Are frequent flyer miles consider a marital asset?
Posted By Posted by Damien McKinney on Apr 9, 2013 12:17pm PDT || Apr 9, 2013
It’s been my experience that clients often place great value in their travel points and are often reluctant to part with them. In Florida, these travel points (frequent flyer miles, hotel points, rewards points, etc) are considered a marital asset subject to equitable distribution in a divorce if the points were earned during the marriage. If the points (or a portion of the points) were earned prior to the marriage, then the points are considered a non-marital asset and not subject to equitable distribution. Sometimes it is hard to determine what the actual cash value of these points will be for the division of property. If the airline or hotel places an actual cash value on the points, then it’s simple. But often they do not, and the points vary in value depending on which flight or hotel property you wish to use, and what season or day you wish to use the points. The airlines or hotels tend to be very vague on the actual value of the points which makes it hard for one spouse to simply give the other spouse cash to buy out their interest in the travel points.
The best solution, if there is no actual cash value, is to contact the airline and have them divide the points into two separate accounts. Each spouse can take an account and use the points as they wish, independent of the other spouse. Be mindful that some airlines will charge transfer fees, which need to be considered in any equitable distribution schedule. Also, some rewards programs specifically forbid the transfer of points to anyone or by any means, even if it is stated in a divorce decree. If the airline will not allow you to split the points, then one spouse will have to maintain the points and agree to distribute one half to the other spouse upon request. The spouse who is in charge of the points would be responsible for booking the flight or hotel room for the ex-spouse. This requires both parties to cooperate and communicate with each other, which might not be the best option for some couples. Others could agree to set aside the points for children or other family members to use. It’s important that you do some research regarding the mechanics and specifics surrounding the points so that your family lawyer is fully informed when going into settlement negotiations or a final hearing. Another concern is that often travel points expire after a period of time. There are fees associated with “renewing” the points, which also need to be considered in any marital settlement agreement. If you believe your spouse might have travel points that would be considered marital assets, then it’s best to consult your expert family law attorney to determine your best settlement options to divide the points equitably.