By Jordan Lavin for Ratehub.ca

The ability to earn points is one of the main draws of getting a credit card. If you pay off your balance each and every month, you can earn points worth far more than any annual fees just for making the purchases you would have made anyway.

Canadians love loyalty programs a lot. We love loyalty programs so much that in 2017 we had stockpiled some $16-billion worth of loyalty points as a nation. That’s an average of $629 per loyalty member – a round-trip flight from Toronto to Vancouver for everybody.

That’s not small change. And if you pass away before you have a chance to use your points, what happens to all that stored value?

It turns out that depending on the loyalty program, you may be able to transfer your points to a family member or friend on your death.

Here is how some of the most popular points programs in Canada handle your points posthumously:

Aeroplan

Some of the best credit cards in Canada offer Aeroplan Miles. For a fee, Aeroplan will let you transfer your points to your spouse or next-of-kin after your death.

Aeroplan’s transfer fee has been in the news in the past, after a family revealed that the points provider was charging them a fee of $2,530 to transfer an account with roughly 250,000 points. The fee is $30, plus one cent per point, but allows the points to go unencumbered to a beneficiary.

According to Ratehub’s analysis, the value of an Aeroplan Mile is $0.0120. The exact value depends on the flight you choose, and not all destinations are equal. Under Aeroplan’s policy, it’s possible to pay more in transfer fees than the points are actually worth.

Fortunately, Aeroplan has an additional policy allows family members to use the deceased’s points within one year for a flat fee of $30.

Air Miles Reward Miles

The long-running rewards program that lets you earn points even without a rewards credit card has a generous policy for transferring points to a loved one.

According to Air Miles’ policy, an Air Miles account can be merged with the account of a family member or another member of your household in the event of death, divorce, emigration from Canada, or on special request.

Air Miles doesn’t charge a fee to merge accounts.

PC Optimum

The program, borne of the merger of PC Points and Shoppers Optimum, is a standout favourite among Canadians. Unfortunately, it has a particularly unforgiving policy toward its late members. Upon death, your PC Optimum account is closed and all points are forfeited.

RBC Rewards Points

If your RBC Rewards credit card is shared, the surviving cardholder takes ownership of any points in the account.

If the credit card is not shared, points can be redeemed by your estate for up to 90 days following your death. After 90 days, the account is closed and any points are null and void.

Scotia Rewards Points

Scotia Rewards, the branded points program affiliated with many Scotiabank credit cards, allows points to be transferred after death, but allows only a short window to do so.

If there is a secondary cardholder, that person has 60 days to request the points be transferred to a new account in their name.

If there is no secondary cardholder, the estate may use any points accumulated within 60 days. After that, all Scotia Rewards points are permanently cancelled.

TD Rewards

The rewards program associated with many of TD’s popular credit cards does allow for transfer of points after death, but with a catch.

According to TD’s terms and conditions, TD points accumulated will only be transferred to “an authorized user who applies, qualifies, and becomes a primary cardholder.”

In English, this means that for your spouse or heir to claim your TD Points after you die, they have to be a secondary cardholder on your account. Then, following your death, they have to apply for the card and be approved. Bad credit? Bad luck.

Westjet Rewards

Westjet allows for members’ points to be redeemed by their estate, provided ample proof is given. There’s no fee for the service, but any points that aren’t claimed within 90 days of death expire and the account will be closed.

If you’re a Westjet rewards member and you want to give your points to a family member while you’re still living, you have that option, too. Westjet will transfer your points to another account for a fee of $50, or you can always use your points to purchase a flight for someone else for free.

You earned them – use them!

There are a few arguments to be made for using your loyalty points while you’re still on this Earth.

First, they’re your points! You’ve done the work to earn them, you should do what you can to enjoy the rewards. Many programs allow you to use your points for merchandise, even those earned using travel credit cards. So even if travel isn’t a good option for you, you might still get some good use from your points.

Second, loyalty points are constantly being devalued – whether by design or through inflation. You can’t earn interest on saved loyalty points, or invest them, and the longer you wait to redeem them, the less they’ll be worth.

Finally, a grieving family has lots to worry about. Figuring out what to do with a mountain of unused loyalty points shouldn’t be one of them. Use your points to buy something nice for yourself now, and make things a bit easier on your family after you pass away. It’s a win-win.

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