expire upon the collector’s death. However, both companies allow for household accounts with multiple family members allowed to pool their points in one shared account.
Some companies make no provisions for the transfer of points (Plum Rewards) or the use of reward program after the collector’s death. Unlike other reward programs, Plum Rewards have an annual fee and translates into a benefit (discounted price) with each purchase.
Interesting, HBC awards have a specific provision allowing for the points to be gifted in a will. They also have a provision to allow points to be donated to charity upon the death of the collector.
As for including a provision in your will to address loyalty points, any provision should incorporate broad language. The terms and conditions of each program frequently change. Loyalty programs are frequently cancelled and new programs launched. The points are always the property of company and they are free to terminate programs or remove points from an account.
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