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This question already has an answer here:

What happens if you put a bounty but there's no answer? Do you lose your rep? To whom?

marked as duplicate by Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog, Ward, PeterJ, Werner, PolyGeo Dec 17 '18 at 2:20

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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I believe these two threads answer your question:

How does the bounty system work?

Why didn't my Bounty get refunded?

In short yes, the rep you put up for bounty will simply disappear into the ether if there are no eligible answers (meaning you didn't accept an answer and no answers have at least 2 upvotes). Sad but true :(

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    Indeed they do, thanks. :) Now the question is, why? – Mehrdad Jan 24 '11 at 6:30
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    @mehrdad I believe their rationale was putting up a bounty implies some level of commitment and investment. If there's no risk in losing something (rep points in this case) then everyone would start putting up bounties for their unanswered questions. Thought personally I don't fully agree with that stance. – greatwolf Jan 24 '11 at 6:33
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    Hm... I don't really agree with that either. At the very least, I think they should at least "refund" half of it or something. :\ – Mehrdad Jan 24 '11 at 6:35
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    This makes no sense. If really nobody answers, then you should get at least a part back. If anybody answers and you're not satisfied with it, then you should get nothing back, since this could be misused. Or am I missing something? – maaartinus Jan 24 '11 at 7:23
  • Actually from what I've seen and experienced, the reputation is taken in the instant you set and confirmed the bounty and it can't be retrieved back. It stays in "the void" until you either grant it to Answer or until it "expires". – Shadow Wizard Jan 24 '11 at 9:02
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    This is unfair. If no one answers, then the bounty should have probably be credited back or at least this info should be in FAQ section stackoverflow.com/faq#bounty – hop Jan 8 '12 at 13:49
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    @hop it is in there and has always been. Read more closely. – Jeff Atwood May 15 '12 at 6:13
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    Just happened to me with stats.stackexchange.com/questions/74320/… and it sucks. At least half my "money" back or a poor-sucker-badge would feel better... – DaveBall aka user750378 Nov 13 '13 at 9:27
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    @DaveBallakauser750378 That sounds like a great idea for a new badge! maybe propose it as a new question on meta. :D – greatwolf Nov 13 '13 at 9:35
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    oh, you can propose badges - neat ;) Done: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/207362/… – DaveBall aka user750378 Nov 14 '13 at 13:58
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    Same situation for me, drupal.stackexchange.com/questions/107291. The rationale could be that you did get the attention for the question, even if there is no answer. Although I would still say that half the bounty could be paid back. @JeffAtwood: The help page might implicitly say this, but it could be more explicit. Also, the emails and messages presented to a user should explicitly mention the fact that "well sorry there are no answers you could reward, you so your bounty is lost." – donquixote Mar 31 '14 at 17:38
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    i would say 100% refund..whats the point of not getting the reputation back if the question was not answered! – Jeryl Cook Dec 5 '16 at 16:17
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    if nobody posts any answer then bounties must be refunded. There is no fault for the person who puts his bounties. – Varun Sukheja Nov 22 '17 at 10:14
  • Noooooo, why is that? – meditat Jul 12 '18 at 11:05
5

This answer provides links that explain how it works. To address the feeling that I think underlies your question: a bounty isn't a payment for an answer; it's a payment for advertising. If you pay to run an ad and get no sales that doesn't mean the place you ran the ad owes you a refund; similarly, a bounty that produces no answers is a sunk cost.

It's frustrating, I know; I've had bounties die on the vine like that too. I used to resent it, and then somebody explained the advertising model to me and I felt better. I hope it helps you too.

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This is a very tough decision that I am sure was care fully thought through. The most obvious answer is this will prevent abuse of the bounty system. if I offer a bounty then people will pay more attention to my question and if all I have to do is not accept an answer to get my Rep back I am less likely to place bounties on my less important questions. Secondly, this will also help prevent users with large numbers of reputation from putting bounties on all their questions regardless of the relavence or importance. This will not stop abuse completely but it will limit users ability to open bounty after bounty knowing that they will just get it all back. Pretty much pay reputation too boost your really vital questions interest.

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    "if I offer a bounty then people will pay more attention to my question and if all I have to do is not accept an answer to get my Rep back" ... big difference between not accepting an answer for the bounty and not getting any answers at all. – berry120 Jun 12 '12 at 13:38
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    Not accepting any answer and not getting any answers posted are 2 different things. If there are no answers posted then that is a true and fair case where bounties must be refunded back. – Varun Sukheja Nov 22 '17 at 10:14

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