I put a bounty on a question (here) which has gotten no answers. The bounty has since expired. I sort of expected to get my reputation back since nobody 'won' it. Is this really how the system works?
From the FAQ:
Once initiated, the bounty period lasts 7 days. If you mark an accepted answer, your bounty is awarded to the answerer (do note that accepted bounty answers are permanent and cannot be changed). If you do not accept an answer in 7 days, here is what happens at the end of the bounty period:
- The highest voted answer created after the bounty started with at least 2 upvotes will be automatically accepted. Half the bounty will be awarded to the owner of that answer.
- If there is no answer meeting the above criteria, and you as the question owner have not opted to accept an answer, you forfeit your right to ever accept an answer to your question.
In any case, you will always give up the amount of reputation specified in the bounty, so if you start a bounty, be sure to follow up and accept the best answer!
Placing a bounty puts your question on a kind of pedestal for a week. It is more visible, and has a bigger reward, to attract people. This is what you actually "pay" for. It's normal to not recover it after the time.