This is my friend’s mother and father.   As from Michelle:

I share this story with you because I believe it’s important that everyone’s aware of the Aeroplan Policy; and because I’m incredibly proud that my Mom (Judi Landis) has fought the battle and won – she received her points credit (thanks to author Ellen Roseman, CIBC and not Aeroplan) earlier this week.”

You must fight for your rights and make sure that stupid policies in businesses are rectified.  Watch your points.  Defend your rights. – Business – Aeroplan’s loyalty goes only so far, readers find.

April 18, 2009
Ellen Roseman

When Joel Landis died last August, he had collected more than 180,000 frequent-flyer points on his CIBC Aeroplan Visa card.

His widow, Judi, was hoping to take her grandchildren to Disney World a few months later.

She didn’t book the trip using his points, despite having his account number and password. “Wanting to do the right thing, I called Aeroplan to officially advise them of my husband’s death,” she says.

Joel’s account was shut down within 48 hours. She opened her own account and submitted a request in writing to have her husband’s points transferred to her.

Only then did she find out she would have to pay $1,897.06 to transfer the points.

“Aeroplan miles or rewards are personal and cannot be assigned, traded, willed or otherwise transferred,” the loyalty program’s terms and conditions say.

“However, reflecting its desire to express compassion, Aeroplan’s practice is to allow the transfer of miles.”

But compassion only goes so far. The transfer cost for surviving spouses of a deceased member is 1 cent a mile, plus a $30 administration fee (and GST).

Another Aeroplan member, a recent widower, thinks the policy is unfair.

“Most of the points we accumulated were through a joint CIBC Aerogold Visa account,” he says.

Since his wife was the primary cardholder, all the points were credited to her. But most of the charges were on his credit card, because he handled the accounts.

He called after her death and was told Aeroplan’s bereavement policy would restore the unused points to her account for a trip she was too sick to take.

When he asked to transfer the 60,000 points to his account, he was told there was a $600 charge.

“Excuse me? I said you have a `bereavement policy’ that protects her points, but that doesn’t extend to moving them to her widower’s account? I found this astounding.”

Judi Landis tried calling CIBC Visa to ask about restoring the points without a transfer cost.

“They had a hands-off approach,” she says, adding that the bank refused to intervene in a dispute with Aeroplan.

Still, I figured that CIBC had more “wiggle room” than Aeroplan in trying to keep a disgruntled customer happy.

CIBC competes fiercely with other credit-card issuers. Its Aerogold card, once the gold standard, is under pressure from other reward cards that are more flexible.

Aeroplan spokesperson JoAnne Hayes did not provide a comment, but deferred to Rob McLeod, spokesperson for CIBC Visa.

CIBC will work with the readers who contacted me to have their Aeroplan miles reinstated at no cost, McLeod said.

Landis wrote several times to Aeroplan’s chief executive Rupert Duschene. She never got a reply.

“When my husband died suddenly at age 62, we had just finished renovating the house. Everything was paid by credit card because we wanted to get the points,” she says.

“This is just an added bitter touch. For Aeroplan, loyalty only goes one way. It just doesn’t have a soul.”

Aeroplan should advise couples with two credit cards opening a single account to protect their assets in case one of them dies, she believes.

Even better, it should have a true bereavement plan.

“It would be reasonable to deduct a small portion of points or pay a flat fee of $135, as was the case for many years,” Landis says. “I should not be penalized for reporting my husband’s death, instead of surreptitiously using the points we jointly amassed.”

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