(USA TODAY) - Ken Means has taken steps to ensure that his frequent-flier miles don't go to waste when his traveling days are over.
"I have made sure that, in my last will and testament, all my frequent-flier miles and any hotel points go to my wife," says Means, a director of engineering in Grand Prairie, Texas, who has more than 650,000 airline miles and hotel points.
Miles and points - redeemed for free flights, hotel stays, merchandise or other rewards - can be valuable assets for surviving relatives or other beneficiaries.
A USA TODAY survey, though, shows that beneficiaries of Means and other travelers may be disappointed if they inherit miles or points in several airlines' frequent-flier programs.
Five of 12 U.S. airlines - Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit - do not allow miles or points to be transferred to beneficiaries.
Four of 15 hotel companies surveyed - Choice, Omni, Red Roof and Shilo - don't allow points to transfer.
Though corporate officials at all airlines and hotels told USA TODAY whether a decedent's program benefits can be transferred, some companies were hesitant to state an official policy, and some policies were murky.
Virgin America, for example, doesn't have "a formal published policy," spokeswoman Abby Lunardini says, but transfers a decedent's reward points to a beneficiary or family member on "a case-by-case basis."
United Airlines' MileagePlus rules state that no mileage, benefits or awards may be transferred "except as expressly permitted by United."
The airline has made "case-by-case exceptions," United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson says, after the death or divorce of a member.
Johnson said miles can be transferred at the airline's website, which requires paying $15 per 1,000 miles, plus a $30 transaction fee.
USA TODAY called a consumer phone line for United's MileagePlus members and was told, however, that beneficiaries can inherit a decedent's miles for a flat $150 fee.
Airfarewatchdog.com says it made five phone calls to MileagePlus inquiring whether beneficiaries can inherit miles and received "a myriad of answers from a flat-out 'no' to a full-on 'yes.'"
There are slight variations in the policies of airlines and hotels that allow beneficiaries to inherit miles or points, though none, except for United, charge a fee.
Many allow miles or points to transfer to any beneficiary who provides proof, while others limit who can receive them.
Marriott says a decedent's points can be transferred only to a spouse or domestic partner, while Hyatt says points can only be transferred to a person with the "same residential mailing address" as the decedent.
Some airlines and hotels allow a decedent's miles and points to transfer to one beneficiary, while others allow them to be divided among than two or more.
Airfarewatchdog.com President George Hobica says airlines that "issue blanket statements" in their frequent-flier program rules that miles are not transferable may allow it if the program is contacted by phone.
Hobica advises travelers to write down account numbers and passwords of frequent-flier accounts and inform possible beneficiaries about the number of miles in each.
In March, Delta Air Lines changed its policy, no longer allowing a decedent's miles to transfer.
Delta spokesman Paul Skrbec says that, unlike other airlines' frequent-flier programs, miles in Delta's program do not expire. "In order to offer this unique benefit, some other, lesser-used policies were examined and determined not to have as much value to our members," he says.
Means says that he will stop booking flights or hotel rooms from any companies that do not allow a decedent's credits to transfer.
"I have spent years of my life in the air and in hotels and have spent millions of dollars for travel and related expenses," he says. "In my mind, that justifies the ability to pass on the hard- earned miles and points."
Another frequent business traveler, Alan Intrator of Woodmere, N.Y., says airlines and hotels that don't allowed a decedent's credits to transfer "come off as money grubbing," and their rewards programs probably "reflect this minimalistic attitude."
Intrator, the president of a company that provides credit card processing referrals, says all airlines and hotels should routinely allow such transfers. Miles and points are "like an earned currency" and "worth real money," he says.
Many frequent fliers agree with Means and Intrator, but some do not.
Transferring a decedent's miles and points "sounds like taking an earned perk way too far," says Bruce Thomas, a meteorologist in Lenexa, Kan.
"My family does not need to inherit my frequent-flier miles or hotel rewards after I pass away," he says. "I will be leaving behind all our great memories and a few large insurance policies that should allow for their traveling comfort."