TPG Readers Debate: Who Keeps the Points in a Divorce, Legally Speaking?

Apr 17, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Marriage and travel overlap quite a bit. While many of us thrive on solo travel, TPG has also helped hundreds of travelers accumulate enough points and miles to book the honeymoon of their dreams without breaking the bank, as evidenced by our numerous (and inspirational!) reader success stories. Others save up hard-earned road warrior mileage to take their families on vacations worth thousands of dollars more in value than the actual dollar amount they spend on award travel taxes and fees. We’ve even discussed points and miles prenuptial plans.

And occasionally, we have to consider the division of property when we part ways with our Companion Pass holders. The New York Times chimed in on this topic as far back as 2000, and TPG Lounge member Wanda M. recently asked the Facebook group: “For the married folks, do you consider your points communal property property or do you live by ‘I earn them, I keep them’? For the lawyers out there, in a divorce proceeding, could a spouse add points into the pot like other assets?”

This led other TPG Lounge members to chime in with their own anecdotes of who gets what in the family pool…

What’s mine is yours

Everything is fair game. – Chuck H.

I primarily fly on revenue. My points I accumulate is generally for my family since I fly on revenue for status. I don’t mind giving 50% away. #twoplayermode4life – Ben K.

Everything in our marriage is communal. We budget, travel plan and point analyze together. – Brittany G.

Same. And as to your divorce question…if you were worried about it you could do a prenup where whatever you enter into the marriage with, you leave with. – Cali S.

My fiancé and I do this too. And when I open a card I’ll refer him and add him as an authorized user for more points and share between us! – Katherine S.

We are a family and travel together so we use our points together. – Candy S.

It likely depends on the state you live in. I’ve venture to say Texas treats points accumulated after marriage as community property. But you’d also run into commingling/ tracing issues if you combine accounts or use separate property to purchase points. – Ian F.

Earning points while married on a previously held account with points might have the same effect as earning income while married on a previously separate property account. – Pam V.

Write it into your prenup. – Ben H.

My wife and I share our finances completely. I manage all of our points stuff, but I would never consider them mine. Of course, I learned last year that many couples who are married do not have any visibility into the other’s money so who knows what the case is with their points balances! – Nick O.

We’re the same with sharing finances completely. I travel significantly more because I’m more interested, so we generally use points on trips were both going on. – Bethany C.

In our family, they are communal. We earn miles together by card spend or if I go on business trips, so we try to spend them together too! – Andrew C.

In my home, I earn points alone – my spouse is not interested. If I’m taking solo trips, I only fly first class. But we do take 4-5 trips within the US, and normally I use points to book flights and hotels. – Umesh A.

Communal, and I manage them all, so maybe they all end up in one person’s account for trip planning. – Julie R.

We share! Or rather, he shares with me bc I have to travel to work long distance on our dime, and need all the miles and hotel points I can get. Speaking of which, I need to take his 100,000 DL miles and book my next 4 trips  – Maggie M. 

They weren’t on my husband’s radar either. Neither were a few thousand dollars of hotel gift cards. The chances of him realizing all this was pretty much zero. So I calculated the value, told him about them and split them. Fair is fair, I wouldn’t have it any other way? – Cal N. 

What’s mine is hers, and what’s hers is hers. ?. We share. – Steve S.

I don’t stay selfish with my points ?

Last year I used the points on my AA account for both my wife and I to get to LHR free of charge. – Gary H.

I earn the points, but view them as communal, as most of our vacations are together anyways. – Dave W. 

We both earn separately, but will transfer points to one another when booking trips – whoever has more elite status will usually book if it will make a difference. – Lauren R.

What’s mine is ours. That’s how we live in all ways. – Kevin S.

I take advantage of being able to earn points by signing us both up for cards. I do earn most of the points with my business travel but they are used for both of us. So definitely consider this as joint property. – Michael K. 

What’s mine is mine

I have bled and sweat for these points.  – Frank H.

When I got divorced, I got miles from United, he got American! – Rebeca N.

Thankfully you can’t split your lifetime status! – Monica Y.

Weren’t on his radar. ?I earned them and kept them. More than I can say for my retirement account. But then again, he wasn’t a traveler. – Nechama K.

Fair game in CA. Depending on carriers, they will charge you to transfer them. Hence best to clearly state that in prenup or separation agreement. – Li M.

We earn points and miles separately and pool them together for trip planning. – Wil L.

It’s community property and since it has significant value, it would be considered during litigation and splitting up the assets. – Jimmy F.

Ours were accumulated as communal property and then divided equally as part of our divorce proceedings. It’s in my decree. – Robbie L.

TPG Prenup! 

My wife and I have separate accounts to maximize points but we view it as communal since we want to travel as a family. – Tim D.

Separate cards. Separate finances. Separate points. Though we will pool points from time to time. – EM M.

I manage ALL of our points/miles/finances. The only thing DH does is earn the money to pay the bills and say “again?!” when I give him a new card to hit spend on. He honestly wouldn’t have a clue what to do with them if we split up but after being together for over 30 years death will be a bigger issue! – Angie S. 

Typically, “community property” is defined by ANYTHING of value gained by either during marriage years. ex. She wins/earns one of those pink Mary Kay cars, it figures into the union’s assets to be divided. – Nadine S.

I plan great trips and tell my husband he has to earn enough points if he wants to be eligible to participate! ??? – Tracy S. 

It’s simple: my points are my points, her points are my points ? – Keita S. 

Ugh, spend them *during* the divorce proceedings? That’d be evil, of course… but maybe not? – Šeila S.

 First 3 minutes of the movie “Wedding Crashers” approaches this topic well… – Susan W. 

Having recently gone through a divorce, my Ex asked me for her half of the points because I added her as an authorized user on my Marriott Rewards credit card and she used it for her work travel. When we added the points that she put on the card, the cost to transfer them to her outweighed the value of the points themselves. I ended up offering her cash and keep the points since they were more valuable. – Bryan S.

What about other family members?

Also, it would be nice if points could be inherited as well. – Catherine S.

I have trained my adult sons to take over if I die before hubs. It would be an unimaginable hell to know that he’s wasting all “our” hard earned points and failing to pay the bills! – Nan B.

My sister-in-law’s mom died with over a million Marriott points. Fortunately, she has a similar enough name that she is able to use them, but not sure if they are really transferrable. – Melise O.

My aunt inherited my grandma’s millions of miles. – Molly R.

Honestly, if were my mom and dad doing their divorce all over again… “Whoever gets to it first” wins. Mom was fast. Very fast. – Will K.

When my father died, Delta Airlines helped my mother file to “inherit” and transfer all of his miles into her account – but she only had a limited amount of time to make that transfer after his death. I realize this is slightly different than the posed question, but something to keep in mind anyway. – Kim P.

What do the rules say?

This is actually a very interesting question. In a divorce, just about everything is on the table, including points. Legally speaking, however, the points are not “yours.” Here is an excerpt from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Terms and Conditions:

“Points earned are not the property of the Cardholder and are not transferable, have no cash value, and cannot be used as payment of any obligation to us or our affiliates, except to the extent specifically enumerated in the Redemption Rules. Any points accrued shall be permanently forfeited if your Account has been closed, or upon the Cardholder’s death. “

Pay attention to the first sentence. The points are NOT yours. They belong to the bank. So you technically have no legal right to them. However, what good divorce lawyers will do is use those points as a negotiating tool. For example, “give my client the full balance of the 10 million Ultimate rewards points, and your client can keep the car.” And once agreed on, that person can then explain the situation to Chase and have them transfer the points over. Note that you these points MUST be transferable within Chase’s rules (which currently says within the same household). If the married couple earned points on a card that forbids transferring to another account, you’re out of luck because the bank will not transfer those points to another account. Hope this helps. – Wil L.

Wrong. Just because the card does not permit transferring, does not mean that they are not an asset without value. If the points were worth eg $10k, then one person would keep the points, and the spouse would be entitled to another asset worth $10k free and clear. – Cal N.

Featured image by Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.