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If you ask a question, and get no answers, so you then add a bounty, and still get no answers, what happens? Do you lose your points to the ether? Does the bounty get canceled?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

As I understand it, the bounty status is a permanent one:


  • you have paid for it (up front, no refund)
  • you have not selected an answer
  • no answer has been auto-selected

then that is called an "unresolved" bounty, and its status is, again, permanent.

The side effect is: if a great answer comes after the expiration of your "unresolved" bounty, you will not able to select it, you will only be able to vote it up.
This is by design.

See also Why an answer can’t be accepted after an unresolved bounty? (10k only).

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I think an answer should still be allowed to be accepted after bounty expires, even if it won't get any more reputation from it. – cregox Mar 11 '10 at 19:51
@Cawas I think so too, and so do many others. See the question… . – Emil May 24 '10 at 13:07
@Emil thanks for the follow up! – cregox Sep 21 '10 at 22:56
This is a very strange rule. If you have offered a bounty for a question and there are no answers then the bounty reps should be returned. It goes against the very meaning of the word 'bounty'. – Gary Jones Dec 8 '11 at 11:38
@Gary Jones I agree with you. I have a bounty that will expire in the next 15 hours and there are no answers, but Actually I had offered a bounty to someone's question as a investor.. I think I will have no refunds also.. so sad! ;( – B4NZ41 Aug 23 '12 at 1:33

As Ian's comment says, I believe even if no answer ends up accepted after a week, you still lose the reputation associated with the bounty. I believe this is because, as Marc Gravell points out, the bounty system is essentially a way to publicize your question. Therefore, you still have to pay for the advertising, whether it ends up with an accepted answer or not.

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+1: for "you still have to pay for the advertising" – A9S6 Dec 8 '09 at 11:56
That clears it up. I'm not sure I agree (I'd rather have 'no cure, no pay', but with this explanation it does make sense. – GolezTrol Oct 14 '11 at 6:35
I don't pay a bounty for advertising, I pay it for an answer. – Barry Fruitman Jan 23 '12 at 19:12
A three-year old question, but... I disagree with @Marc Gravell's advertising answer, because you don't 'pay for advertising' when someone answers your question - you pay the poster for her/his answer. No answer, nobody to pay. Calling it advertising is saying "I have to pay $100 for my help wanted ad to run in the newspaper... but if someone responds to the ad, I don't have to pay the newspaper, I can use the $100 to pay the respondent, instead". It makes no sense. – James King Oct 23 '12 at 5:27

Someone please correct me if I am wrong and I will update my information.

According to Jeff Atwood in this blog entry [Reputation Bounty for Unanswered Questions:]

I agree we shouldn’t auto-accept answers with 0 or negative votes, however, and we’ll make sure we don’t. So in the case where all the answers are at 0 or below, no auto-accept will occur after 7 days.

If there are no answers, then the condition that an answer is greater than 0 has not been met (*see note below). So I believe the logic is already in place not to auto-accept an answer. However, it seems that bounties are paid up front. Even if there is no accepted answer, you do not get the reputation back. "No returns."

*Note: According to this post, it seems that "auto-accept requires 2+ upvotes minimum"

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If there's no auto accepted answer I believe you would still lose the bounty. Nothing really hints at not losing the rep. – Ian Elliott Jul 27 '09 at 3:15
Yes. The consensus seems to be that bounties are paid up front, no returns. I will update my answer. – Robert Cartaino Jul 27 '09 at 14:06

You do not accept an answer. Any answer that was a) provided after the bounty period started and b) has 2 or more upvotes is automatically accepted after 7 days. The bounty is subtracted from your reputation. The answerer is awarded half the bounty amount (unless it’s your own answer, see #3 below).

Also, there are three alerts sent to the bounty question owner:

  • direct email, 2 days before
  • site message, 2 days before
  • direct email, 1 day before

edit: bounties can now be re-opened, and accepted answers are no longer tied to bounty awards in any way. More details at

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Yes, I saw that in the FAQ. My question involves the case where there are no questions that meet either criteria (a or b), and in this case, no questions at all. – pkaeding Jul 27 '09 at 6:52
There are some situations where this is "less than fair" - if you offer a bounty, because you want an answer, but there are not enough technology specialists around, should you be penalised for it? For example, I was considering offering a bounty on but I'm not convinced I'll get an answer that works, some I'm loathed to lose the reputation just because the answer isn't going to be the result of a simple google search – Rowland Shaw Aug 10 '09 at 11:19
This is a problem for the SO sites - bounty questions have a good chance of being difficult and if they are niche questions/topics there is a likelyhood that there will be no real useful answer and I agree that an "auto-acceptance" is a major design flaw. Having two upvotes with perhaps only one or two total answers SHOULD NOT trigger an automatic acceptance. Note that I am not commenting on reduction of the hitpoints - that is not a big issue - rather that the site erroneously chooses a bad answer just because it has 2 votes. – tim Aug 17 '09 at 15:18
I stumbled upon this because someone successfully answered my question a day after the bounty expired, and now I have no way to accept it, so my accept rate is jacked up, I lost rep, and that person doesn't get the bounty or the chosen answer rep. Is this all intended behavior? If so it seems like a lot of punishment for bad timing. – NateDSaint Feb 23 '10 at 21:30
huge WTF on this – mxmissile Oct 22 '10 at 15:37

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