A user fixes a sizeable bounty on a question, then after a couple of days real life intervenes and that user is absent for a week or more. At the end of the bounty period the system kicks into action, and awards half the bounty to the answer that has gained the highest number of upvotes during the user's absence.

All fine and dandy. But what happens when the user returns? Can the questioner award the second half of their bounty? Are there mitigating circumstances? For example; illness, flooded home, bereavement, car accident etc.?

Yes, I am that user. And no, I do not possess a smartphone, and I had other things more urgent on my mind than awarding bounties.

I have asked this question on EL&U meta but so far received no answer. A deafening silence.

I suspect that the answer will be negative, but I'd like an explanation. I believe exceptions should be made especially if users have proven to be reliable, and, reasonable people and members of the community.


Two users have suggested that I set up a new bounty and award the missing points, but as I pointed out in my comment to @Servy, a second bounty means doubling the first bounty. In my case this would be 400 points. I can spare the points, but in all honesty I don't feel the answer deserves such "high praise". It's a good answer, it received 5 upvotes, but it's not brilliant. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind awarding the original bounty of 200 points. I think that would be fair. NB I will have awarded 400 rep points, if that opportunity is conceded to me.

  • I have no idea why the manual awarding isn't allowed for a longer time, when the automatic awarding failed.
    – Nemo
    Apr 18, 2015 at 21:24

3 Answers 3


No, you can't award the second half of the bounty, and we don't really make exceptions.

We understand that bounties can cause stress, dissatisfaction, and unpleasantness as often as they are wonderful and go smoothly. That's why we try to make the whole process very clear and helpful. When you place a bounty, the dialog immediately tells the user that the bounty amount is deducted from their reputation immediately and is non-refundable. The dialog also links to the full help center page explaining bounties in detail, including the 7-day timeframe. Lastly, because we know that you all have better things to do than sit on Stack Exchange all day every day, we email the user when the bounty is about to expire.

Because of all that, we almost never make exceptions to the way the bounty system works.

  • 1
    Well, in my defence I'd like to say I am fully aware of how the bounty system works. I have awarded quite a few in the past. I only wanted to hear if there were special circumstances that would allow the absent user to award the second half of the bounty. I don't think this is an unreasonable request, but I respect your position and SE policy. Thank you very much for replying. Nov 4, 2014 at 17:12
  • I know you know how the system works; just wanted to leave a complete answer for anyone who lands here in the future. :)
    – Laura
    Nov 4, 2014 at 19:00
  • 2
    Email? I've never received any email when any of my own bounties have been about to expire.
    – AStopher
    May 31, 2015 at 10:15
  • 1
    If you've unsubscribed from Stack Exchange emails, you won't receive bounty expiration notices @cybermonkey, but otherwise you should receive at least one inbox notification (which could trigger an email if you have them turned on) and one email . We send out notices via email at the beginning of the grace period if no bounty has been awarded. More on how that works here.
    – Laura
    Jun 1, 2015 at 13:22

Bounties are spent to promotes question primarily. You get one full week to award the bounty - from 24 hours after issuing it until the end of the 24 hour grace period after it expires.

Unless you flag a bounty question to have a moderator refund the bounty, there's not a mechanism to return your reputation or change the allocation. I suppose a developer could change the values in the database, but that seems extreme when you could simply re-bounty the question and award the person you wanted to after returning from an absence.

  • Can I flag my bounty question once it has expired? Oct 24, 2014 at 19:09
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA No. A bounty can be refunded while it is still active at the moderator's discretion, only if there are very good reasons for doing so. Once it's expired, it's done. Set in stone. Developers usually only retract finished bounties in cases of fraud, and they never alter how they were awarded in any way.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Oct 24, 2014 at 19:30
  • @animuson Thank you for answering. I must say meta SE has been far more helpful than at EL&U. Oct 24, 2014 at 19:40

You cannot award the remaining half of the bounty after it is automatically awarded, no. It is simply gone.

  • Is there a reason for this policy? Are exceptions ever made? And thank you for responding so quickly! Oct 24, 2014 at 18:08
  • @Mari-LouA You don't need a reason to not make exceptions, you need a reason to make exceptions. I see no reason to do so, nor has it ever happened to my knowledge. If you really want to ensure that the answer's author gets the full bounty, place a new bounty and ensure that you manually award it this time.
    – Servy
    Oct 24, 2014 at 18:10
  • 1
    I did think about this, but seeing as the first bounty was 200 points, the second will have to be 400 points; and frankly the answers I did receive were not exactly brilliant. If I could award the 200 points to the one answer, that I wouldn't mind. Oct 24, 2014 at 18:13

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