Ellen Roseman: Estate planning extends to points cards
- April 22, 2009 7:44 AM |
- By Ellen Roseman
Money Talks is a daily business column from CBC radio.
Ellen Roseman is a business writer at the Toronto Star.
(Listen to the original audio of this column.)
You collect frequent flyer points with your spouse. You hope to take a fabulous trip around the world one day using your points. Then, unexpectedly, you’re alone. Your spouse has died and you want to transfer his or her points to your own acccount.
If you’re a member of Aeroplan, Canada’s biggest loyalty program, you should know that transferring points will cost you 1 cent a mile, plus a $30 administration fee and GST. Depending on the size of the account, you could be asked to pay a few hundred dollars or even a few thousand dollars to get the miles you thought were rightfully yours.
I recently went to bat for a widow whose husband had more than 180,000 points when he died at age 62. They had just finished renovating their house and had put all the bills on a CIBC Aerogold credit card they shared to boost their point total.
Since she knew his account number and online password, she could have booked a trip without telling anyone. Instead, she did the honourable thing and called CIBC Visa to inform them of her husband’s death.
CIBC told her to call Aeroplan and gave her a contact name and number. When she followed through, she was given instructions on how to open an account in her name and transfer the points. No one said anything about a transfer fee.
In its fine print terms and conditions - which few people read - Aeroplan says its miles are personal and cannot be assigned, traded or willed. But reflecting a desire to express compassion, it allows miles to be transferred to a spouse or heir after someone dies.
The widow said she was shocked to get a letter from Aeroplan, asking how she intended to pay the $1,897 owing on her account. Even more shocking was the company’s failure to respond when she tried to call or write.
I asked CIBC Visa to review her complaint. I also heard from a widower, who was asked to pay $650 to transfer miles collected on his wife’s Aerogold Visa card. In both cases, CIBC said it would work with its customers to reinstate the points for free.
In my view, a loyalty plan such as Aeroplan should have some loyalty to its 5 million Canadian members. This means having a compassion policy that truly is compassionate, not just a cash grab.
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