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How does the bounty system work?

So my bounty expired and there was only one answer rated zero.
To my big surprise, the bounty simply disappeared. Lost.

I would have expected the bounty to be refunded (into my account), so that I would have been able to start another bounty for a similar but different question.

(was on super-user but it works the same here on SO, doesn't it)

  • 2
    oh no! another anonymous -1 :-)
    – Déjà vu
    Dec 30, 2010 at 17:16
  • 5
    I think this is a bad policy. I started with 100 points on CV, earned 48 points and set a 50 point bounty. No one ever answered, commented, or viewed my bounty question because it was too hard I suppose. Now I have less rep than when I joined and as such am abandoning the forum out of disgust. Why penalize users for offering a bounty? If there's at least 1 answer then maybe we should be forced to award the bounty but if there's no answers then why punish the question asker?
    – Hack-R
    Sep 2, 2014 at 13:17

3 Answers 3


Why would you have this expectation? If the bounty has no risk, then why would it be worthwhile? Everyone would constantly start bounties on all questions, making them all meaningless.


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 award your bounty to the best answer!

  • 8
    The question was actually difficult, and there was no answer deserving the bounty (while I'm obviously not alone to rate answers, this one was still at zero). I don't agree on Everyone would constantly start meaningless bounties, as - if I remember correctly - an answer up-voted at least twice could get the bounty ; would people ask a bountied-meaningless question taking the risk to lose it anyway. Just my POV.
    – Déjà vu
    Dec 30, 2010 at 9:38
  • 1
    @ring0: So, are you basically saying "I don't like the mechanics of the bounty system, change it"? Dec 30, 2010 at 9:42
  • 7
    I'm too diplomatic for that :-) But basically, yes.
    – Déjà vu
    Dec 30, 2010 at 9:43
  • 6
    I had the same. I have a non-deletable question that was never answered to my satisfaction, but because of upvotes, it not only got the bounty, it stays in my list which means < 100% answering :(
    – mplungjan
    Dec 30, 2010 at 9:49
  • Second thoughts : after answering several featured questions, it appears to me that sometimes OTs, probably because of the bounty, are not keen to upvote easily, expecting probably the ideal answer... while their question may be vague (or worse, the answer fits, but the OT changes the scope of the initial question without giving up an upvote). So, yes, the OT should know that even if she doesn't upvote or accept an answer, the bounty will be lost, for good.
    – Déjà vu
    Jan 9, 2011 at 5:53
  • 2
    @ring0 they are notified of this several times, including via email. Short of you driving over to their house to personally remind them, that's the best we can do. Jan 9, 2011 at 6:25
  • 24
    ` If the bounty has no risk, then why would it be worthwhile? ` is a ludicrous statement. "Risk" does not make it worthwile, return on investment makes it worthwile. Posting a bounty should be a marketplace, not a casino. I don't mind giving up the bounty if I get something (an answer) in return, but to get nothing because that makes it a risk... nah, not again.
    – Cos Callis
    Jun 15, 2011 at 22:00
  • 5
    @CosCallis I agree. I upvoted Myzifer's answer as this should mimic real life. The "risk" is that your question will get answered and you will lose your points (pay the reward). But, if there are no answers with even a +1, then you should not have to pay. Who are you paying? People would not constantly start bounties, because they would run the risk of somebody answering thus losing their points. In general the bounty system would still work, people would only bounty if they were actually willing to lose the points for an answer (b/c the assumption would be that they would lose the points) Apr 20, 2012 at 17:50
  • 3
    Those are the rules, but the rules are bad and discourage people from setting bounties. That discourages the type of activity that we otherwise try to encourage here, making the quasi-economy of the forum shrink. It's a bad policy.
    – Hack-R
    Sep 2, 2014 at 13:20
  • Rules are meant to be broken @Hack-R May 9, 2017 at 4:18
  • 1
    Why is it called a bounty then? I think it's misleading because bounties don't generally work this way. You only pay if you get the result. Otherwise it should be called a bet.
    – astreltsov
    Jul 8, 2019 at 13:46
  • 1
    My bounty question has no answers at all. Why doesn't it return? Yes, I'm aware this answer was written 10 years ago. I'm shocked that this condition hasn't been addressed since.
    – Ofer Zelig
    Aug 1, 2020 at 10:30

It's a system that is put in place to work in a non-ideal world, which is good for the most part.

I also think that if the question doesn't actually get answered then the bounty should be returned. This is 100% logical if you think about how bounties work in real life: they only get paid if xxxx is delivered.

  • 2
    I don't know why this response got downvoted but I actually agree with you and the OP on this issue. +1
    – greatwolf
    Jan 4, 2011 at 3:16
  • I hope others who also feel the same voice their opinions on it in the hopes of this being changed to a much fairer system, I also don't think this topic was a duplicate since the op was bringing this to light with the hope it seems for this section of the bounty rules to be changed. Where as the topic which this is said to have duplicated is a FAQ on the Bounty system.
    – Myzifer
    Jan 4, 2011 at 9:14
  • wow well seems someone rly doesn't like me since they seem to have followed one answer of mine to another and keep downvoting me
    – Myzifer
    Jan 6, 2011 at 10:41
  • 2
    I agree with this. It is how bounties work in real life, so it should be the case here. Apr 20, 2012 at 17:43
  • 2
    I completely agree with this. If there are no answers to a question or no > 0-point answers, the bounty should be refunded. Oct 15, 2012 at 15:09

As soon as you assign a bounty to a question then the bounty amount is immediately removed from your reputation. There is no way to reverse this action.

If you don't manually award the bounty to an answer then it will simply disappear. The only caveat to this is that half the bounty will automatically be awarded to an answer providing it has a score of at least +2 and was given after the bounty was assigned.

Full details of how the bounty system works can be found in the FAQ

  • 2
    Thanks. I got the point. My question was in feature-request, moved to support. Just suggesting it could work differently (see Jeff Atwood's answer and comments).
    – Déjà vu
    Dec 30, 2010 at 9:40
  • 1
    No bounties and cookies from me from now on!!
    – vfclists
    Oct 8, 2018 at 10:51
  • If you don't manually award the bounty to an answer then it will simply disappear well, my bounty question has no answers at all. Why doesn't it return? Yes, I'm aware this answer was written 10 years ago. I'm shocked that this condition hasn't been addressed since.
    – Ofer Zelig
    Aug 1, 2020 at 10:29

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